Category Archives: Arctic/Antarctic

Antarctica a Second Visit.

Antarctica – a very brief history of discovery.

The idea of Terra Australis begins with the Greeks. Pythagoras in the sixth century BC and Aristotle in the fourth century BC, argue that the earth is a sphere. Greek geographers feelings for symmetry lead to the concept of a southern landmass. Flat earth orthodoxy holds forth until the voyages of discovery during the sixtheenth century.

1501   Florentine Seaman, Amerigo Vespucci sails the South American coastline as far as 50deg.S and may have reached South Georgia.
1519   Magellan  leaves Spain with instructions to sail south and find a western sea route to the Indies. He found a narrow strait which he named the Magellan Straits, and passed through to the Pacific Ocean. To the south was Tierra del Fuego and thought to be the northern edge of the long sought after southern continent. Magellan continues westward, and is killed in the Philippines, but one of his ships completes the circumnavigation of the globe.
1578   Francis Drake in the Golden Hind sails through Magellan Strait and is blown far south and names Drakes Passage and proves there is no land to be seen south of Tierra del Fuego.
1592   English explorer John Davis discovers the Falkland Islands.
1616   Willem Schouten and Jacob le Maire discover Cape Horn and are the first sailors to round the tip Cape Horn.
1773   Captain James Cook and crews of Resolution and Adventure became the first men to cross the Antarctic Circle. Cook on his second voyage of discovery was ordered to keep as far south as possible, but he failed to find land and so dismiss the myth of a southern continent.  Cook writes: ‘a strong gail attended by a thick fog, sleet and snow,  which froze to the rigging as it fell and decorated the whole ship with icicles. Our ropes were like wire, our sails like plates of metal and the sheaves froze fast in the blocks……I have never seen so much ice’. Cook reached 71deg. S, travelled 18,000 miles through unknown southern seas without sighting land. Cook returned again in 1775 on his 3rd voyage covering 62,000 miles of discovery.
Jan 1820   The Russian explorer,  Admiral Bellingshausen, sent by the Czar on a voyage of exploration in the southern ocean, was the first person to sight land on the continent. He also circumnavigated the continent further south than Cook.
Feb 1831   John Bisco a sealer sights the cliffs of Enderby Land – the first sighting of land in the Indian sector.
Jan 1840   Charles Wilkes sailed through pack ice for 1250 miles along the coast now known as Wilkes Land and sighted land on several occasions and confirms that Antarctica is indeed a continent.
Jan 1841   Sir James Ross with two ships Erebus and Terror became the first to penetrate the Antarctic pack ice. He enters and names the Ross Sea and discovers Ross Island and the huge cliffs of the Ross Ice Shelf.  He returns to Hobart but sails south again the following summer to trace the ice shelf further east and reaching 78deg. S,  a record that would stand until 1900.

Frances and Neale on the Ross Ice Shelf in Jan.1998
Frances and Neale on the Ross Ice Shelf, Jan.1998. 78deg S

1881   Sealers and whalers have been working the Antarctic and Sub Antarctic Islands for more than 100 years during this era of discovery. The first regulations were introduced by the British in 1881 to control the industry as the numbers of seal were depleting.
1895  Henryk Bull, a whaler, is credited with being the first to land on Antarctica at midnight  ‘on a pebbly beach of easy access’ at Cape Adare in the Ross Sea. (Frances and I  also landed on this beach on 29th January 1998 while on our previous trip to the Ross Sea).  There is a colony here of over 1,000,000  Adelie Penguins. This was also the sight of the first over-wintering expedition led by Carsten Borchgrevink on the Southern Cross in 1899.
And so it all began
.   Discovery and exploration of the Antarctic Continent was ahead.  Names like Scott,  Wilson,  Shackleton,  Frank Wild,  Douglas Mawson,  Amundsen,  Lars Christensen,  and Sir Edmund Hillary  and many others and nations have ventured south and contributed in no small way to progress and discovery on the continent. Many bases and research facilities now exist and about 1000 people overwinter in Antarctica each year.
Tourism began in the 1960’s with an annual luxury cruise out of New York.  Qantas began one day excursions in 1977. An Air NZ DC10 crashed into Mt Erebus in 1979 due to an error in programming  of the navigational equipment.

Frances and I will be traveling  to the Antarctic Peninsula in February 2016 onboard the ‘Sea Explorer’ for a 22 day cruise to Antarctica,  the South Shetland Islands,  South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. We leave from Ushuaia in southern Argentina and we berth in Buenos Aires.


Buenos Aires

We fly via Sydney to Santiago, Chile, and onto Buenos Aires, Argentina, where we spend two nights.

After 16 hours flying and another 4 hours waiting in airport lounges
in Sydney and Santiago, we arrive in the city of Buenos Aires (BA). BA has a population of 3 million and a climate similar to Brisbane. It is said that BA is the Paris of Argentina. The architecture does have a European influence.

Lonely Planet describes BA as, “Sexy, alive and supremely confident, this beautiful city gets under your skin. Like Europe with a melancholic twist, Buenos Aires is unforgettable.”

And the Nightlife:
“Take a cat nap, down your coffee and be prepared to stay up all night – this is a city that never sleeps! Restaurants open at 9pm, bars at midnight and clubs at 2am – at the very earliest. If you’re cool, of course, you’ll show up after 4am and dance till dawn.
International DJs are all the rage, spinning electronica  to legions of hip, trendy and well-dressed crowds. But you can also enjoy live music such as rock, blues, jazz and even folk – just remember that you’ll be doing it all very late!”

Buenos Aires is a shopper’s paradise. The city is laced with shopping streets lined with heaps of clothing and shoe stores, leather shops and nearly everything else you can think of. Large shopping malls are modern and family-friendly, offering designer goods, food courts and children’s playgrounds.

We visit the Plaza de Mayo – Argentina’s Most Famous. The Plaza de Mayo is as fundamental to Argentine political history as


Argentinians and homesick immigrants are to the Tango. The square is a political hub, financial and administrative center and throughout history has been a symbol of disaster, rebellion and hope. Among the three important historic buildings on the plaza, are the Cabildo,  the former seat of the Colonial government.  We walk through the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral — now famous as Pope Francis’ former parish, and the government house, the Casa Rosada sitting at the edge of Plaza de Mayo.DSCN0062 DSCN0070

The Casa Rosada is one of the most iconic buildings in Buenos Aires. With its pink facade and palace-like design, the governmental house has served as the backdrop to countless numbers of protests, famous speeches and significant moments in Argentina’s history.

All the above is very good and safe to navigate. However move into suburbia and its a different story with poor housing and services and a high police presence. Every one is pleasant and helpful though. We enjoyed our stay.

You can also visit-
Gaucho Day trip: Santa Susana Ranch
Take in a Tango show.
Parrillas (steak houses) are every where. Argentinians love their steak. But all the worlds foods are also available in the many restaurants.
And – Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.


Then we fly south to revisit (we were here September 2007),DSCN0116

Ushuaia, known to many as the world’s most southerly City (about 55deg S), Ushuaia is on the Island of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. It has a population of 60,000 people and is one of the fastest growing cities of the world. Apart from tourism there is a naval establishment and a rapidly expanding electronics industry.
We will stay in this spectacular place

Our Hotel on the hill
Our Hotel on the hill

for two nights before boarding the ‘Sea Explorer’ and sailing via the Antarctic Peninsular to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia  and South Shetlands and sailing on to Buenos Aires for disembarkation, and back home.
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Ushuaia is a resort town on Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego archipelago, the southernmost tip of South America, nicknamed the “End of the World.” The windswept town, perched on a steep hill, is surrounded by the Martial Mountains and the Beagle Channel. It’s the gateway to Antarctic cruises and nearby winter sports.
At 54deg.48’S.  Ushuaia has what is called a sub polar oceanic climate.
Temperatures at the Ushuaia – International Airport average 1.3 °C in the coolest month (July), and 9.6 °C in the warmest month (January). Ushuaia receives an average of 3.93 hours of sunshine per day. We have two days here so we rug up and explore this busy and picturesque place.
A busy port and adventure hub, Ushuaia is a sliver of steep streets and jumbled buildings below the snow capped Martial Range. Here the Andes meet the southern ocean in a sharp skid, making way for the city before reaching a sea of lapping currents.
It’s a location matched by few, and chest-beating Ushuaia takes full advantage of its end-of-the-world status as an increasing number of Antarctic-bound vessels call in to port. Its endless mercantile hustle knows no irony: the souvenir shop named for Jimmy Button (a native kidnapped for show in England), the ski center named for a destructive invasive species… You get the idea.
That said, with a pint of the world’s southernmost micro brew


in hand, you can happily plot the dazzling outdoor options: hiking, sailing, skiing, kayaking and even scuba diving are just minutes from town. Tierra del Fuego’s comparatively high wages draw Argentinians from all over to resettle here.

We leave Ushuaia


First evening at sea, bound for Antarctica

Its a 2 Day sail across one of the worlds roughest seas, The Drake Passage.  Some call it the Drake Shake, but I called it the Drake Lake, smooth as! And so we were across in one and a half days. The adventure has begun.
Late on day 2 we make the first landing on Aicho Island in the South Shetland Archipelago. This is the first of 16 landings we will make. There is great excitement for all, specialty for the first timers in a Zodiac, let alone the first time for most to a  Polar Region.  All went smoothly and we are all ashore without mishap. (good safety briefing).

Gentoo penguin
Gentoo penguin
Inquisitive Gentoo chick
Inquisitive Gentoo chick

I am not going to rave on about every day to day activity for the next 20 days (thank goodness for that I hear you say), but I will try to cover all of pertinent and important sightings and activities with pictures.

Half Moon Island-

A beautiful clear day on the way to Half Moon Island



Argentine Scientific Base on Half Moon Island.


Whalers Bay, Deception Island.

This place must have been like an oasis in a desert. It is a large volcanic crater with a narrow opening to an open sea. An ideal place in a sheltered bay for a whaling, and later sealing operations which lasted for some 50 years. There were also research stations operated by the Spanish and Argentina.

Whalers Bay
Whalers Bay, one of the safest harbors in  Antarctica
Storage Tanks, shipped in and erected on site
Storage Tanks, shipped in and erected on site
Boilers and digesters
Boilers and digesters
A lone Leperd seal
A lone Leopard seal
Living quarters
Hangers for short takeoff aircraft
Hangers for short takeoff aircraft

At sea


With Antarctica in the background
With Antarctica in the background
And glaciers
And glaciers
Unusual ones
Unusual iceburgs

Paradise Bay-Antarctica


On the Antarctic Peninsular
On the Antarctic Peninsular
Paradise Bay
Paradise Bay


Leopard Seal
Leopard Seal
Fur seal


 Gonzalez Videla- Chile Base

After a snowfall
After a snowfall
There were 7 males and 1 female on this base.
There were 7 males and 1 female on this base.
On lookout
On lookout
And a view of the bay
And a view of the bay

Just Cruising-

Enter at your own risk
Enter at your own risk
A seaway between 2 islands, usually passable, but not today.
A seaway between 2 islands, usually passable in zodiacs, but not today.
It's big
It’s big


Elephant Island-  Earnest Shackleton and his men, 28 in all, landed here after sailing in two 22ft. long boats from an ice flow in the Weddell Sea, after his ship “The Endurance” was crushed by ice and sank in the Weddell  Sea. It was 497 days since they had last set foot on land, and no one in the world knew of their plight.
Shackleton realised that in order to effect a rescue, he was going to have to travel to the nearest inhabited place which was the whaling station  on South Georgia, some 800 miles distant and across the most stormy stretch of ocean in the world. They expected to encounter waves that were 50 feet from tip to trough “Cape Horn Rollers” in a 22 foot long boat. Their navigation was by a sextant and a chronometer of unknown accuracy, they were dependent on sightings of the sun that could sometimes not be seen for weeks in the overcast weather so characteristic of these latitudes. They landed on the uninhabited Elephant Island,
Shackleton and 5 men left from here on 24 April 1916 to make for South Georgia arriving on 10th May. All 6 were completely exhausted, 2 of them only just alive.
It was an epic journey in violent seas. If they had missed South Georgia they would have finished up lost in the Atlantic  Ocean and would have perished and no rescue would have been sent to Elephant Island.     The James Caird leaving Elephant Island.

-LaunchThe James Caird 24 apr.1916


Elephant Is.
Elephant Is.
Did not land here
We did not land on Elephant Island due to swell
Just a sail past
Just a sail past
What an inhospitable place to survive on. You have to like seal meat
What an inhospitable place to survive on. You would have to like seal meat and penguin.

Three days at sea-

The longest was 2 klms long
The longest one we passed was 2 klms long



Always something to see-

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Wandering albatross
Frances inspecting a Wandering albatross 3mts+ wing span, in the South Georgia musiem.

South Georgia Islands

South Georgia Island is a sub-Antarctic island administered by the United Kingdom as part of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. It is located 1390 km southeast of the Falkland Islands and 2150 km from South America. It is the home of vast numbers of birds and marine life, but its remote location and lack of access makes it a rare destination for tourists. We are very fortunate to be able to be here. Population 12.

This the place where Shakleton landed with five of his men and was able to cross a steep mountain range to the whaling station on the other side of the island and plan the rescue of the rest of his party that he left on Elephant Island. To read more about Shackleton go to:

Cooper Bay,   South Georgia

How many King Penguins?


King Penguins 95cm tall  15kg – live 15 to 20yrs  3.2 million breeding pairs

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Gentoo's go 2x2 hgt.71cm wt.5.5 kg. 320,000 breeding pairs
Gentoo’s go 2×2  ht.71cm wt.5.5 kg. 320,000 breeding pairs
Chinstraps. ht. 68cm Wt. 4.5kg 5 million pairs
Chinstrap Penguin. ht. 68cm  wt. 4.5kg   5 million breeding pairs

Fur seals

Its been a long day
King of the castle
King of the castle
Cute eh!   Fur seals
These are pups. But Fur Seals grow to 3 m long and weigh up to 317 kg and live 12-30 yrs
These are pups.  Fur Seals grow to 3 m long and weigh up to 317 kg and live 12-30 yrs
All on same playground
All on same playground
Cooling on a bed of ice
Elephant Seal cooling off on a bed of ice, must have been a hot day
Elephant Seals weigh up to 3000kg. and pups are 40kg at birth. They are superb swimmers, diving to up to two kilometers, holding their breath for up to two hours. Most dives are 300 to 800mts and stay down for 30 minutes.
I said she was mine!

Grytviken,   South Georgia

The approach South Georgia
The approach to South Georgia
Someone is here before us
Someone is here before us
Grytviken, South Georgia
Grytviken, South Georgia
The grave of Earnest Shackleton
The grave of Earnest Shackleton
The old whaling station
The old whaling station
Whale catcher
Whale catcher
The Restored Church
The Restored Church
Museum Pieces
Museum Pieces

On and around the Falklands-

On the beach, Saunders Island
On the beach, Saunders Island
Magellan Penguin
Magellanic Penguin
Surfing Dolfins
Surfing Dolphins
Diving Dolphins
Diving Commerson’s Dolphins
Hourglass Dolphins
On a day in a rough sea sighted off the bow.
King with chick
King with chick
3 deg C plung
3 deg C  Antarctic plunge, 12 people were mad enough.

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The kyackers
The kayakers, about 20 of them, made the most of their situation when sea conditions allowed.

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Well we have to eat!
Well we all have to eat!
Sea Explorer
‘Sea Explorer’
The family photo
The family photo
Our Expedition Crew
Our Expedition Crew, they were excellent.
Smooth Sailing to BA
Smooth Sailing to Buenos Aires.   We had fair weather and reasonable seas for most of the trip. But there had to be some bad weather, six days in fact of 30-40 knot winds and 5 to 6 m seas. A few passengers confined to bed.
ceartainly nothing like this
Ceartainly nothing like this
Last sunset
Last sunset

Wildlife noted


Wandering Albatross
Grey Headed Albatross
Black-browed Albatross
Southern Giant Petrel
Wilson.s Storm Petrel
Antarctic Prion
Brown Skua
Falkland Skua
Kelp Gull
Snowy Sheathbill
Antarctic Shag
Rock Shag
Turkey Vulture
Falkland Thrush
South Georgia Pipit

South American Fur Seal
Antarctic Fur Seal
Crabeater Seal
Weddell Seal
Southern Elephant Seal
Commerson’s Dolphin
Hourglass Dolphin
Pearl’s Dolphin
Long-finned Pilot Whale
Killer Whale
Humpback Whale
Fin Whale
Set whale


The Falklands War – 1982

An Extract from the Daily Mail – Australia

A very dirty war: British soldiers shot dead by enemy troops waving the white flag and Argentinian prisoners bayoneted in cold blood. An ex-Para tells of the horrors of the Falklands

The Falklands War was short, sharp and very nasty. The fighting I experienced as a young soldier in the Parachute Regiment was, at times like something out of World War I. We fought at close quarters, clearing trenches of Argentinian troops with bayonets and grenades.    Read more:




Greenland to Kugluktuk, the NW Passage.


We begin with a flight from Copenhagen.  We land at Kangerlussaq, a small airport and harbour at the head of a long fjord in SW Greenland. Greenland is about the size of Western Australia. We are loaded into FWD busses, while our luggage is being transferred to our ship,  and are driven up into the Ice Field which covers 90% of the country and is up to 4000 mts. deep, an average of 2800 mts. Can you imagine that much ice covering WA?

This is a 3 hour trip with lunch, in a paper bag. On the way we see Musk Oxen grazing on the green Tundra.


These were the only ones we would see on the whole trip even though there are thousands of them in the northern latitudes. We are soon at the edge of the ice field with cold wind blowing off the ice. Our first introduction to ice was before us.

Musk Oxen 2




Back to the Port where we are ferried to m/v Sea Adventurer by Zodiac.


We are on our way immediately after all the mandatory drills.

m/v Sea Adventuer
m/v Sea Adventurer in ice on day two.

Day Two:
We have 2 landings, first the little village of Itilleq where there were 2 open houses to have tea and biscuits. Interesting to see how  they live.

Day 2 Soccer match 2

“We” played soccer on a dry dusty, gravel square and were beaten by the locals.



Next town Sisimuit Pop. 6000. A 2 hour guided tour by the locals covered the library. an interesting museum, the  schools, churches and a very sustantial public hall. Second largest town in Greenland but very much a fishing village. We are now 75km north of the Arctic Circle. This is  Greenland’s most northerly ice free port. Dutch whalers and traders arrived here in the 17th century.




Captain’s welcome cocktails tonight.

Day 3:
Ilulissat pop.4500 and Jakobshavn Glacier. 350 km north arctic circle.
Ilulissat is at the mouth of 40 km long  ice fjord that produces several million tonnes of ice per day, and chunks that break off can produce tidal waves up to ten meters high. We saw a video of such a wave wrecking boats in the local harbour.
Ilulssat, directly translated means Iceberg.
Jakobshavn Glacier drains 6.5% of the Greenland ice sheet and produces 10% of all the Greenland icebergs. 35 billion tonnes of icebergs calve off and pass out the fjord every year.




At times the large icebergs become grounded, sometimes for years until they are broken down by weather and tides or other icebergs crashing into them.

Day 4:  A Typical day 500km north of the Arctic circle.

0645  Early morning tea, coffee and pastries available in the lounge
0700  Wake up call
0730  Breakfast is served in the dinning room
0900  Zodiac cruise at the active Eqip Sermia Glacier. This is a fast moving glacier, moving approximately 4 km per annum.

Eqip Sermia Glacier
Eqip Sermia Glacier

1200  Arctic style BBQ on the aft DecK
1400  Lecture in the  lounge: Glaciers, Icebergs and all things icy.
1600  Special Afternoon Tea.
1700  Lecture in the lounge: Greenland, a geographical history.
1845  Daily Recap and next day Briefing.
1930 Dinner is served in the dinning room.
TV    Documentaries or a film. Maybe visit to the Bridge or take a chilly stroll on deck to fill in the rest of the day.  (the bridge is open 24 hours)



Day 5:
Visit the village of Uummannag, population 1200, on the island of Uummannag. Picturesquely situated under the shadow of Uummannag Mountain which rises to 1170m. The town was founded in 1763 and was originally called Omenak. It is a hunting and fishing town with its own cannery. We had a very pleasant walking tour guided by an Inuit guide. There was also a cultural  event which was well attended.





How would like these in your back yard?
How would like these in your back yard?

Tomorrow we begin the two day crossing to the Pond Inlet which is beginning of the NW Passage. But not before sailing through some amazing Ice.







The Crossing:
A two day sail across Baffin Bay, a little rough early but settled to an easy sail.  The usual lectures continued, but mainly a time to take a break, at least for Frances and myself. We have been travelling now for five weeks and need a day off.

How big is a Polar Bear?
How big is a Polar Bear?   Compare your height.

About half way across the ship suddenly powers right off and an announcement  from the bridge wakes us from our afternoon slumber saying that there is a bear  ahead on the sea ice. Everyone, not already on deck, soon join those who are. Excitement mounts as we slowly approach the ice flow. The Captain stops the engines so we don’t disturb our Polar Bear. We hang around for an hour and watch as he wanders around oblivious to our presence.
He is 100nm from land and waiting for a seal to appear on the ice for lunch. The Polar Bear is classed as a marine mammal. They are at home living on sea ice catching seals.





Pond Inlet, Nunavut Canada
Customs come aboard to stamp our passports and formalise our entry into Canada. Then its into the Zodiacs to go ashore and a beach landing. Gumboots (supplied) required for a wet landing.
A presentation by Parks Canada, Cultural event, walk the town, check the supermarket, always interesting, treated with hot tea, bannok, muktuk and some other country foods. All good.

Nunavat is the largest, northernmost, newest and least populous territory of Canada consisting of northern canada and many large islands.  It is the same size as Western Australia, has a population of 32,000, mostly Inuit. The area includes the Northwest Passage

Now the history of the search for the Northwest Passage is full on with lectures and documentaries to fill our day. We are sailing as far as possible, the route taken by the ill fated ships of Sir John Franklin’s voyage.

Day 8: Dundas Harbour.
Dundas Harbour is a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police outpost. We explore what remains of police buildings, accommodation, workshops, stores and dog compounds. The buildings are in poor condition. there are two graves. one of a policeman who died accidentally and another who committed suicide. What a lonely life in desolation this would have been.

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We moved round the corner to Croker Bay where a musk ox was sited along with a polar bear.

Day 9:
Anchored in Ryder Inlet, Maxwell Bay.  74deg.  46.6′ N  088deg.
We are now about 500 nautical miles (910 km.) north of the arctic circle.
We set off at 9:00am in the Zodiacs to search for walrus. Only one was sighted (not by me), a young one in the water. However a number of seals, including a bearded seal, a pomarine jaeger, falcon, guillemots, snow geese, glaucous gulls, and a mother and cub polar bear.

Beaded seal
Bearded seal


Day 10: Radstock Bay
A  6:30 start for a couple of the Expedition Staff who left in a zodiac to scout for Walrus but alas none were found in the area so Sea Adventurer  continued onto Devon Island. A swell was running both at the ship and on shore so disciplined embarkation and disembarkation was called for. All safely ashore we found remains of meat caches and tent rings of the Inuit people. We were also entertained by an Arctic Hare who hopped around amongst us while continuing to feed, mainly on moss.





All safely on board for lunch and sail to Beechey Island. On shore we find the graves of three of Franklin sailors, one from Investigator and Bellot’s memorial grave. Once finished at this location, we were shuttled by Zodiac to the site of Franklin’s first winter camp, and the remains of Northumberland House, left here with supplies in 1854 by North Star, part of Belcher’s search expedition.




Day 11: Leopold Island Cliffs
These cliffs, 120 meters tall rising up from the sea are loaded with nesting birds, some of which have already left their roost. The Birdo’s logged: the very active black guillemots, northern fulmars, and glaucous gulls.





Later in the day we sail into Port Leopold observing, first a mother bear and two cubs, followed by a large pod of Beluga whales. The bears disappear over a hill, so we took to the zodiacs to head off the belugas as they headed out of the bay along the coast. Ten Zodiacs full speed down the bay was a sight on its own.

Beluga Racing to Beluga site

Beluga chase

We picked a suitable posi about 30 or 40 meters off the shore and we waited and we waited. They were taking their time.

Beluga Waiting for Belugas

Here they come   Belugas 9

And here they are, everywhere, even under the Zodiacs.

Belugas 8

Belugas 7

Belugas 2

And then they were gone!

Day 12:  Fort Ross – Bellot Strait – Prince of Wales Is.
These sites are dripping with history. Kennedy and Bellot were here in 1852 while on a search expedition, funded by Jane Franklin, looking for evidence of Sir John Franklin’s two lost ships, the Erebus and Terror, and crew of 130 men, from his expedition in 1845.

Copy from a previous post.     Posted 23/12/2014

A brief history
The first recorded attempt to discover the Northwest Passage was the east-west voyage of John Cabot in 1497, sent by Henry VII in search of a direct route to the Orient. There were  a dozen other expeditions that followed during the 16th and 17th century. More expeditions in the 18th century, including one by Captain James Cook in 1788, failed to find a passage. In the 19th century many expeditions, including one by Sir John Franklin, on land and sea, found and charted some areas for a possible passage.
In 1845 a lavishly equipped two-shipped expedition led by Sir John Franklin sailed the Erubus and Terror to the Canadian Arctic to chart the unknown areas of the Northwest Passage. They sailed fully confident with only 500 km of coast still to chart. The ships failed to return. Relief expeditions were sent over the next century and a half and many artifacts, records, notes and remains were found.



Franklin had died in 1847 and Captain Crozier had taken command. The ships became fast in ice. The decision was made to abandon ship and the men made their way south across the tundra by sledge. All were lost. Some of the crew may not have died until the early 1850’s. No evidence had been found of any survivors. Starvation, exposure  and scurvy all contributed to the deaths. Later examination of three bodies exhumed from permafrost on Beechey Island revealed high concentrations of lead in all three.  (the expedition carried 8,000 tins of food sealed with lead-based solder)  Oh dear

Exploration continued for the remainder of the century and a route was discovered, when in 1854,  Sir Edward Belcher made a transit of the Northwest Passage albeit by ship and by sledge over the ice, becoming the first people to circumnavigate the Americas.
The first explorer to conquer the passage solely by boat was the Norwegian explorer Roanld Amundsen. It was a three year journey between 1903 and 1906 in a small boat, the ‘Gjoa’ with 6 men. He figured he would have to live off the land and a small crew would be easier to feed.


He spent almost two years stuck in ice at King William Island before breaking through the passage.  Although he had achieved a traversing of the passage, the route was not suitable for commercial use,  because many  of the waterways were only 3 feet deep.

Canadian Henry Larson was the second person to sail the passage, leaving Vancouver 23 June 1940 and arriving Halifax on 11 October 1942. (28 months)  He made the return trip from Halifax to Vancouver in 1944 in a greatly reduced time of 86 days. This made him the first to traverse the passage in one season. He used a more northerly, and partly uncharted route for his second crossing.

In 1942 'St Roch' the first ship to sail the NW Passage.
In 1942 ‘St Roch’ was the first ship to sail the NW Passage in both directions in one season.

Back to Fort Ross.
This site was also used by McClintock as his wintering site during his Franklin search expedition of 1857. A family memorial is also at this site. In 1937 the Hudson’s Bay Company set up a trading post and made the first vessel transit of Bellot Strait. The trading post lasted for 11 years, after some Inuit were unsuccessfully forcibly relocated here. Inuit people used the area for hunting, and their meat caches and tent rings dot the site, Inuit still use one of the Hudson’s Bay huts for hunting caribou and musk ox.

Fort Ross
Fort Ross


 Johansen Bay


Derelict trappers camp
Derelict trappers camp

Day 13:
Wet landing and walking


Day 14: Gjoa Haven

A nice and friendly small town named after Amundsen’s boat, the ‘Gjoa’. He had spent two winters learning the customs and skills of the Inuits. He became very friendly and close to the inhabitants, and went on to be the first man to sail through the NW Passage.




Day 15:  Cambridge Bay:

Another day, another Bay, another beautiful village greets us as we go ashore, More colourful people going about their business and who are willing to show us around and answer our many questions, and put on a cultural show or display for us.




We have been moving further south for the last few days and the nights are getting much darker. We are becoming optimistic about seeing some aurors appearing over the north polar areas. Well it happened around midnight. A call from the bridge woke us all from our slumbers for Aurora Borealis.


30.8.15 polar bear

And there are still some bears around.

A sunset and moonrise in the sky at the same time.
A sunset and moonrise in the sky at the same time.


We sail on through Johansen Bay where we sight a Grizzly Bear on shore, most unexpedly, along with three wolves in the same area. I don’t know who was chasing who. We sailed on into Amundsen Gulf to complete the passage and then turn around the final few miles sail to Kuglugtuk where our magnificent expedition ends.

In September 2014 the hull of HMS Erebus was found on the southern end of  of King William Island. The Canadian Coast Guard continue to search for HMS Terror.


The Northwest Passage – Some History

It’s time again to make some plans
to visit another far off land.
Maybe a place not seen before,
a long way off on a distant shore.
I could go east, or I could go west;
I wonder which would be the best,
but then again I may go north
just to see what may bring forth.

I have crossed the Arctic circle
off Norway’s  northern shore,
and braved the arctic breezes
from Alaska’s northern seas,
and I have been from east to west
across Siberian plains,
but I need a bit more north-ing
to flow into my veins.

So I thought about the passage,
you know- ‘The Northwest Passage’
where Franklin met his fate.
A place I’ve yearned to visit,
for many years of late.
It turns out now its possible
to emulate this feat with others
of like mind upon a modern ship.

The planning is in the early days,
as I tie up all loose ends,
but it looks like its a goer
and the plan we’ll come to see,
and what an awesome venture
that this will surely be.

– Neale

Frances and I are planning a trip from Greenland to Edmonton in Canada, via The Northwest Passage in August 2015 on ‘MS Sea Adventurer’.

A brief History:
In 1984 the commercial passenger vessel, MS Explorer, was the first cruise ship to navigate the Northwest Passage.

The first recorded attempt to discover the Northwest Passage was the east-west voyage of John Cabot in 1497, sent by Henry VII in search of a direct route to the Orient. There were  a dozen other expeditions that followed during the 16th and 17th century. More expeditions in the 18th century, including one by Captain James Cook in 1788, failed to find a passage. In the 19th century many expeditions, including one by Sir John Franklin, on land and sea, found and charted some areas for a possible passage.

In 1845 a lavishly equipped two-shipped expedition led by Sir John Franklin sailed to the Canadian Arctic to chart the unknown areas of the Northwest Passage. They sailed fully confident with only 500 km of coast still to chart. The ships failed to return. Relief expeditions were sent over the next century and a half and many artifacts, records, notes and remains were found.

Franklin had died in 1847 and Captain Crozier had taken command. The ships became fast in ice. The decision was made to abandon ship and the men made their way south across the tundra by sledge. All were lost. Some of the crew may not have died until the early 1850’s. No evidence has been found of any survivors. Starvation. exposure  and scurvy all contributed to the deaths. Later examination of three bodies exhumed from permafrost on Beechey Island revealed high concentrations of lead in all three.  (the expedition carried 8,000 tins of food sealed with lead-based solder)  Oh dear

Exploration continued for the remainder of the century and a route was discovered, when in 1854,  Sir Edward Belcher made a transit of the Northwest Passage albeit by ship and by sledge over the ice, becoming the first people to circumnavigate the Americas.

The first explorer to conquer the passage solely by boat was the Norwegian explorer Roanld Amundsen. It was a three year journey between 1903 and 1906 in a small boat with 6 men. He figured he would have to live off the land and a small crew would be easier to feed. . He spent almost two years stuck in ice at King William Island.  Although he had achieved a traversing of the passage, the route was not suitable for commercial use,  because many  of the waterways were only 3 feet deep.

NW Passage 002

Canadian Henry Larson was the second person to sail the passage, leaving Vancouver 23 June 1940 and arriving Halifax on 11 October 1942. (28 months)  He made the return trip from Halifax to Vancouver in 1944 in a greatly reduced time of 86 days. This made him the first to traverse the passage in one season. He used a more northerly, and partly uncharted route for his second crossing.

 It would take another 50 years before the passage was really open for business  so to speak . Now with satellite mapping of ice flows, better charted waters, climate warming and high tek navigation  make this adventure safer and less challenging.

15 Feb 2015

The Route
The Route

This is the route we will be sailing.  The 20 day adventure departs from Itilleq in Greenland and arrives in Kugluktuk (Copper Mine) in Canada. Cruise departs August 18,  2015. We will leave home on July 20  travelling via Hong Kong, Paris, Prague, Berlin, Hamburg and Copenhagen to catch a charter flight to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, just 37 miles north of the Arctic Circle where we transfer to the ‘Sea Adventurer’.  We will return via Edmonton, Vancouver and Hawaii. Round the World in 58 Days.

Antarctic 1998


A journey is a person in itself;  no two are alike.
And all plans, safeguards, policies and coercion are fruitless.
We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip;
a trip takes us.
John Steinbeck.

During the next few weeks I will be posting some extracts from the diary of our expedition to Antarctica on a Russian Icebreaker in January/ February 1998.

The ship Kapitan Khlebnikov  is classed amongst the world’s powerful icebreakers.  She was built in Finland in 1981.  Length:  132.49 metres,  Breadth:  26.5 metres, Draught:  8.5 metres,  Displacement:  18,000  tons,  Cruising speed:  16 knots,  Full icebreaker class,  2 Helicopters on board,  6  Mark V heavy duty zodiacs.  60 Russian crew members,  12  Expedition Staff,  4 Helicopter pilots. 1 Doctor.  And  100 passengers.

 22 January 1998.

What a welcoming sight for the start of an adventure of a lifetime, as we turned onto Macquarie Wharf in Hobart to see a large yellow and black ship dominating the skyline.  She was a tough looking vessel easily capable of negotiating the world’s  roughest seas and crashing through miles of the densest pack-ice.

We are  soon aboard, checking our very comfortable cabins, stowing luggage and a tour of the decks. looks good for the next three weeks. A pre-departure briefing, meeting the staff and the other formalities were soon over. Departure was at 18:15 and we watched Hobart slowly disappear.   Life jacket and our first life-boat drill was next, followed by dinner at 19:30.  We were on our way.

It has always been a long held ambition of mine to sail to the south polar regions and to visit Antarctica, and I had a partner who has grown to become as keen as I was, thank you Frances.  I had always suffered from seasickness in my younger years, but I started dinghy sailing with my son, Philip, at our local yacht club and overcame the problem. Our subsequent sailing experiences over the next 20 years is a subject for another time.  So we are on our way and not being afflicted with sea sickness was a definite advantage on this occasion.  

Out of the Derwent  River turn to starboard and head south, then after clearing Bruny Island we are in the Great Southern Ocean and beginning to roll, not too serious yet but a taste of what’s to come.  The meal was the first of many fine meals.

Kapitan Khlebnikov
Kapitan Khlebnikov

23 January

The morning bought forth sunshine and a gently rolling sea and no land to be seen. Some were having trouble finding their sea legs, and were a little under the weather. However there was a good turnout to a hearty breakfast. Time for a stroll around the deck in an already chilly breeze, before our first lecture.
The lecture theater was full to hear Luke Saffigna, a naturalist from Hobart, deliver a talk about Macquarie Island and its new World Heritage listing. We were to find out later this was a really special place. Nick Mooney, an Ornithologist also from Hobart, followed later with a talk entitled Petrelheads, which inspired the Birdos among us.

The afternoon was free and many took the opportunity to visit the bridge and for some wildlife spotting. The bridge is open 24 hours a day to visit and practice a bit of Russian and talk navigation and all that stuff with crew who are also keen to practice their English. The Expedition Leader, Stewart Campbell can often be found on the bridge and is always good for a chat.

Wildlife spotted for the day included: Black-browed and Wandering  Albatross, Little Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels.  ‘Whalo’ was called when two rare beaked whales were spotted and identified by our experienced Assistant Expedition Leader – Jennifer Clement – from Long Island, NY, USA. Other sightings included a strange looking orange buoy and a fur seal.

This evening we all met in the lounge for the Welcome Cocktail Party, hosted by Captain Viktor Vasil’yew, followed by a sumptuous Captains Welcome Dinner.

We retired to our cabin which was located on deck 5, amid ship under the bridge. It was a large square cabin, with bathroom and bedroom along the back and a lounge with an L shaped desk, a settee, 2 easy chairs and 2 opening portholes to front. It had all the electrics, phone, intercom, comfortable bed and every thing you could wish for. It was a fabulous cabin really, but we would find out later that in rough weather it was far too big.


Sooty-nose Albatross
Sooty-nose Albatross

24 January,  At Sea

The temperature had dropped markedly and the swell had increased, but we were experiencing surprisingly good conditions for the Southern Ocean, with the ship averaging a very good speed of 12 knots.

Our lectures today included an important  briefing on the protocol of wildlife viewing, and general guidelines on Macquarie Island. Sid Kirby, a very experienced Antarctic adventurer, from Flaxton in Queensland,  told stories of his experiences on the cold continent and his crossings from Hobart  on much smaller vessels. Sid was a dog sled driver in the days before mechanical transportation became available.  Margie Morrice a Hobart Marine Biologist gave us all the information about the Southern Elephant Seals on Macquarie Island, and how they have adapted to their current  conditions.

Wildlife today included a pod of Killer Whales. They appeared to be fishing  as we sailed right through the pod. Then there were the Mottled Petrel and Grey Petrels. These small birds hang around the ship, possibly waiting for some handouts from the kitchen disposals.

Much of the rest of the day was spent in preparation for our landing in the sub-Antarctic, with briefings from Stewart on clothing and safety guidelines for Zodiac operations.

Below decks, people are meeting and forming lasting friendships. Tomorrow will be an exciting day with our landing on Macquarie Island.

25 January,  Macquarie Island

The most wretched place of involuntary and slavish exilium
that can possibly be conceived;
nothing could warrant any civilised creature living on such a spot.
-Captain Douglas, about Macquarie Island  1822.

 Many were up very early to catch that first glimpse of Macquarie Island and were rewarded with the sight of Royal and King Penguins porpoising along next to the ship. The island soon slowly appeared from the cloud and the fog. It seemed everyone was up as we sailed into Buckles Bay and got our first good look at this sub-Antarctic Island.  And would you believe a pod of Killer Whales  swam close by as we dropped anchor. ANARE station, home to 15 people during the winter months and up to 40 scientists and support staff over the summer months, is clearly visible, as is the historic North Head and Wireless Hill, where Sir Douglas Mawson set his radio station during the 1914 Australian Antarctic Expedition. Old donga lines and nissan huts are still in use  and the latest technology is represented by the massive Geodesic satellite dish dome.

To most of us the first landing was a thrill to behold, with cameras loaded and film in our pockets the adventure had moved to the next phase. For some of the others, the sheer fact of standing on land again was a huge relief. We will never forget wandering among King Penguins and Rockhopper Penguins in Garden Cove. They are very inquisitive and follow you around and peck at our boots but generally make an incessant, continuous noise and then there is the strong odour.  There were also the Gentoos and smaller Royal Penguins with a little crown on their heads. Bird life was represented by the Giant Petrels and Skuas (the scavengers). Light-mantled Sooty Albatross (Sootys), Terns and Prions.

Old machinery and boilers from the sealing days lay about amongst the tall arctic grasses, as do the huge  Elephant Seals.

Time for a quick look around the station, buy some stamps and souvenirs  at the post office, before we are hurried back to the ‘Khleb’ in the Zodiacs. We then sailed slowly down the East coast of the Island in the hope we may go ashore again, but a sudden gail put pay to that idea, so we cruised carefully back to our safe anchorage to spend a quiet peaceful night.  But not before a lot of chatter and comparing of the days events. Check out our ships Doctor talking to the penguins.


Landing on Macquarie Island
Landing on Macquarie Island
Southern Elephant Seals on Macquarie Island
Southern Elephant Seals
King Penquins
King Penguins

26 January

Early rise today, the gale has abated and we slowly make our way south again and anchor in Sandy Bay.  Its OK to go ashore this morning to view two large breeding  colonies of Royals and Kings and a large group of Elephant Seals. There are 40,000 penguins in the Royal colony all flapping and screeching and protecting their chicks from the ever persistent skuas. Further south we drift past the 160,000 colony of Kings, with their accompanying odor.  So with our fill of Macquarie Island we head off into the Southern Ocean to continue rolling South.

The afternoon lecture was about the southern lights (Aurora Australis),  and we were encouraged to keep a lookout for the phenomenon. Would you believe that night at 21:00 we had a perfect display in the southern skies.

27 January

Routine has established an eat, sleep, lecture, eat, sleep, lecture, spotting wildlife, pattern, which will continue for the remainder of the trip. Our next expectation will be an iceberg. It is day 6 and we are in the vicinity of the Antarctic Convergence line, where the very cold Antarctic waters meet the warmer sub-Antarctic waters, which creates a nutrient-rich zone that supports a concentration of life. Sure enough pilot whales and beaked whales were sighted. The sea temperature today is 2 deg Celsius. It has been another great day and worth a beer or two.

King Penguin Colony
King Penguin Colony

Pushing through Sea Ice.

Pushing through sea ice.

28 – January

Moving through many miles of Ice. Taken on film, from our cabin window.
Moving through many miles of Ice. Taken on film, from our cabin window.

The ice was here, the ice was there,
the ice was all around.
It cracked and growled
and roared and howled
like noises in a swound.
 Samuel Coleridge – The Ancient Mariner.

A big turnout again for breakfast this morning, in expectation of an eventful day ahead. The seas had settled considerably with slushy, melting sea ice smoothing the waters. The bridge was a popular place with an increase in Antarctic birdlife and the presents of Minke whales and a pod of Humpbacks venturing close to the ship. Lectures continued and included a talk from Mike Prebble, from New Zealand, on the history of the exploration huts and the Antarctic Treaty System. we also had a briefing on helicopter protocol and the safety considerations.  We were to fly over Balleny Island this afternoon but the weather became unfavorable so that trip was aborted. The bar was well  supported this evening, it’s amazing what a difference a flat sea makes, as conviviality and  frivolity continued into the night. Not that the nights are very long  because we  are well into the hours of the midnight sun.

29 January

This morning I was on the bridge for my regular search of the horizon, after all it is what I have always done at sea, when to my surprise I sighted land in the distant south. We are still 100 miles from Antarctica, so a query of my sighting to the officer of the watch confirmed it was land. He tweaked the radar up to the 120 nautical mile setting and sure enough there it was. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny morning and it soon became an awe-inspiring sight of the distant mountains of Victoria Land, on Antarctica, at the amazing distance of 100 nm away. We are heading towards Cape Adare where we will make our first Zodiac landing on the Continent.  Wildlife is becoming more abundant as we are closer to the continent. Penguins, birds, orcas, seals, whales, any time any direction there is always something to see.

Cape Adare is on the northern tip of the Ross Sea, and was the sight of the first over-wintering expedition in Antarctica, led by Carsten Borchgrevink, on the Southern Cross expedition of 1899. It is also the sight of a colony of 1,000,000  Adelie Penguins. As we get closer we sight the hut and get a whiff of the penguins.

This an amazing place when ashore. The small hut and is in exceptional condition and the sight of 1,000,000 penguins, well its awesome, unbelievable, I guess you had to be there.


Have a look at seals on the ice flow in front of this iceberg. Is that a big berg?
Have a look at seals on the ice flow in front of this iceberg. Is that a big berg?

30 January 

Glittering white,  shining blue, raven black,
in the light of the sun the land looks like a fairy tale.
Pinnacle after pinnacle, peak after peak, crevasses,
wild as any land on our globe,
it lies unseen and untrodden.
Ronald Amundsen.

A sole Emperor Penguin stoles by.
A sole Emperor Penguin strolls by.

Flavor  of the day were Minkes, humpbacks and killers with one addition, and that was a solitary Emperor Penguin. It is not the season for Emperors, but we did see a few now and then.

Today was to be our our first helicopter adventure, and we were not disappointed. We flew over Coulmen Island, with its hanging glaciers, huge, sheer cliffs and ice falls. This island is a breeding ground for the Emperor Penguin. Meanwhile the ‘Khleb’ is punching her way through 1 meter thick ice, with ease I might add, on our way to Franklin Island.

31 January

Franklin Island;  We had to wait until mid morning for a strong wind to abate, it was blowing ice onto our small  beach, before we could attempt a landing. We can get four seasons in one day, and often do, but we have 24 hours of sunlight so we are not going to run out of daylight. Even though our body clock knows when its bed time.

The procedure for a landing goes something like this:  Firstly the ‘Khleb’ positions for a safe exit if required. Then a couple of Zodiacs go ashore and find a suitable area to land, where the beach is not too steep, or where we won’t be blocked in by ice and is generally safe. They then unload a heap of safety gear and emergency supplies just  in case of a stranding and a gale prevents a helicopter rescue.  All this is done very quickly and efficiently, then its time to go ashore. This time its an Adelie Penguin rookery with a tall ice cliff at the end of the beach. Our next stop was to be the Ross Ice Shelf.

The Ross Ice Shelf, was named after James Clark Ross, who explored the area in 1841. It is a floating piece of ice with a 500 km coast. It is over 40 m thick and has an area greater than the size of France. The ice shelf is actually a huge glacier. It is fed by hundreds of glaciers flowing from the mountains of Antarctica, and it was the original route taken by the early explorers to reach the mainland of the continent.

The ‘Khleb’ cruised slowly along the cliff face, and later in the day the helicopters ferried us to a spectacular landing on to the wind swept ice.  The temperature with wind chill factor was minus 30 deg Celsius. We kept warm by striking out towards the south pole and drinking hot rum cocktails. It bought home to us what the early explorers had to endure. What an impressive and vast landscape this is, and how  daunting it would have been, those many years ago.

Returning from a Helicopter Trip
A landing on the Ross Ice Shelf
A Seal on Sea Ice.
A Seal on Sea Ice.
The Beautiful Adelie Penguins arriving on a beach.
The Beautiful Adelie Penguins arriving on the beach after a days fishing.

1 – February

An Antarctic Expedition is the worst way to have the best time  of your life. – Apsley Cherry-Gerrard.

Today we will attempt three landings on the western side of Ross Island.  Cape Bird has another Adelie colony and the New Zealand field base. Skuas on the beach are guarding their fluffy chicks and we try to avoid being divebombed. The skuas are the garbage collectors, cleaning up any dead or weak birds or animals. Are penguins birds or animals? They don’t fly, but they lay eggs, they are fast swimmers, but are not fish,  a clue – they have feathers. They are  of course flightless birds.

Cape Royds:  Shackleton’s Hut is here as is the southernmost penguin colony. An emergency was becoming apparent here after the first landing, when the fast ice began to break up in Backdoor Bay behind Cape Royds, leaving those on the  ice to make a hasty retreat back to the zodiacs. It showed the true adventurous nature of this trip and ability of the staff and passengers to respond quickly to a challenging situation.

So now to Cape Evans and to Scott’s famous hut  from where he launched his ill fated 1911-13 expedition to the south pole. It is difficult not to moved while inside any of these huts. They have been left and untouched since the expeditioner left them, possibly in haste. They have literally been in  the freezer  for a hundred years. Still the reindeer sleeping bags on the bunks with socks hanging from above and pencil sketches on the walls. Hay still in perfect condition, Scott had Siberian horses for his quest to the pole. A whole side of mutton hanging, waiting to be cooked.  Shelves of medical supplies, cartons of food, chocolate and cocoa, and the list goes on. One would think that at any time one of the adventurers could walk in the door to make the room complete.

It was minus 10 deg. Celsius  but a few stood out side on the decks to marvel at the sight of the low sun reflecting views of Mt Erebus complete with a whisk of steam to enhance the colors as it moved in a low ark behind it.

Scotts Hut at Cape Evans
Scotts Hut at Cape Evans 1911-13 Expedition.


2 – February

McMurdo Sound is the site of  Discovery Hut situated in the shadows of the station on Hut Point, from where Scott spent the two winters of his first expedition in 1902-03. A short distance from here on a small knoll overlooking the hut, is a lone cross which pays tribute to George Vince, who was blown off a cliff into the frigid sea during a blizzard. What a cruel climate this can be.

The US McMurdo Station is only a short walk away, and we are given a very interesting guided tour of the facility. The brightly coloured buildings contrast with the white background of the landscape behind. The New Zealand Scott Base is a is few minutes away by helicopter. It is  more compact and homely than the US base. We share a few Kiwi Jokes and buy some souvenirs before returning to the Khleb. A Great visit.

We leave McMurdo in the evening escorted by a large pod of Orcas The count was 102, believe me.

Captain Scott's Expedition Hut at Hut Point, McMurdo Sound.
Captain Scott’s 1902-03 Expedition Hut at Hut Point, McMurdo Sound.


3 – February

A Picnic on the Ice.
A Picnic on the Ice.

From whose womb did the ice come forth?
and who has given birth to the frost of heaven?
-Job  38, 29

The Dry valleys.  Excellent weather this morning  and a helicopter ride takes us up into the dry valleys where a new phenomenon greets us as we land and wander around the valley floor.  Where is the ice and the snow?  None to be seen, save for the glaciers on the mountains on each side of the valley. Where we are standing is as dry as a desert. There is a 600 hundred year old mummified seal, several miles from the sea, how did he get there?  No body realy knows. This valley is extensive, several miles wide and many, many miles long, all dry, why we ask? There are areas of rare mosses and lichen on the wind sculptured rocks. We have landed close to the Canada Glacier with glistening droplets of water on its cliff face.

The reason for the dryness is that very cold and strong katabatic winds blow down the valley carrying all ice and snow before it, leaving stone and bedrock behind. Another amazing place.

Thats Frances about 100 meters from a Glacier in the Dry Valleys.
Thats Frances about 100 meters from Canada Glacier in the Dry Valleys.

Back on the ‘Khleb’ and we make another attempt to visit the 1906 hut, of Ernest Shackleton’s expedition at Cape Royds. This time we all make a successful landing and waited our turn to visit inside the hut, numbers in the huts is strictly monitored, for obvious reasons. This is a much smaller hut than Scott’s hut, but no less moving to imagine the men living and working in these surroundings, there is a sense of unfinished business.  Was it a refuge, a home or a prison?  I am sure at times it was all three.

A Whale in our wake and some Emperors in the background.
A Whale in our wake and some Emperors in the background.
We are just sitting there in the Ice. Wandering around. Just soaking up the surrealness of the whole environment where we find ourselves .
We are just sitting there in the Ice. Wandering around. Just soaking up the surrealness of the whole environment where we find ourselves .

4 – February

 If its possible to imagine a piece of beef, odoriferous cod fish
and a canvas backed duck roasted together in a pot,
with blood and cod-liver oil, the illustration would be complete.
– Dr Frederick Cook, the Belgica Expedition 1885,
on what penguins taste like.

Perfect weather again to day, sun shining no wind. We are crashing through thick pack ice flows as we pass the spectacular Drygalski Ice Tongue, towards Terra Nova Bay.  A chance to see Crabeater and Weddell seals up close. We are by now heading North and the evenings are becoming darker.

We make a visit to the Italian station which situated on the best real estate in Antarctica, at Terra Nova Bay, with rolling granite hills and the impressive volcano of Mt Melbourne dominating the skyline. The base consists of a number of modified shipping containers which are used over the summer but locked up to become an automated station during the winter, when every one packs up and goes home. We had an informative tour of the station and enjoyed great hospitality.

As the sun became very low in the sky we cruised along the 10 mile long ice tongue of the Campbell Glacier, in the Zodiacs. The ice scenery here was very impressive with the extraordinary shapes and colors and the occasional ice falls from the tongue. Many of the icebergs here are born from this ice tongue and the ‘Khleb’ and the Zodiacs are weaving in among them. Really, really, awesome.

Cruising in the Zodiacs among the Icebergs
Cruising in the Zodiacs among the Icebergs

5 February 

To dine with a glacier on a sunny day is a glorious thing
and makes feasts  of meat and wine ridiculous.
The glacier eats hills and drinks
– John Muir

We have a night of clear, open sea, but as we approach Cape Hallett  the ice becomes heavier, but the weather remains quiet and the sun still shining. Still lots of Minke whales and seals on the way. We are unable to make a Zodiac landing because the ice had completely closed the landing area. The Captain instead nudged the ship into an inlet and parked in the fast ice. The staff  tested the ice before we all walked down  the gangplank and feel the freedom from the confinement of the ship again. Scenic flights were quickly arranged to fly over these spectacular surroundings.

Well after the stimulating flights, champagne was served on the ice, and a group photo arranged under the bow of Kapitan Khlebnikov. Another day in ‘paradise’?

So what will we do next?
Gathering for a group Photo

6 – 7 February

Today we loose the sight of Antarctica, but not before sailing past the beautiful Possession Islands, and some indeed missed these magnificent islands and a pod of blue whales breaching. An unaccommodating swell did not allow us a landing so on we sail into the Great Southern Ocean,  most, I fear with some trepidation as to what was in store for them.

Following another magnificent meal, we watched a farewell sunset over the white continent for the last time. It is time now to relax and rest after a packed week of activities. What an extremely active few days it has been, and to have been blessed with such beautiful weather as well. I am sure some are longing for a taste of the renowned southern ocean weather,  just as I am sure too, that others are happy for it to stay just like it is now.  So we have a new routine of sleep, eat, lecture, nana nap, the bar,eat, sleep on our way to Hobart, still a week away.

As we cross the Antarctic Circle the sea ice is diminishing by the hour. We get our last look at the prolific wild life that we have been privileged to see. Pods of Orkas and humpbacks, have crossed our tracks, and the familiar birds are still with us. So too are several huge ice-bergs, that are floating north and we will continue to see for a few more days .

The Last week

Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean – roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vein;
Man marks the earth with ruin – his control stop with the shore.
– Lord Byron

9 February

What a rude awakening to the new day. We have a force 8 gale whipping up 8 meter seas, from the North.  Not many at breakfast. The ship has a regular roll happening, with an extra big sea every now and then. It is with some amusement  that we watch our fellow passengers negotiating their way around the ship, with arms outstretched to keep them upright, and our lecturers on the stage grabbing for some support when that extra lurch catches off guard. As the storm rages on, those of us still moving about become more capable of managing the situation.

10 February

The very few at breakfast today were greeted with 10 meter seas rolling past the windows.  The barometer had dropped to 961 Mb!  and negotiating the corridors has become a challenge. Lectures continued. The lecture theater is some what of a refuge, being amidships and on a lower deck, and so is mostly well attended. I have cancelled my usual promenade out on deck today. (mainly because all outside doors are locked shut)  Frances and I still managed three meals a day and a snack or two as well, and fortunately did not suffer any sea sickness.

Heading North.
Heading North from our cabin port hole.


On and on we Sailed

On and on we sailed, and on and on the wind did blow,
It held its strength for days and days,
we passed close by Macquarie Island,
I do remember that peaceful night,
we once enjoyed at anchor here.

The wind had changed from North to West,
and hit the ship across the breast,
It meant the ship would roll er’r more,
so the captain changed cause to East by North
to ease the pain for all on board.

On and on we sailed again until we had to make a change,
and alter cause to Hobart Town.
The wind had eased to a steady blow
but still we rolled as on we go,
a somewhat lesser task to bare,
until we reached Tasmanian shores.

             – Neale Beveridge

What a fantastic voyage this this has been, and the recalling of it all has bought back many memories, of the places and faces of those we met.  I hope you too have enjoyed coming along with us.