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Monthly Archives: February 2017 − News & Stories


Campbell Island – Februar 17, 2017

Yeah – we did go ashore, and not just a little bit!

During the morning, Campbell Island came slowly out of the low clouds. A green, wild island in the middle of a grey, wild sea.

The weather forecast gave some reason to be optimistic, and reality was not to disappoint us. Ages ago, friendly glaciers carved a very useful fjord into the island, which provides shelter from the ocean swell. If only the wind is not too strong …

If you are prepared for antarctic conditions, then the mild temperatures may surprise you. It seems warm, insects are in the air. High grass and shrubs, almost making the impression of little trees, are forming a rather peculiar vegetation resembling low forests on the lower slopes. A lonely penguin near the shore turns out to be an erect-crested penguin, a new species for me. Erect-crested penguins are only breeding on the Bounty Islands and the Antipodes. Talk of luck.

A boardwalk leads up the hill, passing the wooden buildings of an abandoned weather station and continuing through the dense dwarf forest. The views between the small trees onto the bay are lovely. Surprisingly large herbs are growing on large areas as we get higher up in the terrain, they are known as megaherbs, an appropriate name.

The wind is getting fresher as we are getting higher and it is turning clouds into cold fog banks. White dots every here and there on the grassy slopes turn out to be albatrosses sitting on their nests. Royal albatrosses, which closely related to the Wandering albatross, the world’s biggest bird according to the wingspan. Only small details of the beak and plumage tell the difference. The huge birds are spread everywhere, keeping their chicks warm in their nests. The chicks will be just a few days old by now. We are very lucky to observe albatrosses in a relatively close distance, feeding chicks and greeting partners upon return to the nest. Those few of us who can’t leave are treated with a group of albatrosses which comes to land just a few metres away from us, socialising with one another. It is no less then six in the end which are dancing and making strange noises. An unforgettable experience, especially as the fog has by now given way to the blue sky and evening sun.

Gallery – Campbell Island – Februar 17, 2017

Click on thumbnail to open an enlarged version of the specific photo.

After a long afternoon on shore it is time to say goodbye to Campbell Island. Two years ago we spend one and a half day watching the island in a howling gale without getting really close to it. What a contrast. An unforgettable afternoon in a very special, unique world.

In the evening it is time to set course to the south. More than 1100 miles are separating us from the Ross Sea, we will spend at least for days crossing this stretch of the Southern Ocean.

At sea – Februar 17, 2017

There is a fair and steady breeze blowing around the southernmost corner of New Zealand, the sun is shining, warmly and strongly, the air warmer than I have experienced it for quite some time.
Exactly 100 passengers from almost just as many countries have found their way to our ship, the Ortelius, and everybody is curious what the next weeks will bring. It is the beginning of an Antarctic Odyssey, more than 6000 miles are ahead of us.

Gallery – At sea – Februar 17, 2017

Click on thumbnail to open an enlarged version of the specific photo.

A light, pleasant breeze is blowing during the first few miles, we have set course south for Campbell Island. Two years ago, we spent more than a day looking at the island in force 10 winds and beyond. Which was, in a way, impressive and beautiful, but going ashore is the real thing. Will it work this time? We are curious, fingers crossed. It would be a dream come true.

Halley VI: An antarctic research station has to move

In 2012, the British Antarctic Survey had built an ultra-modern research station, on the eastern side of the Weddell sea: Halley
VI. The five previous stations were either covered in snow or not safe to use anymore. Similar to the German research stationNeumayer III, where researchers moved in for the first time in 2009, Halley VI is situated on the shelf ice. Already Neumayer III was perfectly constructed for the prevailing conditions. It should be able to withstand the locally strong winds and drifting snow should not accumulate to the buildings. Since ice is moving, shear forces would act on the construction, too. Fore these reasons the building was erected on hydraulic legs, which gradually could lift it to the level of the current snow layer. However, the German base is fixed to the ice below. At the present location the station is drifting to the shelf ice edge
with a speed of 157 metres per year. The British improved their new construction, and in February 2012, a modular building on ski was ready to move in on the Brunt ice shelf. It can also be lifted hydraulically. Each year, 1.5 metres of snow accumulate due to either snow fall or snow drift. The approximately 150 metre thick ice shelf below Halley VI moves with a speed of more than 400 meters per year. To prevent the loss of the base over the years, heavy vehicles are able to move the individual modules on their ski from its location.

When Halley VI was used for the first time in 2012, several chasms in the shelf ice South of the station were already known. Almost one year later, after 35 years of inactivity, the chasms started to grow again. The crack closest to the station increased by approximately 1.7 kilometres per year. Last October, researchers detected a new fissure in the North. They worried about the station to be cut off from the mainland. Therefore, BAS decided for the relocation of the Halley VI, and the station would not be available for research for 3 years. Within that time, the transfer of the buildings should be
completed. During the Antarctic summer of 2015/16 scientists surveyed the area for a new location and a safe route for transport. It is about 23 kilometres further inland. Camps for fieldworkers and engineers will be build and the first modules are getting on the road during the current summer. The researchers hope that the base will be ready for work for the 2017 summer team. The supply route over the shelf-ice edge would then be extended to 40 kilometres. Better safe than sorry!

Halley VI station on the Brunt shelf ice. Photo © British Antarctic Survey.

Halley VI

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