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Home → January, 2015

Monthly Archives: January 2015 − News & Stories


Ter­ra Nova Bay, Cape Hal­let

A bay and a cape in the head­line – Ter­ra Nova Bay, Cape Hal­let – both on the coast of Vic­to­ria Land in the wes­tern Ross Sea, that indi­ca­tes a wealth of over­whel­ming impres­si­ons. Some of the Ross Sea’s gre­at ice­berg alleys, huge gla­cier ton­gues, pen­gu­ins and orcas almost gua­ran­teed, pos­si­bly a landing, may­be on Inex­pres­si­ble Island, whe­re Scott’s nor­t­hern par­ty was forced to win­ter under very dif­fi­cult cir­cum­s­tances. Zodiac crui­ses, heli­c­op­ter flights. Under the mid­night sun, befo­re break­fast, from ear­ly mor­ning to late evening.

e8_Cape-Adare_01Feb15_0020

Well, it tur­ned out to be a very rela­xed day. As it tur­ned out, the coast was ever­y­whe­re blo­cked by den­se belts of ice. Many miles of old, tough floes. So we stay­ed far off the coast, felt like at high seas, with low clouds and stiff wind. Well, the Ross Sea is no lake. On the other hand, the­re is not­hing wrong about rela­xing a bit, after the long days we have just had. And Cape Ada­re is still ahead of us. Fin­gers crossed.

Cape Royds

We made ano­ther attempt last night to zodiac-land at Cape Royds, just to find out that Back­door Bay was still as much fil­led with brash ice as the day befo­re. So today was to be the day. We gave it an ear­ly mor­ning start, drag­ged the heli­c­op­ters out and soon the air bus shut­tle ser­vice was in ope­ra­ti­on.

Cape Royds is at the foot of Mount Ere­bus, a very vol­ca­nic land­scape with some pecu­li­ar erra­tic bould­ers of gra­ni­te. A beau­tiful, if not slight­ly dark sce­n­ery, which can be very grim at times of bad wea­ther, but just grand on a sun­ny day like this, and again Mount Ere­bus is loo­ming clear from any clouds abo­ve the site of our excur­si­on. Which is very appro­pria­te, as it is from here it was clim­bed for the first time ever, during the expe­di­ti­on we want to pay hom­mage to now.

The Nim­rod-expe­di­ti­on (1907-09) was the first one Shack­le­ton was in char­ge of hims­elf and cer­tain­ly his most suc­cessful one ever. He almost rea­ched the South Pole. Within less than a hundred miles from it he saw hims­elf forced to give up and turn around, „bet­ter a living don­key than a dead lion.“ As men­tio­ned, Ere­bus was clim­bed for the first time during the expe­di­ti­on and the south magne­tic pole was rea­ched, some­thing James Clark Ross could only dream of in 1841.

The hut is smal­ler and less com­plex than Scott’s at Cape Evans. Tins are still stan­ding on the shel­ves. All men shared one room, only the Boss had a litt­le cubic­le to hims­elf, which he wil­lingly gave to other expe­di­ti­on mem­bers who nee­ded time for reco­very. You can even find Shackleton’s signa­tu­re on a woo­den board.

Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds

Ade­lie pen­gu­ins are bree­ding a few hundred met­res away from the Nim­rod hut, they say it is the sou­thern­most one any­whe­re. May­be the­re are some more nes­t­ing at Cape Bar­ne, a good stone throw fur­ther south, I don’t know.

Our litt­le pre-break­fast excur­si­on is inde­ed short enough so we, the gui­des, just make it back in time for lunch. It always takes a while in the end, as the very last heli­c­op­ter can only land on the ship once the other one has been shut down, fold­ed tog­e­ther and sto­wed away. Heli­c­op­ter logi­stics are always quite an ope­ra­ti­on. But it was worth every minu­te. Even our pen­gu­in spe­cia­list col­le­ague, not a polar histo­ry luna­tic or a Shack­le­ton grou­pie, agrees. Cape Royds would be worth a visit even wit­hout the his­to­ri­cal hut.

Mount Erebus

After an ear­ly start and a long mor­ning out, it is a quiet after­noon on board as we are sai­ling nor­thwards, lea­ving McMur­do Sound behind. The few pre­cious days the­re are over for this time, as always too short, but spoi­led with ama­zin­gly good wea­ther. Mile after mile through calm, open water, with gre­at views of Ross Island with all 3 major peaks at the same time: Mount Ter­ror, Mount Bird and Mount Ere­bus, this famous trio of gla­cier-cover­ed vol­ca­noes. How often can you see them so beau­tiful­ly?

Dry Val­leys: Tay­lor Val­ley

No, we have not just slept through the 28th. It did not exist. The date line.

The wea­ther just can’t get bet­ter than it is today. That is the oppor­tu­ni­ty for our long­st heli­c­op­ter ope­ra­ti­on, the flight into the Dry Val­leys, name­ly Tay­lor Val­ley. The Ort­eli­us is in New Har­bour, on the wes­tern side of McMur­do Sound, pushing its bow firm­ly against the edge of mile of fast ice sepa­ra­ting us from the real coast. Ahead of us we have got the Trans­ant­ar­c­tic Moun­ta­ins, this immense moun­tain chain with count­less wild peaks stret­ching hundreds and hundreds of miles from Cape Ada­re to well bey­ond 80 degrees south. And in the midd­le of it, the­se weird val­leys which are too dry even for the gla­ciers.

It is a lot of work today for the pilots to fly almost 100 peo­p­le from Ort­eli­us to Cana­da Gla­cier in Tay­lor Val­ley. By the way, the last visi­tors befo­re us, apart from sci­en­tists, will also have come from Ort­eli­us, in Febru­ary 2013. It is, gene­ral­ly spea­king, not an over­c­row­ded place.

Canada Glacier, Taylor Valley

As ever­y­thing here, visits to the Dry Val­leys are strict­ly regu­la­ted. The­re is only one small visi­tor zone, ever­y­thing else is gene­ral­ly off limits. The bot­tom of the lar­ge val­ley is com­ple­te­ly cover­ed with anci­ent morai­nes, a huge, colourful open air muse­um of the regio­nal geo­lo­gy, a wide desert. A litt­le melt­wa­ter stream is run­ning from the gla­cier to Lake Fry­xell, which is of cour­se fro­zen. You won’t find any traces of life here, you would have to have a micro­scope to dis­co­ver any­thing ali­ve, with big­gest chan­ces for dis­co­veries in the streams or lakes. Don’t expect trout or sal­mon, though, but har­dy micro­bes. But even some seals have made it up here ages ago, more than 10 km away from the coast, just to find out that life in the Dry Val­leys is no good for a seal. The con­di­ti­on their sad remains are in are silent wit­nesses to the raging sand­storms that are fre­quent in this hosti­le place.

Apart from seal mum­mies and gla­ciers, the moon must be quite simi­lar, I guess.

Penguins and Orcas, McMurdo Sound

As a con­trast, the­re is ple­nty of wild­life at the ice edge, whe­re others are crui­sing with zodiacs, the day is long and lea­ves time for more than the flight into Tay­lor Val­ley. Seve­ral pods of Orca are tra­vel­ling in the chan­nels bet­ween the big ice floes, slight­ly ner­vous­ly wat­ched by Ade­lie pen­gu­ins, who are stan­ding every here and the­re in small groups. The zodiacs are some­ti­mes in the focus of peaceful atten­ti­on of the­se migh­ty pre­da­tors. A litt­le walk on one of the ice floes, which mea­su­re met­res in thic­k­ness and are hard as con­cre­te, with Mount Ere­bus pro­vi­ding a more than appro­pria­te back­ground, rounds the day off.

Cape Royds

After this gre­at after­noon at Cape Evans, we figu­red we might as well con­ti­nue with the momen­tum we were just in, so on to Cape Royds, just a few miles north of Cape Evans. This is whe­re Shackleton’s Nim­rod-expe­di­ti­on was based from 1907 to 1909, not his most famous, but cer­tain­ly his most suc­cessful expe­di­ti­on. And the only one from which he left a hut in Ant­ar­c­ti­ca.

So, as usu­al we went quick­ly out just befo­re din­ner to have a look at the shore if ever­y­thing is as it should be for the evening landing – and what do we see, Back­door Bay is com­ple­te­ly fil­led with ice. Not the good, solid fast ice over which you can just walk, but a wide rim of brash ice, too den­se­ly packed by the stiff bree­ze to dri­ve through by boat, but far too small pie­ces to walk on. Not very hel­pful.

e3_Cape-Royds_27Jan15_02

So we do what one should always do and don’t worry about what we can’t do, but rather enjoy the equal­ly recent and plea­sant memo­ries from the after­noon at Cape Evans and the views of Mount Ere­bus in its full sple­ndor, with its famous litt­le steam cloud being ejec­ted from the 3,794 m cra­ter into a clear blue ant­ar­c­tic evening sky.

Kap Evans

Cape Evans, sacred ground of ant­ar­c­tic histo­ry and a stun­nin­gly beau­tiful place in this kind of wea­ther. Base of Scott’s last expe­di­ti­on, with the Ter­ra Nova. The cross is a memo­ri­al to Spen­cer-Smith, Hay­wood and Mack­in­tosh. Now I am sure you have all done your ant­ar­c­tic home­work so you will know during which expe­di­ti­on the­se 3 men were here and died ..? Yes, it was of cour­se during the Auro­ra-expe­di­ti­on, the logi­sti­cal coun­ter­pie­ce of Shackleton’s Endu­rance-expe­di­ti­on. It isn’t quite true when it is said that Sir Ernest always brought all of his men back home ali­ve.

The main focus of atten­ti­on was, of cour­se, the famous hut of Scott’s last expe­di­ti­on. A time machi­ne that takes you a cen­tu­ry back into the heroic days of ant­ar­c­tic explo­ra­ti­on. The smell of seal blub­ber and hay for the ponies is still in the air. The hut seems to be rea­dy to wel­co­me the explo­rers back at any time, who are just out­side and may be for some time. A sacred place.

Mount Ere­bus is towe­ring behind the hut in all its sple­ndor today, gre­at views over the bar­ren hills of black vol­ca­nic rocks at Cape Evans. The­re is still fast ice to the south, ice­bergs fro­zen in bet­ween islands: Inac­ces­si­ble Island and Razor­back Islands, all of them important land­marks for Scott and his men. And of cour­se for Shack­le­ton during the Nim­rod days (1907-09).

Memorial cross for the 3 men who died during the Aurora expedition, Shackleton's Ross Sea party

Mount Ere­bus

Tal­king about Mount Ere­bus … 🙂
 
 
 

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Cape Cro­zier

The day could have had a very ear­ly start with a Zodiac crui­se at Cape Cro­zier, whe­re the Ross Ice Shelf meets Ross Island. But the wind was screa­ming around the ship, zodiacs were not even a remo­te opti­on. Nevert­hel­ess it was inte­res­t­ing to have seen the famous cape, even from a distance. Next to the scenic and ani­ma­li­stic impres­si­ons, it is the „Worst jour­ney in the World“ (sple­ndid­ly nar­ra­ted by Aps­ley Cher­ry-Gar­rard) which made Cape Cro­zier famous. I have to sum­ma­ri­ze this wild sto­ry in a few sen­ten­ces, but not now. Now I have to watch out. Mount Ere­bus should come into view soon, and the Trans­ant­ar­c­tic Moun­ta­ins are alre­a­dy on the hori­zon. We are hea­ding for Cape Royds and Cape Evans now. Fin­gers crossed that it will work out well.

d9_Cape-Crozier_27Jan15_33

Ross Ice Shelf

Too soon after the oppor­tu­ni­ty see­med to have come yes­ter­day after­noon to admi­re the Ross Ice Shelf from the heli­c­op­ter per­spec­ti­ve, the wea­ther win­dow clo­sed again, way befo­re ever­y­bo­dy had had the plea­su­re. Which can stretch the ner­ves a bit. It is too easy to for­get that safe­ty comes first. Few would ques­ti­on that from a distance.

But today, the famous ice shelf pre­sen­ted its­elf in a most plea­sant way, in the suns­hi­ne and with a few deco­ra­ti­ve clouds, so we could com­ple­te our flight­see­ing in the best con­di­ti­ons. And it was worth it!

d8_Ross-Ice-Shelf_26Jan15_180

It is good and important to have star­ted our acti­vi­ties in the Ross Sea now. Cabin fever had star­ted to make its­elf felt here and the­re.

Bay of Wha­les

The ice con­di­ti­ons over the last bit have been see­mingly para­dox, but are actual­ly quite nor­mal: quite a stretch of open water bet­ween the sea ice fur­ther north and the Ross Ice Shelf, which is whe­re we are now. So we could make good speed of about 11 knots, until the „gre­at bar­ri­er“ came into view this mor­ning, the fore­said ice shelf, an end­less wall of ice of a height of 40-50 meters. The Ross Ice Shelf is one of the most remar­kab­le places on Earth, it does not real­ly compa­re to any­thing else, other than the other ant­ar­c­tic ice shelfs, but how often do you get to see them ..? I will lea­ve it up to James Clark Ross to give a descrip­ti­on of the Ross Ice Shelf, as he dis­co­ver­ed it on 28th Janu­ary 1841:

„As we approa­ched the land (Ross Island) under all stud­ding-sails, we per­cei­ved a low white line exten­ding from its eas­tern extre­me point as far as the eye could dis­cern to the east­ward. It pre­sen­ted an extra­or­di­na­ry appearance, gra­du­al­ly incre­asing in height, as we got nea­rer to it, and pro­ving at length to be a per­pen­di­cu­lar cliff of ice, bet­ween one hundred and fif­ty and two hundred feet abo­ve the level of the sea, per­fect­ly flat and level at the top, and wit­hout any fis­su­res or pro­mont­ories on its even sea­ward face. What was bey­ond it we could not ima­gi­ne; … Mee­ting with such an obs­truc­tion was a gre­at dis­ap­point­ment to us all, for we had alre­a­dy, in expec­ta­ti­on, pas­sed far bey­ond the eight­ieth degree, and had even appoin­ted a ren­dez­vous the­re, in case of the ships acci­den­tal­ly sepa­ra­ting. It was, howe­ver, an obs­truc­tion of such a cha­rac­ter as to lea­ve no doubt upon my mind as to our future pro­cee­dings, for we might with equal chan­ce of suc­cess try to sail through the Cliffs of Dover, as pene­tra­te such a mass.“

d6_Ross-Iceshelf_25Jan15_207

Cars­ten Borchgre­vink was the second one to visit the Ross Ice Shelf after Ross. He lan­ded on a lower part in ear­ly 1900, after his win­tering at Cape Ada­re, and noti­ced that the ice cliff had shifted its posi­ti­on 30 miles to the south. A day’s hike took Borchgre­vink to 78°50’S, which was a fur­thest south that las­ted until Decem­ber 1902.

In 1911, Amund­sen lan­ded on the Ice Shelf in the Bay of Wha­les, a wide embay­ment at 164°W, and put Fram­heim up, the win­tering base. Fram­heim was at 78°30’S. We have now been at 78°32,5’S/164°54’W, which is 11 miles west of Amundsen’s Fram­heim, but, what is more inte­res­t­ing, 2.5 miles fur­ther south – and we were obvious­ly still at sea, still a mile or so to the ice shelf. Today, Amund­sen would have built Fram­heim seve­ral miles clo­ser to the pole. He would cer­tain­ly have lik­ed that. This is not much of a retre­at con­side­ring more than a cen­tu­ry has gone sin­ce then. It is said that the part of the ice shelf whe­re Fram­heim was stan­ding bro­ke off and drifted out into the oce­an in 1928.

Snow show­ers were threa­tening to take the visi­bi­li­ty, so a heli­c­op­ter landing on the shelf ice as Don had plan­ned was can­cel­led, so we are now sai­ling with a wes­ter­ly cour­se, towards Ross Island (Mount Ere­bus) and McMur­do Sound, eager­ly awai­ting what the next days may bring.

Ice

The Ant­ar­c­tic is living up to its repu­ta­ti­on of being a con­ti­nent of ice this year. Well, it does not exact­ly come as a big sur­pri­se that the seas around Ant­ar­c­ti­ca have ice. But it is inde­ed a hea­vy ice year, and it would be nice if the ice charts were a litt­le bit more pre­cise and relia­ble. We are now in the nor­the­as­tern Ross Sea, 250 nau­ti­cal miles nor­the­ast of the Bay of Wha­les, and accor­ding to the satel­li­te-deri­ved ice chart we should have most­ly open water here. But one drift ice field is fol­lo­wed by the next one, and even though the avera­ge ice cover is no more than 2/10 to 4/10, we do have den­se fields with lar­ger, stron­ger floes quite regu­lar­ly and need to maneou­vre around them or careful­ly break through them. Not only is this a lot of hard work for the Cap­tain (I don’t think he has left the bridge at all last night) and his guys, but it also slows us down con­sider­a­b­ly.

Yes­ter­day evening, a snow show­er decreased the visi­bi­li­ty to almost zero, and when the curtain went up again, the ice was pret­ty den­se in most direc­tions. A first heli­c­op­ter ice rec­ce flight cover­ed 60 miles (nau­ti­cal) in our gene­ral sou­thwes­ter­ly direc­tion, achie­ving infor­ma­ti­on about a navigab­le rou­te, but not dis­co­ve­ring gene­ral­ly open water. We are eager­ly awai­ting the fur­ther deve­lo­p­ment.

d2_ice-flight_23Jan15_071

But the way is the goal (does that trans­la­te ..?). The won­derful world of the ice, inclu­ding smal­ler tabu­lar bergs every here and the­re, was lying around the ship last night, in the soft light of the ant­ar­c­tic mid­night sun. Emper­or pen­gu­ins on the ice every now and then. The ama­zing beau­ty of the col­dest end of the world.

The Ross seal

I might just wri­te one sen­tence this time: we have seen a Ross seal. But some more sen­ten­ces may be neces­sa­ry to explain why this comes pret­ty clo­se to a real jack­pot.

If you tra­vel to Spits­ber­gen, you will most likely want to see a polar bear. That is easy. Only tho­se who real­ly have done their home­work might say: I’d rather see an Ivo­ry gull or a Grey phalar­ope. That is a bit less easy.

This here is simi­lar. If you take a trip to Ant­ar­c­ti­ca, most likely you want to see pen­gu­ins. And of cour­se I don’t want to put down a love­ly encoun­ter with a curious Gen­too pen­gu­in, an expe­ri­ence that has made count­less visi­tors to the Ant­ar­c­tic Pen­in­su­la smi­le for more than just a short moment. Or the Alba­tross, about which Robert Cush­man Mur­phy said „I now belong to the hig­her cult of mor­tals, for I have seen the alba­tross“. That may be taking it just a litt­le bit too far, but an expo­sure to such an ama­zing crea­tu­re may actual­ly make you feel that way.

The rarest ani­mal in Ant­ar­c­ti­ca is the Ross seal. After dozens of trips down here through 14 years, inclu­ding the Ross Sea trip 2 years ago, I have now seen my first Ross seal today. And this includes of cour­se ever­y­bo­dy on board, also most of my col­le­agues, who all have count­less ant­ar­c­tic sea­sons behind them. I belie­ve that Don, our fearless expe­di­ti­on lea­der, came to Ant­ar­c­ti­ca for the first time with Maw­son. It is a while ago. And even he dou­bled his num­ber of Ross seal expe­ri­en­ces with that sight­ing.

A very rough esti­ma­te of the „glo­bal“ popu­la­ti­on is some­thing near 130,000. That is not much. That is, actual­ly, very litt­le, con­side­ring the immense are­as this popu­la­ti­on of a midd­le-sized city is spread over. Theo­re­ti­cal­ly, you can find them ever­y­whe­re around Ant­ar­c­ti­ca, even on the coast of the Ant­ar­c­tic Pen­in­su­la. But I don’t know anyo­ne who has ever actual­ly seen one the­re. The Ross sea, that sounds like the Ross seal, you will eit­her see it here or not at all. To find this tre­asu­red spe­ci­es, you will have to take this long, long trip down here. And when our Ross seal then final­ly slid past the ship on his ice floe, pro­ba­b­ly hap­py to be on his own again, ever­y­bo­dy had a wide smi­le and more than one men­tio­ned to me that this trip is now alre­a­dy a suc­cess. Well, of cour­se we are loo­king for­ward to more, wha­te­ver the next days will bring, but this is defi­ni­te­ly a very signi­fi­cant ent­ry in the log.

By the way, the sight­ing of both the first Emper­or pen­gu­in and the Ross seal have to be cre­di­ted to Nick, a sharp-eyed fel­low pas­sen­ger from the Net­her­lands. Well done! (I feel I should add that we gui­des were busy with the dry-run of the heli­c­op­ter ope­ra­ti­ons).

c9_Ross-Seal_22Jan15_056

The Ross seal is the smal­lest of all ant­ar­c­tic seals, and quite pecu­li­ar with regards to its body shape with the unpro­por­tio­nal­ly strong neck and the stripes in on the same part of its body. It is easy to distin­gu­ish, as soon as you have got a reasonable view of it. And nobo­dy nee­ded bino­cu­lars any­mo­re when the ship was near her (his?) litt­le ice floe.

Emper­or

Of cour­se you are not coming wit­hout hopes and wis­hes on a big trip like this. And of cour­se it will be safe to say that a num­ber of the­se wis­hes are shared by all of us here. Anyo­ne here who does not want to see an Emper­or pen­gu­in? Unli­kely. Cle­ar­ly, both chan­ces and exci­te­ments were rising as soon as we had the first bits of drift ice in view. Bino­cu­lars are curr­ent­ly in fre­quent use here.

Yes­ter­day evening then the big moment – the first of seve­ral! – some in the bar, others in the cine­ma, but some tire­less obser­vers on the bridge. Only moments later, all of us out on the open deck, in the cold wind, to admi­re the Emper­or in his very realm. A lonely, juve­ni­le Emper­or, the yel­low on the sides of his neck not yet real­ly yel­low, rather whitish-grey­ish, stan­ding the­re on his litt­le ice floe.

c7_Amundsen-Sea_21Jan15_29

Always gre­at to see how such a pre­cious moment lifts the spi­rits imme­dia­te­ly.

Ice

After a lot of con­side­ra­ti­on, the (preli­mi­na­ry) decis­i­on has been made to set a sou­thwes­ter­ly cour­se, direct­ly into the Ross Sea. The ice seems to have ope­ned up along that rou­te in the last cou­ple of days, so it is worth a try. Nobo­dy can know what will actual­ly hap­pen, it is real­ly quite exci­ting now, tru­ly expe­di­ti­on style. The Ross Sea is a chall­enge this year. It will be very inte­res­t­ing to hear what the Spi­rit of Enderby will encoun­ter, they are now sai­ling south in the wes­tern Ross Sea, along the tra­di­tio­nal rou­te near the 180th degree of lon­gi­tu­de. Ide­al­ly, that could beco­me our exit rou­te. Into the ice is one thing. Out again ano­ther. We would quite like to get out of it again, not just even­tual­ly, but at a given time. We are not the Fram (no, I am not thin­king of Hur­tig­ru­ten now). A shame, actual­ly … but we have all boo­ked our flights back home from New Zea­land.

May­be we are get­ting in the area of the Bay of Wha­les in some days. This is whe­re Amund­sen went along­side the shelf ice edge more than 100 years ago, built his hut Fram­heim and went straight to the south pole after the win­ter, a few weeks befo­re Scott went the­re as well. Fram­heim was on the schelf ice and does of cour­se not exist any­mo­re, but how gre­at would it be to get the­re any­way? May­be. We shall see, we shall see … (as Amund­sen said).

c6_Amundsen-Sea_21Jan15_14

Many small, open drift ice fields today, smal­ler tabu­lar ice­bergs every here and the­re, with a lot of open water. Very good, we are making good pro­gress now. And dozens of Snow pet­rels – ani­mals that are well sym­bo­li­zing Ant­ar­c­ti­ca, as the Emper­or pen­gu­in. Less famous, but some bird­wat­chers would give a lot to see just one Snow pet­rel. And we have had dozens around the ship today, seve­ral times.

Ice

We have been kee­ping an eye on the ice chart for days with quite some exci­ti­ment. What appears like some colourful squa­re cen­ti­me­t­res on paper is hundreds of miles of drift ice in real life, cove­ring much of the Ross Sea. Yel­low is not vit­amin-rich lemon, but half open water. Pur­ple is not blueber­ry, but a very den­se pack ice cover, toug­her than a cher­ry stone and abso­lut­e­ly ine­di­ble.

In the arc­tic, the sea ice is shrin­king rapidly. In the Ant­ar­c­tic, it is brea­king records. The­re is a lot of ice in the Ross Sea this year.

The ice is the focus of ever­y­bo­dies atten­ti­on here on Ort­eli­us. We are all regu­lar­ly exami­ning the ice­chart, fol­lo­wing the deve­lo­p­ment, dis­cus­sing what all the colours may mean for us. The degree of expe­ri­ence that goes into the­se dis­cus­sions is varia­ble, and so is the pati­ence that Shack­le­ton iden­ti­fied as a polar traveller’s most important qua­li­ty. The­se ice charts are always rough and some­ti­mes ama­zin­gly mis­lea­ding, and even the satel­li­tes don’t know what will hap­pen over the next days.

Eiskarte_19Jan2015

Tal­king about Shack­le­ton. It was on 20th Janu­ary 1914 that the Endu­rance got stuck in the ice of the Wed­dell Sea. That is 100 years ago today.

So we are eager­ly awai­ting the deve­lo­p­ment over the next days. The first ice floes are drif­ting around the ship. A beau­tiful view in the suns­hi­ne.

Amund­sen Sea

18th-20th Janu­ary 2015 – As Shack­le­ton said, the most important cha­rac­ter fea­ture for every polar explo­rer is pati­ence. Now we are not tal­king about spen­ding a long ant­ar­c­tic win­ter tog­e­ther in a litt­le hut, squeezed around a far too small table with per­ma­nent dark­ness and long bliz­zards out­side. But some days at sea are enough to make the inner clock turn a bit slower. Some may have dif­fi­cul­ties with it, but I think, most of us are actual­ly enjoy­ing it. At home we are always on to some­thing, always online, 24/7 workloads, per­ma­nent stress. How often do you have the luxu­ry to watch waves for hours on end, wai­ting for the occa­sio­nal Cape or Giant storm pet­rel – they have beco­me a bit rare the­se days – pas­sing by? One of the­se days, even a migh­ty Wan­de­ring alba­tross was seen during the ear­ly mor­ning hours. Far south of the con­ver­gence, but the­re is no way too long for the­se eter­nal riders of the sou­thern winds.

Still, every day is dif­fe­rent. One day, the wind was strong enough to be dis­agreeable for some, one day was grey, the out­side world hid­den behind a curtain of snow. One day, it was after lea­ving Peter I Island, we had pods of Orcas seve­ral times, and today ear­ly mor­ning, the­re were Min­ke wha­le backs brea­king through the waves, cat­ching some rays of the rising sun.

b9_Amundsen-Sea_17Jan15_68

Of cour­se we are having a series of lec­tures and films. Micha­el has explai­ned the various sub­ty­pes of Orcas, and Vic­to­ria is tel­ling the sto­ries from the ear­lier years of explo­ra­ti­on. Sto­ries? Heroic adven­tures! The­se are only a few examp­les, we have got quite a ran­ge of stuff bet­ween us. But I have to rave on a litt­le bit about Vic­to­ria Salem’s histo­ry talks. They should beco­me a TV series. I am not a TV jun­kie, but I would turn it on. High fre­quen­cy rhe­to­ri­cal arti­stry, every see­mingly casu­al sen­tence a punch line with high-gra­de histo­ry fla­vour. 40 minu­tes that feel like at least one well-rese­ar­ched histo­ry book. Loo­king for­ward to more 🙂

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