Saturday, 31 January 2009

Fish Islands

We must have gotten all wind-still days on this trip! Makes you wonder how the Drake will be on the way back... But lets not think about it but marvel the fantastic day- in the morning we were cruising the Crystal Sound and then found a really tiny and great landing spot on Fish Islands! That was true exploration! And we used the amazing weather to cruise again with our PolarCirkle Boats !
Now we are heading further north again- the sun sets slowly, there are Adelie penguins on the ice flows, the glaciars are put into a nice yellowish light and it is hard to imagine any place on eath more beautiful.
Todays picture is sponsored by Martinus Schuurmans!

Friday, 30 January 2009

Stonington and Horseshoe

Stonington and Horseshoe island are both situated in Marguerite Bay. We woke up to beautiful weather at Stonington: sunshine, no wind- amazing landscape as the stations are situated on an island and behind that there are just glaciars! It was a fantastic morning and we even had some brave (others would call them crazy) swimmers.
The late afternoon landing was perfect as well. To be at the former British Base Y was a step back in time. Everything is still there- the kitchen utensils, the stocks of food and fuel, the workshop tools, radio equipment, a disel generator. It looks as if they left just 1 hour ago and are gone for a walk but will be back within 30 minutes! Now it is 11pm and we have stopped to spent time with the 4 humpback whales that are just feeding besides the vessel! A great finish for a perfect day...
Today`s picture was taken by Petra Paessler and shows our hotel manager Else Kristine and our chief purser Jesper!

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Dion Islands

We tried until 1.30am to go through the Gullet, a narrow Channel that leads to Marguerite Bay. But as you can see on the picture, there was lots of ice. And it became more and more and in the end it was so dense that our Captain Steinar Hansen had to turn the vessel around. So we spent most of the day going around Adeleide island to reach Dion Islands. Emperor penguins are supposed to be here... To make it short: no, we did not see one! But it did not really matter as we had fantastic cruising again and encountered lots of wild life! Cruising when the sun goes down, the light is changing in the mountains, everything calms down and goes into slower mode- there can not be too much that is better.
Today`s picture was taken by: Franz Zeitlberger.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Antarctic Circle and Detaille Island

It is 10pm and we have snow on our outside decks. We crossed the Antarctic Circle at noon and received a visit from Neptun himself! Even though Detaille Island was blocked by ice in the afternoon, it offered excellent Polar Circle Cruising possibilities! It is always amazing to see places full of ice, push your way through it and find weddell, crabeater and leopard seals on the iceflows!

Todays picture was taken by: Elisabeth Messmer.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Almirante Brown and Cuverville Island

There are those rare days when all comes together- a day when you see icebergs turning, are surrounded by penguins, see a leapard seal catching a penguin- and have humpbacks diving right under your Polar Cirkle boat! You guessed it- it was such a day today!
We spent the morning at Almirante Brown in Paradise Bay. It was great to see the station manned by the Argentines, repair works were done and we had a great time sliding down the hill behind the station- after marvelling the view into the bay. We did a cruise later and the two humpbacks were not bothered at all by our present. How great to come so close, hear them breathing!
And in the afternoon a second landing at Cuverville Island situated in the beautiful Errera Channel. And here it happened- a leopard seal got lucky with a penguin!
Todays pictures were taken by Dennis Prado!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Half Moon and Chinese New Year...

What do Half Moon Island and Chinese New Year have in common? Both happened today!

After calm days in the Drake we reach Half Moon island in the afternoon. This crescent-shaped island is home to quite a large chinstrap penguin rookery. Close by is the usually unmanned Argentine Station of Camara but today we saw a few people over there as well. We had fantastic weather for a first landing and the views to Livingston island were amazing! And not only chinstraps were there but also some fur seals, an elephant seal and Weddell seal could be seen!

And then there is something else happening on board- our lecture hall Polhøgda has been decorated by our Chinese guests as it is Chinese New Year! It looks absolute fantastic and is an unusal sight: chinese music, food and pictures.

Picture of the day by: Mr Martinus Schuurmans

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Drake Passage

It is amazing- we were here a little bit more than a day ago- and now it is absolutely calm! Waves are not even two meters high... which makes our lecturers happy as both lecture halls are full. So if you want to know anything about e.g. penguins, Amundsen, glaciars and ice, the subantarctic islands- there is no excuse to miss the lectures!

Friday, 23 January 2009


Ushuaia- el fin del mundo! Our disembarking passengers leave the vessel for different excursions- some go to the Escondido Lake, others enjoy the National Park. It was such a great trip- wonderful weather most of the way, king penguins and thousands of fur seals at the shore of South Georgia, the Orcadas Station at the South Orkneys, the beautiful places in the Falklands and the amazing weather at the Peninsula. It is hard to pick what the highlight was on this trip!
We wish all of our passengers a safe journey back home and we hope to welcome you again another time!

And in the afternoon we are going out with 244 new passengers- this time a totally international group! We recognize many repeaters and there is a big hello at the check-in! We are going for a real expedition cruise and hope to go all the way to Marguerite Bay!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Drake Passage

The Drake Passage- either a Drake Lake or a Drake Shake! Today we got some movements and the waves could be seen very nicely also from the reception area on deck 4 as they were between 8 and 12 meters high. Bless our stabilizers- this is such a great feature! While the albatrosses finally enjoy their flights, it is time for more lectures. In the evening we have our Captains Dinner in a new fashion: Our Captain Steinar Hansen delivers his speech not only in English and German- but also in Chinese!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Deception Island

Early in the morning we hear Karins voice - soon we are at Neptun`s Bellows! This entrance to the spectacular Deception Island is only 200m wide and therefore something you do not want to miss! We cruise into the caldera of this active volcano, see the remainings of the former Norwegian Whaling station as well as of the former British base and then head into the Drake Passage. Therefore- fasten your seatbelt and be prepared for an interesting ride!

Jougla Point / Port Lockroy

Seas flat as a mirror, we approach Wiencke Island. We can't wait to put the Polar Cirkel Boat in the water, everybody is looking forward to a boatride in this incredibly scenic bay. Splitting the groups in half, we are able to do Jougla Point with the giant whale skeletons and the neat Museum of Port Lockroy at the same time. Smiling faces all over the place, bags full of souvenirs and maps, cameras loaded with pictures of ice and blue skies. What a day!

Petermann Island

In the morning another splendid landing on Petermann Island after an impressive crossing of Lemaire Channel. Don't forget your sunscreen!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Astrolabe Island

Are we the Lucky Ones? The skies are crystal clear, the waves are sparkling in the early morning light. Antarcticas real majesty rises high at the horizon, glaciers unlimited. However, there is a considerable swell, so Karin and Bosun take a scout ride before breakfast. As a result we reposition the FRAM and enter the labyrinth of volcanic cones from the North. A breathtaking slalom among ragged rocks, full of shags. And suddenly the bay of Astrolabe Island opens up before us. This is where you want to be, here and now!
Fur seals and Weddell seals galore on the beach. And a special guest: A big leopard seal sunbathing on an ice floe, right next to the landing site, perfectly at ease.

Brown Bluff

Shrouded in mist, the yellow-brownish plateau of Brown Bluff unveils in the morning light, unfortunately decorated with a belt of brash ice. But our scouting shows some gaps, so we venture the landing. The huge cliff is a bizarre witness of a volcanic eruption under a solid ice sheet, incurring huge mud flows that build up beautiful yellow layers. An endless parade of Adelie Penguins patrols along the shoreline, between the giant boulders and the ice girdle.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Paulet Island

Like a giant muffin Paulet Island sticks out of the sea - we have left the Antarctic Sound, in VERY calm waters. So we decide to go cruising with our Polar Cirkel boats. Here it all meets: History, wildlife and geology. The noise and smell of about 300.000 Adelie Penguins is unmistakable, they are everywhere! The place is so swarming with wildlife tha you have to squint to make out the famous stone hut of Nordenskjölds men who had stranded here for a long time.
Do they do it for fun? This is the first question that strikes you when you watch the Adelies jumping from and onto the ice floes. Well, WE do have fun, this is certain...

At sea

Another leg, another round of lectures. Passengers relax in the Sauna or the Jacuzzi. In the evening Peter von Sassen ist MC to the interviews with the captain, the chef, chief engineer and Karin. Time passes quickly now.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Laurie Island, South Orkney

Winds have picked up, dense fog all around us, we go rather slow now. A landing on Coronation Island is impossible, just too dangerous. The captain brings us through the narrow Washington Strait. And then good news: The crew of the Argentine base Orcadas gives us permission to land and visit the station. Half an hour later we drop anchor in a short distance to the windswept pebble beach that features some bright red modular buildings. We get a very friendly welcome on the beach by the station commander. They even take the time to give us the full tour, including museum and Bruce's hut of 1903. After a nice coffee in the main building we head back to our own home, FRAM.

Friday, 16 January 2009

At sea

This day belongs to photography. Everywhere people are sitting behind their laptops, working hard on the result of several day's intense photo shooting. Quite often you her a happy "Yeah!!" when a shot turned out just the way it should. Then crowds bend over the screen, admiring the portraits of seal, penguin, fellow travellers or beautiful volcanoes.
And the learning doesn't stop, either. Hard to choose between lectures on whale hunting history, cormorants, volcanic geology, penguin biology, fossils or climate. The seas get a little rougher towards the night, rocking us into sleep.

Fortuna Bay

Fortune is on our side as we enter Fortuna Bay: Clear blue skies again, sparkling sunshine on the slightly rippled seas. Hundreds of fur seals greet us loudly on our approach, many of them dashing around our Polar Cirkel Boats, jumping and apparently enjoying themselves. At the foot of the ragged mountains we walk a while towards the big glacier that is looming in the background. After crossing a streamlet we are getting closer to a moving field of black, white and flaming bright yellow: Thousands and thousands of King Penguins... But we see also a lot of fluffy brown - the chicks, half grown, sporting ridiculous variations of plumes, still being fed by their parents.

Thursday, 15 January 2009


Paradise with an touch of apocalypse: The rusty, shattered remainders of the ancient whaler's shipyard, huge propellers half buried in the beach, tanks kettles, chains, houses - and all densely populated by the new inhabitants: Fur seals, elephant seals, Giant Petrels and King Penguins. An unreal walk takes us a little into the valley through which the immortal Ernest Shackleton descended to Stromness after his unbelievable odyssee. Surely one of the most impressing spots on these islands!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009


Blue skies and sunshine welcome us to the ragged scenery of South Georgia. On the beach we see numerous grey dots - all seals! Big elephant seals on the way to Shackletons grave, many young fur seals all around us, apparently curious and not afraid at all. And among them the majestic waddle of King Penguins, what a sight!
After a splendid walk round the bay, a visit to the museum and tons of photos taken, we head for the small jetty on the other end and get back to FRAM.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Two days at sea...

...must not be boring at all. All kinds of seabirds circling around the FRAM, seeming to seek the passengers lenses. Questions? Not a problem, the lecturers will answer them right away. In the mornings and in the afternoon we have lectures on Penguins, plate tectonics, the legendary Ernest Shackleton, ice, antarctic fishes, marine ecology - a floating university with a view. Or you go to the gym for a most unusual workout that makes the lunch buffet even more worthwhile. It is everything but dull.

Port Stanley

The capital of the Falkland Islands has seen a lot during the recent history, and a lot of it can still be seen in the museums, memorials, pubs and shops. After an impressing maneuver "parking" the FRAM at the pier, we have nearly a whole day in this fascinating place, taking a nature walk with Manuel, a guided animal-spotting tour, or a history stroll with the British historian Ian Stone.

Friday, 9 January 2009

New Island

After only a few hours more, we arrive close to the sandy beaches of New Island. Passengers get their rides in the Polar Cirkel Boats and start walking across the grassy plains of New Island, at the end of which the steep cove of the blue-eyed shags opens up to our feet. Shags, Albatross, and Rockhoppers as far as the eye can see, while deep down below the green sea sends heavy waves on the ragged shore. A wind-torn paradise!

Westpoint Island, January 9, 2009

Very early in the morning, we land in Westpoint Island, in the West of the Falklands. The weather is splendid, everybody is surprised about the mild climate. After being welcomed by the islands owner we make our way to the other end of the island, some walking, some taking a ride in the Land Cruisers. Walking down towards the cliff, black-browed Albatrosses are soaring around our heads, a beautiful aerial ballet. A few minutes more, and we stand in the most amazing rookery of Albatrosses and Rockhopper Penguins, living side by side.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

At sea, January 8, 2009

Heading for the Falkland Islands we pass the Isla de los Estados in moderate winds and visibility. So we have a lot of time for lectures on board, about Albatrosses, the Falkland War, Falklands Earth History, and Earth's Climate System. In the evening we enjoy our seated dinners with specialities from all around the world. After that, German TV host Peter von Sassen presents a movie on a spectacular trip to Greenland in a kayak.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Ushuaia, January 7, 2009

We are waiting for our passengers in Ushuaia, Argentina. This time it is a German-Swiss charter, so our German-speaking lecturers will be up front. However, we have the pleasure to take a small group of Chinese environmentalists on board, former guests of the MS Ushuaia. The trip starts with a little surprise: Ushuaia Airport has a broken radar dish and is non-operational for a couple of hours. So we have to reroute the passengers via Rio Grande. After an unexpected but very scenic bus ride, everybody arrives more or less in time, smiling. Around 7:30 pm, we are ready to lift anchor and head for the Falkland Islands.