Antarctic dreams

Trip Start Dec 02, 2010
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12
17
Trip End Mar 04, 2011


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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hi - the expedition leader on our Antarctic trip kindly put together the following blog of our 11 day adventure. It is probably a little more detailed and far more knowledgable than I would have written, and it has also saved me a lot of time. Thanks Jordi for your words and the trip of a lifetime.


18 th December 2010 DEPARTURE
FROM USHUAIA THROUGH THE
BEAGLE CHANNEL TO THE DRAKE
PASSAGE
After endless flights we had landed in
Ushuaia, the place which calls itself
“el fin del mundo” (the end of the
world). The rugged spine of the
Andes Mountains stretches the entire
length of the South American
continent, coming right down to meet
the sea here at the southern tip of
Chile and Argentina. The four-hour
flight from Buenos Aires over the flat,
dry Argentinean Pampas and
Patagonia was highlighted by the
plane’s steep descent over the snow
and glacier-capped peaks to the
airstrip which projects straight out
into the Beagle Channel.
At four in the afternoon the ship and
the crew were ready to welcome us
on board, where we got some time to
have a coffee in the restaurant, find
our cabins, unpack, rest a little or
enjoy the beautiful view from the
deck for the first time.
Shortly after 18.00 our ship left the
pier of Ushuaia and the captain set
sail out of the harbor into the Beagle
Channel. Just after departure, our
Expedition Leader Jordi called us into
the dining room/lecture hall to give us
a brief introduction to himself, the
staff and the ship. And afterwards our
great Captain Ernesto Barría also
welcomed us on board.
Shortly after this introduction Jordi
called us into the dining room again,
and first officer Doren together with
one of our guides (Diego) gave us an
important safety briefing. When it was
finished, the ship’s alarm sounded a
signal to practice an emergency
evacuation drill. Moving to our
cabins, we donned warm clothes and
proceeded with our life jackets to the
muster station, the dinning room.
Then we walked outside to check
where the lifeboats are on the ship.
Before dinner we were already sailing
the quiet waters of the Beagle
Channel, that separates Tierra del
Fuego Island from Navarino and
Hoste Islands.
For the departure and until leaving
Argentinean waters a pilot is required
on board. He got on board in Ushuaia
and a small ship came to pick him up
around 23:00 h near the eastern end
of the channel. From then on we were
on our own sailing towards
Antarctica.
Our Antarctic adventure was
about to start!!!

19 th December 2010 SAILING THE
DRAKE PASSAGE
After some the quiet sailing hours
while cruising in the Beagle Channel,
the ship started rolling and shaking a
bit, a sure sign that we had entered
the Drake Passage. The winds
remained quite quiet alongside with a
bit of ocean swell. So only a few
ventured out on deck for longer
periods to observe the interesting
birdlife including albatrosses, petrels
and shearwaters. These seabirds are
collecting their food from the surface
waters of the ocean and spend the
greater time of their lives on the sea.
Our guides-biologists started our
lecture series with a couple of
presentations. Jordi started with his
presentation on “Seabirds of the
Drake”, first on the general biology
and adaptations of these specialists
and then going into the detail of the
most important species we were
going to see, from gulls, cormorants
and petrels to the real masters of the
wind, the magnificent albatrosses.
The specialised divers among the
seabirds, the penguins, were left out
for another lecture.
Jordi did a presentation on the
whales of Antarctica. In that occasion
he was talking about cetaceans in
general, then about the different
species and finishing with a bit of his
work on Humpback whales around
Patagonia and Antarctic Peninsula.
As always during the whole journey
the lectures were done in English and
Spanish as well.
At mealtimes, some seats remained
empty due to the ships movements.

20 th December 2010 SAILING THE
DRAKE PASSAGE

The seas kept the ship rolling gently
side to side, and getting better and
better as we were approaching South
Shetland Islands.
In the early morning, we must have
s a i l e d o v e r t h e An t a rc t i c
Convergence, as the water
temperature had fallen from around 4
ºC to close to 0ºC, stabilizing
between 1 and 2ºC!! that’s quite cold
water on surface...
Despite the lack of wind, some birds
were spotted, we had some great
ARRIVING TO SOUTH SHETLAND
ISLANDS
bird sights as some Wandering, Black
browed and Light mantled sooty
albatrosses, big flocs of Cape petrels,
Southern fulmars and some prions.
We continued with our lecture
program and today Jordi talked about
Penguins, and Rodrigo about
photography. Both lectures were
done in Spanish and English. And in
the afternoon Jordi in English and
Rodrigo in Spanish, gave us a
briefing on how to behave in
Antarctica.

21st DECEMBER 2010 WILHELMINA - FOYN HARBOUR, DANCO ISLAND (Errera channel) and SPIGOT CAPE
(Orne harbor)

This morning we did a zodiac cruise in Wilhelmina Bay,
mostly along the shores of Enterprise Island. The island
is 1.5 mi long, lying at the NE end of Nansen Island in
Wilhelmina Bay, off the W coast of Graham Land. This
island and Nansen Island were first charted as one
feature and named "Ile Nansen" by the Belgium
Antarctic Expedition under Gerlache in 1898. The
islands became well known to whalers operating in the
area in the early 1900s and the names North and South
Nansen Islands were used to distinguish between
them. Since Nansen Island has now become
established for the larger feature, a new name has
been given to the smaller, commemorating the
enterprise of the whalers who made the anchorage at
the S side of the island (Foyn Harbor) a major center of
summer industry during the period 1916-30. Among
the many highlights of the area was the visit to the
small cove named Gouvernøren Harbour, indenting the
E side of Enterprise Island just W of Pythia Island.
The name was applied by whalers using the harbor
because the whaling vessel Gouvernøren (a factory
ship operating in these waters until she burnt here in
1916 with a payload of 16,000 barrels of whale oil) was
wrecked there in 1916. Our zodiacs roomed around the
ship wreck, now home of Antarctic terns that are using
her hull as a nesting site, flying by nervously as we
circumnavigated the wreck. Nearby, two waterboats
(used for rowing freshwater supplies to factory ship
boilers) high up on shore reminded us of the gruesome
labour and tedium that whaling would have spelled in
these waters nearly one hundred years ago.

Mooring posts and rusty chains still mark many places
along the shore, giving some indication of how busy
these waters would have been with commercial whalers.
We continued our Zodiac cruise among beautiful
icebergs proceeding deeper into the majestic Foyn
Harbour. While cruising we also landed for a few minutes
to observe our firsts Weddell seals.
After Lunch we arrived to Danco, an Island 1 mile long
lying in the South part of Errera Channel, off the West
coast of Graham Land. Charted by the Belgium Antarctic
Expedition (BelgAE) under Gerlache, 1897-99. Surveyed
by the FIDS from the Norsel in 1955, and named by the
UK-APC for Émile Danco (1869-1898), Belgian
geophysicist and member of the BelgAE, who died on
board the Belgica in the Antarctic. There we made an
ascend to a gentoo penguin colony. Deep snow made
our walk a bit difficult. There was just some areas with no
snow where penguins could prepare their nests for the
breeding season, we could see how penguins steal rocks
from the others to build their own nests. A small snow
storm pushed us to get back to the ship on a great
adventure by zodiac.
After an early dinner we prepared for our third landing at
Spigot Cape, laying on Orne Harbor.
Spigot is a 285 m high conspicuous black peak, marking
the Southern side of the entrance to Orne Harbor on the
West coast of Graham Land. Shown on an Argentine
government chart of 1950. The name, given by the UKAPC
in 1956, is descriptive of the appearance of the
feature; a spigot is a wooden peg.
Orne Harbor is a Cove 1 mi wide, indenting the W coast
of Graham Land 2 mi SW of Cape Anna. Discovered by
the BelgAE under Gerlache in 1898. The name Orne
Harbor was probably in use by Norwegian whalers,
because it was already used by Scottish geologist David
Ferguson following his geologic reconnaissance of this
area aboard the whaler Hanka in 1913.
This beautiful location brought us a beautiful sunset after
a steep ascend up to the top of the saddle where we
could enjoy the visit to the Chinstrap penguin colony.
Part of the group made a zodiac cruise around the coast.
The wind started to rise so we returned back to the ship.
Humpback whales and nice company at the ship was the
perfect end for this day.

22 nd December 2010 NEKO HARBOR, PARADISE
BAY (GABRIEL GONZALEZ VIDELA STATION -GGB- and
SKONTORP COVE)

In the morning we landed at Neko Harbor, a small bay
indenting the E shore of Andvord Bay 6 mi SE of
Beneden Head, along the W coast of Graham Land. First
seen and roughly charted by the BelgAE under Gerlache,
1897-99. Named after Messrs. Chr. Salvesen's floating
factory Neko, which operated in the South Shetland
Islands and Antarctic Peninsula area for many seasons
between 1911-12 and 1923-24, and which often used
this bay. The name was published by the Scottish
geologist David Ferguson in 1921, following his visit to
this area in 1913.
Crossing a barrier of icebergs we got to Neko’s beautiful
beach where we could contemplate the behavior of
gentoo penguins colonies. By ascending we reached the
colonies were we observed the building of their nests. By
the end of the hike we got to a beautiful lookout were we
enjoyed the view of the glacier, and far away the siluete
of two kayaks. A Wedell seal gave us the opportunity to
take good pictures while we wait to go back to the ship.
After lunch we visited the Chilean base Gonzalez Videla
having the chance to buy souvenirs at the museum. The
base lays on the low westernmost termination of the
peninsula between Paradise Harbor and Andvord Bay on
the west coast of Graham Land. This feature has "island"
characteristics, but it is only separated from the mainland
at high water and is more usefully described as a "point".
The coast in this vicinity was first roughly surveyed by the
Belgian Antarctic Expedition in 1898. This point was
surveyed and given this name by T.W. Bagshawe and
M.C. Lester who lived here in a water boat from January
1921 until January 1922.

Our next destination was Paradise Bay, a gorgeous bay
surrounded by high mountains and glaciers, where we
planned a zodiac cruise. So, shortly after arriving, we
boarded the Zodiacs to cruise in Skontorp Cove and
along its horseshoe-shaped fortress of tidewater
glaciers. Paradise bay give us a wonderful zodiac
cruise between glaciers and beautiful icebergs. The
kayaks visited the seabirds colonies starting a lifetime
experience. Surrounded by millenary glaciers we
witness incredible carvings in this coliseum of ice and
rocks.

As we were wandering around we passed in front of
the Argentinean Base Almirante Brown. We kept sailing
on the zodiacs, visiting the glacier front along Skontorp
Cove. That is a Cove in Paradise Harbor, lying 2 mi SE
of Bryde Island along the W coast of Graham Land.
Named for Edward Skontorp, an outstanding
Norwegian whale gunner. But before enjoying the
glaciers and icebergs around, we visited a rocky
outcrop of vividly blue-green malachite close to which
were numerous nests of blue-eyed shags and snowy
sheathbills. The cliff is known as Shag Crag, a basaltic
crag (79 m) south of Almirante Brown Station. And
named after numerous blue-eyed shags (Phalacrocorax
atriceps) nesting on its SW face.

The Argentinean Base named Almirante Brown has
seen some maintenance in recent years but hasn’t
been operated in many years. Gentoo penguins have
long claimed it as a favorable nesting site.
We also succeed spotting a couple of Weddell seals on
the coast, nearly at the end of the cruise. As we know
now, these are one of the deep divers in Antarctica and
normally they can be seen resting on the ice or on land
between the long dives. During the whole cruise we
were rewarded with a really astonishing sunset, quiet
waters, windless evening, nice colors and the glaciers
and mountains mirroring on the flat calm waters.
While sailing out of Paradise harbor, an enormous group
of killer whales closed our unforgettable day.

23 rd December 2010 LEMAIRE CHANNEL, PORT
LOCKROY and JOUGLA POINT
By the time of the wakeup call, the Antarctic Dream was
positioned to enter the Lemaire Channel. The legendary
narrow inlet is seven miles long and very narrow in areas,
and is bounded by Booth Island on the west and the
Antarctic Peninsula on the east. Is no more than 1 mile
(1,6 km) wide, and seems even more constricted since it
is hemmed in on both sides by towering rock faces.
Icefalls and tidewater glaciers choke the channel with
significant quantities of bergy bits and brash ice.
Unfortunately the weather was still windy and cloudy,
and it didn’t improve as we entered the gates at Cape
Renard, snowing and with the clouds hanging low.
As a result of the large amount of ice we couldn't reach
the Ucranian base Vernasky, and the ship headed north
to Port Lockroy.
Port Lockroy has attracted those seeking a protected
anchorage ever since Charcot discovered it in 1904,
during his first French Antarctic expedition (Français,
1903-05). He named it for Édouard Lockroy, a French
politician who assisted Charcot in obtaining government
backing for his expedition. The whalers would come here
to escape the storms of summer and as many 40
whaling vessels would anchor at one time.
Prior to our landing, one of the ladies in charge of the
Base, of the British Antarctic Survey and United
Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust came aboard to
welcome us and deliver a short introduction to the
history of Port Lockroy and the current state of affairs
We spread out over much of Goudier Island, from the
beach and the old water boat, up past the building to the
mast. For some, there was the additional pleasure of
picking up some souvenirs or holiday gifts at the wellstocked
shop. When it came time to leave, we wished
the BAS personnel in charge of the huts this season a
pleasant season (they’re here until mid-March) and bade
them farewell. Most of us headed around the corner to
land at Jougla Point on Wienke Island, whereas some
went back to the ship.

24 th December 2010 DECEPTION ISLAND: TELEFON BAY, Christmas dinner in KING GEORGE ISLAND

After sailing overnight through the Bransfield Strait, we
reached Deception Island, waking up before the captain
steered the Antarctic Dream through the narrow entrance
called Neptune’s Bellows.
With a steep lava wall on one side and the notorious
Raven rock on the other, it take some nerve and skill to
sail through. Just around the corner in the Deception
Island caldera is Whalers Bay with the former Hector
Whaling station and the BAS research station. Deception
Island is an active volcano. The BAS station was
evacuated and later abandoned after a lahar (a volcanic
mudflow) went through the station in 1970. Today warm
water flowing into the sea is a telltale sign of volcanic
activity. We sailed through Neptune’s Bellows, and
entered Port Foster inside Deception Island just to find
out that another ship was already there...
Then we sailed into the caldera a bit more towards
another beautiful landing area called Telefon Bay.
Located in the Northeastern side of Port Foster is named
for a salvage vessel that moored here in 1909 awaiting
for repairs. Ashore, Jordi lead us to explore the lunar
landscape, stopping for a while to observe five Weddell
seals lying on the snow close to the beach, and climbing
the ridge of a crater from one of Deception’s recent
eruptions. We had great views of Port Forster after
walking uphill to a rather spectacular vantage point. It
was cloudy but the weather helped to made Deception
Island starkly beautiful, with its alternating layers of dark
rock and white ice and snow.
After lunch we waited for the weather to get better but
the wind didn’t allowed us to land in whaler station, so
the ship headed north looking for a calm bay. Christmas
dinner couldn’t be better in this strong winds and rough
seas, than looking for a bit of shelter around Half Moon
Island. Later on we sailed to Maxwell Bay and then to
Potter Cove, in King George Island.

25 th December 2010 JUBANY STATION and heading
north though the DRAKE PASSAGE
We were in the fantastic King George Island, one of the
major islands on the Archipelago and with the highest
concentration of science stations in the region, belonging
to China, Chile, Russia, Uruguay, Corea (all in Maxwell
Bay), then an Argentinean station in Potter Cove, and to
the west, in Admiralty Bay we can find the Brazilian and
Polish stations plus a Peruvian hut.
In fact our landing for this morning was a visit to Jubany
Base, from Argentina and with German collaboration
since long time ago.
From Maxwell Bay we sailed into Potter Cove looking for
a bit of shelter from the strong winds, finding protection
in this small bay indenting the SW side of King George
Island to the E of Barton Peninsula, and known to sealers
as early as 1821. We had to wait a bit for the wind to
decrease or at least to stabilize, and then, around 12:00h
we were landing, being welcomed by the base
Commander.
The station is located in a gorgeous spot, surrounded by
glaciers and in the vicinity of Three Brothers Hill, a
conspicuous 210m promontory that is the remaining
portion of an extinct volcano.
Once ashore we divided our group in two. The first one
walked along the beach to have a look at a few penguins
(Gentoo), skuas and even a few young Elephant seals.
And the second group did a visit to the base where the
base commander and one of the biologists working there
explained us about the place, their research and their
lives in this Antarctic Base for a year. For example, at the
moment of our visit the base was used by 25 people.
Almost all of them had been here for almost a year
already, and other they just arrived a week ago. Pretty
soon the ones that had been living here for a year
already, are going back home and new people will came
to spend the remains of this season till next year. Supply
ships are coming every month from now on till March.
After a couple of hours in the base and surroundings we
boarded the ship again... that was our last landing, and
now we were heading for the Drake Passage, on our way
to Ushuaia.
In the afternoon the seas were still holding in quite good
conditions and it took a while until we sailed out of the
South Shetland Islands to find ourselves sailing into a
gentle long swell. Rocks and ice were left behind to sail
during a couple of days the waters of the Drake Passage.
Wind increased a bit and also the skies become overcast
and rainy, but the whole day was in a surprisingly
relatively quiet Drake Passage.
As we were sailing again, the “infotainment” restarted,
today one lecture was done by Cristina.
She talked about the History of the Early Antarctic
Exploration, Scott, Amudsen, Mawson, Shackleton and
their expeditions. The lecture was in Spanish in the
morning while we were waiting for the wind to drop
down, as we didn’t know if it was going to be possible to
land today, and in English during the afternoon.
Once in the Drake Passage, the weather did not changed
much during all afternoon, with a bit of rolling in the
afternoon due to the long waves of the Passage.
Visibility and birdlife were quite good throughout the day,
and many Prions, Albatrosses (including the nice Light
mantled sooty albatross), and Petrels were flying around
the ship.


26 th December 2010 DRAKE PASSAGE
The seas remained quite calm during the whole day.
Today our Expedition Leader Jordi lecture about the
Polar Ecosystems and Wildlife Adaptations, talking about
the similarities and differences between Antarctica and
the Arctic, and the different adaptations that wildlife has
to adopt to withstand this harsh conditions. As usual we
had both lectures in English and Spanish languages.
Today we could also watch a couple of outstanding
documentaries: One of them about the life in the oceans
was broadcasted in the Lecture Hall: Deep Blue, and the
other one about the historical Nordenksjold Expedition to
Antarctica.

27 th December 2010 DRAKE PASSAGE - USHUAIA

We woke up sailing through a bit of swell. Weather was
getting worst since last afternoon, as some of us could
see on the dropping numbers of the barometer and the
rainy weather. Anyway, the state of the seas was still very
good and we were doing an incredible steady good
speed, meaning that probably we were reaching Ushuaia
a bit ahead of time. But during breakfast time, the sea
conditions had changed and we were sailing through big
swell and really strong winds... anyway albatrosses and
petrels were seen as promising signs for the continuation
of our journey towards Cape Horn area and the Beagle
Channel. In the morning we had to cancel our lectures
and activities on board due to the heavy rolling of the
ship.
During noon, and as the trip was sadly coming to an end,
John and Francia asked us to settle our accounts. After
lunch we had to return the rubber boots and red jackets,
our companions for the whole trip, and after the coffee
break, around 17:00 h, we were invited to the lecture hall
where the documentary-movie “around the Horn on
board the Pecking” was broadcasted. A staff favorite,
sailing the oceans and rough seas on board one of the
largest square rigged cargo ships around 1920. And later
on we could enjoy a slideshow of pictures taken during
the trip by Rodrigo, Cristina and Diego. Shortly
afterwards we had a farewell cocktail and a short
informative briefing on disembarkation and tips to get
smoothly to the airports in Ushuaia; including thanks to
the staff and crew for a safe journey – and to all of us to
make it an easy and enjoyable one for the expedition
team. As we did good speed in the Drake Passage, our
arrival time to Ushuaia was tonight, with the possibility of
enjoying this city nightlife...

28 th December 2010 Ushuaia
Early in the morning we had breakfast leaving our
luggage in the corridors out of our cabins as we were
going to the dinning room. Crew and staff were carring
everything out to the pier. Then went down the gangway
for the last time, saying farewell to new-found, but good
friends. Some of us left directly for the airport and further
connections home, while others headed for hotels and
tours in South America. We had finished one incredible
expedition, and now turned to look forward, towards our
next adventures.
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