Friday, January 25, 2008

Ushuaia Mon., Dec.3, 2007

For speed and efficiency of travel, give me Amundsen; for Scientific discovery, give me Scott; but when all hope is lost, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton. Sir Edmund Hillary

The "Akademik Shokalskiy" arrived in Ushuaia some time during the night. Wake-up call 6:00am, breakfast 7:00am disembarkation 7:45am. Whew!

Our trip to our respective homes has begun. My flight from Ushuaia to Buenos Aries left at 2:00pm. I was able to sleep on the trip for Buenos Aries to New York. From there on to Toronto and Billy and Sarah drove me the last leg of my trip.

Thank you for sharing in this adventure with me. I have been able to relive the experience by sharing with you in this blog. If you are interested in seeing all my pictures and paraphernalia please don't hesitate to call and we can set up a date.
Love and hugs, Sue

Drake Passage, Sat.and Sun., Dec.1 and 2, 2007

Some of us are over the seasickness stage and no longer want to die. Hartford after 10 days on the 'Nimrod' with Shackleton.

Crossing the Drake, if you were able, you could enjoy various lectures, videos, and wildlife viewings. As you can see from the pictures, it was a rough ride home. I spent most of my time eating, sleeping, on the Bridge or outside. The evening of the 2nd we were treated to a Farwell Cocktail Party and Dinner. The Captain joined us in the Bar for a toast to a successful trip.

Port Lockroy and Melchior Isl, Fri. Nov. 30, 2007

Strange: there is always sadness on departure. It is as if i cannot, after all, bear to leave this bleak waste of ice, glaciers, cold and toil. Fridtjof Nansen
Gratefully, Jamie woke us from our cold restless sleep at 5:00 am. After packing up our gear, Brandon and Jill arrived with Zodiacs to return us to the ship for a few hours of comfortable warm sleep before breakfast. Port Lockroy, a museum, post office and souvenir shop, located in an old British antarctic Survey hut, was our first stop today. It was great fun chatting with the personnel that ran the site. Postcards mail from here take from 3 weeks to 3 months depending on when the next mail ship comes through. Being of British decent, I found the museum quite interesting. Many of the products on the shelves were those I had grown up with as a child. I also had a chuckle reading the instructions for bathing. Years ago, whaling was a prosperous occupation in the Antarctic. Many old whale bones can be found in this particular area.

After lunch we were encouraged to begin securing our belongings for the trip back across the Drake Passage. Being now familiar with the conditions in the Drake, I willingly followed the instructions. The evening was spent watching the movie "Shackleton". Having ventured onto the Antarctic Continent, I now have a sincere respect for the men who braved this continent with much less knowledge and fewer comforts than we had.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

South of Lemaire Channel, Thusday, Nov. 29, 2007

"We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us." John Steinbeck "Travels with Charlie"
As you can see from the pictures, every day and everywhere you look there was something amazing to see and experience. It's as if one human being is unable to absorb it all. The Lemaire Channel is the most scenic point in the Antarctic Peninsula with its rugged snow-covered mountains, crystal clear waters, majestic icebergs, and stunningly blue sky. The afternoon was spent at the Ukranian base Veradsky Station. No women are allowed to work on this base. That being the case, when women visit as we did, the men are extremly please with our female company. The young fellow (Gliebov Volodymyr) in the picture with me is the cook on the base. He asked me "Are you one? Are you alone?" As soon as I said yes, he latched onto me. He never left my side until it was time for us to leave. Another fellow came over to chat with us but Gliebov stuck close. There is also a tradition, that if a woman gives the bartender her bra, she receives a free shot of vodka.
The penguins were very noisy and smelly creatures, but you can't stop watching their antics. They lay their eggs on rock or on a nest they make out of rocks which they have collected. Many of them travel a distance to find these rocks while others steal the rocks from their neighbours, which can create quite a scene.
We saw 5 different kinds of seals (Crabeater, Fur, Elephant, Weddell, and Leopard. The Leopard is the only one that actually dines on penguins). The seals lounge on ice flows, basking in the sun.

Riding in the Zodiacs was an exciting experience in itself. The crew all had Zodiac training and at no time did I feel anything but safe and secure. Each driver though, had different skills and attitudes toward the vehicle . Jill, the female member of the team, was more cautious than the men but had a great deal more knowledge of the Antarctic. The one Russian driver was fearless but never spoke a word unless he wanted you to get in our out of the Zodiac. The other men of the team were somewhere in between these two.

Tonight we camp out!
At 9:00pm, we 21 campers set off in the Zodiacs, with sleeping bags, tents, and thermal sleeping mats. It is about minus one when we arrive on Hovgaard Island. Having had some instruction we set up our tents and prepare for our Antarctic sleep-out. Jamie our guide creates our portable toilet area.

As you can see, in order to view the picture of our port-a-po, you will have to turn your head to the right. Jamie even provide us with toilet paper and hand sanitizer. What a guy!
After hiking up to the top of hill to see the sunset at 11:30pm (which actually never really sets) we head back to our tents to sleep. At first I was quite warm, however, once the cold of the ice and the snow under me, crept through my sleeping mat I was quite cold. I guess that can happen when you sleep out in minus six degrees Celsius. I did it though. 5:00am we awoke and were transported back to the ship to catch a few more hours sleep before breakfast.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Neko Harbor, Danco Island, Paradise Bay

Wake up call 5:00am. We set out on the Zodiac at 5:30am for Neko Harbor which was our firsts continent landing. Excitement reigned as we realized that we were standing on the Antarctic Continent. As was often the case, the best view from the island was high above the point from which we landed. Off we trudged up the mountain of snow and ice. Sometimes our steps would end in knees deep snow. Once arriving at our destination it is clear the climb was worth the gift of an amazing view. Every time were left the ship , we washed our boots in a solution that prevented particles from the ship, that might damage the environment of the Antarctic, to be transported. Some ships actually vacuum your person each time you went ashore. Breakfast at 8:00 was a welcome gift after our morning of activity. I had been developing a sore throat and it had become quite painful by now. After breakfast I went to my cabin to rest waiting for Brandon to call us for our next landing at Danco Island. I had asked HP for help in deciding what I needed to do next concerning this sore throat. Feeling it was time we should have been called I dressed and set out. When I got to the gang plank everyone had left and were on shore. I felt cheated that I had missed the landing and then I remembered that I had asked HP for guidance and returned to my cabin to sleep. After lunch, (Did I tell you food was AMAZING?) we cruised Paradise Bay, aptly named for the incredible icebergs and glaciers.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tues. Nov. 27, Cierva Cove and Mikkelson Harbour

An Antarctic expedition is the worst way to have the best time of your life. Apsley Cherry-Garrard "The Worst Journey in the World"
Wake-up call 6:30am, another delicious breakfast and in the Zodiac by 8:00. This morning we were treated to incredible icebergs and dramatic glaciers. The blue colour of the icebergs and the glaciers in the pictures is the true colour we saw. Unbelievable! At 11:00 we brave souls who planned to camp-out on the continent for a night, met with Jamie to discuss plans. We were given a sleeping bag (good for temperatures of -10 degrees C.) a thermal mat to sleep on and a two-man tent. "Miss" organized and needing control, I immediately went back to my cabin to figure out how to get into this mummy style sleeping bag with as much grace as possible. There I lay cuddled up on my floor. Now if only I can be this warm on our camp-out. After lunch we set out for Mikkelson Harbor. Gentoo penguins (the picture) breed here. They travel a great distance from their nests to the water, were they bathe, eat, swim, and collect rocks for their nests. It is quite a sight to see so many penguins travelling up and down this hill of snow and ice. Every afternoon or evening the Expedition crew held a Re-cap of the day and Briefing session for the following day. Appropriately this evenings film was "Happy Feet"

Friday, December 14, 2007

Monday Nov. 26 South Shetland Islands

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. Helen Keller

6:30am. Over the intercom in our rooms, Brandon, our expedition leader's rich deep voice woke us with a "Good Morning. Good morning. It is 6:30. We are in the Shetland Islands. Our plan is to go ashore this morning at Half Moon Island. Good Morning." Breakfast at 7:00am and dressed ready to go ashore by 8:00am. There are approximately 3,300 breeding pairs of chinstrap penguins on the island (it smells like it as you approach the landing site). There are also Antarctic terns, skuas (These are the blue jays of the Antarctic. They live off the eggs and chicks of penguins.) , kelp gulls, Wilson's storm-petrels, and blue-eyed shags. Back to ship for lunch. Did I tell you how delicious the meals were? The first part of the afternoon was spent on the Bridge watching our skillful ship's captain and crew navigate through Neptune's Bellows into Deception Island. This island is the remains of an implosion of a volcano. The island is in a "C" shape. The volcano is still active. Had the weather been calmer we would have been able to swim in an antarctic hot spring. As it was, the weather was treacherous. There were 7-8 force winds which I am told are gale force. The ship had a permanent lean to the starboard side. After supper we were treated to the movie "Blood Diamond"