Published: December 29th 2009February 6th 2009
I woke up early, probably with the excitement of what should be an extraordinary day. Hope Bay, a picturesque bay in Antarctic Sound (sea), which has been dubbed 'Iceberg Alley'. It is home to an Argentine science centre, which boasts a school, mayor and post office! There is also a huge Adelie penguin rookery close by.
As I stirred I felt the ship rocking gently, then I could hear the waves hitting the side of the hull. The weather seemed to be quite bad, which would be bad because the seas could be too rough for the Zodiacs to make the crossing to land. Sure enough I re-awoke to the captain's voice over the PA informing us that the winds were at gale force 8, some 35 knots, hence, there would be no landings. Quite simply gutted, I rolled over and fell back to sleep.
The captain set sail again and sailed through Antarctic Sound and into the Weddell Sea, which is notorious for its ice fields and ice shelves. In winter the sea in this region will freeze two meters deep and extend into the sea. Coupled with the other ice shelves around the Antarctic coast, Antarctica will
have an increased land mass of 40-50% over the winter months. In the summer the temperature increases and these shelves of ice melt, resulting in parts breaking off - namely icebergs. In 1914 Shackleton chose this sea as his entry point for his trans-antarctic expedition, the sea and its treacherous conditions effectively scuppered his expedition plans as his ship became stuck in ice. It led to what some regard as the ultimate expedition to ever take place - the survival of Shackleton and all of his crew. So this sea, like most of that around the Antarctic Peninsula is steeped in expedition history.
As the ship weaved its way through the sea the icebergs that she dodged were simply stunning - from the smallest 'growlers' to the massive blocks of ice-shelf, each unique and each superb, some white, some blue, some flat and some jagged.
As the gales came and went the Antarctic displayed the immense power it possesses. When the clouds parted the icebergs again looked completely different, their surfaces almost showing emotions as they glistened in the afternoon sun.
As my mood improved, the ship turned around and headed back into Antarctic Sound. The consolation of the 'bergs' in the Weddell Sea was given a further boost. Off the port bow - whales. Two humpbacks, swimming on the surface. They jumped in and out of the water, whilst rolling over onto their sides to slap their fins onto the water and then disappearing back into the ice-cold sea. They would repeat this several times but they would periodically change their routines and leap out of the water appearing as if they were almost dancing with each other in synchronization in the icy evening sun. A majestic end to an initially frustrating day. Full Photos on Flickr