Written by TwoIdiots on 11 Apr, 2008
Chapter One - Starting from the End of the WorldThe day after Christmas, we boarded the plane from Puenta Arenas to Ushuaia, awaiting our much anticipated New Year cruise to Antarctica. The flight over the Tierra del Fuego region was cloudy but beautiful with verdant…Read More
Chapter One - Starting from the End of the WorldThe day after Christmas, we boarded the plane from Puenta Arenas to Ushuaia, awaiting our much anticipated New Year cruise to Antarctica. The flight over the Tierra del Fuego region was cloudy but beautiful with verdant waterways underneath and the Andes hanging out by the tip of the wings. Due to problems in booking our flight, we arrived Ushuaia a week early. We stayed two blocks from the center of town in Hotel Malvinas. A friendly inn keeper, 24 hour free breakfast, very clean room, and non-smoking internet café half a block away made the wait went by much quicker.January 2nd, we finally left Ushuaia aboard Professor Multanovskiy. It was the smallest ship at the dock, fully booked with 49 passengers and a Russian crew. At 1740 hours, we headed east out to the open sea, leaving the colorful buildings of Ushuaia with its glaciers and mountains behind. Sea birds escorted our boat through the Beagle Channel to the Drake Passage and that’s when the rock’n’rolling started. It was not too bad, just a gentle rolling motion, nothing a pill cannot handle.January 4th, 1930 hours, we landed on Aitcho Island (see pic)! After two days and two nights, we were on solid ground again. We were very excited to see our first (actually thousands all at one time) penguin outside of the zoo. They have this ‘penguin aroma’ reminiscent of a chicken farm, which we would become very accustomed to in the next few days. There were gentoo and chinstrap penguins on this island, some feeding their young chicks, while other penguin parents were still incubating their eggs.Since the Drake Passage was behind us, it was smooth sailing across the Bransfield Strait. The following two days, the clouds had finally lifted and the scenery was breathtaking. We made landings one after another, wasting no time – and we had a lot of daylight hours.Chapter two - Antarctic Sound Pack IceJanuary 5th, we were heading south into the Antarctic Sound, we came to a dead end. The passage south was completely blocked with ice, and there was no way through. We executed plan B and turned east towards Duse Bay on the Antarctic Continent (see pic). Many of us were on the bow, watching our ship plow through the ice towards our destination. We could hear the cracking of the pack ice as we inched forward, scaring the penguins which were sunbathing on the ice sheet fleeing into the cold water.Chapter Three - Islands after IslandsAfter a few days, I came to appreciate the small ship we were on. The fact that we only have 49 tourists at each landing, leaving lesser impact on wildlife, somehow made me felt less guilty. Our small boat could also anchor closer to shore than the larger ship. Last but certainly important to us, Professor Multanovskiy lacked some of the comfort and luxury of big cruise liner, which translated to lower cost! Like our captain said, “She is not a dancing boat.”Chapter Four - What Do Tourist Do in Antarctica?At each landing, we spent most of our time observing penguins – they were very entertaining and curious creatures. If you sat there quietly, they would come and check you out. They traveled up and down the hill slopes via ‘penguin highways’ - icy trails that were packed solid and smooth by millions of penguins walking on them 24/7. The highways made their journey from sea to nests less hazardous since their feet were not made for walking. I was also amused by tourists setting up tripods, taking off gloves, and adjusting their cameras in sub 0 degree temperature – well, I was not that brave. A point and shoot digital camera turned out to be my best buddy. In the days followed, we made more landings on historical sites, science stations, wildlife nesting grounds, and even ‘hot’ spring. Those who went into the water swore that it was warm, but judging from the brief moment they stayed in the thermal spring – I did not think so. However, it was fun watching them plunged into the ocean. Later, we had barbeque dinner on the open deck – another one of a kind experience in Antarctic. After posing for a few show-and-tell pictures, we took our food back inside the dining hall – I enjoyed my drumstick warm. Chapter Five - Eerie SunsetThe Bridge was our favorite hang out. It was the place to enjoy the graceful company of albatrosses and to spot whales (we saw three different types and in pairs, too). January 6th, the fog had returned in the afternoon. Once again, we were on the Bridge, wondering how freaky it was to sail in a dense fog not able to see where you were going, trapped in this atmospheric void. All of a sudden, we were in the clear! The four of us, who were on the Bridge, looked back behind our ship in awe. We just witnessed the ship broke out of the thick fog which looked like a heavy curtain hanging down from heaven. It was surreal! The dramatic evening light cast illuminations on the large tabular iceberg drifting by us like a silence movie. It was the longest sunset we had ever experienced, and our pictures simply did not do justice to what we saw.Chapter Six - Stormy WeatherJanuary 8th, the wind picked up and it started to snow as we landed on Goudier Island. At Port Lockroy Station, operated by the British, we were able to stamp our passports, post mail, and purchase souvenirs. Outside the small structure, there were gentoo penguins everywhere, some huddled right next to the doorway, some nesting in the gaps under the foundation. These penguins were so acclimated to people that they rarely took notice of us, even if we were only a few feet away. Most of them were more interested in their pebble-stealing neighbors then in us.Next stop was the visit across the channel to Jougla Point on Wiencke Island. The landing was on some wave-and-ice scoured granite rocks, rather slippery in the snow. Not far from the landing site, was a large pile of whale bones left over from the whaling days. Parts of two huge skulls, lower mandibles, ribs, and vertebrae were in evidence. Unfortunately, the wind had increased and it was freezing cold, otherwise I would stay longer at this amazing site.Final Chapter - Iceberg AlleyAfter the activities on our southernmost landing on Petermann Island, we cruised among a cemetery of icebergs they dubbed ‘iceberg alley.’ Some of them had big arcs, some had high towers, some looked like a person’s profile, some looked like mythical creatures carved by nature. We also spotted a couple of seals and there were penguins swam by closely.January 9th, the weather had improved, we made our last landing under a blue sky at Neko Harbor. A number of us took a steep hike uphill to where we had a superb view of the surrounding glaciers. Not only could we hear them calving, we could even see it happening from time to time. We got down the hill by sliding down the thick pristine snow, which was great fun. You can hear us laughed and screamed all the way from the Zodiac landing site.There was still one more Zodiac tour before heading back across the Drake Passage. One group had a close encounter with two whales less than 10 meters away from their Zodiac! We were in another group – what a bummer.We knew we were back in the Drake Passage as soon as the vessel started to roll again. The crew said the return voyage was always worse – no kidding. Everything in the cabin was moving about. We could not even sit in the chair and taking a shower was challenging. So, there was nothing else to do but to swallow more pills, go to sleep, and tried not to fall out of bed. However, I must say if I had the money to do this again, I would do it in a heart beat. January 12th, after taking a short detour to see Cape Horn, we returned to Ushuaia. Next stop on our itinerary – Patagonia! Close
Written by jorgejuan on 11 Mar, 2006
The Antarctic continent belongs, in theory, to the entire Humankind and can not be exploited for commercial purposes, but the following seven countries have pretensions to it: Argentina, Chile, United Kingdom, Norway, Australia, New Zealand and France. USA has the greatest scientific base in the…Read More
The Antarctic continent belongs, in theory, to the entire Humankind and can not be exploited for commercial purposes, but the following seven countries have pretensions to it: Argentina, Chile, United Kingdom, Norway, Australia, New Zealand and France. USA has the greatest scientific base in the Antarctica: McMurdo (a whole village with over one thousand people living permanently there), apart from Palmer in the Antarctica Peninsula, plus a third base in the Geographical South Pole. Russia has many bases, including one in the Magnetic South Pole. Italy, Spain, China, Brazil, Japan, India, Germany, and so on, until forty countries also have bases in Antarctica.
The Antarctic Islands have a different status and are officially owned by several countries. Since there are no airports in the French Austral and Antarctic Islands the unique way to travel to them is by the scientific ship MARION DUFRESNE, which sails from Reunion Island four times a year and accepts only 14 visitors in each voyage (those who have family members in the islands are given preference to book the places); the rest are scientists, maintenance personnel, cooks, etc. Indeed, they are very inaccessible islands, but it is worth to get there if you wish to observe the Antarctic animal’s life in their milieu, without being bothered by the humans. Apart from different kinds of penguins and seals you can watch sea elephants, sea leopards, whales, orcas, albatross, petrels, and many other birds. The whole journey took me 29 days with 28 nights. From Reunion to Crozet there are six days of navigation, then three more to Kerguelen, two more until Saint Paul, which is uninhabited by humans, and a few more hours to Amsterdam. Finally we returned to Reunion (six more days). Apart from Malagasies of Madagascar, who worked in the ship machines, downstairs, and rarely mixed with the French, the rest of the crew on the ship were all French, including visitors. I was the only "foreigner" in that Terra Incognita.We were anxious to reach our first Island, CROZET, but the scientists of the Alfred Faure base were still more eager than us to meet new faces. The welcome was superlative: lots of food, drinks and sweets. We landed there through our 5 seats helicopter because there are no ports in the islands, only small piers for the zodiacs. The pilot was very careful to choose a no direct route from the boat to the island without over flying the numerous albatross nests. Crozet Island, apart from the colonies of penguins, is particular because of the albatross. The more characteristics are the black eyebrow ones, with a weight of about 5 kilos. When they open their wings they reach a width of two and a half metres. After the copious lunch we made a long trekking to their nests. The babies adopt an anchorite position in their nests and wait for weeks to their parents, without moving, even if it rains, snows or is very cold. Their parents have to fly sometimes very far away during days to bring food.KERGUELEN is, with much difference, greater than Crozet or Amsterdam Islands. Its surface is almost similar to Corsica, in the Mediterranean Sea. In fact Kerguelen is an archipelago composed by 400 islands. The base is called Port aux Français ("Paf" in short) and is the most important in the French Antarctic Islands.I was so lucky to see a sea leopard near my refuge! Later I was told that they usually search for penguins close to the Antarctic continent and rarely in these islands. Before eating the penguins they play throwing them up in the air several times.Sea elephants are the more giant animals of Kerguelen Island; they measure up to six metres long. They are clumsy and crawl on earth, but in the ocean they can submerge reaching a depth of 1500 metres to look for food. I saw hundreds of them in the island lying lazily, sleeping, because they know that on earth they have no enemies. In the sea orcas are their main predator; an orca can swallow up a sea elephant weighing 3 tons.AMSTERDAM Island was first sighted in 1522 by the Spanish navigator Juan Sebastian Elcano (captain of the caravel Victoria after Magellan’s death in Philippines), when returning home during the first circumnavigation of the world in History. He could not disembark because of the bad weather conditions. Our Marion Dufresne too had difficulties reaching the island. The base there is called Martin de Vivies. The characteristic of Amsterdam are the seals; there are hundreds, thousands of them besides the base and walk around undisturbed. Although they do not fear the humans they do not allow to be touched by them. The males are twom long and weigh about 165 kilos. They form harems of up to 15 females, and when they show sign of weakness are immediately challenged by a young exemplar to fight for the harem. Sometimes one of the two dies. They eat krill, calamari, and fish, and recognize their children by touching their noses, in a way that reminds the Maori manner of New Zealand.SAINT PAUL consists in a volcanic cone with a caldera, has a surface of 7 square kilometres and is located at 54km from Amsterdam Island. We stopped for a few hours to replace the food and medicines in a wooden refuge, as the maritime laws stipulate, just in case some sailing boat in trouble could need help or shelter. In Saint Paul, apart from seals, there are thousands of Rockhoppers penguins. They are called thus because they jump until the top of the hills, and are also known as crested penguins, or macaroni, for the brightly coloured feathers on their heads. At one time Rockhoppers and other penguins were hunted for their oil, but today are protected. They have a stature of about 60 centimetres and a weight of 4 kilos, while in Crozet and Kerguelen live the Royal penguin, with a size of 90cm and a weight of 13 kilos. In the Antarctic continent lives the Emperor, the tallest of the 17 kinds of penguins in the Antarctica, reaching a height of 120cm.While navigating we slept in the cabins of the boat. There were singles, doubles and triples, with bathroom inside, table, chairs, radio with music, but not TV or video. Everyday the Malagasies cleaned our rooms and changed the linen. Usually in the cruises there are all facilities for the tourists such as sauna, Jacuzzi, but MARION DUFRESNE was a scientific ship and the only ludic activity was a gymnasium. When there was storm we were forced to secure ourselves to the beds with the help of belts to avoid falling down. In the islands we had basic refuges, simple, but convenient, although some visitors preferred to sleep in the boat instead, and those with family members in the Islands could use the dormitory of the bases. We had to carry with us sleeping bags because it was very cold at night, and the refuges had not heaters. Toilets were in the nature, together with the sea elephants and penguins. For showers we waited until we got to the bases or to our boat. Onboard the MARION DUFRESNE we assisted every day to scientific conferences offered by the specialists travelling with us. They gave us lectures about the sea streams in the Antarctic Ocean, the climate changes, the tectonic plaques of our planet, the last theory about the Gondwana continent, the travelling icebergs, the sea pirates who board and rob the ships in the Malacca Passage, the illegal fishing boats, the cruel killing of the whales in the 21st century, etc. Apart from that we had every morning a video documental about the life of the Antarctic animals: penguins, whales, sea leopards, and all kind of birds. And after dinner we watched films, mainly French, with actors such as Jean-Paul Belmondo, Alain Delon, Gerard Depardieu, and Edith Piaf. After the movie we all went to the cafeteria for action. The nights with pleasant breeze we used to go out to the deck and walk to admire the starry firmament and the meteorites. Thanks to this routine one night we saw the Austral Dawn.The bases of Crozet, Kerguelen and Amsterdam have cafeterias with a sort of pub, a library and a cinema where the personnel members, known as hibernators, gather after dinner. In summer there are about 50 people in each base, but in winter this number decreases to 20. Practically all hibernators are young, and spend periods from 3 months to 1 year in the islands. Many of them get addiction to that lonely and quite life and repeat the period, but others experiment psychological changes in their behaviour due to seeing the same people around them everyday. The "syndrome of Ker" (Kerguelen) makes friends forever after 3 months of living together.
Written by globalroamer on 11 Feb, 2006
We made two stops on the following day, Peterman Island and Pleneau Island. Both were home to large penguin colonies. The penguins were nesting and several chicks had recently hatched. The penguin rookeries stink of poop, though you get used to it after a while.…Read More
We made two stops on the following day, Peterman Island and Pleneau Island. Both were home to large penguin colonies. The penguins were nesting and several chicks had recently hatched. The penguin rookeries stink of poop, though you get used to it after a while. They are also noisy, busy places as the birds are constantly calling and challenging each other. Peterman Island is apparently a popluar stop for cruises like ours, though we did not see any other ships while we were there. We landed at Port Circumcision. Here there is a refuge hut for use in an emergency, and a cross in memory of three men who died in 1982 while attempting to cross the sea ice back to Faraday (now Vernadsky) Station.
On both islands, we hiked up to the top of the island to see the spectacular views. After climbing back down, we cruised the harbors to check out the icebergs, wildlife, and scenery. You'd think that after a while it would get tedious, but it doesn't. Each iceberg is unique, and they look really different depending on the light. It's really quite amazing.
The summer solstice was tonight, but I was too exhausted to stay up to see how late it was when it got "dark". We'd been up past midnight several days already, and it was still light enough on deck to read.
Written by sirverity on 01 Apr, 2008
In the passage between Antarctica proper and a chain of ice covered islands, lies the Gerlache Strait. Named for a Belgian Antarctic explorer, this body of water is an ice-clogged channel that offers spectacular views sure to make even the most self-assured person feel small.Your…Read More
In the passage between Antarctica proper and a chain of ice covered islands, lies the Gerlache Strait. Named for a Belgian Antarctic explorer, this body of water is an ice-clogged channel that offers spectacular views sure to make even the most self-assured person feel small.Your average visitor's experience is in the hands of their boat captain, and he or she in turn is at the mercy of the highly volatile changes in weather that the region is known for. In practical terms this means that there is no guarantee that you'll even be able to pass through the strait, and even if you do, there's no knowing if the fog will allow you to see far up the high cliffs that surround it. However, if the weather allows it, as it did during my visit, a cruise down this icy waterway can be a true highlight of an Antarctic voyage.My own visit in January of 2008 lasted a mere few hours. Heading south with Anvers Island and others on our right and the continent proper to the left, skies were blue, seas were calm and the biting wind was manageable. Other than a few breaks belowdeck to warm up, I stood perched on deck with my tripod and camera, alternating between my wide-angle lens to capture the two to four thousand foot peaks rising precipitously from the waterline, and my zoom lens to capture small cliques of gentoo or adelie penguins hitching a ride on small icebergs of blue and white.On each side of the strait there are enormous glaciers in various stages of formation which would have appeared even more impressive had there been some kind of context present to put things in scale. Our ship was the only man-made object to be seen, so I've been forced to explain to those perusing my photos how that mass of snow and ice that they see at the base of the mountain could have buried our ship and then some, even if it only looks like a hill with a snowbank.Our passage ended in Flanders Bay just as we hooked around to the Bismarck Channel to the west, marking the southernmost point I've visited thus far. From there it was a short trip to the entrance of the Neumeyer Channel which will be discussed in another review.All said and done this was certainly my favorite destination during my four day visit to the White Continent, and weather permitting this is probably the most dramatic scenery available to your average Antarctic cruiser. Close
Our cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula departed from Ushuaia, Argentina. We only spent one day there. I wanted to make sure that we had enough time to make the ship's departure, even if there were flight delays. You can't catch up with ships headed south…Read More
Our cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula departed from Ushuaia, Argentina. We only spent one day there. I wanted to make sure that we had enough time to make the ship's departure, even if there were flight delays. You can't catch up with ships headed south from Ushuaia. Ushuaia is a small city, the southern-most city in the world. They market it as "the end of the world", and it certainly feels remote. Most people go there to hike, take day cruises, or for the train that goes up to a glacier. We simply hung out around town, went to the small but worthwhile Museo del Fin del Mundo (Museum of the End of the World). If you do go to Ushuaia, you should first read Evolution's Captain by Peter Nichols. It's the story of the captain of the ship The Beagle, which is the ship that Charles Darwin was on when he studied the wildlife of the region. His studies ultimately resulted in the publication of the theory of evolution. Ironically, the captain of the Beagle was a deeply religious man who was devastated that so much of his life's work helped to further Darwin's research. Having this background made the trip to the museum, and other places in Ushuaia, really interesting. If I hadn't read the book, I think the museums would have been boring.
After we departed Ushuaia, we sailed down the Beagle Channel. As we left civilization behind, the scenery was beautiful. My pictures don't do it justice. It is so remote, and so pristine. It was late so we went to bed before we left the Beagle Channel. We woke up the next day in the Drake Passage. The crew said that we were having really good weather, and we were only having 10-15 foot swells. Even though I used a patch for anti-nausea medicine, I really couldn't be upright for very long, maybe 30 minutes at a time. I felt fine as long as I was laying in bed. While crossing the Drake, there were a variety of lectures on board, like identifying different types of birds, how to get the most out of your digital camera, lectures on ice, and others. Plus—there was bird watching, as the ship was escorted by a number of different kinds of birds. I only made it to the one on using your camera, but the other lectures all got good reviews from people who did go.
I never got the sense from Brad (who does not get seasick) that anyone got the least bit bored during the crossing because there always seemed to be stuff to do. We brought a bunch of books to read and DVDs to watch, but I don't think we even unpacked them. I did bring my laptop so we could download the pictures from the camera and start each day with a blank disc. Good thing we did because in total we took about 1400 pictures, and I would have been really mad when I filled up the camera if I didn't have an extra card.After two days at sea, the water smoothed out and I could venture out of the cabin. The afternoon of the second day we spotted land—the South Shetland Islands. Everyone was out on deck to get their first glimpse of Antarctica in person. Sounds silly, but it was really exciting and everyone had on huge grins.
We awoke each morning to Dutch's (our Australian expedition leader) gentle prodding to get out of bed because there was something amazing to look at outside. This morning we threw on some clothes and went out on to the bow, where the crew was serving…Read More
We awoke each morning to Dutch's (our Australian expedition leader) gentle prodding to get out of bed because there was something amazing to look at outside. This morning we threw on some clothes and went out on to the bow, where the crew was serving hot chocolate and pastries.The ship was moving (barely) down the Lemaire Channel. Looking at the end of the channel, it seemed unbelievable that the ship could fit through it. Small icebergs bobbed on the surface of the water. Rocky black mountains reached up on either side of the ship, creating an unusual and beautiful black, white, and blue palette. We reluctantly left the stunning views to heed the call to breakfast.After breakfast, we suited up in the mud room and climbed down the gangplank to load 12 at a time into the black zodiacs for the trip to shore. We would get to know the zodiacs really well over the next 4 days. The first stop was at the Ukrainian research station, Vernadsky. Antarctica is the driest climate on earth (all the water is frozen), so fire is a real danger in the research stations.Our hosts at Vernadsky were great. The Ukrainian government purchased the research station from the British (it was Faraday Station under the British) to continue their research on the hole in the ozone layer. Our tour showed us most of the small station, where 10 to 15 people typically stay for winter. Since our visit was in early summer, it was rarely dark outside and the sun was blinding. It was hard to imagine what living there would be like when snow covered the windows, when night lasts 20 hours a day and stepping outside could be hazardous. No wonder they have a great bar. Many of us bought a shot of the vodka the bar is known for. A couple of women on the ship traded undergarments for a shot, so they accept a barter arrangement as well. You can also buy a bottle to take with you.At Vernadsky they also have a small souvenir shop. They accepted US dollars in my case. I don't recall if they accept other currencies. The ship's crew arranged to have our passports stamped (yea!), and we could mail postcards from here. We actually purchased the postcards from the ship, wrote them the previous night, and had them ready so we wouldn't have to carry addresses and stuff with us to shore. They said, it could take 4 to 14 months for the postcards to be delivered. It's been just about 2 months, and the one I sent to myself in the US arrived this week.This was also our first chance to see some penguins close up. After leaving the station, we cruised around the harbor in the zodiac looking for seals, penguins, other birds, and, of course, icebergs. The scenery was amazing. It's hard to take bad pictures because every where you looked was gorgeous. Vernadsky Station was the southernmost point of the journey. The remainder of the trip would be exploring the peninsula and heading slowly north. We sailed north during lunch and spent the afternoon cruising around the Yalour Islands, checking out the city-block-sized icebergs, penguin- and seal-watching, and snapping pictures of everything. Close
Written by kwasiak on 14 Jan, 2005
Neko Harbor was first discovered by Adrien de Gerlache’s Belgian expedition of 1897-99. The name of the harbor comes from a Norwegian floating whaling factory ship. The ship, Neko, operated in the harbor for many of the seasons between 1911 and 1924.
Neko Harbor…Read More
Neko Harbor was first discovered by Adrien de Gerlache’s Belgian expedition of 1897-99. The name of the harbor comes from a Norwegian floating whaling factory ship. The ship, Neko, operated in the harbor for many of the seasons between 1911 and 1924.
Neko Harbor was the last landing on the Antarctic continent and the last landing of the trip. At the last landing, we had one last climb. It was the second most memorable climb of the trip, as the first will always be reserved for Deception Island. It was the last climb, the last time on Antarctica, the last place to watch a glacier falling into an ocean, the last time we would be sliding on our bottoms in Antarctica, and the last time to listen to Antarctica. Neko Harbor was the last experience in Antarctica, but it was the beginning of the bond that will always tie me to Antarctica and pull me towards it. Ever since I lost sight of that harbor, I have wanted to go back to the great continent that I found so peaceful and colorful. It was the first and only place that a photo of the whole group was taken.
In the harbor you can see Gentoo penguins and watch a glacier breaking off into the ocean. To fully appreciate the harbor, you must view it from the top of the mountain. At the top, the sound of the glacier breaking off could be heard like thunder, just like at the beach, but on the mountain you did not have to worry about a large wave coming. We were warned that if we heard the thunder of the glacier while on the beach, we were not to even take a second to glimpse the glacier, but to hurry to higher ground. At the top of the mountain we made our last snow angels and last snow creations. For some of us, it was the last time we would be playing in the snow for a long time.
Written by kwasiak on 13 Jan, 2005
De Gerlache charted the island in the 1890s. The island was named after the expedition’s geophysicist, Émile Danco, who died in the Antarctic. In the 1950s, a hut named Base O was built by the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey, which later became the…Read More
De Gerlache charted the island in the 1890s. The island was named after the expedition’s geophysicist, Émile Danco, who died in the Antarctic. In the 1950s, a hut named Base O was built by the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey, which later became the British Antarctic Survey. The hut is now an emergency refuge that is occasionally used by researchers for short periods of time.
On Danco Island we took a short hike up to the top of a mountain, carefully avoiding a fur seal and stepping in penguin streets. If we stepped in the little streets they had made themselves in the snow, we would create holes that they could get stuck in. Not too hard to imagine when we were sinking up to our knees in the snow. Fresh snow had fallen during the night. The snow piled on the ship’s decks was proof of that. On the way down, instead of struggling all the way down, we slid most of the way on our bottoms.
The top of the mountain was rather flat. Someone had brought a rugby ball to take a picture with and soon a game of rugby was formed. Being an American that was clueless to exactly how rugby was played, I just watched the Canadians and knowledgeable Americans tackle each other. I have a feeling landing in snow is much softer than a regular rugby field. Also, at the top of the mountain, I watched the Gentoo penguins go about their business.
After the slide down, we took our last Zodiac cruise through the icebergs. During the cruise, we stopped for a moment of silence to listen to nature. The silence was broken when Jorn, our zodiac driver, called out, “Did you see that?’ A large piece of the glacier had just fallen into the water. I saw it, but those who did not see it definitely heard it and saw the wave it produced.
I awoke on Christmas morning to the beauty of Paradise Bay (officially Paradise Harbor). The water looked like a mirror reflecting the mountains and glaciers. Paradise Bay was the most naturally colorful place I saw in Antarctica. During my 2-hour Zodiac cruise,…Read More
I awoke on Christmas morning to the beauty of Paradise Bay (officially Paradise Harbor). The water looked like a mirror reflecting the mountains and glaciers. Paradise Bay was the most naturally colorful place I saw in Antarctica. During my 2-hour Zodiac cruise, besides seeing black and white, I saw blue, green, and even orange. I told one person the colors I saw, and they automatically replied, “Of course, the sky and water were blue.” Well, that was true, but I also saw blue copper deposits. Green was the color of one iceberg and the moss growing on the rocks. Orange was the color of the lichen. I hear that there is also yellow lichen in the area, but I must have missed it when I was watching the glacier break off into the ocean.
At Paradise Bay we landed at an abandoned Argentine Base. Some climbed up the mountain to enjoy a better view of the bay and a slide back down. Instead of hiking up the mountain, I enjoyed the view from the shore while watching the Gentoo penguins carrying rocks to build their nests and sit on their eggs. I also took the chance to build my first thing out of snow in 5 years. I was going to build a snowman, but I then decided a snow penguin fit better in Antarctica.
Written by kwasiak on 12 Jan, 2005
Esperanza was established in 1951. In 1977, the Argentine government began sending women and children to Antarctica. One of the women brought in was seven months pregnant. On January 7, 1978, Emilio Marcos de Palma was the first baby born in Antarctica.…Read More
Esperanza was established in 1951. In 1977, the Argentine government began sending women and children to Antarctica. One of the women brought in was seven months pregnant. On January 7, 1978, Emilio Marcos de Palma was the first baby born in Antarctica. Today the base is the home to about a dozen children that live with their families at the base year-round. I learned from one of the children (one of the students on my trip was from Chile and translated for us) that most families are stationed at the base for 1 year at a time.
When walking on the gravel roads through the base, I felt like I was in a small town. The base has a school, a chapel, a post office, an infirmary, 13 housing buildings, and a graveyard. Esperanza even has a museum.
The base is in the middle of an Adélie penguin rookery that has around 100,000 pairs. Most of the rookery is protected and off-limits to tourists, but in the small part not only did I see Adélie penguins, but I also saw a few Gentoo penguins and a Chinstrap penguin, which is rare for this area.
During our visit to the base, we were invited into the mess hall, where we were served refreshments. In the mess hall we were able to buy some souvenirs. Some of them were expensive, but you have to pay a price to bring home a souvenir from the southern continent. The mess hall also served as the base’s entertainment room. There was a foosball table, a ping-pong table, and a television. Who knew that they had Direct TV down in Antarctica? I watched as some of my group engaged in foosball and ping-pong games with the children on the base.