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Yearly Archives: 2015 − Travelblog


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!

Rolf

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.“

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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.

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