ANTARCTICA 2013 - Mobile Phone Photo Diary
I am onboard the National Geographic Explorer on an expedition to Antarctica! I tried to set up a blog, but found out that this is not the time and place for exploring Internet but the outdoors, so, for now this is the way I will post my blogs and this "aritcle" willl get longer and longer as the days pass. Also, this blog will be in ENGLISH for the time being, since Internet is very rare here at the bottom of the planet. When I am back from the trip late March I will see to that all those posts from Antarctica gets published in a propper blog and also translated into Swedish ... so here we go ...
I have taken on the task to show you my PHOTO DIARY with shots from MOBILE PHONE !!
My "real" photos will be shown later at this website as well at Swedish Wildlife photographers / IBL Agency website. Check back for that late April.
I met up with the National Geographic Explorer team at the airport in Ushuaia, Patagonia, Argentina. We had a great lunch at a catamaran in Beagle Channel wich is connecting the two oceans The Pacific and The Atlantic. The channel is shared by the two countries Chile and Argentina. We went onboard the National Geographic Explorer in the aftenoon and headed South.
We were at sea all day, crossing the fabled Drake passage. We had great weather wich is not always the case south of Cape Horn. The crossing went smooth and we spent time on deck looking out for seabirds and whales.
Land Ho! Antarctica! We arrived to the South Shetland islands in the morning. The first part of the day we prepared for a landing on Antarctic grounds. This means a certain procedure has to take place – decontamination. It is vital that no biological mass is brought to Antarctica, since that could be hazardous for the wildlife down here. So we scrubbed, vacuumed, cleaned and desinfected every inch of our clothes. After lunch we set off in zodiacs for Half Moon Island.
This day was spent at the Antarctic peninsula with a landing at Port Lockroy. The scenery is stunning and there is penguins everywhere, mostly gentoo penguins in this area. And some blue-eyed shags. Port Lockroy was used as an anchorage by whalers, but established as Base A by the British in 1944 and used as an civilian capacity until 1964. Today it is a museum and a post-office. Port Lockroy has a population of 4. All of them working there seasonwise. We also did some zodiac cruising in Paradise Bay, a totally breathtaking place.
This morning we approached King George Island, in the South Shetlands. As always in this part of the World the scenery is just amazing. Some icebergs are cut like sculptures wich sets imagination spinning off, some are tabular icebergs, some are as big as a small city. In the afternoon we went ashore and visited the Russian and also the Chilean scientists centers at Antarctica. A really interesting stay and some really friendly people who enjoyed a visit by strangers. They don´t get to see too many of those.
This day we went by The Gerlache Strait to Cierva Cove and Mikkelsen Harbour. We spent the morning in zodiacs by Cierva Cove. An amazing place with blazing sunshine. We made a landing by the small Argentinian Antarctic Base wich was empty for the time being. Except for a huge amount of penguins. There was penguins on the roof, on the doorstep, well just about everywhere on and around the small base. Some fur-seals rested on the beach.
The captian of this ship is a German who loves ice. Really loves ice. This morning he took us through the Weddell Sea, a place rarely visited since it is considered rather dangerous due to the amount of ice. The bay by the volcano Brown Bluff is known as "Icebergs Graveyard", and that is where we went. Due to massive calving from the glaciers and currents the icebergs kind of gets stuck here. That is why it is called a graveyard, the icebergs who find their way in here will never get out. The captain says the same thing can happen to a ship ...
An amazing landing at Elephant Island in gordious weather! Fur-seals, elephant seals, chinstrap penguins, gentoo penguins, giant petrels, skuas, well, the wildlife was massive. So was the scenery. High mountains with pointy peaks. Glaciers calving into the ocean, Icebergs floating around. Elephant island got famous by Shackleton´s Endurance Expedition in 1914-1917. Shackleton and his men got stuck on the island for 281 days before they were rescued. After a landing to meet the wildlife we went to see Point Wild, the place where Shackleton´s men were stuck. When Shackleton went for help, his closest in command, Frank Wild, took care of the men stuck on Elephant Island. Since they all survived the place is named after mr Wild.
At sea towards South Georgia. Once again a terrific time at open water. There was a selection of interesting lectures by the naturalists onboard and also an interesting speak by photographer Jay Dickman. Since the weather treated us nicely there was also time to spend some time chilling on sundeck.
Approaching South Georgia. The Antarctic Convergence, or the Polar Front, undulates between 50 and 60 degrees south. South Georgia islands position is Sub-Antarctica but biologically it is Antarctica. It is however a somewhat green island. A population of about 10 people lives here, all of them working with environmental protection and animal protection. We were once again going through the decontamination procedure to be sure we did not bring any biological mass from the Antarctic peninsula to South Georgia. We also went through blackout procedures, meaning we can leave no lights on between dusk to dawn, due to the rich bird life. We do not want to attract birds unfortunate bird strikes.
We anchored in Gold Harbour at the southern end of South Georgia before dawn and disembarked in zodiacs to be on the shore as daylight broke. The shore was filled with King penguins, thousands and thousands of King penguins. As morning light set in it turned out to be a clouded day in this wildlife paradise. Fur seals puppies playing amongst the penguins and some occasional elephant seals resting on shore too. In the afternoon we made a landing in St Andrews Bay wich is the biggest colony of King penguins with well over 100.000 pairs on the same beach. An unbelievable sight.
Another awesome day in this Antarctic paradise. The weather was great and we got to do some water sports in this exotic environment. In kayaks we explored the Hercules Bay and its colony of the amazing Macaroni penguin. Fur seals puppies playing in the water around the kayak. Some Macaroni penguins in the water too, but they didn´t care about the kayak at all, all they wanted was food. The fur seal puppies however seems to set fun and having a good time above eating. At least at this stage in their lives. Later in life their priority will be totally different. In the afternoon we checked out the wildlife and the withdrawn glacier in Fortuna Bay.
We had an early wake-up call and hit the shores of Fortuna Bay for an outstanding hike over to Stromness. This hike is the last part of the hike The Boss – Sir Ernest Shackleton – did back when his expedition got stranded on Elephant island and Shackleton left his men under Frank Wilds lead at Wild Point while Shackleton went looking for help. It took Shackleton 36 hours to cross South Georgia and reach the whaling station in Stromness. Shackleton hiked 36 hours straight over mountains and valleys. We did the last part of this amazing rescue march, the one from Fortuna Bay, over the mountains and down in the valley to Stromness whaling station. The ship dropped us hiker off in Fortuna Bay and headed of to Stromness, so we really didn´t have any choice but to follow Shackletons lead once we were at that shore. In the afternoon we proceeded to the whaling station in Grytviken, where Sir Ernest Shackleton in buried. We got to take a close look at what´s left of the whaling station. A horrid place. Some of the vessels that were used killing whales are just sitting there rotting away at the shore, as is the containers and other stuff used for the whale and seal oils.
The wind was pretty strong this morning but we made it ashore anyways. Taking the track up at Prion island to the nesting Wandering Albatross, the biggest of the albatrosses. We got near them, but of course not really near them. It is vital that visitors pay respect to the wildlife. We are the ones setting foot on their turf, so wildlife always have right of way. In the afternoon we went to Right Whale Bay to look for some Right Whales. They were nearly extinct due to the whale killings, but, some sightings have been made lately so it seems they are on their way back. They are called Right Whale since they were so easy to kill, they were coastal, slowly and they floated when they were dead, that is as in the right whale to kill. However we did not see any this day.