[This is an occasional look at life in the South Atlantic, usually on the Falkland Islands. However, this month, we ventured much further south, to the Great White Continent....Antarctica! This is long, so I've split it into sections -
# Getting there;
# Stunning Scenery;
# When you are in a hole - stop digging!;
# "Thar she blows!";
# Deceptive Deception;
# In Shackleton's Footsteps;
# Birds, birds, birds.]
GETTING THERE......A long, long time ago, in a galaxy not far away, my wife and I attended a Charity Ball in aid of Falklands Conservation (http://www.falklandsconservation.com/ ). The top prize in the auction was a trip to Antarctica!
|Checkin on Antarctic Airways, Punta Arenas.|
|British Aerospace 146|
|Brazilian transport plane that didn't make the runway....|
|King George Island arrivals lounge|
|Glad I brought my FIGAS hoodie. It's a bit nippy!|
|The shuttle to the private yacht|
|Firstly, find some warm clothes.....|
|Secondly, carry your bags along the runway...|
|Almost everywhere is North.|
|Local transport was not taking passengers.|
|The yacht Vava hiding our ship.|
|Russian Orthodox Church. Not what we expected to see.....|
|Vava - not our ship|
An exciting first hour in Antarctica. Just another 288 hours to go!
|Paradise Harbour around midnight, December 30th|
Like a mill-pond
|Zaandam, a familiar sight in Stanley|
WHEN YOU ARE IN A HOLE - STOP DIGGING!
|Digging parties preparing the ground|
|Hole with a view|
|Portal / Reclus Point|
|Snow holes ready for inspection...|
|Snug, with penguin|
|Possibly the first Rockhopper penguins on Antarctic mainland, and the most southerly copy of Penguin News.|
"THAR SHE BLOWS!"One type of wildlife sighting always gives a thrill - Whales!
|Near Elephant Island. View from the bridge.|
|Humpback, from a zodiac!|
|A fluke, honest!|
|Krill trawler and krill-eating whale, blowing. Co-exist?|
|Climbing Danco Island to see the penguins at the top|
|First encounter with whales.|
|Whale and kayakers|
|Entrance to volcanic harbour, Deception Island|
|Whaling industry remnants, Deception Island|
It was abandoned about 50 years ago, after several eruptions and landslides damaged many buildings.
The whalers had long gone, but not before killing about 2 million whales from the southern oceans, over about 50 years. Just think how different the seas would be now if there were 2 million more whales in them!
|Whale oil tanks|
|"Biscoe" is a famous name in the Antarctic. There is even a street named after him in Stanley.|
|The snow reclaiming old buildings|
|Relaxing after the swim.|
About 20 mad people stripped off on the beach and walked gingerly into the water. And it was warmer than the Falklands, although most of the spectators had 5 layers of clothes on.
|A lot warmer than the Midwinter Dip in the Falklands!|
The main problem with these events is getting warm afterwards, but some people took advantage of the hot tub on the top deck and and enjoyed a relaxing soak as the ship squeezed out through Neptune's Bellows again.
|No risk of hypothermia here....|
IN SHACKLETON'S FOOTSTEPS
|Leaning on a replica of the James Caird in Punta Arenas. (Le Boreal cruise ship in the distance.)|
|Fleeting glimpse of a Wandering Albatross|
|Elephant Island - the beach where the Endurance crew survived for 4 months.|
But, if anyone is in Punta Arenas, they can see a replica (above) of the Endurance's lifeboat, the "James Caird", which was used by Shackleton to sail from Elephant Island, (where most of the men were to await rescue), to South Georgia, 800 miles away across the world's roughest seas. An unparalleled feat of navigation.
|Lone chinstrap on Elephant Island|
The bar is certainly a lot, lot more comfortable than Elephant Island. We didn't land there, but were literally within touching distance. It is mostly rock and ice. Shackleton's men waited there for 4 months, living on penguins until rescue came, thanks to the Chilean Captain, Luis Pardo, on the tug, Yelcho!
|Crossing the Drake Passage. Heading north.|
BIRDS, BIRDS, BIRDS!
|Antarctic Shags, Port Lockroy|
|Antarctica Shag feeding chick, Port Lockroy|
|Chinstrap penguins, and Macaronis, Elephant Island..|
|Chinstrap and Macaroni penguin lookouts, Elephant Island|
|Newly-hatched Gentoo chicks, Danco Island|
|Chinstrap and chick, Half Moon island.|
|Adelie penguin feeding chick, Brown Bluff, Antarctica.|
|Adelie penguins on an ice floe, Brown Bluff|
|South Polar Skua - no bird breeds further south.|
|Crossing the Drake Passage - no smoothies in the bar today due to the, er, swell.....|
|Southern Giant Petrel, possibly raising a chick in the Falklands.|
|Yet another Southern Giant Petrel....|
|You don't need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.....West Point Island, Falklands|
|No landing, but we still see penguins!|
|Sea Cabbage on Saunders Island|
|Expedition team struggling against the elements, Saunders Island|
|King! On Saunders Island, Falklands|
|King Penguins with eggs, Saunders Island|
|Gentoo colony, Saunders Island|
|The Neck, Saunders Island.|
|Black-Browed Albatross chick, Saunders Island, Falklands.|
|Black-Browed Albatross courting behaviour.|
|Following an oil rig supply ship through the Narrows, Stanley harbour. Home is within sight..|
|"Haste Ye Back!"|
|Giant Iceberg and Southern Giant Petrel|
But our experiences would not have been as rich without our fellow passengers, who contributed so much in so many ways. Who would have thought, for example, that I would listen enthralled to a recitation of "The Cremation of Sam McGee" in the bar? Not me! If you read this, I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as we did, even though you all had much longer journeys home!!!
Go Well! Stay Well!
Peter, and Annie xx