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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