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Daily Archives: 18. March 2020 − News & Stories


Ross Sea – Ushua­ia, 3rd-18th March 2020

This voya­ge had star­ted so well, but now our luck was run­ning out. After a stor­my day east of Ross Island, the sou­thern Ross Sea star­ted to free­ze over lar­ge are­as. Beau­ti­ful to see, but the end­less miles of den­se, tough pan­ca­ke ice were not hel­pful and cost us pre­cious time.

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We reached the Ross Ice Shelf just on the edge of the Bay of Wha­les in the late evening of 04th March. Well, „reached“ is rela­ti­ve. We did not get any clo­ser than 12 nau­ti­cal miles (22 km) until it beca­me clear that it did not make much sen­se to pro­ceed that direc­tion. The ice shelf was just about visi­ble with bino­cu­lars. It was alrea­dy too dark for the heli­co­p­ters and the clouds were moving in, so wai­t­ing would most likely just have meant a loss of even more pre­cious time, espe­cial­ly as we could liter­al­ly watch the sea free­zing around us. So the choice was clear – actual­ly, it was the only thing to do rather than a choice: lea­ve. Clear­ly a disap­point­ment, this was some­thing we could all agree on.

More sur­pri­ses in terms of ice were to fol­low the next days. The Ross Sea was real­ly free­zing over in lar­ge are­as simul­ta­ne­ous­ly. Fasci­na­ting and beau­ti­ful, but unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly slowing us down again.

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The two days that tur­ned out to be pivo­tal were the 06th and the 07th of March. We were to be stea­ming full ahead towards the Bel­lings­hau­sen Sea and Peter I. Island – or at least, this is what we wan­ted to do. Ins­tead, we spent most of the­se two days ploughing slow­ly through den­se ice mas­ses whe­re we had expec­ted ice-free water accord­ing to our ice charts. In the morning of the 7th of March we found our­sel­ves 20 miles fur­ther away from Peter I. Island than 2 days ago at the some time. Two full days lost! That was a bit of a bad sur­pri­se.

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Then we went up to speed again, but not enough to catch up with what we had lost in terms of time. We reached Peter I. Island final­ly in the ear­ly morning hours of the 13th of March, but it was qui­te stor­my and the visi­bi­li­ty pret­ty poor.

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By then it had alrea­dy beco­me clear that we would not have enough time any­mo­re to con­ti­nue to the Ant­arc­tic Pen­in­su­la. Ins­tead, we were for­ced to set cour­se direct­ly for the Bea­gle Chan­nel and Ushua­ia. No sur­pri­se that this cau­sed gre­at disap­point­ment, and emo­ti­ons went high. I can not say that I enjoy­ed the rest of the voya­ge. I don’t think I have ever writ­ten some­thing like that in the blog befo­re, but this is just what it was.

The pas­sa­ge towards Tier­ra del Fue­go was most­ly pret­ty rough, and we got our share of storm and hea­vy seas near Cape Hoorn, which we did, howe­ver, not see becau­se the visi­bi­li­ty was pret­ty poor.

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We reached Ushua­ia just about in time in the morning of the 18th of March. But big ques­ti­on­marks were now han­ging over ever­ything disem­bar­ka­ti­on, say­ing good­bye, tra­vel­ling home – the last voya­ge of Orte­li­us, to the Ant­arc­tic Pen­in­su­la, had alrea­dy been can­cel­led days ago – was all uncer­tain by now, to say the least. The world out­side Ant­arc­ti­ca was now taken over by the Coro­na virus, and we would have to see what that meant for us.

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