Sunday – Tuesday 10-12 February: DAYS 9-11 / AT SEA – TOWARDS ANTARCTICA

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February 12th 2019
Published: February 21st 2019
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Sunday – Tuesday 10-12 February: DAYS 9-11 / AT SEA – TOWARDS ANTARCTICA

Weather and ice dictated our crossing of the Scotia Sea from South Georgia to Antarctica. As with all of One Ocean’s itinerary planning, the Expedition Leader and Captain continually made decisions based on the sea and ice conditions at the time. Our luck continued. Yes, the seas were very slightly choppier and yes, one morning there was flurries of snow in the morning, but blue skies prevailed by lunch time.

During these days at sea, we had presentations from our highly skilled professionals on the history of Ernest Shackleton, birds of the Antarctic, how pinnipeds feed (eg Elephant seals), identification of whales, cartography expeditions, If looks could Krill: Southern Ocean Food Web with Matt Allen, Shackleton’s Captain (movie) and Penguin Presentation. We even had a fun night in the bar, learning how to tie knots. This was led by our head kayak leaders who were absolute characters.

The Krill presentation clearly showed that the global warming and CO2 sequestration topic was extensively more critical to the south and north pole and that these issues at the poles reflect the extensive nature of global warming and CO2 sequestration for the whole of the world. Every politician should listen to Matt’s presentation on these little krill animals.

The movie titled ‘Shackleton’s Captain’ was incredibly moving as it focused on the obstinance, irrational nature and determination of Shackleton and the navigational, negotiating and leadership skill of his Captain, Frank Worsley. Not one of the expedition team of 28 died, despite the multiple obstacles and the magnitude of these obstacles during the journey to Antarctica in the ship, ‘HMS Endurance’. The wooden ship was ultimately crushed by the enclosing winter’s ice far to the south in the Weddell Sea in 1915.

As we edged ever closer to the frozen continent of Antarctica, large icebergs announced our arrival in Antarctic waters. We saw the dark cliffs of Elephant Island, the most inhospitable island in the world, appear on the horizon. Shackleton and his men were encamped here for many months, having lost HMS Endurance in the thick sea ice. It took 1.5 years for all men to be rescued, 22 of whom took shelter on Elephant Island. From the tiny beach at Point Wild, Shackleton and six companions set off on the rescue mission to South Georgia, aboard the tiny lifeboat, James Caird. To this day, the epic ocean crossing is considered one of the greatest in history.

During 2019, there will be an expedition to try and locate the ship which was lost in 1915.

During the afternoon, we past the biggest iceberg anyone had ever seen. It had broken off the Antarctic Continent in the Ross Sea in 1987. Originally it was 154 km x 35 km (9,390 km2). The piece we were now looking at broke off the original iceberg and is 28 kms long, and 40-50 m above the water. It was a flat ‘sheet’ berg. I have included a photo of an image of the Captain’s computer screen that showed him where all the bergs were. It shows this long one very clearly. As usual, our Captain came as close to the berg as possible. Moving at 20 knots we took nearly 2 hours to pass its length. Some saw a leopard seal basking on a smaller sheet of ice. I couple of whales ere spotted, including a fin whale

During our last night a sea on the way towards Antarctica, we passed the South Orkney Island group which represent the peaks of a submarine mountain range called the Scotia Arc, connecting South Georgia to the South Shetland Islands and into the geopolitical boundary of Antarctica. Often shrouded in fog and surrounded by ice much of the year, a chance to visit these islands doesn’t come often. Our third morning at sea was no exception.

We woke to our first foggy morning with an outside temperature of 2.5C and water temperature of 1.2C. We were always toasty inside the ship so as Kaylan woke us with her gentle voice at 8.00am, telling us the day’s temperature, we knew it was rug up time every time we wanted to go to the Bridge of the ship or outside to view wildlife and icebergs.

On arriving at Elephant Island at around 9.30am, after a very foggy morning, the sky was blue with a few fluffy clouds and the sun was shining on the many iceberg floating around the sea. We did not land on Point Wild on Elephant Island but the skilled Captain sailed up and down it so that we got a tremendous views of where Wiley and his 21 men stayed for 126 days, waiting to be rescued by Shackleton.

From there on, after the Captain turned the ship 180 degrees, we again headed south towards the Shetland Island chain, passing Cornwallis Island on port-side and the long, ice and snow-covered Clarence Island in the background. It was here that it became fin whale ‘soup’. They were everywhere. It was an amazing display. Then Matt, our on-board naturalist shouted, “killer whale at 9 o’clock”. I was up in the bridge, so I rushed out with binoculars and cameras. There were 3 orcas close to our ship, mature adult male and female and a young one. I looked for Tom straight away hoping he was close by and hoping he saw them as he has been hoping for a view of these animals for a long time. Sure enough, he did. We high-fived and watched them disappear into the distance.

After lunch we attended another interesting presentation from John our historian, about the Norwegian explorers of Antarctica. He was a fascinating and knowledgeable man and always introducing information that he had discovered in the ‘bowels of a library’ somewhere!!!.

Another One Ocean guide, Suzy, did a presentation on her trip to gather data on seal numbers with the Weddell Seal Research team at McMurdo, Ross Bay. Suzy is a dedicated science teacher and communicator and so enthusiastic.

One expedition custom is to celebrate anyone’s birthday. One Ocean organises for 3 dressed up penguins ( staff and a passenger) to bring in the cake to the birthday person. They look pretty funny! (photo included)

After dinner our Photographer in residence, Dave, showed us a 6 minute movie he has made on his trip to Churchill in Manitoba, Hudson Bay which showed his love of polar bears. It was magnificent. We tried to get to Churchill when we were in Canada in 2017 but it was the wrong time of the year. There is only a 3-4 week window the polar bears can be seen in good numbers which is at the end of October when the edge of the Bay starts to freeze. Dave is a fantastic wildlife photographer.

Just before dinner our Expedition Leader gave us a rundown on plan A for our 5 days in the Antarctica Peninsular and region. There would be no secret to say that Tom & I were incredible excited before Kaylan presented her plan. After the presentation we were INCREDIBLY excited.

Tomorrow we will reach the only continent in the world we haven’t visited. Yes, we were VERY excited!!

Additional photos below
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