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Monthly Archives: February 2015 − News & Stories

Scott’s hut at Cape Evans (Ter­ra Nova expe­di­ti­on): vir­tu­al tour

Pho­to gal­le­ries and tri­plog of the Ross Sea voya­ge with MV Ort­eli­us in Janu­ary-Febru­ar 2015 are alre­a­dy online. Now, the first of seve­ral pan­ora­ma series that have been taken during this trip is published. At Cape Evans, I had the rare oppor­tu­ni­ty to take pan­ora­ma pho­tos insi­de Scott’s hut from his last expe­di­ti­on with Ter­ra Nova (1910-1913) and of the sur­roun­ding land­scape. The results can now be seen on this web­site (click here). 10 pan­ora­mas, 8 from insi­de the Ter­ra Nova hut and 2 land­scape pan­ora­mas of Cape Evans, can be view­ed both indi­vi­du­al­ly and as a vir­tu­al tour, taking the visi­tor online through all cor­ners of the hut and around at Cape Evans, whe­re you can see Mount Ere­bus, McMur­do Sound fro­zen bet­ween Cape Evans and Hut Point fur­ther south, with islands inclu­ding Razor­back Island and Inac­ces­si­ble Island that are known to tho­se who have read Scott’s dia­ries that were published as Scott’s last expe­di­ti­on. Short com­men­ta­ry comes along with the indi­vi­du­al pan­ora­mas. Most of them are insi­de the hut, show­ing all parts of the famous base from which Scott went to the South Pole. It is well known that he and his 4 com­ra­des died on the way back.

New Zea­land

09th-10th Febru­ary 2015 – The jour­ney came to an end a week ago, but we have to have a final blog ent­ry. We can’t just lea­ve good Ort­eli­us some­whe­re near Camp­bell Island.

Stewart Island

On 09th Febru­ary, the gent­ly rol­ling hills of Ste­wart Island came into view, on the hori­zon first, then slow­ly coming clo­ser, to ever­y­bo­dies delight. That was obvious­ly a signal for the Alba­tros­ses to say good­bye to us during that day. By the way, White-cap­ped alba­tros­ses had been among­st our faithful atten­dants for some­time. Admit­ted­ly, I had initi­al­ly belie­ved they were juve­ni­le Camp­bell alba­tros­ses. But now, they are ful­ly grown, beau­tiful repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of a spe­ci­es that I had never seen befo­re, or more likely, that I had not kno­wing­ly seen befo­re. Sple­ndid!

White-capped albatross

The end of a big jour­ney is usual­ly rather pro­fa­ne. Pass­ports need to be stam­ped (took sur­pri­sin­gly long), lug­ga­ge to be moved from ship to shore (went rather quick­ly), hands are shaken (not enough time) and then a see­mingly end­less num­ber of food items is car­ri­ed down into the ship (took far too much time). Then, rela­xed moments in a café, clai­ming to be the most sou­thern out­post of its glo­bal­ly known owner com­pa­ny, in Inver­car­gill (a one-hor­se town … sor­ry, did not want to offend anyo­ne) and in a pub in Bluff (com­pared to which, Inver­car­gill is a metro­po­lis) with my good fel­low col­le­agues. A day later, the begin­ning of a long series of 6 flights half way around the pla­net.

Mean­while, Ort­eli­us is on her way again, now alre­a­dy well on her way back into the Ross Sea. On the way south, Camp­bell Island was far more fri­end­ly than a few days befo­re, when we were the­re on our way north, as far as I have heard. Well, good luck to the ship and all on board, have a safe, gre­at jour­ney into the Ross Sea and bey­ond!

Ortelius Bluff

That’s it with my ant­ar­c­tic blog for the moment. Not too long befo­re I will con­ti­nue in the arc­tic. But befo­re we get that far, have a look at the tri­plog and the com­pre­hen­si­ve pho­to gal­le­ries from this Ross Sea voya­ge, the ant­ar­c­tic odys­sey, semi-cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ti­on. Advan­ced Ant­ar­c­ti­ca. And during the weeks to come, I will obvious­ly update the ant­ar­c­tic pan­ora­ma coll­ec­tion on this web­site. I star­ted the polar pan­ora­ma pho­to pil­grimage 2 years ago in the Ross Sea. Loo­king back, I think I have used the­se 2 years for good bene­fit. It will be well wort­hwhile to have a look at the Ross Sea pan­ora­mas pho­tos soon. So have a look. After the trip is befo­re the trip.

Thank you for rea­ding this far!


Sea of Alba­tros­ses and wind

In case the head­line reminds you of the pre­vious blog ent­ry, the­re is a reason for that. It is just how the area is. Our ear­ly mor­ning attempts to land on Camp­bell Island were doo­med by winds of 40-50 knots, it was not even pos­si­ble to keep the ship lon­ger in Per­se­ver­ance Har­bour than just a few moments, let alo­ne drop anchor or even zodiacs. The bay pro­vi­des shel­ter from the wes­ter­ly swell, but chan­nels the wind, making it even stron­ger than it is out­side.


Con­side­ring near win­dy 30 hours spent off Camp­bell Island, time run­ning out and a fore­cast not giving much reason to be opti­mi­stic, the­re is not much choice but taking off, back to the high seas, and set­ting cour­se for Bluff, our next and last stop, in New Zea­land. Camp­bell Island was not meant to be, or, as a fel­low tra­vel­ler put it so nice­ly: it is the pri­vi­le­ge of an island to say ‘no’.

The fol­lo­wing day at sea was a bit of a rol­ler-coas­ter ride. Rocks on the road. But tho­se who live here don’t use cars or bicy­cles, and they don’t walk. Natu­re has equip­ped them with the most ele­gant and effi­ci­ent wings and they gli­de wit­hout effort shar­ply over waves that keep some of us from enjoy­ing their break­fast. More than a dozen Roy­al alba­tros­ses keep cir­cling around the ship, approa­ching every cou­ple of minu­tes to the delight of tho­se who stay out­side as if they were glued to the deck. Regu­lar­ly, eyes and came­ras go up, when the lar­ge royals of the winds and their smal­ler rela­ti­ves (sub­jects?) come near, as litt­le lunar objects around our litt­le pla­net, the ship Ort­eli­us, see­mingly fol­lo­wing Kepler’s laws.


For a few pre­cious moments, we even have the plea­su­re to enjoy this with the gol­den sun dis­ap­pearing behind some low clouds in the evening.

The island of wind and Alba­tros­ses

The Sou­thern Oce­an – that sounds like some warm, quiet islands with bea­ches and palm trees. But that is the roaring for­ties, the furious fif­ties and the screa­ming six­ties. They keep living up to their bad repu­ta­ti­on today. That is quite a spec­ta­cle in its­elf, and of cour­se the­re was no serious thought about any zodiac crui­sing along Camp­bell Island’s wild cliff coasts, sear­ching for Yel­low eyed and Eas­tern Rock­hop­per pen­gu­ins, various Alba­tros­ses, Sea lions and so on, not to men­ti­on going ashore. Well, if we can’t get to them, may­be they will come to us. And they do! Dozens of Alba­tros­ses around the ship, and some pati­ence is reward­ed by sightin­gs of Yel­low-eyed pen­gu­ins plung­ing in the water near the ship. Brief sightin­gs, but … sightin­gs! The odd Sea lion jum­ping out of the waves. Have I ever seen this many Gre­at Alba­tros­ses in one place? I am quite sure I haven’t. Sou­thern Royals, all of them, as far as I can tell. And all the smal­ler o nes, Camp­bell alba­tross, ple­nty of Light-man­t­led soo­ties … the who­le lot.

Yellow-eyed penguin

The wind­me­ter is almost equal­ly inte­res­t­ing. A ste­ady 40-50 knots for a start, and then the gusts. The stron­gest one I have seen was 84 knots, that is a good 150 km/h. Wind force 12 on the Beau­fort sca­le starts at 64 knots. Force 12 is the last once, cal­led hur­ri­ca­ne. 84 knots.


Fin­gers crossed for tomor­row mor­ning. If it is get­ting a bit (a good bit, that is) cal­mer, then we’ll go ashore on Camp­bell Island short­ly after sun­ri­se. That would, of cour­se, be the icing on the cake.

Campbell Island

Alba­tross lati­tu­des

04th-5th Febru­ary 2015 – It was clear that the nice wea­ther was not going to last fore­ver. We still can’t com­plain. We have got sou­t­her­ly to sou­thwes­ter­ly winds, so it does not slow us down too much. Time is key. But now we do feel that we are actual­ly on a ship. Some are enthu­si­a­stic for the wild oce­an and the big waves, others less so.


If you put on some warm clo­thes and spend some time out­side – the aft deck on level 4 is deci­dedly the best place to watch and pho­to­graph birds, that is whe­re the com­mu­ni­ty meets – you will get a lot. We are back to the Alba­tros lati­tu­des, the furious fif­ties, which are now living up to their good repu­ta­ti­on. Buller’s alba­tros, Wan­de­ring alba­tros, Sou­thern roy­al alba­tros, Camp­bell alba­tros, Light-man­t­led soo­ty alba­tros, did I for­get one? And of cour­se, all the pri­o­ns, the ever-pre­sent Cape pet­rels, Soft-plu­ma­ged pet­rel, Mott­led pet­rel, she­ar­wa­ters … the­re is a lot around. Lucky who gets a sharp pho­to of a pri­on.

At sea

02nd-03rd Febru­ary 2015 – We need one day to get through the pack ice north of Cape Ada­re, which turns out to be fair­ly unpro­ble­ma­tic. Compa­re it to the 43 days that the Ant­ar­c­tic nee­ded in 1895 to get through to Cape Ada­re, coming from the north … I know, it is not fair to compa­re the Ant­ar­c­tic in 1895 and the Ort­eli­us 120 years later. Cap­tain Kris­ten­sen had no ice chart, no steel hull and no 3200 kW in his engi­ne room. But it is good to keep tho­se 43 in mind to under­stand the envi­ron­ment we are in.


The wea­ther Gods are in good mood. It is calm and sun­ny, a real crui­se across the Sou­thern Oce­an, we are stan­ding on deck, hol­ding a cup of hot cho­co­la­te, came­ra han­ging over the should­er. Life isn’t too bad like this. See how long it will last.

Cape Ada­re

Cape Ada­re is the point whe­re the Ross Sea coast beco­mes the coast of East Ant­ar­c­ti­ca. A high rocky pen­in­su­la sti­cking out into the Sou­thern Oce­an. You will expect that such an obs­ta­cle will catch any winds, clouds and drift ice fields in the area, and the­re is a lot of all of this.

Accor­din­gly, you have to be rea­dy for ever­y­thing when you are get­ting near Cape Ada­re. Hope the best, be pre­pared for the worst, this has always been the way of thin­king for polar tra­vel­lers, at least tho­se who knew some­thing about the envi­ron­ment they were about to visit, and this has not chan­ged until today.

Admit­ted­ly, I had nevert­hel­ess high hopes for a suc­cessful landing at Cape Ada­re when it beca­me visi­ble on the hori­zon. One of the big, his­to­ri­cal­ly well-known pla­cen­a­mes in Ant­ar­c­ti­ca, the geo­gra­phi­cal guard wat­ching over this ent­ry into the Ross Sea, dis­co­ver­ed Janu­ary 11, 1841, and even this old rep­ti­le, one of the finest mari­ners of his times, did not get ashore: „ … the wind being on the shore, and a high sea bea­ting hea­vi­ly along the pack edge, we found it quite imprac­ti­ca­ble.“ But he did cer­tain­ly like the sce­n­ery: „It is a remar­kab­le pro­jec­tion of high, dark, pro­ba­b­ly vol­ca­nic, cliffs, and forms a strong con­trast to the rest of the snow-cover­ed coast. … It was a beau­tiful­ly clear evening, and we had a most enchan­ting view of the two magni­fi­cent ran­ges of moun­ta­ins, who­se lof­ty peaks, per­fect­ly cover­ed with eter­nal snow, rose to ele­va­tions vary­ing from seven to ten thousand feet abo­ve the level of the oce­an. The gla­ciers that fil­led their inter­vening val­leys, and which des­cen­ded from near the moun­tain sum­mits, pro­jec­ted in many places seve­ral miles into the sea, and ter­mi­na­ted in lof­ty per­pen­di­cu­lar cliffs. In a few places the rocks bro­ke through their icy cove­ring, by which alo­ne we could be assu­red that land for­med the nucleus of this, to appearance, enorm­ous ice­berg.“

Cape Adare

How incre­di­ble it was for us when even the morning’s gent­le bree­ze cal­med down while we were approa­ching the famous head­land – under a bril­li­ant­ly blue sky. None of tho­se few whom I know and who have been the­re will ever belie­ve that. Just a den­se belt of drift ice bet­ween Ort­eli­us and the dark cliffs, so we’ll get the heli­c­op­ters out. If good old Ross had seen that!

The shore of Cape Ada­re con­sists of inac­ces­si­ble steep cliffs, and the actu­al landing site is a litt­le, flat pen­in­su­la on its wes­tern side. A tri­ang­le of dark gra­vel, of vol­ca­nic ori­gin and piled up to a series of beach rid­ges by the ever­las­ting surf, with some small, long lagoons bet­ween them. The white-blue ice­bergs and den­se­ly packed ice floes, all swim­ming in dark­blue, calm water, are a view of unearth­ly beau­ty from the air, from whe­re we could also alre­a­dy see the immense num­ber of pen­gu­ins crow­ding most parts of the pen­in­su­la. Rid­ley Beach, as it is cal­led, is home to one of Antarctica’s lar­gest colo­nies of Adé­lie pen­gu­ins, if not the lar­gest one. 250,000 bree­ding pairs are men­tio­ned in the lite­ra­tu­re, good for well bey­ond half a mil­li­on indi­vi­du­als. Con­side­ring this, we are soon fin­ding sur­pri­sin­gly lar­ge are­as with few or no nests at all, may­be the­re is too much snow the­re in the begin­ning of the bree­ding sea­son. On the other hand, many o f the Adé­lies are clim­bing up high onto the adja­cent cliffs, rea­ching up to 300 m with their nes­t­ing sites. First class views, but the wea­ther pro­tec­tion lea­ves a bit to be desi­red, and I don’t even want to ima­gi­ne the strugg­le they have to go through to pro­vi­de their chicks with every sin­gle meal.

Peo­p­le deve­lo­pe weird habits when the­re are too many of them in litt­le space, and so do pen­gu­ins. In 1911, when of Scott’s bio­lo­gists spend a while at Cape Ada­re, making some remar­kab­le obser­va­tions. His paper about the „sexu­al habits of the Adé­lie pen­gu­in“ was dee­med too bizar­re for publi­ca­ti­on. It has been dug out again a cen­tu­ry later, belie­ved to be accu­ra­te and published only in 2012 in Polar Record. An inte­res­t­ing read.

Adélie penguins, Cape Adare

Not only wild­life is tee­ming at Cape Ada­re, peo­p­le have also lived here once for a year. This was Cars­ten Borchgrevink’s win­tering in 1899, crow­ded tog­e­ther with 10 men in a far too small hut with far too litt­le to keep them busy, lea­ving far too much time to make life hell for each other. But they were the first ones ever who win­tered on the con­ti­nent of Ant­ar­c­ti­ca. The hut is still the­re, it is the very oldest one in Ant­ar­c­ti­ca, an icon of polar histo­ry, and the only buil­ding on this pla­net that can cla­im to be the very first one on its con­ti­nent ever.

Hundred thou­sands of pen­gu­ins and other assor­ted wild­life, ant­ar­c­tic sce­n­ery on the hig­hest level, the oldest hut of the con­ti­nent – it is safe to assu­me spi­rits were high as we retur­ned back to the ship after a long after­noon out the­re. The wel­co­me gree­ting by our gre­at hotel team is ice­cream and hot wine on the top deck to cele­bra­te the day. Ice in your hand, ice around the ship, ice ever­y­whe­re shi­ning under a still bright evening sun. It is our last day near the ant­ar­c­tic coast. Once again, Ant­ar­c­ti­ca has shown us how beau­tiful she can be, and pul­led on all strings to do so.

Borchgrevink's hut, Cape Adare

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