South to Antarctica Dec 1994 - Jan 1995

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May 6th 2008
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South to Antarctica

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Although this entry has been submitted in 2008, the expedition was Dec 1994 - January 1995 and such an wonderful experience I thought it worthwhile to add it to my Travelblog.

The photos were taken with a Pentax ME super SLR with a filter causing some photos to have an off - white hue. The photos were developed in the machine at the local shop, scanned into a file then added to the blog. They are not as clear as digital, but back in those days this is what we had to record the marvellous memories.

27th. December 1994: Leaving Perth, I headed to Hobart, Tasmania for a couple of days before the start of my holiday of a lifetime - a 3 week expedition to Antarctica aboard the icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov.
To fill in time before the cruise, I met up with a friend who took the time to show me around town and Mt Wellington. Then there was the excitement of the finish to the Sydney - Hobart yacht race.

Thursday, 29th. December: On board the Kapitan Khlebnikov and with a blast of the horn we departed Hobart and sailed down the Derwent River into
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Waiting for the big waves
a Force 7 gale which meant heavy seas with wind and waves, so we were informed to batten down the hatches, secure the cabins and be careful, especially when opening and closing doors - that fingers did not get jammed, and to hold on to the handrails in corridors.

Friday, 30th. December: Lat 44.27S Long 146.17 E: Very little sleep had by all last night, sliding up and down or rolling back and forth in bunks, due to the rolling of the ship as icebreakers have round hulls and do not have stabilisers. Up on the bridge we watched as waves crashed over the bow and while the first lecture was being delivered by Frank Todd on the life of Ocean Wanderers - the great albatross, we found the best place to sleep was in the Lecture theatre in the centre of the ship. Because of the weather, the ship had altered course so had we kept going we would have come to South Africa. We were invited to join Captain Peter Golikov for a cocktail and dinner that night.
Wildlife: Wandering albatros, giant petrel, whale carcass.

Saturday, 31st. December: Lat 47S Long 146E: Lectures today by Louise
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Icebreakers do not have stabilisers, thus in a heavy wave, swell situaution they roll a number of degrees.
Crossley on Douglas Mawson's inland expedition, Mark Jones on seabirds as "Seafood Connoisseurs" and Tui De Roy on whales and dolphins - The Ultimate Communicators. The seas were calming down and we were heading to Commonwealth Bay. Fun time with New Years Eve festivities and a potent brew by Jo Jo the bartender.
Wildlife: whales and dolphins in the distance.

Sunday, 1st. January 1995: Lat 50S Long 147E: Happy New Year: Lectures in the afternoon by Rod Ledingham and Bob Headland. A competition was run to the expected time of crossing the Convergence Line, marking the boundary where cold Antarctic waters sink beneath warmer subtropical ocean mass - a drop from 8deg to 5deg at 3.30pm on Lat 53S which was earlier than expected.
Wildlife: small petrels, sooty shearwaters.

Monday, 2nd. January: A quiet day on board with lectures by John Pickard and Frank Todd. The sea was a dark, dark blue-grey with hardly a ripple until later when the ship began to roll 33deg. and a little scarey. We crossed the permanent winter ice line so was expecting ice the next morning.
Wildlife: nil.

Tuesday, 3rd. January: Air temp 3deg: Water temp 4deg: Lat 62S, Long
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Roll the other way
142 E: 0730 - first iceberg spotted and great excitement. Special event this afternoon - we drew near to the present position of the South Magnetic Pole at 64o39’18 S 139 o 15’08 E. We saw scattered bergy bits as the day went on.
Wildlife: Antarctic petrel, Pintado petrel.

Wednesday, 4th. January: Up at 0130 as the ship had parked in the ice and the twilight night, so the zodiacs could be moved for the days activities. The French vessel La Astrolabe had been waiting for the ice to break up to get into the French base Dumont D'Urville to resupply. Many of us were up on the bridge to watch the KK plough forth through the ice, driven by 5 of the 6 engines, towards the La Astolabe, a dot in the distance. With the ice broken up, the little ship followed us out to open water.

We continued on our way until 0730 when thre KK parked in again on an ice flow, the gangway was lowered and those of us brave enough to do so, ventured a quick stroll around as the ground beneath us moved with the ocean swell and the ship would rise
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Unpacking the duty Free
and fall rhythmically. The snow was falling, the wind was blowing and our boots walked into melt pools on the ice. It wa time for me to get back on board when I saw a fissure in the ice. 0900 we were on the move again, ploughing the way through heavy ice over 1m thick, then great chunks would rise out of the water beside the KK.

We spotted land ahead, Cape Denison at Commonwealth Bay, the windiest site in Antarctica with winds around the KK at 40-50 mph. Landing was impossible so binoculars were out and photos were taken from a distance. So we headed towards the Mertz Glacier Tongue - extending some 45 miles out to sea.

Out we went on our first sigfhtseeing adventure in the helicopter up and over the Mertz Glacier for a wonderful view with clear sky.
Wildlife: Adelie penguins.

Thursday, 5th. January: While having brekkie, a weird sight happened - C had hallucinations of something going past the window when someone dressed up for the outdoors pressed their face against the window - it was Roger looking like a seal. C had forgotten the deck was there and freaked out.
Through snow, broken pack ice and dark water, the sun shone through on glittering ice scenes. Up on the bow we watched as the KK crashed magnificently through the ice, with thumps and bangs resounding against the steel.
Wildlife: Minke whale, Sperm whale, Crabeater seals, Antarctic petrel.

Friday, 6th. January: Lying in bed listening to the shhhhh of the KK gliding through the ice. A day of viewing ice and wildlife: Seals, petrels, Humpback whales, Lepoard seal.

Saturday, 7th. January: Heading towards the Balleny Islands and at lunchtime it was "Land Ahoy". In the evening we dropped anchor by a cluster of deeply eroded black volcanic rocks. while we waited for the Zodiacs, we were entertained by some Emperor penguins running and gliding across the ice and snow. The wind blew and the pack ice moved in so the ship horn sounded to recall the three zodiacs. We resumed our travel to the ross sea.
Wildlife: Emperor penguins.

Sunday, 8th. January: 65o24’ S 165 o 20 E: Rough again due to open water, wind and into a Force 9 on the Beaufort Scale. Waves crashed over the bow and bringing chunks of sea ice onto the foredecks. Waves forming a steep wall of water and the ship dipping into a deep trough at the same time resulted in the entire foredeck being engulfed in water leaving some Zodiacs crushed and twisted. Later the seas calmed down and we could look forward to reaching Cape Adare tomorrow.

Monday, 9th. January: Awake at 0300 as the KK approached land and the sun shone down creating a staiway to Cape Adare. At 0400 the KK was at anchor with ice floes and penguins everywhere - a spectacular sight. The Zodiacs were ready and so were we to get our feet onto Antarctica itself. The landing was easy and we were soon surrounded by Adelie'son the nests, walking beside us, standing and watching us or jumping into the sea. We strolled along to the pair of small wooden structures built when Carsten Borshgrevink wintered over in 1899-1900. Looking in on this sanctuary we could see a supply of groceries preserved by the elements. Back on board by 0830 for a hearty breakfast, we headed south towards the Cape Hallet where the KK dropped anchor again.

We tumbled into the Zodiacs again and in brilliant sunshine and calm waters we made our way to Possession Island and stepped ashore, again immersed among hundreds of penguins going about their business and the skuas reaping the wastes. From the top of the ridge the views were magnificent, though some penguins looked distressed in the heat of the day. Back on board as we continued southwards the sun dipped behind the Admiralty Mountains - and we could see the outline of Coulman Island so out came the helicopter for the scenic flights over the ice spangled sea.

Tuesday, 10th. January: A beautiful clear day with the sun shining from a blue sky onto a sea of pack ice sprinkled with Crabeater seals and Adelie penguins and in the distance the Prince Albert Mountains. The helicopter came out and flew us over the spectacular ice dotted Terra Nova Bay to Terra Nova, the Italian summer base.

Sailing on we came to the Drygalski Ice Tongue, a gigantic extension of the David Glavier. We left this scene behind as we held a course to McMurdo Sound and in the distance was Mount Erebus.

Wednesday, 11th January: Another stunning day in the frozen Ross Sea, with ice broken up by the US ice breaker Polar Star which preceded us by a few days so we followed in her wake. We didn't sleep much during the night as the frozen scene from our window was spectacular and we were waiting for an early morning call for the first helicopter flight to the Dt=ry Valleys. At 0400 we flew out by helicopter over the Transantarctic Mountains to the Dry Valleys, a desert like region almost devoid of ice and snow. I found some moss under a rock - then walked over to a glacier and admired some chunks of ice and ice crystals. Amazing.

On return to the ship we were greeted by another amazing scene - pods of Orcas were cavorting around and following the KK, then some went under the bow while the penguins watched safely from the ice edge. Very soon the KK was parked snugly in the ice and the gangway was down where a BBQ was being set up for our lunch on the ice which could be washed down with Jo Jo's mulled wine. We were observed by Emperor and many Adelie penguins who were eventually overwhelm by enthusiastic photographers.

After the football game the wind picked up and flurries of fine snow swirled around and enveloped us.Back on board we pushed forth, the view cleared ahead so the KK came to a stop at the southernmost point of the journey - 77o37’ S. With the weather clear, out came the helicopter and we flew over to Scott Base where we were invited through on a tour of the base before visiting Hut Point and a close up view of Scott's well preserved first building. We passed by the sprawl of the United States McMurdo Station, and above both stations rose Observation Hill where stands a large wooden cross in testimony to Scott and his four men who never returned.

Even after an eighteen hour day, some of us didn't settle early as we stayed up for the last look of the most southern point of the journey as now we were heading north.

12th, 13th, 14th, 15th. : Cruising north into mist, clear skies and sun, fog and mist and then to our surprise we were in some pack ice in a partly frozen sea for the next 24 hours, which instilled a sense of peacefulness as we clocked up the miles northbound. Many people out on deck to get our last view of scenes like this. We were leaving Antarctica far behind now.
To pass the time we had lectures by Frank, Rick and Captain Peter Golikov talking on icebreaking techniques and the work he had been doing in the high Arctic for many years. He explained the remarkable features of icebreakers, using compressed air to lubricate the hull through sticky ice, ballast tanks and pumps to rock the ship in demanding circumstances.
Up on the bridge we spotted albatross and petrels, with various persons identifying the types of birds.

Monday 16th. January 1995: We woke to the ship moving through an angry sea, choppy dark grey water and waves with the streak of sunlight through misty clouds. Welcome to Macquarie Island, jagged cliffs and rocks showing through the mist and spray; and through all this was a brush of green.

The ship dropped anchor in Lusitania Bay, where King Penguins began porpoising around us. Soon we were in the Zodiacs, making our way over a rough sea, through dense packs of kelp to the shoreline of Macquarie Island to be welcomed by scores of curious King and Royal penguins, only a handful of the thousands nesting shoulder to shoulder on the island.

Back in the Zodiacs, we slowly followed the shoreline, spotting groups of nesting Rockhopper penguins, bouncing their way up rugged penguin ways to the nesting colonies among the tussock grass. Flying around in the mist were some light-mantled sooty albatross, while the giant petrels sailed back and forth over the water.

Sitting quietly in the Zodiacs, with motors off, we could hear the orchestra of nature - the trumpeting kings, grunting and roaring elephant seals, screechy rockhoppers and wistful screams of the light-mantled sooties. While we idly drifted, the king penguins circled us in tighter and tighter loops, and then escorted us back to the KK.

Underway again, we headed to The Isthmus where the ANARE station is located. Back on land we were amid very curious penguins that followed us about as we walked across the beach to the ANARE Base, before being taken on a walks around the station to view historical and scenic areas. As we walked across to the other side of the island we were met by the full force of the westerly wind and waves crashing on the shore. Rugged.

We toured the base facilities, tried the home-made brew and chips then went and watched the wildlife - elephant seals, skuas and gentoo penguins among the beaches and tussock grass flats. As night approached and the weather worsened it was time to go back to the KK and for the first time since leaving Hobart, we could see the eerie glow of street lights through the mist.

17th. January 1995: The blustery weather of Macquarie Island continued though to a less degree than the day before. The KK dropped anchor in Sandy Bay and once more we were into the Zodiacs and pulling up on a sandy shore where we walked with curious penguins as our guides to watch elephant seals jostle, snort and grunt, with steam billowing as young bulls sparred in slow motion.

Walking along the beach we passed countless wallowing seals before climbing to a wooden lookout platform to gaze at the view of the scene of thousands of nesting king penguins in various stages of breeding - some with eggs and others with chicks. Further along the beach there were lines of commuters making their way
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Zodiacs on Foredeck
into a gully - for the human s there was another staircase and boardwalk through dense vegetation of Macquarie cabbage to where we could view the royal penguin rookery. Before we reached the spot, we could hear the almost deafening cacophony of every bird in the colony talking with it’s neighbour and chicks calling for food. The ground was void of vegetation and just mud with adults and chicks being smeared with mud and guano - the sights, smells and sounds were something to behold.

All too soon the time came for us to return to the KK, make our way back to ANARE and say goodbye to the men and women who had taken the time to show us their island. The Kapitan Khlebnikov was once more rolling her way across heaving, lumpy ocean swells while again we had to take care when moving about.

18th. January 1995: Clear - sunshine and blue water and T 11o; A very casual day on board the KK. There were lectures in the theatre, time to wander about taking last minute photos and video, then after the evening meal we went to watch the show - The Penguin Follies with
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Breaking the ice
crew and passengers putting on a couple of hours of entertainment, a lot of which had us laughing loudly.

19th. January 1995: We were woken by Darryl with his morning call through the Intercom - “Good morning everyone, good morning one and all”. Our last day at sea and lots to do - a forum on what is best for Antarctica in the future; a slide show by Tui showing her experiences of her travels and adventures with penguins around the world; Mark presenting the results of the poetry competition; screenings of selected video footage taken on the expedition; exchanging addresses and phone numbers with new friends; last minute packing; and of course the last minute drink with friends to toast the KK and all who adventured in her.

Friday 20th January 1995: As the sun rose the KAPITAN KHLEBNIKOV was nearing the coast of Tasmania and with the pilot and immigration authorities on board, during breakfast we wended our way up the Derwent River, viewing the green of trees and grassy hillsides, to our berth in Hobart. There were people waiting for our return amongst the cars and buildings, reminding us the expedition was over in the
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Breaking the ice
physical being but certainly not in the mind as the memories will live with each and every one of us for ever.

Additional photos below
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The french supply ship "L'Astrolobe" following us out to open water after the KK broke up the ice.

28th October 2010

Thank you
I truly enjoyed looking through your photos. What a wonderful experience.

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