Published: December 21st 2009December 21st 2009
Through the ice
Rosco and Bones’ Antarctic Blog
We left Gerardo and Marisol’s place, in Punta Arenas after lunch, but as we do, we seemed to be running a bit late?
Our latest check in time for our flight to Ushuaia, was 2.15pm, we arrived at the airport around 2.40pm to find all the counters closed, but fortunately for us we spotted a girl down behind one of the counters, so we approached her and just put our luggage onto the scales, as if we were on time, she said something to us in Spanish, which sounded like the flight had closed etc, so I put our other bag onto the scales and gave her our passports. Spanish type of mumbling came from the attendant, but she spoke into her radio and a few minutes later, the bags were removed and a boarding pass issued, so off we went, straight to the gate and a few minutes later we were on our 45 minute International flight to Ushuaia in Argentina.
We were booked into the Hosteria Foike, where we stayed a couple of weeks previously with the boys on our Patagonia Expedition.
Our bags were to be picked up from
our Hosteria around 10.00am, and we had to be ready to board our ship at 3.00pm, so we had most of the day to enjoy Ushuaia and have a nice lunch.
By the time we boarded our ship, our luggage had been placed in our cabins for us. Our cabin is very roomy as long as we are both in bed-separate bunks mind you. We have a shared bathroom situation, with a young couple from Australia, and it works out very well, even though we all take turns, and have not locked each other out (yet).
We departed from Ushuaia at 6.00pm and headed out into the Beagle Channel, past the most Southern point, Ea Moat, to where we rode the moto’s a couple of weeks ago and out into the Southern Atlantic.
Bones - A lifeboat drill was held prior to our first dinner, and we all gathered at our muster stations, complete with warm clothing and life jackets - a good way to meet people when you’re all crushed together in a small area………much like a cocktail party without all the fancy dress and alcohol! Thank goodness we didn’t have to man the lifeboats - apparently each one
From the Bridge
holds 65 people, Rosco reckoned this could be achieved if everyone sat on somebody else’s lap!
We had an explore of the different decks and found the library, with some fascinating books on the Antarctic, and spent a pleasant hour before bedtime - by this time the ocean swell was taking effect and the sensible option was to retire to one’s bunk - avoiding staggering into other passengers trying to find their sea legs…….
Rosco - During the night we sailed through the Drake passage and a force 9 gale, that was trying to throw me out of my bunk on many occasions.
Bones - Good fun for some - I was sleeping across the ship and had sudden rushes of blood alternatively to the head and feet according to the ship‘s movement - all this forced oxygen kept me awake most of the night, but not incapacitated…….
At breakfast the following morning, there were many empty seats and a lot of pale, unsteady passengers.
It was a mission to get anywhere on the boat, as we were still negotiating 10 to 15 metre sea swells, but I loved it!.
Many passengers, including us, found the best
The Library during the force 9 gale
place to be was in bed.
There was nothing to be seen outside, apart from the murky sky, and the huge waves crashing around the ship.
Bones - The day passed with presentations on safety procedures for zodiac travel, krill, photography and seabirds, along with the issuing of wet skins and boots from the ‘mud room’, interspersed with breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner - all accomplished with enthusiastic tackling of the stairs!
Bones - We spotted the first iceberg at 8.40am. There was a competition on board as to the time, latitude and longitude position, and the iceberg won by about three hours! It snowed most of the day, coating the decks and equipment with the white stuff. The black zodiacs looked a little like penguins, with their white coats, and we felt like we really had arrived in Antarctica. Not a great deal of visibility, but we knew we
were proceeding between Brabant and Anvers Islands, and into the Gerlache Strait where we would be exploring part of the Antarctic Peninsula. The temperature was dropping by the hour. Fascinating to open our window (not porthole) and lean out into the cold, while being toasty
warm inside. The bar began to function as the focal gathering point between meals, with more presentations on penguins, seals and Shackleton’s expedition on the Endurance in 1915.
The ship made its way through the narrow Lemaire Channel to our anchorage overnight. The spectacular scenery started to reveal itself, and it was difficult to tear oneself away and get some sleep, as it never really got dark - any hour of the ‘night’ could find us taking in the view………………..
Rosco - The weather had abated somewhat over night, and we had a great sleep, with Bones recording a 10 hour, uninterrupted sleep. The breakfast room, was now full of excited people, as today we will have our first shore landing by Zodiac.
Our fist landing, was on Petermann Island to walk among the Gentoo and Adelie penguins (and their poo). It was fascinating to observe the antics of these birds.
We have all seen them on TV and even movies, but to be standing there, observing and SMELLING them, was a new experience for us.
We returned to the ship for lunch and at 3.00pm we got back into the Zodiacs and went ‘Zodiac Cruzin’
Covered in snow, they should be black
around the many bays littered with huge icebergs and large chunks of floating ice. We saw the odd whale, a battered seal recovering from a good scrap, probably with a leopard seal and of course the many penguins.
The day temperature never exceeded 0 the whole day, but as there was no wind, it was a very crisp, but pleasant day and after a sumptuous dinner, we retired for a rest before breakfast. I had to close my curtain, as the sun was still shining into my window at 11.30pm!
Rosco - after another great breakfast, we all boarded the Zodiacs and went cruising again, into Waddington Bay and up to the base of the glacier, but the weather closed in, the wind got up, the temperature dropped even further, so it was a cold and wet return ride back to the ship.
After changing out of our wet gear and tucked into some hot soup and a great lunch, the ship moved North to Port Lockroy.
Port Lockroy belongs to Britain, but was discovered by the French explorer Jean Charcot in 1904, during the French Antarctic Expedition of 1903-5.
Norwegian whalers used the bay as
Lowering the Zodiacs
a safe anchorage between 1911 and 1931 and other expeditions visited it between 1921 and 1935.
Base ‘A’ was established at Port Lockroy in 1944 by ’Operation Tabarin’ to monitor German shipping movements in Antarctica. This later became the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey, the forerunner of the British Antarctic Survey. A range of scientific work was conducted at the base until its closure in 1962.
The conservation and management of Port Lockroy is jointly undertaken by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, the British Government authorities and the British Antarctic Survey.
There is a shop at the base and believe it or not, they take VISA, and yes Bones went shopping!!
We also took a couple of photos with the Northland Age. Went onto Damoy Point, where we had more encounters with penguins and noted some yacht masts that were moored in the shelter of the bay.
We returned to the ship around 5.00pm in calm weather.
Rosco - We woke today to nice calm weather, still with low cloud, but no wind, the sun even made a brief appearance.
We boarded the zodiac and headed into Wilhelmina Bay, which gave us a landing point onto the Antarctic
Continent - all the other landings have been on islands.
I managed the climb to the top of the hill overlooking the bay and took a couple of Kiwirider photos, along with the now customary Penguin photos, I met up with Bones again and we boarded a zodiac for a cruise into the main bay.
Here we saw and photographed our first close encounter with some whales and crab eating seals. Every now and again we could hear the cracking and rumbling of the glacial ice as it moved ever closer to the sea. We were fortunate enough to see some large chunks fall into the sea, with the resulting wave.
We got back to the ship for lunch and then headed out again (no time for Nana Naps here) this time to Danco Island. I chose not to go to the top of the island, but to walk with Bones around the fore shore, we photographed more penguins and many ice sculptures that were scattered along the coast.
After a couple of hours, the temperature started to drop rapidly, and the sky became dark and threatening, so made the decision to head back to the ship. That was a
good move as soon after cold sleety rain came in and after dinner it began to snow again. Well, we are in the Antarctic, I suppose!
We awoke to another cold overcast day, as we had slept through another force 9 gale overnight, but as we were heading straight into it, we never had the rock and rolling of the previous storm.
After breakfast we boarded the zodiacs (Bones stayed on board) and ventured off out into the bleak unknown. The snow was being driven horizontally as we motored towards the shore.
The only reason I ventured out in such conditions, was the promise of seeing and photographing an old steel ship that had caught fire around 1915 and was run aground to save the lives of the crew and rescue what provisions they could.
The ship was a 3433 ton steel steamer built by Palmers Co. in Newcastle UK in 1891 as a cargo carrier for the National Steam Ship Company. She had various owners until she was converted to a whaling ship around 1912. She worked briefly as a whaler in Antarctica until she caught fire on January 27th 1915 with no loss of
Bones amongst old steel storage tanks
We had to push our way through brash ice, that was threatening to freeze around us, but we got to the wreck and took our photos, well worth the freezing ride. As Bones decided not to come on this ride, I wore her wet gear so I could protect my camera (and me) from the elements.
After a great lunch, we moved further north along the Antarctic Peninsula to Wilhelmina Bay.
Finding a reprieve from the wind and driving rain/snow, we boarded the zodiacs again and made a circumnavigation of the coastline, again through the brash ice.
During this ride, one of the zodiacs lost the pull cord handle and the cord disappeared into the motor housing. The crew are all in radio contact and another zodiac was sent from the ship to replace this one. In the mean time we towed it closer to the ship as the replacement was sent out.
They transferred all the people onto the replacement zodiac and we all headed back to the ship for hot showers and coffee.
The crew repaired the zodiac out there and drove it back to the ship about half an hour later.
We had a a
Old accommodation at whale Bay
BBQ planned for the stern deck this evening, but with the temperatures hovering around 0 and the wind at around 20 knots, it was decided to cook and eat inside - now that was a wise decision.
The barometer was still stuck in the low zone, but we had moved quite a bit north along the Peninsula overnight and were on track to Deception Island. This Island is formed inside an old volcano crater, which still has volcanic activity around the edges of the sunken crater.
Bones - The morning zodiac excursion to Baily Head and the huge chinstrap penguin colony was undertaken by most, but we chose to stay on board as it was very windy and I wanted to save my dry gear for the afternoon landing onto the island. We were close enough to watch proceedings and see the brave souls out there in the elements. Sometimes the body just doesn’t co-operate with the brain!
With everyone safely back on board, the ship entered through the narrow opening and into Whalers Bay, duly named as it was a major whaling station in the early 1900’s.
We landed on the island after lunch, which
Through an old building
was still manned until the early 60’s when an eruption covered the area with 3 to 4 metres of ash, destroying some of the buildings. There is an old aircraft hanger there, that housed an Otter research plane, it was also partially destroyed by an earlier eruption.
We wandered around the old buildings and the vats, cookers and steel storage tanks which have just been abandoned on the site.
At the waters edge, there is hot (warm) water, warmed by the hot rocks just below the surface, some brave (stupid) passengers actually went for a swim here, braving the freezing cold 30 knot wind, I am sure that many body parts will never return!!
We walked up to Devil’s Window overlooking the bay - they used to fly small planes through the gap - the wind at the top was gale force…………….
The hot water system on the ship was working to the max as we all returned for hot showers, and another sumptuous dinner, leaving Deception Island behind us and heading for the Drake Passage, many fortifying themselves for the return trip with the drug of their choice. No need however, as the night passed uneventfully, with the ship
A lonely Penguin
Looking for a friend
making good time.
Today was spent crossing the Drake Passage on our return voyage. We left Deception Island and set a course NNE for Cape Horn. The sailing conditions could not have been more diverse from our voyage down, when we encountered our first force 9 gale and huge rolling seas.
The Chilean outpost at Cape Horn gave the Captain permission to sail within 3 miles of the Horn, so we were able to see the monument erected in the memory of all the Sailors that have lost their lives while negotiating these treacherous seas.
We have been accompanied by many sea birds, including the greatest of them all - the Wandering Albatross.
We have been able to attend many seminars while we have been on board, it is great to listen to the speakers, who have devoted many years studying their various subjects.
We have learnt about the different breeding habits of various penguins, whales, seals and other seabirds that habitat the Antarctic region, along with climate change challenges facing Antarctica and the rest of the world.
We have learnt about the whaling history, the exploration of the Antarctic region and the hardships, tragedies
This is what we came for
and freezing times the early explorers endured.
We have had the comfort of 3 feeds a day, hot showers and a dry warm bed every night, aboard this Russian owned and run ship, the Research Vessel AKADEMIK SERGEY VAVILOW. The crew are all Russian.
Research is still carried out on board as it is a research ship that has been converted for tourism.
Peregrine lease the ship and most of the expedition staff are Australian. Most of the passengers also are Australian.
For me this has been a most amazing voyage and I feel really fortunate and privileged to have been able to share with Raewyn such an experience that Antarctica has given us.
Bones - Words cannot express the experience we have enjoyed. I have just come from the bar, where a compilation of the “Best of” photos have been shown, and we all have a photo CD of our journey to take home with us.
We have been given the opportunity to become ambassadors for the Antarctic, and I know that each and every one of us will never forget our time here on the Antarctic Peninsula. We have barely touched this frozen Continent, yet it has
Is there a meeting here?
Some discussion over nest ownership?
captured our hearts and souls. We will relive our memories of this beautiful place for the rest of our lives………………………..
There are more photos below