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Home → February, 2020

Monthly Archives: February 2020

Tay­lor Val­ley – 29th Febru­ary 2020

The day began just like the pre­vious one had ended: win­dy and grey. Very win­dy inde­ed, and very grey.

But it was quite a bit bet­ter on the west side of the McMur­do Sound. The sun was coming out, and the wind was cal­ming down. We pas­sed through all stages of sea ice for­ma­ti­on as we approa­ched the Trans­ant­ar­c­tic Moun­ta­ins, from grease ice through various kinds of pan­ca­ke ice and final­ly into solid ice floes.

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

Soon the heli­c­op­ters were rea­dy and we star­ted fly­ing into Tay­lor Val­ley, which is one of the famous McMur­do Dry Val­leys. We mana­ged to give ever­y­bo­dy the oppor­tu­ni­ty to set a foot ashore the­re – a short but very sweet walk near Cana­da Gla­cier. Gre­at!

McMur­do Sound – 28th Febru­ary, 2020

We have rea­ched the core area of our voya­ge, McMur­do Sound, the heart of the Ross Sea.

But, alas, the timing appears to be bad. A strong low pres­su­re moves over the Ross Sea area and the coas­tal zone of low winds in McMur­do Sound that the fore­cast had pro­mi­sed tur­ned out to be non-exis­tent. No chan­ce to get ashore as the winds are raging from 25 knots upwards to more than 50 knots. We pass Cape Royds and Cape Evans, Hut Point and McMur­do Base and even Scott Base – the sea is com­ple­te­ly open as far as that! Unbe­lie­va­ble; that does cer­tain­ly not hap­pen every year. But it is alre­a­dy start­ing to free­ze over again. The tem­pe­ra­tu­re is around -12 degrees and grey stripes of grease ice are all over the waves.

mcmur­do soand (gal­lery):

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

Moving down the Ross Sea – 28th Febru­ary, 2020

The wea­ther in the Ter­ra Nova Bay area is not exact­ly gre­at today. No chan­ce to make a landing on Inex­pres­si­ble Island, whe­re Scott’s nor­t­hern par­ty spend a mise­ra­ble win­ter in 1912 and whe­re Chi­na is curr­ent­ly pre­pa­ring for buil­ding ano­ther sta­ti­on (gre­at! Ano­ther sta­ti­on! Ant­ar­c­ti­ca needs more sta­ti­ons! Chi­na only has four sta­ti­ons, they do need ano­ther one! And the­re are only three sta­ti­ons so far in Ter­ra Nova Bay, the­re has to be a fourth one! For­gi­ve me for get­ting slight­ly sar­ca­stic here).

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

We pass the Ita­li­an Mario Zuc­chel­li Base and later we get a glim­pse of the Ger­man Gond­wa­na Base. Then we find a litt­le bay that pro­vi­des enough shel­ter for a love­ly litt­le Zodiac crui­se, with ple­nty of Wed­dell seals, Adé­lie pen­gu­ins and some good sce­n­ery. The view is clea­ring up towards the evening.

Moving down the Ross Sea – 27th Febru­ary, 2020

The­re is curr­ent­ly not much ice in the Ross Sea, but the­re is a belt of den­se drift ice in the area of Cape Hal­let.
We are steam­ing south, towards the McMur­do Sound.

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

Cape Ada­re – Robert­son Bay – 25rd Febru­ary, 2020

We were rea­dy to go ashore at Cape Ada­re in the ear­ly mor­ning, but the surf was going high on the beach which was, to make things even more dif­fi­cult, lar­e­ly blo­cked with ice.

So we con­tin­ued into Robert­son Bay and got the heli­c­op­ters up and fly­ing to get some impres­si­ons of this huge­ly impres­si­ve gla­cier land­scape from the air.

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

At Sea – 24rd Febru­ary, 2020

We have a day at sea bet­ween the Bal­le­ny Islands and Cape Ada­re. The day starts with snow on deck, and the visi­bi­li­ty is often redu­ced by snow show­ers. A very ant­ar­c­tic day. The wind picks up during the after­noon, but that does not mat­ter too much as long as it does not slow us down.

Ant­ar­c­tic pet­rels delight us with their clo­se com­pa­ny for most of the day.

Antarctic Petrel

Bal­le­ny Islands – 23rd Febru­ary, 2020

The Bal­le­ny Islands are a small, wild, very remo­te archi­pe­la­go direct­ly on the south polar cir­cle, to the nor­thwest of the Ross Sea. You have to be lucky to get clo­se to them.

We were lucky. Not from the begin­ning – Stur­ge Island didn’t real­ly want us – but at Sabri­na Islands, near the south end of Buck­le Island, we all got off and into the boats. A landing is hard­ly ever available here, lar­ge­ly made impos­si­ble by sea con­di­ti­ons, the steep ter­rain and legis­la­ti­on. But that doesn’t mat­ter. You get pret­ty clo­se in the Zodiacs. Stun­ning, very wild sce­n­ery and a lot of ice. And a lot of wild­life. Chin­strap pen­gu­ins, as one might suspect. And, unex­pec­ted­ly, a lonely King pen­gu­in.

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

At sea – 20th-22nd Febru­ary 2020

Three days at sea sepa­ra­te Camp­bell Island from the Bal­le­ny Islands – when things are going well. They do go well. The sea is calm and we are making good pro­gress. The alba­tros­ses are get­ting fewer and fewer, the first ice­bergs appear on the hori­zon. We are get­ting on with our vast series of lec­tures and start pre­pa­ra­ti­ons for Ant­ar­c­ti­ca. Here we are test­ing the emer­gen­cy tent and check safe­ty equip­ment.

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

Camp­bell Island – 19th Febru­ary 2020

It was a bit fog­gy today, but other than that, Camp­bell Island was good to us. No wind or any­thing else that would have made our lives dif­fi­cult. So we could easi­ly go ashore, full ahead Jthe­re is quite den­se vege­ta­ti­on also here on Camp­bell Island near the shore and when the­re is no wind, such as today near the landing site, a wea­the­red con­cre­te plat­form that belongs to the for­mer wea­ther sta­ti­on, then the­re are a lot of fly­ing beasts that bite and bother you. But as soon as you start wal­king a bit hig­her up then you lea­ve the biting beast area behind (I am sure experts would use a dif­fe­rent ter­mi­no­lo­gy but I am not an insec­to­lo­gist).

The way takes us through the area of the wea­ther sta­ti­on that was aban­do­ned in 1995 and soon the low but den­se coas­tal forest is get­ting more and more open. A board­walk is win­ding up and bet­ween some hills across to the other side of the island.
Camp­bell Island is, among­st others, famous for its mega­herbs – beau­tiful, lar­ge flowers that may reach this remar­kab­le size in order to be able to gather more light to crea­te a warm micro­cli­ma­te within the flower, some­thing that keeps the insects hap­py that the flowers rely on for pol­len­ati­on. And of cour­se for birds. The­re are many inte­res­t­ing spe­ci­es. Some of us were lucky enough to see the famous sni­pe, which was only dis­co­ver­ed in 1997 on neigh­bou­ring Jac­quemart Island. In 2001, when Camp­bell Island its­elf was rat-free again, the sni­pe could re-occu­py the main island again.

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

For many, the main attrac­tion will have been the maje­s­tic roy­al alba­tros­ses that breed high up on the win­dy slo­pes and hills.

The­re was not much to be seen of the view on the west side of the island. But that didn’t mat­ter too much. The­re was so much beau­ty other than that.

Now we have got a cou­ple of days at sea ahead of us. We have set cour­se for the Bal­le­ny Islands.

Auck­land Island – 18 Febru­ary 2020

We rea­ched the Auck­land Islands after a day at sea. Pret­ty rough pas­sa­ge, given it was the first day on the ship for most of us. But now we had made it so far!

»So far« was Enderby Island, the nor­t­hern­most one of the Auck­land islands. The idea was to make a landing on Enderby, but that was not to hap­pen. Far too much swell and surf on the beach.

Any­way – we had other opti­ons, so we went Zodiac-crui­sing the various bays and shore­li­nes of Port Ross. A land­scape that remin­ded me great­ly of the fjords and islands in Tier­ra del Fue­go, in the sou­thern­most part of Chi­le. Very simi­lar vege­ta­ti­on, with a den­se cold-tem­pe­ra­te-cli­ma­te rain­fo­rest near the shore, and exo­tic birds cal­ling from within the forest. A bird­wat­chers’ para­di­se, and we got to see quite a lot, inclu­ding the ende­mic Auck­land shag, the New Zea­land pipit, the chick of a light-man­t­led soo­ty alba­tross, the odd sea lion … we also found the basalt colum­ns made famous by Mr. M’Cormick, the natu­ra­list on board with Cap­tain James Clark Ross in 1840:

Mr. M’Cormick, who remarks that the for­ma­ti­on of the­se (refer­ring to the Auck­land Islands), as well as Camp­bell Islands, is vol­ca­nic, and con­sti­tu­ted chief­ly of basalt and green­stone, espe­ci­al­ly calls atten­ti­on to »Deas’ Head,« a pro­mon­to­ry of Auck­land Island, as being of gre­at geo­lo­gi­cal inte­rest, exhi­bi­ting fine colum­ns, three hundred feet high, which are high­ly magne­tic.

James Clark Ross (1847):
A Voya­ge of Dis­co­very and Rese­arch in the Sou­thern and Ant­ar­c­tic Regi­ons,
During the Years 1839-43

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

Later we went out again in Car­n­ley Har­bour, fur­ther south on the main island of the Auck­lands. An unbe­lie­va­ble place! Sce­n­ery, wild­life … stun­ning!

Bluff – get­ting rea­dy for Ant­ar­c­ti­ca

Did you know that Bluff is not just the sou­thern­most town in New Zea­land but also the oldest one? James Spen­cer sett­led down here in 1824 and foun­ded a fishing sta­ti­on which employ­ed 21 peo­p­le.

Today, the num­ber of inha­bi­tants has grown well bey­ond 21 and they have all sorts of pro­fes­si­ons well bey­ond fishing.

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

Such as hel­ping peo­p­le like us who are about to get rea­dy for a very long ant­ar­c­tic voya­ge. The amounts of food stuffs, fuels and other sup­pli­es that we get deli­ver­ed to the ship are quite incre­di­ble. And it is quite a bit of work to get that all on board … but even­tu­ell it is done and the­re is still time for a good walk, up the hill to the view­point, down to the coast at Loo­kout Point on the other side and back along the coast­li­ne. Gre­at views, gre­at sce­n­ery, gre­at remants of the ori­gi­nal moun­tain forests. A mild ocea­nic bree­ze and wide views over the south end of New Zea­land, Ste­wart Island and the Sou­thern Oce­an. That’s whe­re we will be very soon, hea­ding south.


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