Trip Start Nov 28, 2011
157Trip End Apr 09, 2013
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What I did
This ice is ancient, made of compressed snows that were laid down, high on the mountains above, centuries ago. Its entombed bubbles contain a few molecules of air that were last breathed, perhaps, by Magellan or Vespucci.
-David G. Campbell, The Crystal Desert, 1992
Following an afternoon and evening of wild weather, with high winds and snow squalls, we awoke on our first full day in the Weddell Sea to a beautifully clear and still morning, with a frosty temperature of -2 °C
Treacherously icy Zodiac decks were carefully navigated by all, and then we were off to see beautiful ice formations, impressively large icebergs, and to experience up-close encounters with sleepily cooperative crabeater and leopard seals. One was even our neighbour for a while, when we got out to enter our icy transportation het rolled over and welcomed us from the iceshelf next to our ship.
Cruising around the icebergs we were gazed by the form, constructions and colours that nature combines into the most incredible artworks. It sems there is no iceberg like another. Even more special is the quite survace of the Wedell Sea that reflects those creations that were snow once and are doubbled through the mirror effect of the quite sea. And so we kept taking pictures because literally; everything is beautiful. Everything.
Of course we also took the opportunity to hop off ourÂ'Zody' onto an ice floe, making snow angels, playing seals or just jumping full of joy
After this fantastic start to a full day of activities, and following a hearty breakfast, we travelled a short distance around to The Naze, a long, tapering peninsula on the northern side of James Ross Island. The Zodiacs were greeted at the beach by a large flock of noisy Kelp Gulls, and several Antarctic fur seals. Michael led a walk up onto a high ridge giving a spectacular view over the area, sometimes the silence was interrupted by the intense and loud cracks of icebergs and glaciers melting in the Antarctic summer.
While Maria went further downhill for a close encounter with the Seals, Jörgen walked with his head bent down low looking for fossils. Together with the other sharp-eyed fossickers in the group cthey ollected a number of very nice Cretaceous (70-80 million year old) ammonites, along with some other fossils - among them a bit of turtle bone in sandstone. This site has also produced some dinosaur bones, which gave us some extra encouragement to keep a careful look-out (and although continously denied by Mike we still believe some of the fossils showed dinosour lashes!)
Before leaving the site we had to take a closer look at the grounding icebergs that already melted down to bergy bits and showed themselves in the best light and colours..
The divers in the meantime explored icebergs, and the private life of some large isopods busily working on producing their next generation.
After another delicious lunch (Plov ~ a traditional Russian dish with corn on the cob and fresh baked dinner rolls), we headed east and then south, with sightings of Minke whales, Antarctic cormorants, small groups of Adelie penguins and seals on the ice, and spectacular scenery as we passed Cockburn and Seymour islands en route to Snow Hill Island. Passengers on the bridge admired the skill of our Russian crew as they navigated skillfully through the ice and advanced us southward through the Weddell Sea.
Mike gave a talk on the remarkable story of the 1901-1904 Nordenskjold Expedition, and their stranding for two Antarctic winters following the sinking of their ship, the Antarctic.' This set the stage for our visit to the historic hut on Snow Hill, where Nordenskjold and five of his team spent two winters
As we arrived we were very warmly greeted at the well-preserved and carefully protected hut by Pepe and Manuel, the two Argentine personnel based at the hut. Most strangely they even know someone who knows our geolocial miracle Mike. Fortunately they were watching the historical site and everyone had a chance to go inside the hut and ponder what it would be like to live there for two years. Interesting enough, many of the general supplies originally were from Scandinavia and you could still see recognize the brands. Yet, none of us preferred to stay an antarctic winter within those thin wooden walls, especially not two...
Next to the hut and up the hillside we also found retaceous ammonites and other fossils collected from Snow Hill Island, that has been another very important site for fossils from the age of dinosaurs. After saying thank-you to our hosts, it was a cold ride back to our trusty ship. Too bad that the mud of Snow Hill turned out to be extraordinary sticky and kept us cleaning our gum boots longer than expeted
Fortunately then another great dinner awaited us so we could warm up. Travis and Mark prepared Chicken filo parcels accompanied broccoli & couscous and followed by poached pears with fig relish. Enjoying the meal we shortly thought of the party of three of the Nordenskjold's boat that survived the winter at Hope's Bay by eating more than 700 penguins.
Have you ever been lucky enough to enjoy the smell of penguins? You surely would prefer anything to penguins!
The capper on a truly spectacular day was our ship cruising through the ice at sunset, followed by a turn back to the north to proceed to our next set of adventures, and a day that will be hard to top!
Position at 2142 on 10 Feb
Latitude: 64° 22' S
Longitude: 57° 14' W
Speed: 8.5 knots
Barometer: 981.3 hPa & rising
Wind: 6 knots ESE
Air temperature: -2° C
Sea temperature: +1° C