After I quit the sycophantic world of corporate life in 1997 and began to live life for myself, Lisa and I started to travel to locations that one or both of us had harboured ambitions to visit.
Unfortunately, it wasn't until about five or six years ago that I started to keep a journal of these travels -- initially for our own reference, and later to share with friends with common interests.
These friends have been encouraging me for years to put these journals on the web for a wider audience of fellow-travelers, so the plan over the coming months is to do just that.
We hope that our scribblings and photos might encourage a few more people to visit some of the wonderful places we have been privileged to see, or to help in the planning of such visits.
January 1st 2009
Overnight we had steamed slowly back north to Cuverville Island (named by Gerlache after a French Admiral), between Rongé (a female contributor to Gerlache’s expeditions) Island and the Arctowski Peninsula at the mouth of Andvord Bay. When we awoke it was overcast here and we decided not to go ashore but to relax and enjoy the environment from the ship. Cuverville is home to 4,000 Gentoo Penguins and was the site of an interesting study in the 1990’s that concluded visitor disturbance here had no impact on the overall breeding success of Gentoos. When the shore party returned, we headed off back south, past Danco Island and via the narrow Errera Channel into Neko Harbour on the east side of Andvord Bay. I spent the whole trip on the bridge with just one or two other ... read more
December 31st 2008
Sunrise was about 3.20 a.m. local time and I awoke at four - Lisa shortly thereafter. Outside we were met with a stunning spectacle! We were entering the Gerlache Strait, named after the great Belgian Antarctica explorer Adrien Gerlache who discovered and mapped this part of the peninsula and offshore islands in 1898. Brabant Island was on our starboard side and the Danco Coast of mainland Antarctica on port; everywhere snow and ice clung to the hills and the plateaus with hardly a bare piece of rock to be seen. Icebergs large and small, of every shape and colour, were scattered along our path as the bridge crew steered the Minerva skilfully between them. Apart from a few clouds hanging over the mountaintops, which climbed in places to over 2,000 metres, the sky was completely blue ... read more
December 30th 2008
The wind picked up again as we approached Penguin Island, creating a short, choppy sea. By 9.15 a.m. Lisa and I were ashore on the rocky beach and set out to climb to the top of the 170m caldera; unfortunately, the way up was too crowded with petrel and albatross nests for us to pass without disturbing the brooding birds, so we spent our time along the beach and up on a headland with a large Chinstrap Penguin colony. For the first time we saw baby Chinstraps still at nest - the Chinstraps make a gathering of stones in which to lay their two eggs. And I watched a Brown Skua as it surveyed the scene from a big rock in the centre of the colony and then made a sudden dive for a chick when ... read more
December 28th 2008
We woke up from time to time when the ship pitched particularly violently, but managed to sleep to about 7.30 a.m. - although Lisa got up for a cup of tea around four. After a shower she was feeling quite reasonable, and had a light breakfast; she seemed to be getting her sea legs. It was a beautiful morning with not a cloud in the sky. The wind since we left South Georgia had been about 20-25 knots on our nose, and the sea height a not insignificant four to five metres. Up on the bridge John told me the wind and sea combination was slowing us down to about 9-10 knots rather than our target 13, so we had some ground to make up if our time on the Antarctic Peninsula was not to be ... read more
December 27th 2008
And what a sunrise it was! Overnight we had cruised slowly to Gold Harbour, and from our balcony we were greeted with the sight of a pink and yellow sky over a bank of icebergs to the east, and a dark blue sky above us and to the west over the large, deep Bertrab glacier. When we were ready to brave the cold and we emerged onto a windless deck just before four o’clock, the sun crept above the horizon and the mountaintops at the end of the bay lit up with the warmth of its first rays. Over the next fifteen minutes we watched the sun’s reflection slide gradually down the ice-clad slopes into the sea, and eventually the whole bay was bathed in the most wonderful rich golden glow. An incredible sight, and undoubtedly ... read more
December 26th 2008
We cruised slowly on a flat sea into Fortuna Bay, dominated by the beautiful Konig Glacier at its southern extremity. The sky was perfectly blue, and the temperature was 11°C - how lucky were we with the weather? By eight o’clock we hit the beach amidst a bunch of adult male Fur Seals, and walked up onto the grassy plateau at the foot of the glaciers. Away from the beach, it was all much more relaxed. Amongst the icy streams trickling down to the sea, thousands of King Penguins and many Fur and Elephant Seals make their home. In the distance, a small herd of reindeer trotted past - a rather bizarre sight since these are creatures of the far north rather than the far south; they were introduced as a food source by early twentieth ... read more
December 25th 2008
Back on Minerva, Santa Claus and his elf arrived by Zodiac to much applause and amusement, after taking a couple of celebratory turns around the ship, and everyone took a photo with him seated next to a Christmas tree on the stern. And I always thought Santa lived at the North Pole… During lunch we saw an Orca (Killer Whale) surfacing very near the ship, plus our first iceberg as we steamed south-east to the Bay of Isles and Salisbury Plain where we anchored early afternoon and set off for shore fifteen minutes later. This is an amazing place, with one of the largest King Penguin colonies in the world. Tens of thousands of them stand all along the beach and up the hillside between Grace and Lucas Glaciers. There are many juveniles in their brown ... read more
December 23rd 2008
We awoke to a beautiful sunny morning with only a gently rolling sea under the ship. I spent the morning sorting and deleting most of the hundreds of photographs taken the previous day, and catching up with email communications, with an occasional foray onto deck to watch the Giant Petrel, Black-browed Albatross and - later - the enormous Wandering Albatross that criss-cross the ship’s wake and occasionally soar right over one’s head. As the day progressed and I found excuse after excuse to avoid visiting the gym, a damp mist crept up on the Minerva, and by late afternoon the sea around us was blanketed in thick fog that continued into the night. We had dinner with Milt and Gerry Lumpkin from Washington State - a very pleasant and amusing couple we had met over dinner ... read more
December 22nd 2008
After a light lunch on board, we went into Stanley for a wander around the neat, colourful small town of about 2,000 with its pub, churches, civic buildings and four terraced town houses that could have been transported brick by brick from Victorian England - apart from the green corrugated roof rather than tiles. The morning cloud had blown away and it was a beautiful sunny afternoon. We were told there had been a fair bit of damage in yesterday’s storm but we saw not a sign of this - frankly it was a tribute to the quality of construction that half the homes weren’t completely flattened. I suspect that the buildings here are pretty well put together given that a fresh wind apparently blows most days of the year- you could see, for example, that ... read more
December 22nd 2008
The light in the Falklands is spectacular. At the same latitude south as London is north, the light is completely different from that of south-east England. I have no idea why this should be, but it is so! I awoke at about 4.45 a.m., peered out through the curtains at a stunning cerulean sky and golden hilltops around the bay; it was not a hard decision to throw on some clothes, grab the camera, and go up on deck. The storm was completely gone although a 20-knot wind was to stay with us all day. The sea had calmed enough for the bunkering barge to come alongside some time after midnight, and re-fuelling was going on (I learned later that there were big savings to be had by filling up the tanks for the whole voyage ... read more