Tuesday 31 December 2013

A True Antarctic Day and A New Year!

The plan for today was not much of a plan. We learned at yesterdays briefings for todays activities that the weather and ice conditions in Antarctic Sound might be grim. The conditions in the forecast were accurate. Ice conditions along the southeastern side of Antarctic Sound prevented us from venturing to a landing on the Antarctic Peninsula.

There was only light snow but it blew nearly horizontally as winds gusted to 19 meters per second or 40 miles per hour.

We selected Kinnes Cove on the southwest side of Joinville Island as our alternative location for a landing today. It turned out that our alternative landing location needed an alternative landing site. At our first landing site our landing operation was bedeviled by shallow water and high winds. We had landed a few passengers ashore, but then transferred them to a second landing site that had deeper water and was a bit more protected form the gusty winds. At our alternative landing site, everyone was able to get ashore.
Here we could scramble over the bare andesite rocks to the snow field above where we found ourselves among a large mixed colony of Adelie and Gentoo Penguins. The wind continued to gust and the snow continued but all of us had the full experience of a true Antarctic day landing under true Antarctic conditions. Conditions that to be honest were a major downgrade from the sunny and relatively warm and calm conditions we have had at our landings in the South Georgia and yesterday at Elephant Island.

These true Antarctic weather conditions prevailed the rest of the day. We motored southwesterly in Antarctic Sound dodging floating ice. On the bridge, our biologists kept a continuous lookout for wildlife, snow hampered long range visibility but we did see humpback whales on several occasions.. Our travels in Antarctic Sound came to an end at Rosamel Island.  This island, shaped like a scoop of ice cream, is where the Antarctic Sound opens into the expanse of the Weddell Sea.

At Rosamel we reversed course and headed for Deception Island. On our way we passed a tabular ice berg that stretched almost 1 nautical mile or almost 2 kilometers in length. The width of the big berg was left to our imagination. Tonight we welcome the New Year first with a dinner then a gala celebration.       

In yesterdays blog there was an error concerning the Shackleton’s small boats.

Shackleton’s men arrived at Elephant Island in 3 boats: the James Caird, the Dudley Docker and the Stancomb Willis. For the sail to South Georgia the James Caird was strengthened and decked over.