fb  360-Grad-Panoramen of Spitsbergen  de  en  Spitsbergen Shop  

Yearly Archives: 2017 − Travelblog

Possession Islands & Cape Hallet – February 23rd, 2017

Of course there was a growing urge to set foot on shore, but that had to wait for another while. We had been hoping for a Zodiac cruise at the Possession Islands, but it was definitely too windy to venture out into the small boats. But also from the ship the islands are a view not to be missed. Rugged coastlines with cliffs and arches. On the northern one of the two main islands, the famous James Clark Ross went ashore in 1841 to take the new land into possession for his country – hence the name.

»We found the shores of the mainland completely covered with ice projecting into the sea, and the heavy surf along its edge forbade any attempt to land upon it ; a strong tide carried us rapidly along between this ice-bound coast and the islands amongst heavy masses of ice, so that our situation was for some time most critical; for all the exertions our people could use were insufficient to stem the tide. But taking advantage of a narrow opening that appeared in the ice, the boats were pushed through it, and we got into an eddy under the lee of the largest of the islands, and landed on a beach of large loose stones and stranded masses of ice. The weather by this time had put on a most threatening appearance, the breeze was freshening fast, and the anxious circumstances under which we were placed, together with the recal-flag flying at the ship’s masthead, which I had ordered Lieutenant Bird to hoist if necessary, compelled us to hasten our operations.

The ceremony of taking possession of these newly-discovered grounds, in the name of our Most Gracious Sovereign, Queen Victoria, was immediately proceeded with; and on planting the flag of our country amidst the hearty cheers of our party, we drank to the health, long life, and happiness of Her Majesty and His Royal Highness Prince Albert. The island was named Possession Island.«

You need to have the nerve to go ashore under such circumstances, when getting there and back involves several miles rowing rather than a rapid zodiac ride powered by 60 horses. Ross did have the nerve, we rather enjoy the views from the ship, a warm cup in the hand.

Gallery – Possession Islands & Cape Hallet – 23. Februar 2017

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

Also Cape Hallet does not want us ashore. The beach is blocked by ice and surf, quite similar to Cape Adare. This turned out not to be a bad thing at all. Not only were the impressions that we got from the drifting ice and the icy shores from Zodiac probably much better than would we would have seen in a deserted penguin colony on a flat gravel peninsula, but we found an Emperor penguin on a bergy bit.

He (or she) did not have anything to do but to entertain us for quite a while with different poses. And as this had not yet been enough, he was then joined by an Adelie penguin, making the size difference more than obvious. An Emperor penguin within a few metres, observed for a good length of time from sea level – how good does it get! 🙂

Cap Adare – 22. Februar 2017

We have got a special mission at Cape Adare. We have got a grandgrandson of Nikolaj Hanson on board. Hanson was the zoologist of Borchgrevink’s expedition, which was the very first one ever to winter on antarctic ground, in 1899-1900. Hanson died in the late winter and was buried high up on the mountain ridge of Cape Adare. This was actually quite a task in itself:

The coffin had to be carried several hundred metres up a rather steep, icy mountain slope, and then a grave had to be blasted into the rock with dynamite. It is said that Hanson’s last wish at the end of his long disease was to see the penguins again when they would return to Cape Adare. His comrades captured the first pinguin that came back and brought it to Hanson’s bed. Soon thereafter Hanson died.

Never has a family member been to Hanson’s lonely grave. It was our mission to change this, a mission that had been prepared by a permitting process of several months. In the end it is just a matter of a helicopter landing on a rocky mountain ridge devoid of life. The mission is happily completed in the earliest morning hours.

Gallery – Cap Adare – 22. Februar 2017

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

The second mission, to get everybody to Borchgrevink’s famous wintering hut, the oldest ever human-made construction on this continent, turns out to be more difficult. Cape Adare is notorious for wind and ice. The wind does not create any troubles today, but the ice are an obstacle that we can not overcame.

It is just a strip less than 50 m wide, blocking the beach of like the wall of a fortress, but the growlers are hundreds of tons heavy and they are moved around by swell and current. A very dangerous combination.

This does not keep us from getting as close as we can to the coast, the land and the hut with the Zodiacs. And that is pretty close and impressive. Ice, Adelie penguins, Crabeater seals. The sheer display of power that is created in the interplay between heavy ice and moving water is maybe the most impressive part of the whole setting for me.

At sea – February 18th-21st, 2017

The Southern Ocean does have a good reputation for bad reason. Talk about the furious fifties and the screaming sixties. That brings a couple of question marks regarding our wellbeing during the days of the crossing and the time frame. A force 10 on the nose, and you can suffer and watch your precious time melt like ice in the sunshine.

And this time? King Neptune is with us so far. We have got a lively westerly breeze for some time, but it just brings a little training session in becoming a sailor. No more than that. We can keep an average speed of a good 11 knots, which takes us in a mere four days from Campbell Island to Cape Adare. An easy and relaxed crossing, we are doing well!

Antarctica, we are coming!

The picture shows our good helicopter pilots and mechanics while preparing flights in Antarctica. We hope to give them a lot of work in a few days time!

Our heli team – At sea – February 18th-21st, 2017

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.


News-Listing live generated at 2021/March/04 at 12:06:22 Uhr (GMT+1)