Wednesday, February 27, 2013

News from the South

In a few minutes I will be off to my 6th and last voyage down to the Antarctic Peninsula. Although it has been a wonderful experience to travel Antarctica so extensively, I think I will be ready to head home after this last journey.
Needless to say that I accumulated lots of images. In a surrounding like that my shutter finger is constantly itching…;-) The difficulty now lies in sorting through all of them and putting them together....

Since I’m a bit short on time while still traveling, I put together my favorite shots from the last voyage for you and promise to follow up with more stories and photos once I am home.

On our way through the Drake Passage we had high winds and waves, which was unfortunate for a lot of our passengers but perfect flying conditions for the Albatross. These impressive birds with their almost 3 m wingspan flew so close to the ship that I almost could have touched them.

At the Peninsula itself the weather was still windy but also sunny for a change. Perfect condition to finally catch some Antarctic sunsets and moon rises…

Sunset from Deck 7

Rise of the Full Moon

Main way of transportation down here...the trusty Zodiac

Evening light on Paradise Harbour

Curious Gentoo chick

Which way to go?

Just as I was hoping to cruise through the Lemaire Channel in sunshine for once, the fog started to roll in.

Fog in layers on Petermann Island...

And then completely fogged in...but nevertheless, the icebergs of Pleneau Bay are always gorgeous

A playing leopard seal under water

As promised, to come when I am back home...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

History on Ice

To mix things up this time, I want to share some Antarctic history with you..

On our trips to the peninsula we quite frequently visit Port Lockroy.

Port Lockroy lies on Goudier Island and was discovered by Charcot’s French Antarctic Expedition in 1903-05 and was named after Eduard Lockroy, a French politician who helped Charcot finance his expedition.
Due to it’s location in a protected bay, Port Lockroy and the neighboring Jougla Point were frequently used by whalers and the remains still remind of this grim past.
Later on it served as the earliest British research station in the Antarctic Peninsula. It was established in February 1944 as Base A during the war and then used as basic research station for geology, meteorology and botany. In the final years of operation, it was an important station for ionospheric research.
The station closed in 1962 and was left to the elements….
In 1995, it was declared as a Historic site and Monument and with the help of the United Kingdom
Antarctic Heritage Trust rebuild to it’s original state.

Today it serves as museum and gift shop and is one of the most visited sites on the Antarctic Peninsula. 
It even has a post office! During the Antarctic summer months four engaged "residents" stay there to continue to restore and maintain the building and of course to keep the gift store going.
They have done a really lovely job bringing the original "Bransfield House", the main hut, back to life:

Entry Way


Pantry....Steak&Kidney Pudding sounds delicious....;-)

While restoring they found paintings of famous female celebrities under a thick layer of blue paint....I wonder what's the story behind that....

Accommodations, until about four years ago the summer residents had to sleep here. Now the original storage hut has been restored and serves as more private sleeping quarters.


Time to party...

When we arrived at Port Lockroy last Thursday morning, a near by glacier had just calved and the sea was full of little ice chunks. Beautiful to look at, but the full force of the “calving tsunami” hit us when we saw that the whale skeleton, which had been perfectly arranged the visit before was jumbled and all over the place. These bones weigh 80kg and more….



The gentoo penguin colony at this site is part of a long-term study monitoring the impact of tourist activities on penguins. Whereas in one area, visitors can walk alongside the colony, another area is completely closed off. The penguins certainly did not seem to be disturbed by our presence.

A conversation with one of the four “summer residents” revealed that tourists do not have any negative influence on the success of the colonies….good news since more and more people visit Antarctica each year.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hello again from Antarctica

Not much writing this time...I will let the pictures speak...
As always, click on the image to see a bigger image.

Our first stop on this journey was Deception Island. An South Shetland Island with lots of history.

Deception Island is an almost ring like island with a small opening called Neptun Bellow, which we are approaching here.

Once inside you are actually sailing on an still active volcano, strange feeling...The last eruption was 1970...The mix between glacier and lava is fascinating.

The next morning we cruised Wilhelmina Bay, one of my favorite spots! Such a serene and peaceful place.

 We even encountered Humpback and Minke Whales.

In the afternoon we explored Cuverville Island, home to the largest Gentoo penguin breeding colony with about 4500 breeding pairs.

Danco Island and Neko Harbour were next on the program. Danco offers great views into the Errera Channel 

and the Gentoo penguins are nesting quite high up. By walking or rather waddling up and down the slopes they are forming these “penguin highways”.

View from Neko Harbour

The following day brought us to Paradise, home of Base Brown, an Argentinian station.

Hmmm, no Canadian city…..

The views from the top are absolutely stunning.

Then we visited Port Lockroy with the only operating post office in Antarctica 

and Jougla Point with a rather grim history…

The last day on the peninsula started early with sweeping views of the Lemaire Channel 

and a visit to another favourite place of mine the Pleneau Bay with it’s beautiful icebergs.

The last and most southern landing was on Petermann Island where we met the Adelie penguins…

…and nesting blue-eyed Shag, here with three chicks almost as big if not bigger than the adults.

After a rather rough ride through the Drake Passage, we are now back in Ushuaia and are getting ready for the next trip.