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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.“


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.

last modification: 2015-01-28 · copyright: Rolf Stange