The Ross Sea region of Antarctica is one of the most remote places on Planet Earth and one of the most fascinating places in the continent’s human history. With shipping restricted by impenetrable pack ice to just two brief months each austral summer, few people have ever visited this strange and beautiful territory, with opportunities for non-scientific personnel limited to a handful of tourist expedition ships. Heritage Expeditions offers such a voyage on its own fully equipped and ice-strengthened ship, crewed by some of the most experienced officers and sailors in the world and staffed by some of the most passionate and knowledgeable Guides. This is a unique opportunity to experience nature on a scale so grand there are no words to describe it.
The Ross Sea takes its name from Sir James Clark Ross who discovered it in 1841. The British Royal Geographical Society chose the Ross Sea for the now famous British National Antarctic Expedition in 1901-04 led by Robert Falcon Scott. That one expedition spawned what is sometimes referred to as the 'Race to the Pole'. Ernest Shackleton almost succeeded in 1907-09 and the Japanese explorer Nobu Shirase tried in 1910-12. Scott thought it was his, but was beaten by his rival, Norwegian Roald Amundsen in the summer of 1911. Shackleton's Trans Antarctic expedition in 1914-17 marked the end of this 'heroic' or 'golden age' of exploration, but many of the relics of this era, including some huts, remain. The dramatic landscape described by these early explorers is unchanged. Mt Erebus, Mt Discovery and the Transantarctic Mountains are as inspiring today as they were 100 years ago. The penguin rookeries described by the early biologists fluctuate in numbers from year to year but they still occupy the same sites. The seals which are no longer hunted for food lie around on ice floes seemingly unperturbed. The whales, which were hunted so ruthlessly here in the 1920s, are slowly coming back, but it is a long way back from the edge of extinction, and some species have done better than others. Snow Petrels, Wilson's Storm-Petrels, Antarctic Prions and South Polar Skuas all breed in this seemingly inhospitable environment.
There is so much to do and so much to see here, from exploring historic huts and sites to visiting penguin rookeries, marvelling at the glacial ice tongues and ice shelves and understanding the icebergs and sea ice. Then there are all the seabirds, seals and whales to observe and photograph, modern scientific bases and field camps to visit and simply the opportunity to spend time drinking in the marvellous landscape that has always enthralled visitors.
Lying like stepping stones to the Antarctic continent are the little known Subantarctic Islands. Our journey includes The Snares, Auckland, Macquarie and Campbell Island. They break our long journey but more importantly they help prepare us for what lies ahead, for these islands are part of the amazing and dynamic Southern Ocean ecosystem of which Antarctica is at the very heart. It is the power house which drives this ecosystem upon which the world depends.
Pre/Post cruise transfers, one night hotel accommodation in a twin share room (incl. dinner/breakfast), all on board ship accommodation, meals and all expedition shore excursions.
All items of a personal nature, laundry, drinks, gratuities. International/domestic flights, visas and travel insurance.
The Shokalskiy is the sister ship to the Spirit of Enderby, they were both built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and being fully ice strengthened they are perfect for Expedition Travel.
She carries just 48 passengers and has been recently refurbished to provide comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins approximately half of which have private facilities. All cabins have outside windows or portholes and ample storage space.
On board there is a combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room. The cuisine is excellent and is prepared by top NZ and Australian chefs.
The real focus and emphasis of every expedition is getting you ashore as often as possible for as long as possible with maximum safety and comfort. Our Expeditions are accompanied by some of the most experienced naturalists and guides, who have devoted a lifetime to field research in the areas that we visit. The ship is crewed by a very enthusiastic and most experienced Russian Captain and crew.
Expedition Leader: Rodney Russ
Captain: Dimitry Zinchenko
Cruise Director: Agnès Breniere
Guides: Samuel Blanc, Dr Huw Lewis-Jones, Mo Turnbull
Medical Advisor: Dr Richard Smithers
DoC Rep: Dale Chittenden
Chefs: Cy Besser and Connor Arcus
Chief Mate: Aleksei Zinchenko
Second Mate: Sergei Ostapenko
Third Mate: Valentin Drozdov
Radio Officer: Aleksander Goncharuk
Chief Engineer: Alexander Gridnev
Chief Electrical Engineer: Valerii Raubo
Chief Stewardess: Natalia Bogdanova
Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 February
Invercargill, Bluff, At Sea
Noon Position: Latitude 46o38.5’South; Longitude 168o20.8’East
Air Temperature: 13oC Sea temperature: 15oC
[Note - All positions and data are taken from the Bridge Log Book.]
Gourmet Grub: Tomato and parmesan tart / Miso glazed New Zealand salmon with wasabi mash / Thyme infused Lamb rump with chive crushed potatoes / Whittakers textures of chocolate
Profound Question: “Is there such a thing as a female sperm whale?”
Quote of the Day: “A journey is a person itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policies and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” -John Steinbeck
Rodney Quote of the Day: “It’s always best to remain rigidly flexible.”
The first days were spent in New Zealand’s southernmost city Invercargill, where most guests settled in the Kelvin Hotel. In the evening Expedition Leader Rodney Russ, Founder of Heritage Expeditions and Geologist-Guide Mo Turnbull joined the guests for dinner, during which Rodney gave an outline of plans for the next few days, along with thoughts on possible ice conditions. This one thing is sure – we are to expect the unexpected where Antarctic weather is concerned. “Stand by, watch the sky and listen to announcements” would become a familiar motto, but it really is the best way to operate in Antarctica. Patience is everything.
The following morning in sunshine we were greeted by our Historian-Guide Huw Lewis-Jones to lead the activities and, more importantly, help arrange luggage and check-out; all gear was taken care of and loaded for transit to the Spirit of Enderby. The ship is also named Professor Khromov (1904-77) after a prominent Russian meteorologist during the former Soviet Era. Huw led a short walk to the Southland Museum and Art Gallery. We began our visit by sitting in the Roaring Forties theatre presentation as the Curator there wrestled with his audio-visual gear. Escaping the electronics, Huw then took us away to enjoy the Subantarctic Islands gallery which had many significant relics linked to ship wrecks and the castaway era. Examples included a wooden punt made by survivors from the Derry Castle wrecked in March 1887 and who lived in huts made from tussock grass, also a pair of seal skin slippers made by survivors from the wreck of the barque Dundonald in March 1907. A small polar display also included a grog tub from Captain Scott’s ship Terra Nova; a Nansen sledge and cameras, and an interesting selection of geological specimens. Nearby were items linked with the whaling eras; all subjects we’d come to learn more about during our voyage.
At noon we gathered at the Kelvin Hotel to enjoy a buffet lunch before being ushered us onto a coach that soon delivered us to the Spirit of Enderby. We drew up alongside the ship where we were greeted by Rodney, Agnes and other staff, then shown our cabins in which our gear had been placed. We enjoyed smoked salmon blinis for afternoon tea, surrendered our passports and familiarised ourselves with the ship. We left Bluff quayside just after 4pm, and having been led out by the Pilot we entered Foveaux Strait on our way to Stewart Island, with the ship now gently rolling.
That afternoon we had our first briefings in the Lecture Room in the belly of the ship on Level 2, a place that would become very familiar to us as the voyage progressed. Rodney began by introducing the staff, each of whom gave a brief resume of their background. We met our fabulous French couple Samuel Blanc, Naturalist-Guide, and Agnès Breniere our Cruise Director who acquainted us with the daily schedule for meals and other special requirements. Rodney continued the briefing with reference to all-important signals for Emergencies and Abandon Ship. Matters such as appropriate dress and types of landings expected – dry/wet/very wet, the tag system, immersion suits and life jackets. Minutes after this briefing the abandon ship drill was in full swing, and passengers found their way to muster stations with expert speed.
We were in the lee of Stewart Island during dinner and later that evening the Captain headed south past Lord River and Port Pegasus with 60-65 nautical miles to travel to the Snares. Numerous Salvin’s Albatross and Stewart Island Shag followed in our wake as we made our way to the south and the ship continued to roll. It was an early night for many, ahead of the Snares tomorrow.
Also, on these days in polar history: 9 February 1839. English sealer John Balleny, working for the Enderby Brothers, sails from New Zealand in the Eliza Scott and the Sabrina searching for new land. He discovers an island group which he names for himself, the Balleny Islands. He makes the first landing south of the Antarctic Circle there.
10 February 1913. Terra Nova reaches New Zealand and news of the Antarctic disaster is cabled around the world. The true horrors of the tragedy are revealed in London as the death of Captain Scott and his companions make the late editions of the evening papers. A national memorial service is held in St Paul’s Cathedral on Valentine’s Day.
Wednesday 11 February
Noon Position: Latitude 48o10.3’South; Longitude 166o37.3’East
Air Temperature: 12oC Sea temperature: 13oC
Gourmet Grub: Roast duck and mango salad / Pork loin and roast apple / Chicken breast and roast baby beetroot / Apple strudel and ice cream
Profound Question: “When we leave Bluff, when do we start to move?”
Quote of the Day: “Come my friends, ‘tis not too late to seek a newer world.” -Tennyson
As the sun rose we were making good time in gentle seas. Before breakfast we had a fine view of the Snares and being on the northeast coast and away from the westerlies, we had ideal conditions for a Zodiac cruise. Rodney called us all to the lecture room for a briefing at 7.30am where he gave an excellent introduction to the island. This routine would become well established before excursions – an informative briefing, then a mad dash to grab gear, cameras and the like, wrapping up warm and clambering down into the Zodiacs.
The nearest of the Subantarctic islands to New Zealand, the Snares have a highest point of 152m, cover 328 hectares, a mean annual temperature of 11oC and an average rainfall of 1,200mm per year. Sea birds were plentiful this morning: Buller and Salvin’s Albatross, Cape Petrels (Pintado), and Common Diving Petrels. It is claimed that there are more nesting seabirds here than the whole of the British Isles.
In this first presentation Rodney covered the Snares in full: from their discovery by Vancouver 23 November 1791, the subsequent sealing era that decimated the population, details of the geology (granite), botany and the ornithology. The Zodiac operation using five boats each equipped with four-stroke 60hp engines began at 8.15, with us setting out for two hours on the water. With the exception of the scientific parties from University of Otago and National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) no landing is permitted, but we cruised the shoreline with satisfying views of native fauna and flora: such as Olearia lyalli the tall ‘tree daisy’, Cook’s ‘scurvy grass’, and large tussocks.
The many birds that were seen included large rafts of Cape Petrels and endemic Snares Crested Penguins, Brown Skua, Buller and Salvin’s Albatross, Giant Petrels, Black and Red-billed Gulls. We saw as many as twenty small black Snares Tomtits – that’s “ten pairs of tits”, or more, many a chap chuckled to himself. The most prominent bird species on the Snares is the Sooty Shearwater – with a calculated 2.7 million pairs in the early 1970s – though only a few were seen. Most had flown before dawn.
We gently motored up creeks dense with black kelp, alongside surging wave-cut platforms and into deep caverns, with New Zealand Fur Seals in abundance. In Ho Ho Bay the huts of the research station established in the 1960s could just be seen as other seals frolicked in the languid waters. For many people a real highlight was the ‘penguin slide’ with large numbers of Snares Crested Penguins commuting over granite, with the surface worn smooth over perhaps hundreds of years. It was a great first full day on expedition.
Thursday 12 February
Enderby Island, Auckland Islands
Noon position: Latitude 50o30.5’South; Longitude 166o16.7’East
Air temperature: 11oC Sea temperature: 11oC
Gourmet Grub: Shrimp cocktail / Lamb rack with pear and parsnip galette / Pork fillet with pumpkin puree / Vanilla panacotta
Profound Question: “Do Sea Lions lay eggs?”
Quote of the Day: “It is not down in any map; true places never are” –Herman Melville
Rodney Quote of the Day: “People can always do more than they realise.”
Many of us woke to the sound of the anchor being lowered at Port Ross. We had made excellent seaway from the Snares overnight. Port Ross is named after the famous English Arctic and Antarctic explorer James Clark Ross who visited here in November 1840. Originally it was named Rendezvous Harbour by the French expedition led by Dumont d’Urville. Before breakfast many were out on deck taking photos of the sunrise, the columnar basalt cliffs along the south side of Enderby Island presenting a spectacular sight with seabirds gliding around the ship and seals seen in the dark waters.
A ‘Southern Lakes’ French Squirrel helicopter arrived to transfer many fuel drums ashore as part of an emergency supply and for use during the aerial census of Sea Lions and albatrosses for the Department of Conservation (DoC). The helicopter can make the flight from Invercargill Airport to Enderby Island in less than 2½ hours.
Those of us who were unable to attend to quarantine measures last evening carried this out after breakfast and at 7.30am we had another introductory lecture on aspects of the Auckland Islands, followed by an outline of the two walks planned for today. With help from the chefs we made up a packed lunch to take ashore and then prepared for a full day on Enderby.
The ship to shore operation began by 9.30am and we were landed on Sandy Bay, with numerous Hooker’s Sea Lions on the beach and the grassy sward. A serious decline of the species here began in the late 1990s. This season about 300 pups have been born with a further 1,400 on Dundas Island, the main breeding location. About 10am we all set out along the boardwalk for the north side of the island under the watchful eyes of Yellow-eyed Penguins. Alongside the trail the Southern Rata was still in rich crimson flower, Cassinia, also prolific in New Zealand with its white flowers, at least three species of Gentian with one, Gentiana cerina, a beautiful deep mauve. Of the megaherbs Bulbinella rossii had finished although the occasional plant had a little of the rich orange flower head remaining. On the north side of the island the pink and white flower of megaherb Anisotome latifolia was also prolific. Ferns grew where branches joined trunks and seedlings of Rata and Dracophyllum and numerous other plants had found a home on cushion plants. We all came to know the thick undergrowth here intimately – the “tumble in the tussock” becoming a familiar mantra for those who chose to walk, wet and wearily, right around the northeast coast of the island.
On reaching the north coast a fair wind was blowing, but we were still able to enjoy the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross with chicks, numerous Auckland Islands Shag and familiar Red-billed Gulls. Some time later others noted Red-crowned Parakeets, more Tomtits, Auckland Islands Snipe, Auckland Islands Teal, Brown Skua, Arctic Tern, Giant Petrels with well-developed chicks, more Yellow-eyed Penguins and even the Double Banded Plover. Rich human history too: the surf-lashed black reef with those who drowned buried in the vicinity, a poignant reminder of the wreck of the Derry Castle in March 1887.
The intrepid band of hikers who took on the challenge of the ‘easy walk’ around the island will – in due time, and in the warm glow of nostalgia – no doubt fondly remember the ups and the many downs, the thick undergrowth, the beautiful megaherbs, surly Sea Lions, the countless falls and sprained ankles, and the almost constant and unrelenting wind and rain…all in all, a rather ‘character building’ experience. Looking back you’ll remember it as a fine day for a gentle stroll along the beach, or as an epic trek in the spirit of Shackleton. Either way, all were sure to lift a glass or two to our first real Subantarctic adventure, when we finally slogged our way happily back to the ship’s bar.
Friday 13 February
Carnley Harbour, Auckland Islands
Noon position: Latitude 50o47.1’South; Longitude 166o03.1’East
Air Temperature: 11oC Sea temperature: 11oC
Gourmet Grub: Caramelized onion and goats cheese tart / Rib eye steak and duck fat potatoes / Pan-fried blue cod and salsa verde / Pavlova
Profound Question: “Are these penguins, or birds?”
Quote of the Day: “Those who are forgiving will be rewarded a thousand times.”
On Shackleton’s expedition, 100 years ago today: 13 February 1915. Endurance trapped in the ice of the Weddell Sea. “All hands indulge in a game of Soccer on the floe.”
Sleeping in calm seas and well fed, we awoke to Carnley Harbour and by 9am were Zodiac cruising along the rocky shores, thick with Rata forest and fringed with dark kelp. Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses and Sooty Shearwaters were spotted. We made our way to the Erlangen clearing, where a German merchant ship cut firewood on the eve of the Second World War, leaving New Zealand waters undetected. We scrambled through the Rata in sunshine and listened to birdsong. Later we motored down to Musgrave Point, where the small topsail schooner Grafton was wrecked during a storm on 3 January 1864. Captained by an American named Thomas Musgrave, the schooner had been to Campbell Island for the purpose of following up reports of silver-bearing rock. They were unsuccessful and when passing Adams Island, bad weather had the ship blown up Carnley Harbour where it was wrecked. After managing to make it ashore, a small hut was built in the Rata forest above the beach. Named ‘Epigwaitt’ after the Indian word for ‘dwelling by the sea’ (also referred to by Musgrave as ‘near the great waters’), the five men lived here for twelve months until Musgrave with two others set out seeking rescue, leaving two men behind. They reached Stewart Island from where Musgrave mounted a rescue operation and on 15 September 1865 Musgrave on the Flying Scud rescued the other two men.
The remaining timbers of the Grafton are clear at the water’s edge and a short way into the clearing we were able to see the remains of the rock hut and forge, now surrounded by dense nettles. The Rata and Dracophyllum forest was quite open and tracks had been made by wild pigs. In the clearing Huw gave a talk on the Grafton epic – a true story of tenacity, intelligence, and cooperation under really tough circumstances. It is amazing to think how resourceful those men were. For us, a much simpler prospect: after rejoining the ship for lunch, we began our journey of around 360 nautical miles to Macquarie Island. We were blessed with fine seas and fair weather into the night.
Saturday 14 February
At Sea, en route to Australia’s Macquarie Island
Noon position: Latitude 53o18.7’South; Longitude 161o26.9’East
Air Temperature: 10oC Sea temperature: 10oC
Gourmet Grub: Pate with Cumberland sauce / Ciopino seafood stew with baked bread / Beef stew with creamy mash / Key Lime Pie
Profound Question: “What nationality is the Russian crew?”
Quote of the Day: “How inappropriate to call this planet earth, when clearly it is ocean.” -Arthur C Clarke.
On Shackleton’s expedition, 100 years ago today: 14 February 1915. “Land seen faintly to SE about 40 miles off. A decisive effort was made to free the ship, all hands continuing till midnight and everyone like a trojan would wield a pick, ice-chisel, or any other implement. At midnight we had cocoa and wished Sir Ernest Many Happy Returns for his 41st birthday. All to bunks very tired.”
A very special Valentine’s Day for some, enjoyed on ship with their loved ones – or for others a quick phone call, a card from home tucked in the suitcase perhaps, or a promise of dinner once they return. Anyhow, it was a day of ardent ship-board activity. No lonely hearts here, we were all coming together as new friends and happy shipmates. With following seas, and the ship making a solid 11knots, our progress was good. Wandering Albatross and Cape Petrels swooped and darted over wave crests as we tumbled into breakfast.
Huw kicked off proceedings at 09.30 with his first lecture of the voyage ‘Surviving the Auckland Islands’, which detailed the many shipwrecks that played out here. At 11.30 Samuel also gave his first presentation, ‘Seabirds of the Southern Ocean’, which was followed by a hearty lunch and then some serious retail overindulgence in the ‘Sea Shop’, aka our on-board boutique polaire. Everything on offer that a discerning Antarctic traveller might need on his or her adventures: postcards, t-shirts, books, memory sticks, maps, ‘mankys’ and more (these are map-hankies apparently). Agnes reported brisk sales.
We continued to make good time and by noon were ahead of schedule, with just 80 nautical miles to run to Macquarie. Rodney gave an ‘Introduction’ in the lecture room and told us much more about this remarkable place. The island is located on the Australian/Pacific plate boundary and is formed of rocks from the Earth’s mantle. Many of the rocks are iron and magnesium rich and are termed ultramafic. They have been formed about six kilometres under the mantle and pushed up. And that’s just the geology – incredible wildlife and history are to be found here too. More quarantine vacuum cleaning was completed in the late afternoon. Many declared it was the most hoovering they’d seen by their husbands in years! A happy Valentine’s Day indeed!
Sunday 15 February
Noon position: Latitude 54o34.1’South; Longitude 158o55.9’East
Air temperature: 8oC Sea temperature: 8oC
Gourmet Grub: Salt and pepper squid / Lemon and rosemary roasted chicken supreme / Roast shoulder of Southland lamb / Apple and boysenberry crumble
Profound Question: “Are there any toilets in the Zodiacs?”
Quote of the Day: “The two noblest things I perceive are sweetness and light.” -John Swift
Rodney Quote of the Day: “Yours to discover, ours to share with you.”
We experienced a morning of sunshine and light showers, modest winds and kind seas. This was Macquarie at her best, little wonder she is Australia’s prized Subantarctic possession. A first landing at another Sandy Bay, where we enjoyed the King Penguin colony at the far end of the beach and the Royal Penguin rookery up in the tussock at the end of the boardwalk. A very young, and mightily photogenic, seal pup was also spotted in the tussock and was much photographed by the lucky few who saw it. Lardy Elephant Seals rounded out the wildlife spectacle here, lolling at the sea edge, basking in fine weather. For many this was a new highlight, to be up close and amongst Antarctic wildlife that they had so long read about. Perhaps it was the sight of Elephant Seals battering each other in snot-farting-belching bouts of beachmaster dominance, or perhaps the simple pleasure of lying on the beach in the sunshine as Kings pecked away at your boots. In all, it was just wonderful.
An afternoon was spent at Buckles Bay with a guided tour of the Australian Antarctic Division Base, a walk along the stormy shores of Hassleborough, and the sight of bloodied Giant Petrels lunching on a fresh seal carcass. Cream tea was enjoyed in the base mess (known as ‘the Old Sealers Inn’), postcards were sent home and a gentle half pint of the Aussie’s proudly-made home-brew was dispatched over news from home and laughter about England’s cricket woes. There was talk of polar history too – admiration for Mawson and more ridicule for the English. Then another beer for some, this time in a souvenir Antarctic beer stubby cooler! It seemed just the right kind of tourist gift from a friendly base like this. Cheers lads!
This evening we celebrated Shackleton’s birthday. Huw gave a talk in the bar-library before dinner about ‘Why Real Explorers Drink Gin’, but also freestyled on the merits of grog, whisky, beer and rum. The famous explorer Shackleton was born in County Kildare, Ireland on 15 February 1874. It’s a good day to toast his memory, but also to remember many other polar heroes of old. We each have our favourites, but for the record, and for those of you who like to know these things, Huw’s other polar heroes are: George Lowe (15 Jan), James Clark Ross (15 April), Mawson (5 May), Scott (6 June), John Ross (24 June), Amundsen (16 July), Carl Anton Larsen (7 August), Nansen (10 Oct), Frank Hurley (15 Oct), Wally Herbert (24 Oct) and James Cook (7 Nov). That’s certainly a good sequence of drinks to raise through the year!
If naval tradition is more your thing, then you can actually lift a glass each day of the week if that floats your boat. The naval toasts are as follows: Monday – ‘To Ships at Sea’; Tuesday – ‘To Sailors and Our Men’; Wednesday – ‘To Ourselves’; Thursday – ‘To a bloody war and a swift promotion’; Friday – ‘To a willing soul and good sea room’; Saturday – ‘To Sweethearts and Wives’; and lastly, on a Sunday – ‘To Absent Friends and for all those at sea’.
Beyond the booze, much bird life was also observed throughout our time on the island, which included Giant Petrels, Sooty Albatrosses, Black-browed Albatross, Campbell Albatross, Wandering Albatross, Southern Royal Albatross, Brown Skua, Macquarie Island Shag, Kelp Gull and Antarctic Tern. In the water and on the shores numerous Royal, King, Gentoo and Rock-Hopper Penguins were observed. This truly is an island that is alive with nature, a haven in a hostile sea. It’s also an island that really deserves more time and many more visits.
Monday 16 February
Leaving Macquarie Island, At Sea
Noon position: Latitude 55o05.4’ South; Longitude 159o08.5’East
Air temperature: 10oC Sea temperature: 7oC
Gourmet Grub: Vietnamese poached chicken salad / John Dory with ratatouille / Pork cutlet on mash with star anise / Bakewell tart
Profound Question: “Has this ship ever been wrecked?”
Quote of the Day: “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘thank you’ that would suffice.” -Meister Eckhart.
On this day in polar history: 16 February 1874. Sir George Nares’ Challenger is the first steam-driven ship to cross the Antarctic Circle. Sponsored by the Royal Society, this grand oceanographic voyage is also the first Antarctic foray whose aims were solely scientific. Among many pioneering aspects of this voyage, the first photographs of Antarctic icebergs are taken. Also on this day (16 February 1900) a party from Borchgrevink’s Southern Cross made the first sledge journey across the Ross Ice Shelf, attaining a new farthest south.
It was a frustrating morning, being unable to land at Lusitania Bay to see the King Penguin rookery due to high winds. We were rewarded however with the sight of a number of Orca feeding along the coast. Our eyes were drawn to large numbers of Giant Petrels on the water close inshore, and then the dorsal fins appeared. Possibly five or six adults were hunting penguins. There was much thrashing in the water, high speed chases, dramatic although at a distance viewed through binoculars. We followed the pod for about an hour until the clouds gathered and it was time to turn the ship south into the swell. With over 1,000 nautical miles to go before the next waypoint, it’s a long way into the Southern Ocean for us now.
An afternoon was spent reading and writing, painting for some, perhaps some competitive Scrabble too. Phone calls home. Happy daydreams as we get closer to the Antarctic convergence. This is roughly a circular belt of water about 25 miles (40km) wide lying between Latitudes 48o and 60o South. By no means a fixed boundary, it forms when cold north-flowing Antarctic bottom water and Antarctic surface water meet the warmer water flowing south. This produces a sharp change in temperature that we will encounter. Most went to bed early, again well fed, as the ship gently rolled.
Tuesday 17 February
At Sea. Southward Ho!
Noon position: Latitude 59o29.6’ South; Longitude 162o37.7’ East
Air temperature: 5oC Sea temperature: 5.3oC
Gourmet Grub: Roast duck and mango salad / Pork loin and roast apple / Chicken breast with roast baby beetroot / Sponge pudding
Profound Question: “Which way is 10 o’clock?”
Quote of the Day: “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” - Albert Einstein.
Rodney Quote of the Day: “I’ve no time for devout cowards. Try to surprise yourself and be strong.”
“Here’s to a day of information sharing, learning, and homework.” It’s Rodney on the PA, not Agnes (as he tells us now and then…), but his dulcet tones are still welcome. After breakfast, and a quick look at the wave crests of Wandering Albatross, prions and petrels, another full day of lectures begins.
First up again was Dr Huw, with his second lecture ‘The Southern Whalemen’, with more thought-provoking old photographs and rare film from the whaling days, both in the New Zealand Subantarctics and more particularly the wonderful island of South Georgia. Huw encourages us to consider the human side to the whaling industry, as much as its terrible environmental costs.
Samuel came next with his superb summary on ‘The life of Penguins’. After another fine lunch (ongoing thanks to our enterprising Chefs Cy and Connor), some settled in to watch Part 1 of the excellent film ‘Longitude’. This focused on the invention by Englishman John Harrison of his clock, and later his watch, in the international prize quest for determining longitude. These beautiful and intricate hand-made instruments can be viewed today at the National Maritime Museum in London.
With competitive instincts aroused, the rules for the iceberg sighting competition were also announced. Simply the date and time was needed, with the approved berg to be no smaller than a classic London Routemaster bus, seen with the naked eye. As chance would have it, you wait for one bus and then lots come along all at once…it would not be long until we were surrounded by magnificent bergs! Before dinner geologist Mo gave his first lecture, his take on ‘Field Work in Antarctica’.
As early evening turned to dusk, there was more birdlife to be enjoyed by those taking the air on the outer decks including petrels and prions, Light-Mantled and Wandering Albatross. The air temperatures begin to drop. Water temperatures too are falling. Antarctica is getting closer. Time for bed.
Wednesday 18 February
At Sea, Enroute to Antarctica. Southern Ocean
Noon position: Latitude 63o21.8’South; Longitude 167o37.8’East
Air temperature: 2oC Sea temperature: 2oC
Gourmet Grub: Gremolata prawns with garlic aioli / Pan seared chicken breast with rice pilaf / Lamb Rogan Josh, raita and chutney / Rich chocolate tart
Profound Question: “Why do the birds always sit on white rocks?”
Quote of the Day: “The shell must break before the bird can fly.” –Tennyson
At 07.35am Samuel took to the PA to announce the first iceberg. Sighted away to the west, 62o49’South, 166o26’East, in water around 2,000m deep. Icebergs before breakfast make a good start to any day! Much activity on deck, but well satisfied we return inside for another day of films and presentations. And the issuing of the blue Heritage polar jackets, more excitement and photos, people getting hot, resizing and reshuffling, and more promenading on the outerdecks. Not quite cold enough yet though for those fancy jackets.
Huw sets the pace at noon, giving his third lecture of the voyage, ‘Freeze Frame’, which explained the development of photography and its use in the Polar regions. Another wonderfully illustrated account, using rare imagery based on his research in collections all round the world. Pretty pictures – can’t beat them. They provided much inspiration for our photographers on board.
After lunch, Part II of the film ‘Longitude’ was followed by Samuel’s latest lecture on his polar hero James Clark Ross. It was great to see a Frenchman so admiring of an English naval explorer – this does not happen often – but Samuel is a sensible sort of chap! He’s going to write a book about Ross someday and Huw will help him on his way. A little road trip together to view the special collections and museums in London is needed first. Best of luck with your research Samuel!
Thursday 19 February
Southern Ocean. We cross the Antarctic Circle, Latitude 66o33’South!
Noon position: Latitude 67o19.0’South; Longitude 171o07.1’East
Air temperature: 0.8oC Sea temperature: 0.8oC
Gourmet Grub: Gnocchi with spinach and red pepper pesto / Sticky beef ribs and parsnip puree / Green Thai fish curry / Chocolate banana split
Profound Question: “What happens to an iceberg when it melts?”
Quote of the Day: “Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” -Carl Jung.
Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and a couple of Wanderers greet the sun on the bridge, just before Agnes smoothly takes to the PA to summon the ship to breakfast. There are icebergs on the horizon and the morning air is crisp with a fresh north-westerly to send us southwards.
By 08.00 we were approaching the Antarctic Circle. This is a geographical boundary (reflected in the Arctic) which in summer marks the most northerly point at which the sun is visible for 24 hours a day on mid-summer’s day (21 December), when the sun is at its highest above the horizon. In winter it is the southernmost point at which the sun can be seen on mid-winters day (21 June). South of the Antarctic Circle it is dark 24 hours a day in winter.
The crossing of the Antarctic Circle is considered to be a symbolic point of entry into Antarctic waters. 17 January 1773 is a date to remember. Captain James Cook and his crews in Resolution and Adventure, on his second major voyage of discovery, become the first men to sail within the Antarctic Circle. They would cross the Antarctic Circle three times in various parts of the Southern Ocean during this voyage, and in doing so they also became the first to circumnavigate Antarctica, although they would never see this great southern continent.
After lunch there was a break in the lectures for the first episode of ‘The Last Place on Earth’, based on Roland Huntford’s book Scott and Amundsen. The first of seven episodes, this series transfixed and annoyed viewers in equal measure over this voyage. It’s an important film in the history of polar imagining, but not so great if you’re an admirer of Captain Scott. He doesn’t emerge well from this particular retelling, but the ‘race’ to the South Pole is captivating nonetheless.
Birds were seen today in good numbers: Prions, Cape Petrels, Antarctic Petrels, a Campbell Albatross and many beautiful Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. In the early afternoon we assembled in the bar-library for a special ceremony to celebrate crossing the Antarctic Circle. Mugs of mulled wine were shared as Rodney offered these words:
By anyone’s standards this event is an auspicious occasion-very few people have crossed the Antarctic Circle by ship. So on this occasion we want to both celebrate the occasion and acknowledge its importance.
Today each one of us joins a unique group of explorers that have gone before us, not only showing us the way, but giving us courage to follow and to make our own destiny. We follow explorers such as James Clark Ross, Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, Sir Douglas Mawson, Richard Byrd, Sir Edmund Hillary and others, who pioneered new routes south of the Circle. Today we acknowledge them and their efforts.
Crossing the Circle also carries with it responsibility – a responsibility that those explorers who went before us took seriously which is part of the reason that we are here today. They advocated for the protection of these lands and wildlife that inhabited them, ensuring that future generations would have them to enjoy.
So today as we cross the Circle, I would like each of you to take this vow and receive the Mark of the Penguin – as evidence that you have crossed the Antarctic Circle and have taken the pledge which I am going to ask you to say after me.
“Having endured the privations of the Roaring Forties, the rigours of the Furious Fifties and the ice-strewn waters of the Screaming Sixties to cross the Antarctic Circle, pay homage to those early explorers who have not only shown the way, but have demonstrated what it means to advocate for the continued protection of Antarctica and its wildlife and history. I [own name] hereby pledge that in accepting the Mark of the Penguin will, until I take my last expedition, advocate to everybody, even those who will not listen, the importance of the Antarctic and its wildlife and history.”
Would you now please step forward and receive the Mark of the Penguin….
In no time at all penguins of various species soon decorated every forehead in the assembled throng. Welcome everyone to the fellowship of Antarctica! It really is a privilege and a blessing. Let’s use our time here wisely and enjoy every moment.
But first, at 17.00, Rodney gathered us in the lecture room for another compulsory briefing. This began with IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators founded 1991), of which Heritage Expeditions is a foundation member, and was followed by the Code of Conduct for historic site visits administered by the Antarctic Heritage Trust. During this summer, just 300 visitors are expected to voyage to the Ross Sea region compared to some 20,000 on the busy Antarctic Peninsula. Excitement and expectation is building.
Friday 20 February
Noon position: Latitude 71o23.7’South; Longitude 171o14.4’East
Air temperature: -2.5oC Sea temperature: 0oC
Gourmet Grub: Garlic prawn skewers / Pork belly served with chunky apple / Venison stew and roasted vegetables / Chocolate mousse with berry compote
Profound Question: “Is the Great Auk still extinct?”
Quote of the Day: “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.” -Talmud.
On this day in polar history: 20 February 1823. Englishman James Weddell sails to 74oS, the farthest south yet reached, in a sea that now bears his name. Icebergs were spotted, but no land was in sight. Few are able to penetrate this vast, ice-chocked region again for almost eighty years. Also on 20 February, in 1935, accompanied by her Norwegian sea-captain husband, Danish-born Caroline Mikkelsen steps ashore at the Vestfold Hills, becoming the first woman to set foot on the Antarctic mainland.
On Shackleton’s expedition, 100 years ago today: 20 February 1915. “Our farthest South, 76o57S. Four seals secured. They were shot two miles from the ship, and it took us three hours to go out and sledge them in, plugging through soft snow into which we sunk thigh deep. Land in sight but Endurance still trapped in the ice.”
We are stopped by pack ice off Cape Adare. We had hoped for a landing, but not this time. It was a great first experience of the sea ice though, the Captain nudging our bows into the pack as we gathered in the crisp morning air to enjoy the spectacle. We are experiencing what many are describing as their “first real day in Antarctica”. Blue jackets abound and though bird life is scare, icebergs and sunlight fill the scene. A sole Snow Petrel is a gift that arrives in mid morning, followed by another. Adelie Penguins in the water and a Weddell Seal on the floe. The more we look, the more we see. Yet most are content just to gaze at the ice as we chug our way ever southward.
We passed Possession Island in the early afternoon. It was here in 1841 that James Clark Ross and his crews landed and claimed formal possession of the continent for the young Queen Victoria, with flag raising, three cheers and many cups of claret. Again sea ice conditions made a landing impossible, but hopefully next time, and we might even discover more about the precise location of where this historic landing was made. No one has yet returned to exactly where they stepped ashore. Ross wrote: “Inconceivable myriads of penguins completely and densely covered the whole surface of the island, along the ledges of the precipices, and even to the summits of the hills, attacking us vigorously as we waded through their ranks…” He did not stay ashore for long either, as a storm sprang up and the currents were moving fast. Interestingly, he later wrote of the islands: “Future navigators should be on their guard in approaching the coast at this place”.
As day turned to night, snow began to fall. The outerdecks were soon covered in a layer of fresh white. New footprints could be seen, dancing from the bar-library and back to the warmth inside. Another fine dinner was accompanied by whisky and laughter. Card games, hot chocolate, more reading and story-telling followed. We are a happy ship, heading south together into the ice.
Saturday 21 February
Ross Sea; towards Terra Nova Bay, Inexpressible Island
Noon position: Latitude 74o49.7’South; Longitude 167o50.5’East
Air temperature: -4.5oC Sea temperature: –0.4oC
Gourmet Grub: Bruschetta / Panko and parmesan crusted Gurnard / Lamb rump with green beans and minted jus / Cold set cheese cake
Profound Question: “How do penguins know what sex they are?”
Quote of the Day: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has a genius, power, and magic in it.” -WH Murray
Rodney Quote of the Day: “Antarctica has that A-Factor. You’ll just keep wanting to come back.”
On this day in polar history: 21 February 1902. German explorer Erich von Drygalski and his crew on Gauss become trapped between the floes. They discover and map Kaiser Wilhelm II Land and, though stuck in the ice for a year, they undertake a valuable programme of scientific research.
We continue pushing south towards Terra Nova Bay with the aim of having as much time as possible in the Ross Sea. A late start for some, 08.30 breakfast, but for others the reward from early light on the outerdecks: five Snow Petrels.
Another day, another daily dose of information and icy entertainments. Huw leads off at 10am with a his fourth lecture, a newly created presentation ‘I Need a Hero’, on polar heroes and the ways that expeditions were celebrated and imagined in the nineteenth century. His focus was on John Ross, Arctic explorer, a nice gesture too in an effort to show Samuel some more material on his hero, James Clark. Samuel followed on at 11.30 with an excellent lecture on ‘Antarctic Seals’, with good photographs, many taken by himself. The lecture began with a brief overview of seals when differences and the biology and adaption of the two families, known as the Otaridae and Phocidae, were carefully explained. Samuel then outlined the four Antarctic seals – Weddell, Crab-eater, Leopard and Ross with mention of the varied dentition linked to diet, securing of prey and for the male Weddell, keeping breathing holes open. The Ross is the smallest and least common of these seals, and we would do well to spot one on this trip. Samuel promised a bottle of champagne if a Ross could be found. The discussion that followed also raised the intriguing metaphysical conundrum: what do seals dream about? Samuel knows this to be true, but is unsure at present what exactly makes them smile when they sleep. Most likely catching fish, but watch this space!
With pancake ice forming, we duly filed into lunch. After a feast, a new forum for knowledge exchange was declared! Innovating at every step, Rodney and Huw led a group discussion in the lecture room ‘The Ross Sea Q&A’, basically an esoteric but quite interesting mish-mash of Antarctic dates and developments, queries, facts and figures. Heroic age expeditions, contemporary geopolitics, the physics of iceberg melting and the correct size of welly boots were debated. A little rocket science too and, more importantly for many people, the precise timings for lunch. Profound and tangential, this session had it all.
The evening saw a change of routine. A shore excursion to retrace the heroics of the Northern party of Scott’s last expedition, incarcerated for nearly 200 days in an ice cave on Inexpressible Island. We landed amongst seals and penguins in sunshine shortly after 18.30 and stayed ashore until 22.00. Lungs full of crisp polar air, a ramble along the ridge, bird watching over the glacier, playing in the snow. Some quick repair work to a plaque placed by New Zealanders in 1969, a jog back to the boats. It was just a few hours to imagine what it must have been like to be stranded there. Long enough for some though, as temperatures were plummeting quickly and a late dinner beckoned. How easy it was for us in comparison to the harrowing experiences of those six men in the long winter of 1912. A fine day though and a unique experience not to forget.
Sunday 22 February
Terra Nova Bay
Noon position: Latitude 75o11.8’South; Longitude 164o10.2’East
Air temperature: -8oC Sea temperature: -0.3oC
Gourmet Grub: Seafood chowder / Glazed New Zealand salmon and Asian greens / Rib eye steak with duck fat potatoes / Tiramisu
Profound Question: “How far round does the coast go?”
Quote of the Day: “A book just fell on my head – I’ve only got my shelf to blame.”
On this day in polar history. 22 February 1994. Fearing the impact of dogs on the wildlife native to Antarctic coasts, a new clause is inserted in the Antarctic Treaty outlawing these animals. Ninety-six years after they were first used here, on the Southern Cross expedition, the last dogs finally leave Scott Base. Bjorn, Herbie, Monty, Footrots and Nimrod board a plane bound for New Zealand.
Continental breakfast, sir? Yes please. In fact, a continental landing before breakfast. What a way to make your time here count! Well done Rodney our leader for a series of wise decisions. With calm conditions to begin with, we made an early start and by 6am we were all ashore at Gondwana, the German research base. Precious time ashore just allowed time for a quick ramble and some photographs. Within minutes the katabatics had picked up, fiercely gusting 50knots and temperatures plunging to minus 20oC. With much skill Rodney shepherded us safely back to the ship to a welcome return and a warm breakfast. But we had made it – for many it was a significant moment with their first footsteps on the continent itself.
It’s a newly busy place this Terra Nova Bay. In 1912 it had just been six men in a snow cave and now there are countless other bases here too. China will build in the future, though little can yet be seen at their proposed site. South Korea’s new Jang Bojo Station was visible in the distance though out of reach this time. Italy’s Mario Zucchelli Station was nearby too, though sadly closed now for the winter, their coffee machines and vespa scooters packed up until spring.
A gourmet pizza lunch was followed by an afternoon snoozing for some, a film for others. More action was in the offing with an evening’s excursion to Franklin Island. Franklin Island at 76o05’South 168o19’East, was also named by Ross in 1841, to recognise his friend Sir John Franklin, the noted Arctic explorer, who was at the time Governor of Van Diemen’s Land and had entertained the expedition on its way south from Hobart in 1840. The island is volcanic in origin and has an ice cap over much of its top. The beach we would land on consists of old ridges (with swales or low areas between) that rise in height to the south and is known technically as a cuspate foreland. Mo was delighted.
On the beach, amongst ridges of rounded basalt pebbles and cobbles, the large Adelie Penguin colony has become established and penguins were even inhabiting high areas of talus on the slopes below the summit of the island. We were entranced by the Adelie Penguins, the skuas and the seals in the fading light. The play of light with the sun dipping on the horizon made the ice glow in ebbing radiance. A special evening and proof, if any was necessary, that if you are patient and put in the effort Antarctica rewards you like this. Cold but happy faces returned to the ship. The guides finally brought the last Zodiac aboard at 01.30am. This was a full day, but really one of the very best of days.
Monday 23 February
Ross Ice Shelf
Noon position: Latitude 77o13.8’South; Longitude 168o13.9’ East
Air temperature: -11.5oC Sea temperature: -0.1oC
Gourmet Grub: Greek salad / Lamb tagine on couscous / Ciopino with freshly baked bread / Pavlova
Profound Question: “Will we be able to see the ozone hole?”
Quote of the Day: “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” – Albert Einstein
Today is a day for heroes in Russia, so they say. Spraznicom – Cheers to the Heroes – on this day of ‘Defence of the Homeland’. It’s “Man’s Day” the crew on the bridge say with a salute as we join them in the early morning light to view a beautiful sunrise. Birds are on the ice and penguins are in the water. We are heading still further south towards the ‘Great Barrier’, the Ross Ice Shelf. It’s cold at -20oC this morning, but calm. A morning’s jog around the ship, what better with views such as this?
When James Clark Ross discovered the ice shelf in January 1841 he wrote “…a perpendicular cliff of ice between one hundred and fifty feet and two hundred feet above the sea, [was] perfectly flat and level at the top and without any fissures on its seaward face.” Ross also stated “There is no more chance of sailing through that than through the cliffs of Dover.” This vast feature of floating ice about the size of France has a front edge a staggering 800 km long along its seaward face and 750 km back towards its source; the giant glaciers of the Trans-Antarctic Mountains. It varies in thickness from around 330m to 700m and has only 1/7th of the ice above the waterline.
We chug westwards along the Ice Shelf towards Cape Crozier in balmy conditions as the sun breaks through the clouds. It’s hard to imagine the conditions experienced by Scott’s companions on their ‘worst journey in the world’. “Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised”, Apsley Cherry-Garrard would later write.
We make our way inside for more reflection on this subject. Huw gives his sixth lecture, ‘Scott of the Antarctic’, which examined the myth as much as the reality of Captain Scott and his fateful final expedition. It’s a perfect subject, as we now head south under the shadow of Mount Erebus, as far south as we can go deep into McMurdo Sound. In the last light of the day the smoke plumes of Erebus were lit up as if orange fire. Stunning. James Clark Ross discovered Mounts Erebus and Terror. He wrote “some land which had been in sight since the preceding noon, and which we called the ‘high Island’; it proved to be a mountain twelve thousand four hundred feet in elevation above the level of the sea, emitting flame and smoke in great profusion”. The young botanist Joseph Hooker referred to Mt. Erebus as “a fine volcano spouting fire and smoke” while the ship’s blacksmith commented “this splendid Burning Mountain was truly an imposing sight.”
We anchored tonight off Hut Point, where Scott’s first expedition made its winter quarters in his ship Discovery. To be so close to history like this is something to be treasured. The evening light turns to dusk in a blaze of iridescent gold and the western mountains glow in pale blues. The next few days promise to be a very special indeed.
Tuesday 24 February
Noon position: Latitude 77o51.0’South; Longitude 166o38.3’ East
Air temperature: -5.5oC Sea temperature: 0.5oC
Gourmet Grub: Antipasto / Venison stew with roasted veg / John Dory / Rich chocolate mousse with berry compote
Profound Question: “Can you sail east through the Northwest Passage?”
Quote of the Day: “The past is a foreign country.” – Arthur C Clarke
Rodney Quote of the Day: “In Death, Scott wins.”
On this day in polar history. 24 February 1831. English navigator John Biscoe in the Tula and Lively, working for the British sealing business ‘The Enderby Brothers’, discovers land and names it after his employers. It is the first sighting of Antarctica in the zone south of the Indian Ocean. He is also the first to confirm that a great mass of land could exist, rather than scattered islands.
A wake-up announcement at 6.45am though many of us had been up for hours, too excited to laze around, admiring the views from the bridge and outer decks. The logistics required for this busiest of days makes the mind boggle. Suffice to say, we set off in eight groups to take in Antarctic America and New Zealand in one day – that is, tours of McMurdo Station and Scott Base respectively. A morning at McMurdo, surrounded by science, administration, fuel drums, corridors, and queues of nameless personnel, many packing up at the end of the summer season. Winter has already begun here, and each day brings a new flight of stores and takes away a belly load of people leaving only a core behind. We shopped in the stores, had a quick tour of an empty lab, a peek into the dining hall, grabbed a freshly baked cookie and enjoyed some peace in a charming church. It’s a mixed experience but interesting in any case. It was freezing cold, down to minus 20oC with wind chill so we looked forward to returning to the ship for lunch.
An afternoon was spent at the much more inviting New Zealand base on the other side of the point, established here as part of the IGY and the Trans-Antarctic expedition in 1957. Ed Hillary was the first leader and much memorabilia and artwork fills the corridors of this compact and functional station. On the walls too was a small photo of Huw’s father-in-law Sir Wally Herbert, who overwintered here in 1961 as surveyor and leader of the dog teams. It was from Scott Base that his pioneering journeys in the Queen Maud ranges began. History in the making.
Highlight for many was the visit to the original ‘Hillary hut’, the mess hut from 1957 which though it has been re-sited retains much of the character of what it must have been like in its heyday. It will soon be managed and restored by the Antarctic Heritage Trust, who may refill it with objects and human stories, breathing life into its mint-green timbers once again. Temperatures dropping, -25oC, feels cold but the best is yet to come: exploring Scott’s first hut, from the Discoveryexpedition 1901-04, by torchlight. It was an evocative first experience in a historic hut of this type for many people, unforgettable in its sights and smells. Dr Huw was inside to show everyone around and share stories of the first winters there and attempt to explain the puzzle of the layers of heritage that are left behind. We make a hasty retreat when the cold bites, just as night falls. Last Zodiac with Rodney, Huw and Dale is onboard just after midnight and not a moment too soon. Winter is coming to McMurdo Sound.
Wednesday 25 February
McMurdo Sound, Cape Evans
Noon position: Latitude 77o39.8’South; Longitude 165o42.9’ East
Air temperature: -11oC Sea temperature: 0.3oC
Gourmet Grub: Lentil and vegetable soup / Irish beef stew with mash / Lamb rump with parsnip and cauliflower / Raspberry jelly
Profound Question: “Can penguins walk backwards?”
Quote of the Day: “The duty of every man is to be honest and to do good.” -Ferninand Hassler
Rodney Quote of the Day: “Let’s burn the candle at both ends, explore till the last moment, and use up every ounce of our time here. You can sleep on the way home!”
We lifted anchor early in the morning and made for Scott’s other hut, up the coast at Cape Evans. Erebus could be glimpsed through breaks in the cloud, but as the day wore on she lay hidden obscured from view.
The mountain, a component of the McMurdo Volcanics, was created in the Late Tertiary about 60 million years ago at a time when fractures in the earth’s crust occurred prior to the beginning of uplift of the Trans-Antarctic Mountains. In 1909 Shackleton wrote that “it became quite an ordinary thing to hear reports from men who had been outside in winter, that there was a strong glow in Erebus…and at other times we have seen great bursts of flame crowning the crater.” Erebus has a lava lake 200m below the crater rim and each day an estimated 200 tonnes of sulphur dioxide is released.
As we made our way north along the western shores of Ross Island, Huw gave his seventh lecture ‘Becoming the Boss’, which retold the Shackleton story through rare imagery with particular emphasis on his rise to fame and the leadership lessons that many derive from his life. In the words of one of his comrades, Jameson Adams: “He was the greatest leader that ever came on God’s earth – bar none.” Huw told us the five qualities that Shackleton looked for in companions, those factors that he thought crucial to success on an Antarctic expedition, and which he wrote about at the time were courage, physical endurance, idealism, patience and most important of all, optimism.
After another hearty lunch, the event that most of us had been looking forward to for many years – a visit to Scott’s Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans – was finally about to begin. We landed in the late afternoon and words can’t really do justice to the experience of opening the door and setting foot inside this remarkable place. Look back at your photos, or close your eyes and remember the sounds and smells of the place. Look back soon at old photographs by Scott’s photographic artist Herbert Ponting and imagine the life here. Perhaps think of yourself sitting, as Scott had done so many times, in his bunk penning a journal or letters home. Imagine yourself overwintering here, not just surviving but living and thriving amongst your woollen-jumpered mates, with ramshackle bunks and walls made from packing cases. Horses stabled and dogs kennelled around the hut, with penguins on the foreshore and winter winds tearing at the windows. The stove is on and the scientists are at their work. Perhaps Wilson is painting or Clissold is baking rhubarb crumble in the galley. The geologists are doing what geologists do, breaking rocks. Maybe Oates is mending his socks, Cherry is writing his diary, or someone is striking up the gramophone. These are a few of the things I imagined when standing there, looking down the mess table, savouring the silence, and relishing the privilege of sharing it with all of you.
The last Zodiacs brought happy passengers back to the ship just as the evening sun emerged from the low bank of cloud over the mountains to the west, lighting Mount Discovery in orange and gold, before plunging all into cold darkness. It was the end of yet another wonderful day.
Thursday 26 February
Ross Island, McMurdo Sound
Noon position: Latitude 77o39.7’South; Longitude 166o09.3’ East
Air temperature: -8oC Sea temperature: 0oC
Gourmet Grub: Prawn garlic skewers / Pan seared monkfish with roasted cauliflower / Lamb Rogan Josh with fragrant rice / Raspberry panacotta
Profound Question: “Do penguins nest at sea?”
Quote of the Day: “God gave people two ears and only one mouth; therefore it’s a good idea to listen a lot more than talk.” – Ranulph Fiennes
Rodney Quote of the Day: “Yes, beaten paths are for broken men.”
I once imagined that it would be impossible to top an afternoon spent in Captain Scott’s hut, but incredibly this day managed to trump everything. I’m not ashamed to say it was one of the happiest days of my life. ‘A Day of Wonders’ were the words I scribbled in my dog-eared little notebook, before crawling into my bunk at day’s end. It was indeed a fabulous day.
During the night the Captain took the Spirit of Enderby north to Cape Royds, the site of Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition hut. After breakfast and a briefing, we landed ashore and set off over an undulating volcanic ‘moonscape’, going against the flow if you like, up old lava flows and across to the hut itself. Rocks containing feldspar crystals caught the eye, some ‘pillow lavas’ that had erupted under water and numerous granite and other erratics which had been deposited by advancing ice, then left perhaps 10,000 years ago when the ice receded. Mt Erebus remained locked in cloud, but we knew she was there, a brooding presence. We pushed on.
We soon reached a valley then headed down to the small hut restored and cared for by the Antarctic Heritage Trust. Our trusty DoC and New Zealand Government Representative Dale along with Rodney and others managed boot cleaning from the outside. Only eight were allowed in the hut at any one time and of course everyone wanted to see Shackleton’s signature, his cubicle room, Wild and Mawson’s bunks, and perhaps to know where the whiskey and brandy was stored or where the Aurora Australis book had been printed and bound. Lucky Dr Huw was again host to each party, leading them round the features of the hut and sharing stories of its inhabitants. In the presence of heroes past, some felt moved to quiet contemplation, hushed reverence, tears, or to sheer joy. Sometimes there was a combination of all these things. It also became something of an exercise in crowd control, such was the desire to take photographs and capture something of this spell-binding scene. Just not enough time!
Near the hut Adelie penguins were well advanced with their mounting and many walked about the perimeter of the ASPA. Soon we were retracing our steps and by lunch all were back aboard. Mountains in the distance were all hues of deep gold and blue under a strong late summer sun. We sailed south once more as Orca hunted in our wake amongst the broken sea ice. It was no afternoon to rest on our laurels though, instead we added to them! For we would have a second chance at climbing Observation Hill near McMurdo, denied us previously in bitter temperatures and high winds just days before.
After an easy slog from sea to summit, our group gathered to drink in the view. Limitless ice past frozen islands to the Trans-Antarctic mountains and beyond. You could almost imagine yourself flying on to the South Pole itself, hundreds of miles in the distance beyond the curve of the horizon. On the summit was a hewn wooden cross, a simple memorial commemorating explorer Robert Falcon Scott and his party, who died on their return trek from the Pole in 1912. The final lines of Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson are inscribed on it. Here are these moving final lines in context of some lines from the verse itself:
Come, my friends, ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off…for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Back to the ship to rejoin the rest and have a sublime meander along the sea ice edge, the sea surface glittering in the afternoon sunshine with Emperor Penguins frolicking amongst open pools, back and forth under the ship’s bow. As the sea surface began to freeze, perhaps the beginning of the winter ice-up, it was time to turn our bow north. Our ‘Farthest South’ was Latitude 77o52.9’South; Longitude 166o32.7’East at precisely 17.37hrs. It marked the climax of what was an unfathomably great day. With hearts cheered and minds full of immeasurable memories, we now headed north back into the Ross Sea.
Friday 27 February
Noon position: Latitude 75o18.4’South; Longitude 168o50.8’ East
Air temperature: -5oC Sea temperature: -0.1oC
Gourmet Grub: Cauliflower and cheese soup / Irish beef stew with mash / New Zealand salmon with greens / Rich chocolate tart
Profound Question: “What was the Ross Sea called before Ross discovered it?”
Quote of the Day: “Everyman has the right to risk his own life in order to preserve it.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Rodney Quote of the Day: “If life throws you boulders, make stepping stones.”
Our day at sea provided a chance to try and process all the thoughts – not to mention photographs – of the last few days. Just incredible. To have landed at one of the historic huts was a prize worth the whole trip, but to have visited all three in quick succession was just mind blowing! It was time too to return to the lecture room, for a unique presentation by one of our passengers.
Shackleton’s hut was special for many reasons, not least of which was the chance it gave us to reunite one passenger with her family history. On board was Jenny Gardner, a teacher from Australia, whose great-grandfather was the eminent geologist Sir Edgeworth David. David travelled with Shackleton and Mawson and supported many of their expeditions. Jenny had tried to visit the hut before, but at last with Heritage she was able to fulfil her dream.
Tannatt William Edgeworth David was born in 1858 in Wales. By the time of the Nimrod voyage, Shackleton’s first Antarctic expedition as leader, David was Professor of Geology at Sydney University. He was persuaded by Shackleton not only to join the expedition but stay on for the winter and lead their scientific efforts. He was 49 years old yet proved himself a crucial member of the team. He led the party that made the first ascent of Erebus, before the long winter darkness set in. The following spring he was tasked by Shackleton to take two companions to go and find the South Magnetic Pole.
In 1829 Sir John Ross had left England to lead an expedition to the Canadian Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage. During this expedition his nephew, James Clark Ross, took command of a sledging party that in 1831 located the North Magnetic Pole. In 1839-42, James Clark Ross sailed south on a voyage of exploration to the southern oceans and Antarctica. Discovering and charting the ice shelf, which now bears his name, Ross also hoped to locate the South Magnetic Pole and thus be the first to reach both. In this respect he was unsuccessful, but he did determine that the Pole lay inland from Victoria Land, which he could not reach.
Nearly seventy years later, Shackleton sent David, Mawson and Dr Alistair Forbes Mackay to complete the task. Using neither dogs nor ponies, the men hauled their sledges for the entire journey and on 16 January 1909 at 72°15’S and 155°16’E they raised the Union Jack, thus successfully completing one of the expedition’s main aims. It was by no means an easy journey for the three men – man-hauling heavy loads over the sea ice, huge distances over uncharted terrain, countless glaciers to cross, falling down crevasses, suffering frostbitten toes, near madness, and almost continual hardship. Shackleton of course took most of the credit for their achievements in later years, but David’s role really ought to be considered more. The first ascent of Erebus and the haul to the South Magnetic Pole were both journeys of real significance and scientific merit. They are both great stories too. We have enjoyed a number of lectures about aspects of this expedition whilst in the ice, revisiting many of the places where the adventure unfolded. It is incredible when history comes alive in this way.
A Lieutenant Colonel in WWI, David returned to Australia and was awarded the DSC in 1918 and then knighted in 1920. Well-liked by his fellow explorers and admired by the scientific community, David died in 1934. In speaking at the Pacific Rim Conference, Professor Carey gave this suitable tribute to David’s legacy: “We honour you as a trail blazing scientist. We were inspired by your leadership and courage. We were humbled by your grace and humility. We loved you for your compassion and charm.” Mostly forgotten now, David’s achievements as a man of science and a supporter of exploration certainly deserve wider recognition.
Following Jenny’s presentation, more fine lectures followed. The ‘Last Place on Earth’ film continued its steady showing and then ‘Mo Rocks!’, aka, more stones and stuff from our enthusiastic and very experienced geologist. Many of us returned to the lecture room a final time at 17.00 to view ‘Ice Bird’. This covered the life history of the Adelie Penguin and covered many aspects we had wondered about. Conversation continued upstairs into the bar and by the time dinner was called all were hungry. We retired to bed hoping to be able to land at Cape Adare.
Saturday 28 February
Noon position: Latitude 72o06.2’South; Longitude 172o12.2’East
Air temperature: -2oC Sea temperature: -0.1oC
Gourmet Grub: Chicken and grape salad / Chatham Island blue cod with perla potatoes / Pork cutlets with star anise / Lemon cheese cake
Profound Question: “Why is the sauna so hot?”
Quote of the Day: “Happiness is pretty simple: someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to.” – Rita Mae Brown
Rodney Quote of the Day: “Let’s wait, let’s be patient. It’s a gamble, but the whole of life is a gamble.”
Huw’s eighth lecture ‘Antarctica: Heroic Past, Global Future’ began the day, with its broad resume of the last 400 years of history, intertwined with contemporary geopolitics, lots of rare images and of course pretty pictures. Yet more of the ‘Last Place on Earth’ docu-soap to follow, but after lunch a good film by Natural History New Zealand, ‘Emperors of Antarctica’. This dealt with the life cycle of the Emperor Penguin and was made by Max Quinn during a winter at the Cape Crozier colony on Ross Island. Now that we have been fortunate to view Emperors ourselves, the programme had a special significance. At 17.00 Samuel gave another excellent lecture entitled ‘Icebergs’ after which many headed straight to the bar to toast the past few days with more ice – in their glasses of scotch.
Sunday 1 March
Noon position: Latitude 68o40.0’ South; Longitude 172o16.1’ East
Air temperature: -2oC Sea temperature: 0oC
Gourmet Grub: Smoked salmon sushi / Venison pie with honey roasted carrots / John Dory, lemon yogurt pasta and broccoli / Rich Chocolate tart
Profound Question: “Does the midnight sun set above the horizon?”
Quote of the Day: “I now belong to a higher cult of mortals, for I have seen the albatross.” -Robert Cushman Murphy
By late morning we were chugging though scattered floes and nearing Cape Adare. There was some excitement on board, with fingers crossed in anticipation that we may make a landing on our second attempt here. Here men including Carsten Borchgrevink had landed from Henryk Bull’s whaling ship Antarctic in January 1895, this being one of the first early landings made in Antarctica. Borchgrevink had then returned in 1899 to lead the first party to spend a winter on the continent.
It was little surprise though that our tremendous luck would finally run out. We were unable to land due to thick fast ice near the shore. Antarctica nonetheless gave us a sublime send off. We admired large tabular bergs on their slow drift north but also a pod of some ten Fin Whales racing alongside the ship, cavorting like dolphins in our wake, and surging at tremendous speeds under our bow. It was a sight Huw had never seen, truly a one off. Rodney wore a smile so broad across his face that it rendered him speechless – seeing that you realise that this was an incredible thing to witness. What magic! Thank-you Antarctica.
Downstairs into the lecture room and Mo led off with his lovely infotainment on life as a geologist on an expedition to South Georgia in the early eighties. This was followed by a little more ‘Last Place’ and another dose of retail therapy with the opening of the Sea Shop. After another fine lunch many viewed the documentary ‘Blackfish’. This focused on the catching of Orca with several then kept and later bred in captivity by Sea World. Unfortunately it has also cost the lives of two trainers. There is still much to learn about the biology and life of these amazing whales. It is a tremendously powerful film and one that everyone should watch if they have the chance. It may yet bring a large company to its knees and change the way people understand the value and sense of keeping Orcas in captivity.
We rolled our way to the northwest in sunshine, but the seas strengthened as the day progressed. It was a taste of what was to come.
Monday 2 March
At Sea, Southern Ocean
Noon position: Latitude 65o16.0’ South; Longitude 166o48.3’ East
Air temperature: 0oC Sea temperature: 0.8oC
Gourmet Grub: Beef cabbage wontons / Southern lamb shoulder / Rolled roast pork and dauphinoise / Moonshine marshmallows
Profound Question: “Does the ship produce its own electricity?”
Quote of the Day: “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.”
Rodney Quote of the Day: “Life is life. It is what it is. Full stop.”
On this day in polar history: 2 March 1958. Scott Base. Sir Vivian Fuchs and the Trans-Antarctic expedition finally complete the first crossing of Antarctica.
During the night we pushed our way through the pack ice but the swells increased with the hours. A few fulmars and a Wandering Albatross were seen this morning but otherwise sightings have been sparse. Mind you, it is difficult to spot wildlife when down in the lecture room!
That said, we had another really satisfying day of presentations. Huw kicked off with ‘The Conquest of Everest’, showing rare photographs of the first ascent in 1953, from his recent book which he had the honour of making with veteran New Zealand mountaineer George Lowe.
Samuel gave a brilliant personal account of his own adventure, ‘Wintering in Antarctica’, describing his 15 months at the French station Dumont d’Urville. There was much of interest for us. He began with a history of France’s station including the cooperative venture with Italy at Concordia on the Polar Plateau, 1,000 km from Dumont d’Urville. Other themes included Samuel’s ornithology with the banding of birds along with the attachment of small data loggers and for seals, more elaborate transmitters. France, which has banded birds since 1953, works closely with Australia on the project. The lecture concluded with an insight into life at the station and we could see why Samuel enjoyed his time there.
Next came a screening of the incredibly important film ‘The Last Ocean’. This focused on the tooth-fish industry in the Ross Sea. Dissostichus mawsonii is named after Sir Douglas Mawson and is popularly termed the Giant Antarctic Cod. A similar species, called the Patagonian tooth-fish, and known in restaurants as Chilean Sea Bass, is caught by ships operating from South America. There is a need for greater knowledge of the physiology of the species and for creation of a Marine Reserve, which is being strongly promoted by New Zealand with support from other countries, but at the moment there seems little international agreement or political will to do the right thing here. One hopes that common sense will prevail. Like the ripples from a pebble thrown into a pond, no-one knows for sure the impacts that will occur to the ecosystem following the inevitable overfishing. But one can be sure it’s not going to be good. So we must stop before it’s too late.
The evening concluded with Huw and Dale hosting some ‘Profound Passenger Questions’ in the bar, sharing insights gleaned from many years in the polar regions and the last couple of weeks of inquisitive journeying. Many of these pearls of human wisdom can now be found scattered throughout this Log. Suffice to say, there is no such thing as a stupid question, just sometimes the answers are obvious, or rather the simple questions are just too metaphysically deep as to make an easy answer possible. The greater crime though is never to ask a question at all!
Tuesday 3 March
At Sea, Southern Ocean
Noon position: Latitude 61o10.0’ South; Longitude 163o02.0’East
Air temperature: 2oC Sea temperature: 2.6oC
Gourmet Grub: Roast chicken supreme with spinach risotto / Porterhouse steak with roast potatoes / Chocolate mousse and honey snaps
Profound Question: “If it is January at North Pole, what month is it at the South Pole?”
Quote of the Day: “I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely seas and the sky, and all I ask is a square-rigged ship and a star to steer her by, and the wheel’s kick and the winds song and the white sail’s shaking, and the grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn breaking.” -John Masefield
Rodney Quote of the Day: “It’s going to get rough, but that’s what seas do. Think like Queen Victoria. Just lie back and enjoy it”.
Early this morning the swells gradually increased in size and intensity but the programme continued as long as possible. As the ship pitched and rolled and passengers did their best to keep chairs rooted to the ground, Huw gave his tenth lecture of the voyage, ‘The Crossing of Antarctica’. This included another selection of stunning original imagery from this very important, but often overlooked, expedition. Next, the blue Polar jackets were returned and a film screening of the Mt Erebus story ‘Solid Water, Liquid Rock’ took place. Then one of the passengers, Nick Cameron, the special guest geologist, admirably took the stage to expound on the past and future for this continent. His talk on ‘Consequences of Global Environments’ was thoughtful and wide-ranging, thanks Nick.
As the day drew on the weather worsened. A hardy few managed to return to the lecture room where Huw introduced the film ‘With Byrd at the South Pole’. This 1930 Oscar-winner was focused on All-American Hero Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd and his first Antarctic expedition in 1928-1930, during which the base Little America was established on the Ross Ice Shelf. From Little America, Byrd accompanied by pilot Bernt Balchen, relief pilot and radio operator Harold June and photographer Ashly McKinley, completed the first flight to the vicinity of the Geographic South Pole on 28-29 November 1929. This was achieved in a Ford Trimotor aircraft taking 18 hours and covered 1,600 miles. Byrd also took two further aircraft to Antarctica, 50 men, and 95 dogs including his own dog named Igloo, which was always destined to be the real star of the show.
Antarctic Petrels, Fairy prions, Antarctic Fulmars, Wilson’s Storm Petrels and various albatross could be seen in the deep troughs and skimming wave crests, but few now ventured outside. We crossed the Antarctic convergence into the night and the weather deteriorated even further. The storm that we knew was coming finally hit.
Wednesday 4 March
At Sea, Southern Ocean
Noon position: Latitude 58o13.3’South; Longitude 166o10.6’East
Air temperature: 5oC Sea temperature: 8oC
Gourmet Grub: Pork cutlets / Thai fish curry / Lemon cheese cake
Profound Question: “What is the altitude of the beach we’ll be landing on?”
Quote of the Day: “The greatest resource of the ocean is not the material but the boundless spring of inspiration and wellbeing we gain from her.” -Jacques Cousteau
Rodney Quote of the Day: “Red tape is only good for burning.”
On Shackleton’s expedition, 100 years ago today: 4 March 1915. “Bright sunshine all day, and the work of the ice ‘dog-loos’ continues. The dogs are housed in them. Endurance still trapped immoveable.”
The storm was inevitable. “It’s all part of the process”, “it’s a rite of passage”, “there’ll soon be a calm”, “after every gale comes a rainbow”, and so on, ad nausaeum. All these platitudes provide scant consolation when you’re lying in your bunk feeling ill. This Log is by necessity somewhat short today as writing is difficult. I have to hang onto my chair as I type one-handed and the computer frequently flies across the desk. My mug of tea is on the floor and all lectures are cancelled as it’s not really safe for most to leave their cabins. All the storm doors to the outer decks are battened down and porthole covers bolted shut. At its height when the depression passed us, winds were gusting gale force, perhaps 70knots or more. The ship rattled and crashed with each wave, lurching in all directions. There is no option but to grin and bear it, knowing that it must eventually pass. Reading is difficult, sleep for most almost impossible. The chefs work gallantly in the galley to produce meals that are tasty, but few manage to eat or keep down. After the highs of this past week, this is a low, but we will emerge the stronger for it.
As we slowly make our way north towards Campbell Island, the number of birds is increasing. From the bridge I see albatross and petrels, but little else besides, just endless mighty ocean. Magnificent, but I appreciate not everyone feels the same. Some of the waves send spray high over the top deck, others even manage to lash against the portholes of the cabins on the 500 level! Others even block out the sun…
Thursday 5 March
At Sea, Southern Ocean
Noon position: Latitude 55o01.0’South; Longitude 166o58.7’East
Air temperature: 7oC Sea temperature: 10.5oC
Gourmet Grub: Beef stew with roasted carrots /Thai green fish curry / Sticky date pudding with caramel sauce.
Profound Question: “Are any icebergs volcanic?”
Quote of the Day: “Not all those who wander are lost.” –Tolkien
On this day in polar history. 5 March 1924. Herbert Ponting releases a feature-length version of his Scott film, The Great White Silence. His film is later purchased for the nation by the British Empire Film Institute. In 1933 he releases the first sound version of his film as Ninety Degrees South.
Another challenging day with high seas and all lectures cancelled. Difficult conditions throughout. Chairs were stacked up by the storm downstairs making it almost impossible to even climb into the lecture room to tidy things up. The swell moderated by mid morning, although there were still wind gusts of up to 50knots. Fortunately it is much calmer now than last night when many people found it impossible to sleep. The promise of landing tomorrow lifts spirits. Numerous sightings of Storm Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters, though only a few outer deck areas are accessible as the storm still vents its fury.
Most spend their time relaxing on bunks, reading and taking tea in the lounge, persevering with Scrabble, sorting through photographs, or trying to write final cards to home. Despite the difficult conditions, an excellent dinner is prepared by the lads: beef stew or fish Thai curry, and sticky date pud to finish. We punch our way to the northeast through swells, with light falling fast, rain pouring, 30-40knots of wind and speeds possibly on the increase. Most went to be early, hoping for calmer seas.
Friday 6 March
Noon position: Latitude 52o32.9’South; Longitude 169o409.5’East
Air temperature: 11oC Sea temperature: 10.3oC
Gourmet Grub: Antipasto platter / Sticky beef pancakes / Pan seared chicken with roast kumara / Pavlova
Profound Question: “Do penguins really go out in this sort of weather?”
Quote of the Day: “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.”
Rodney Quote of the Day: “Heading up to look at Albatross colony is like visiting a student flat – nothing gets going until the afternoon.”
Strange to say, but true, it’s a joy to be standing on firm land in the pouring rain! Let’s back up a little to the day’s events. In leaden skies heavy with rain – looking rather like the Scottish Highlands – we motored the Zodiacs in shore to the jetty under Beeman Hill in Perseverance Harbour, across slate-grey waters full of Sea Lions. It was a busy day and a blessed one, a chance to get off the ship after almost a week at sea. We organised our gear and a cut lunch for the day out and after a briefing by Rodney, the North-West Bay group set out at 9.30am on their 12km-ish ‘walk in the countryside’. It would become a satisfying but fairly epic undertaking for some of the walkers (more of that later).
The majority opted to head up the boardwalk for Col Lyall led by Samuel and Agnes. The mist rolled in and many described it like walking within a cloud, but the close encounters with Southern Royals in the tussock more than compensated for the lack of sunshine. It was a warm and sultry day despite this, and many of the Royals sitting on chicks would lift their bodies to let their little ones catch a cool breeze. This offered privileged and tantalising glimpses for our merry board walkers. They had also enjoyed spectacularly playful performances from the resident Sea Lions in and around Tucker and Garden Coves. Showing no fear, and naturally inquisitive, this was a nature experience to cherish. If only everyone could enjoy behaviour in the wild like this, but I suppose that is what makes this place so special. The remoteness of this island will ensure its survival.
The 115km2 island was discovered by Captain Frederick Hasselburgh of the sealing brig Perseverance in 1810, the same year as he found Macquarie Island, and was named for his employers Robert Campbell & Co of Sydney. The weather can be summarised as typically British – cool, cloudy, wet and windy, often all in the same day – though of course much more extreme than Britain! The island only receives 650 hours of bright sunshine annually and less than one hour on 215 days (59%) of the year. We would have to take our chances with the weather, but expect rain and prepare for it.
Meanwhile, en-route to North-West Bay, the other team of hardy trekkers was bush-bashing, peat-plodding, and gully-scrambling their way slowly uphill and inland, inching towards the west coast. One section involved walking up a recent landslide, another crawling on hands and knees down a ravine, or brushing through chest-high snowgrass with Sea Lions for company. It was not an easy hike by any means, but it was a satisfying one, and like the ramble on Enderby Island it will no doubt improve in the retelling. We had glimpses of sunshine, a handful of Snipe and a soft and steady drizzle for much of the afternoon.
A damp lunch was devoured near the hut on the west coast before a quick turnaround over the fells and ridges to return to the ship. A highlight for many was Rodney’s discovery of a pair of Campbell Teals enjoying a peat pond at about 200m elevation. For a man whose life has been so committed to their cause, it was touching to see how pleased he was. We joined him in hushed celebration, admiring these plucky ducks – the world’s rarest, and now fighting back from the brink of extinction they are resurgent on this remote island.
The bar-library was a lively place during the evening in the run up to a well earned dinner, full of good stories and warm humour. It was also the setting for the much anticipated LIMERICK CONTEST. Inspired by maritime tradition and dubious polar word play, this limerick-fest was organised by Dr Huw. Passengers offered their entries during three days deep in the Ross Sea. In all some 144 ‘limericks’ were submitted, in addition to a few suggestion-box comments, postcards, and a Valentine’s day love letter scrawled on a sick bag. Sadly, most were not limericks but some certainly deserved maximum points for style! The judging panel narrowed down this trove to just a final twelve entries to be presented as a competition, with the winner chosen by the group. Space in this log (not to mention taste and decency) prevents the publication of the many descriptively-rich entries, but voyage participants will receive a copy in due course. The winning entry was a double verse limerick referencing the recent engagement of passengers Pru and Si. It was a fun competition and ensured many a good laugh long into the evening. Heroic Age expeditions often featured verse contests like this. They were a good way to keep spirits up and minds occupied. Shackleton and his men did this kind of thing most Saturday evenings on the Endurance voyage, singing songs accompanied by the banjo, making up poems and limericks, giving lectures, even performing plays and always making sure to lift a glass with the toast “To Sweethearts and Wives”. It was met with the standard refrain, “May they never meet!”
Saturday 7 March
Noon position: Latitude 52o33.0’South; Longitude 169o09.6’East
Air temperature: 9oC Sea temperature: 10.2oC
Gourmet Grub: Blue cheese and spinach gnocchi / Rib eye steak with duck fat potatoes / New-Zealand salmon with pumpkin puree / Tiramisu
Profound Question: “Do seals ever get seasick?”
Quote of the Day: “Think wisely, plan boldly, act swiftly.”
Rodney Quote of the Day: “Has anyone got any sun lotion?”
Saturday dawned with gathering clouds, yet by mid morning the sun burst through. We encountered light airs from the southwest with blue skies. Most had enjoyed a luxuriously calm night’s sleep anchored as we were in Perseverance Harbour. Our patience and perseverance truly paid off, as this really was one of the finest mornings on the whole expedition.
Some of the team headed off with Rodney’s Zodiac flotilla in search of the elusive Campbell Island Teal (they later found ten or so), whilst a second party with Agnes, Huw, Mo and Dale headed on the boardwalk inland up to the Col Lyall Saddle. What a difference a day makes! Efforts were rewarded with breathtaking and far reaching views over the west coast, Southern Royals on nests and wheeling in the sky, inquisitive Campbell Island Pipits in their hundreds, and a carpet of purple daisies – the stunning Pleurophyllum speciosum – still in vibrant late bloom.
Other bird sightings included a pair of Wanderers, rafting Sooty Shearwaters, Black-browed Albatross, the Campbell Island Shags, and some Yellow-eyed Penguins foraging up the fjord.
By 12.30 everyone was back on the ship for lunch, well satisfied, well tanned, and thankful for a magnificent Campbell Island day: the very best of the Subantarctic. With the last Zodiac operations completed, we thanked our drivers Samuel, Huw, Mo, Agnes, and even chef Connor, for their efforts throughout the voyage, but special cheers of course to our leader Rodney.
While we waited at anchor for an extra hour for the crew to do some maintenance work on the engines, in advance of dry dock in New Zealand, the film ‘The Battle to Save Campbell Island’ was shown at 14.00. This documented the tremendous effort to eradicate all rats from the island which set the benchmark for work across other Subantarctic islands in more recent years. By 15.00, having returned lifejackets, poo bags and simultaneously readied ourselves for some bird watching (all discussed in the same instructive PA announcement) we were ready to weigh anchor in glorious sunshine. And so began the last leg for home as we looked forward to a good dinner and a long sleep accompanied by the steady roll of the ocean.
Sunday 8 March
At Sea, en route to Lyttelton
Noon position: Latitude 48o43.5’South; Longitude 170o17.2’ East
Air temperature: 12oC Sea temperature: 12.5oC
Gourmet Grub: Prawn rice wraps / Rosemary and maple glazed pork loin and apple sauce / Lamb rump with honey roasted carrots / Chocolate and raspberry tart
Profound Question: “How long is happy hour?”
Quote of the Day: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” –Douglas Adams
Rodney Quote of the Day: “So, Huw, have you finished the Log yet?”
An avalanche of flowers (sadly, plastic) this morning greeted the lovely Agnes at staff breakfast – today we celebrate ‘Women’s Day’. It was a nice way to begin another happy sea day, a lazy Sunday, making great progress in gentle swells heading for the southeast coast of New Zealand.
The day’s programme started at 9.30am with a short film, ‘The Impossible Dream’, outlining a small event of huge importance: the re-discovery in 1975 of the Campbell Island Flightless Teal on 26-hectare La Dent Island. Thought to be extinct, a conservation effort has brought it back from the brink. Our illustrious leader Rodney Russ was the man who found these birds and set the events in motion that led to its survival there. Well done Rodney!
The second part of our Sunday morning double-feature was a short film from the 1940s on the ‘Cape Expedition’, showing black-and-white footage of coast watchers on the Subantarctic Islands. It was fascinating to see many of the places we’ve just visited in rare film captured for the very first time.
Following this at 11.30am, Huw gave his lecture, ‘Across the Arctic Ocean’, on the life of polar explorer Sir Wally Herbert and the successful completion of yet another ‘impossible dream’: to make the first crossing of this vast frozen ocean. Wally first went to Antarctica as a young man in 1956, spending two winters at Hope Bay and learning to navigate by the sun and stars. He mastered the art of sledging with dogs and was leader of the team that made the first crossing of the Antarctic Peninsula. During his first Antarctic season on the Ross Sea side he would map 10,000 square miles of previously unexplored country and overwinter at New Zealand’s Scott Base. As leader of his own field party in 1962 he covered 21,500 square miles of the Queen Maud Range, with his geologist securing the richest collection of plant-fossils yet found on that frozen continent. As surveyors, they opened the gateway to the Pole, retracing Amundsen’s route through the mountains down to the Ross Ice Shelf. They came home with a string of records and first ascents but – most important of all – they returned with the maps they had made. This was real exploration.
Four years later Wally led an arduous 1,500-mile training expedition over some of the most difficult terrain in the Canadian Arctic. After years of grinding preparation work, he set out with three others in February 1968 to attempt that impossible dream, the first surface crossing of the Arctic Ocean, a surface as unstable and unsafe as anywhere on earth. There would be no rest, no landfalls, no safe haven, no certainty and no precedent. On 6 April 1969 they finally reached the North Pole. Two exhausting and perilous months later, Wally and his team completed their journey, some 3,720 route miles in all. Their success was hailed by Prime Minister Harold Wilson as a “feat of courage which ranks with any in polar history”. In the opinion of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh it was “one of the greatest triumphs of human skill and endurance”. Yet as time passed public interest and attention naturally fell away and it is only in recent years that the significance of this journey is coming back into focus. Huw is a lucky chap to be married to Wally’s daughter Kari.
After a good lunch, we were making excellent progress with just 344 nautical miles to run before picking up a waypoint off Dunedin and heading up the east coast. Travelling well, spirits were high and Mo was up for his final lecture, ‘What we missed on the Snares’, which gave us a behind-the-scenes insight into expedition life on this marvellous island. At 16.16hrs, a Sperm Whale was sighted off the port bow! Rounding out an excellent day Dale gave a presentation on managing and maintaining these tremendous places entitled ‘Visitors to the Subantarctic Islands’. As we approached the New Zealand coast during the evening, sea birds followed the ship and gathered in its wake, with a number Northern Royal Albatross being seen.
Monday 9 March
At Sea, en route to Lyttelton
Noon position: Latitude 44o38.5’South; Longitude 172o28.5’East
Air temperature: 12oC Sea temperature: 13oC
Gourmet Grub: A Farewell Feast, almost limitless in its deliciousness. A buffet featuring a seafood platter of garlic prawns, mussels, smoked salmon sushi and salmon blinis; vegetable options of honeyed carrots, cauliflower, roast kumara, pumpkin, and four bean salad; and roast pork, glazed hams, rib eye steak and roast chicken; and lastly for dessert, apple crumble, chocolate tart and tiramisu.
Profound Question: “Is it forecast to be sunny tonight?”
Quote of the Day: “We shall not seek from exploration / And at the end of our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.” -TS Eliot.
On Shackleton’s expedition, 100 years ago today: 9 March 1915. “As no hope can be entertained of freeing ourselves from our icy fastness this season, and as temperatures are rapidly falling, we prepare ourselves to spend a winter aboard ship. Hurley out on floes filming in bright sunshine. After securing some fine photographs returns safely to the ship. All have an excellent tea and sound sleep.”
As the sun rose this morning, just after 7am, a green flash appeared on the horizon. The Russian sailors on the bridge cheered this good omen, a blessing from the ocean and a perfect way to start our final day. It was another beautiful morning at sea, running up the east coast of South Island under a full sun and balmy sea conditions. Albatross and White-Chinned Petrels skimmed the mill-pond surface. Laughter filled the air as we headed back inside to share breakfast. It’s Monday. Happy Man’s Day! Rodney is awarded his own bunch of plastic flowers from the team in admiration of his efforts this month. He’s a good boss.
For poor Agnes, it’s a hard Monday morning in the office, stoically working her way through accounts and other shipboard paperwork. Down below, at 9.30 we shifted our focus to the Arctic with the wonderful BBC film ‘Wilderness Explored’, which showcased the beauty and inspiration of the Frozen North. After a cup of tea and some fresh air upstairs it was time for Huw’s final lecture of the voyage ‘Polar Pals’. His “most academic lecture, honestly” which featured more great photography, some film, and even the tales of a little plastic pig. The theme was a relevant one though – a chance to think about how we tell our stories when we get home, a moment to reflect on new friendships and experiences, and to enjoy what we have seen and achieved in this past month on expedition.
At 13.00 the ‘last lunch’ was enjoyed, thanks again to the efforts of our hard-working chefs. From 14.30 onwards it was final judgement day. The moment many had been dreading – time to settle on board accounts! With everyone still just about financially solvent, by 17.00 our programme was wrapping up and we headed downstairs again to have the final session in the lecture room. Rodney hosted the ‘Expedition Recap’ in which we shared the highs and lows of our adventure and enjoyed Samuel’s elegant slide show of images and music.
It had been a lovely day of sunshine and admin, quiet reflection and backing-up – memories, photos, journals, addresses – with new friendships toasted over tea and cake, or rum and salt spray. In the bar-library there were more celebrations and even a little poetry, courtesy of Huw reading some of Shackleton’s favourites before dinner. By 19.30 the end of our gastronomic odyssey was in sight, with a suitably over-stuffed Farewell Feast. It also doubled up as the End of the Season dinner for the staff as Lyttelton appeared off our port bow and fluttering Shearwaters circled the ship. We anchored outside the heads in gentle seas and warm evening sunshine.
With the Pilot booked for 6am and our departure by 9am, this is the final Log entry. All that remains to be done is to complete packing, exchange contacts, clear customs and quarantine. The information and ship positions will enable you to plot our course on a chart when you get home and the brief narrative should be helpful when sorting through your photographic record. The limericks may only be a dim memory, but listen to those memories, for in them lives the essence of the ‘A-factor’. The happy times in Antarctica will call out to you when you least expect it. I’m sure you’ll be back. Perhaps a trip to the Arctic too? In the words of one of Shackleton’s favourite poets Robert Browning, “Do you hear the Little Voices?”:
They're calling from the wilderness, the vast and God-like spaces,
The stark and sullen solitudes that sentinel the Pole.
They miss my little camp-fires, ever brightly, bravely gleaming
In the womb of desolation, where was never man before;
As comradeless I sought them, lion-hearted, loving, dreaming,
And they hailed me as a comrade, and they loved me evermore.
And now they're all a-crying, and it's no use me denying;
The spell of them is on me and I'm helpless as a child;
My heart is aching, aching, but I hear them, sleeping, waking;
It's the Lure of Little Voices, it's the mandate of the Wild.
Oh Shackleton, he always was a bit of a softie! But, you get the point. He longed to return to the ice. The great white south, and the majesty of Subantarctic Islands rich in wildlife, all have this pull factor in abundance. They are areas to be cherished, to be treasured and to be spoken up for. Be ambassadors for these fine places when you get home, tell your friends and families of the adventures you’ve had. Do what Shackleton did too – feel free to embellish the story a little. A glass of whisky often helps. Don’t always let the truth get in the way of a good story!
But here’s one absolute truth. I know we’ve all appreciated the hard work of our Expedition Leader Rodney and his team, Captain Dimitry, his officers and crew, along with Natalia and her capable staff. Our knowledge of the Subantarctic Islands and Antarctica has been richly improved and the expedition will certainly be one that we will remember for many years.
In all we covered well over 5,000 nautical miles, and got back precisely on time. In a way nothing, and yet everything, has changed since we left. We return home to our daily lives and routines but remembering this – the joy of endless Enderby tussock, or the force of the Southern Ocean, perhaps the first sound of the sea ice under our bow, maybe the smell of old socks in Scott’s hut, or the simple feeling of sunshine on your face as you sit on a hillside surrounded by Southern Royal Albatross. Real happiness is to be found here. Do come again soon.
Day 1-2. Saturday 11; Sunday 12 January – Invercargill, Bluff and at sea
Noon position: Latitude 46o36’South; Longitude 168o.31’East
Positions and other data are taken from the Deck Log Book.
Air temperature: 14oC. Intermittent sunshine and light rain during day.
Over two days we arrived in New Zealand’s southern most city, Invercargill. Having settled in at the Kelvin Hotel, we enjoyed our last dinner ashore for some time and the opportunity to meet fellow expeditioners. Heritage Expeditions Operation Manager Nathan Russ welcomed us and gave a brief outline for activities next day.
In the morning David, Marcus and Max met us at the hotel where our luggage was checked, cabin numbers noted on labels and the luggage was loaded on a truck for transport to the Spirit of Enderby. David then took us to the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, although a few of us had visited here yesterday. Tuatara reptile curator Lindsay Hazley, who had a 23 year old male tuatara named Gunther resting on one arm, provided a very interesting explanation related to the biology of the animal. Henry the oldest Tuatara is estimated to be over 110 years of age and has a vicious bite that could take off a finger. Lindsay informed us that the earliest Tuatara in Invercargill was in the Athenaeum during the 1870’s. The creature was kept in a shower and was found by the cleaning lady who was bitten. This unfortunate creature was then killed and preserved in a glass jar. Working with the Department of Conservation (DoC), Lindsay’s goal is to see the animals released on islands on Fouveaux Strait, but only once the islands are rat-free. Some of us touched Gunther and were surprised how soft the leathery looking skin and spines along the top of his back felt. Most of us then enjoyed a look at the outstanding Roaring Forties exhibit on New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands. The film was excellent and interesting artefacts associated with the shipwreck and castaway era, farming and World War 2, provided a perfect introduction to some localities we hope to visit.
Back at the hotel we enjoyed an excellent lunch and then boarded a coach for Bluff and the Spirit of Enderby. Our documents were inspected by a security officer who boarded the coach and at the ship, Agnes and other staff showed us to our cabins where we were reunited with our luggage and familiarised ourselves with the ship. At 3.30 we assembled in the lecture room where Rodney welcomed us and introduced staff. Agnes then provided a very useful introduction to various aspects concerning the ship. Rodney followed with a white board demonstration on the two ship alarms (General Emergency and Abandon Ship) along with life jacket use. We left on schedule at 4.30. It was interesting to see the Bosun (Yuri) and crew working at the bow including putting in a case, the ship’s bell. Preparations were now made for the two Pilots to leave the ship. With little effort they boarded the Takitimu 11 which at times as it approached our ship, was surfing on big waves.
Because the sea was a little rough and to make life easier for the chefs, Natalia and her staff, the ship was put in a ‘holding pattern’ by the Shelter Islands off Port Adventure. The practical life boat drill, which by international law must be held within 24 hours, took place at 6.30. We then enjoyed a convivial hour in the Globe Bar and Library followed by a superb dinner, with baked salmon or venison stew, roast vegetables or salad served at 7.30. Course was set at 9pm for the Snares Islands where we hoped to arrive about 7am. To Starboard the coast of Stewart Island was visible through mist and steady rain. This evening some New Zealand Fur Seals were seen and bird life included Cape Petrels; Stewart Island Shags; Sooty Shearwaters and a Royal Albatross. With sea conditions expected to be a little rough, we were advised to retire early in preparation for an interesting morning.
Day 3. Monday 13 January – Snares Islands
Noon position: Latitude 48o20.41’South; Longitude 166o34.30’East
Air temperature: 10.4oC.
The ship rolled and pitched during the night, however most of us managed a few hours sleep. In the morning we woke to a busy sea with white horses and those on the 300 level, being close to the waterline had a good view of the sea and passing sea birds. By 8a.m we were nearing the Snares Islands with Broughton to port and North East Island and its Dampion Rocks to starboard. Through the gap between the two main islands, we could see in the distance the Western Chain consisting of five islands. Steep cliffs were topped by a dense vegetation of Olearia Lyallii or ‘white tree daisy’ and Brachyglottis stewartiae or ‘yellow tree daisy’ with a few patches of grasses. Large numbers of sea birds were wielding around the ship including Sooty Shearwaters, Diving and Cape Petrels, a Giant Petrel, Fairy or Fulmar Prions and Snares Crested Penguins. By now it was clear we would be unable to do a Zodiac cruise and this will be considered on the homeward leg. The Captain again placed the ship in a ‘holding pattern’ which enabled us to enjoy breakfast and rearrange our cabins.
Rodney provided an excellent commentary from the bridge. The Snares Islands were discovered in 1792 by Lieutenant Broughton (who had previously sailed with Captain James Cook). He later went on to discover the Chatham Islands. Sealing took place from around 1700-1800 with this activity decimating the population. Fortunately no rodents or other species established themselves. Today the Sooty Shearwater population is now estimated to be up to six million birds; more than all the sea birds combined around the British Isles coast. The birds live in burrows beneath the forest cover with the honeycombed ground hindering foot travel. We had a good view of ‘Penguin Slope’ which has been used by commuting Snares Crested penguins; perhaps for centuries. With the islands predator free, no one is able to land without a permit. There is just a castaway hut and a former Canterbury University hut (now used by DoC) on the Snares. At 10am we rounded Dampion Rocks and set a course of 140 nautical miles for Enderby Island. Sea conditions were then predicted to worsen along with reduced visibility.
After lunch, swells were getting up to around three meters and we had 13 hours to run until Enderby Island. By early afternoon, we were doing 8.8-9 knots and the swell had risen to 5m+ with wind gusting to 60 knots. Many of us lay down as it was becoming difficult to move around the ship. By the end of the afternoon, there was some superficial damage and the bar did not open as usual. Chefs Bruce and Michael did a superb job to ensure we had an evening meal. With the ship rolling and pitching it was far from an easy job, although was helped by a course change for 40 minutes. Margrit was fascinated with the view from the bridge saying the sea had ‘fifty shades of blue and green – I don’t have words to describe it.’ When the ship resumed course towards Enderby Island most of us retreated to our cabins.
Photo credit: A.Breniere
Day 4. Tuesday 14 January – Off Enderby Island
Noon position: Latitude 50o.32.5’South; Longitude 166o13.5’East
Air temperature: 10oC
Water temperature: 12oC
We reached our waypoint at Port Ross around 7am. A 10.4 knot wind was blowing and the sea had a generous coating of white. In places waves were shooting up the cliffs. As the sun came out the dense Southern Rata (Metrosideros umbellata) forest with some trees in flower and Dracophyllum scopoarium (Turpentine tree) looked beautiful in the early morning light. We assembled in the lecture room at 9am for a pre-landing briefing. This covered a number of important topics, all applicable to our landings. Rodney who has been venturing south since 1972, said the voyage from Bluff to the Auckland Islands, was one of the more difficult he had experienced. He then discussed the life jacket to be used for all landings, the tag board system, Zodiac embarking and disembarking procedure (there are five on board) and finally, the all-important quarantine measures. The landing on Enderby Island was postponed until the next day when more favourable winds of around 20-25 knots were forecast. Later in the morning Rodney gave a fascinating insight into the history of the Auckland Islands, as preparation for a visit to the site of Charles Enderby’s Hardwick Settlement (1849-1852) and nearby Terror Cove which was linked to the unsuccessful German Expedition (1874) to observe the Transit of Venus.
Lunch with a fine ravioli and parmesan dish was followed by Zodiac operations, with shuttles to Erebus Cove and Terror Cove. We alighted on a beach with basalt boulders, various species of seaweed, remains of large crabs with carapaces about 7cm across and numerous friendly sand flies. A stream flowing from beneath the Rata forest was stained black from trickling through peat and Samuel and some passengers obtained good photographs. The remains of a stores hut and a more recent boat shed stood nearby. From here we hiked up a board walk through Rata and Dracophyllum, to the lonely cemetery with poignant memorials such as those marking graves for Isabella Younger (died 1850) when just three months old; of Janet Stove (died 1851) when four weeks old, along with John Mahoney(died 1864)from starvation. The small cemetery has a nice picket fence and is surrounded by Dracophyllum and Rata with many trees in flower attracting Bellbirds. One pondered over whether any relatives were alive and knew of the lonely resting place. Returning to the shore, we then walked along the site of the Hardwick settlement road passing a quantity of bricks, perhaps indicating the site of a building or chimney, to inspect the Victoria Tree. The ancient Rata stump still has some of the original inscription carved in 1863. In due course the inscription will be lost and given the condition of the wood, probably little can be done to ensure its survival unless it is removed. It is perhaps better left.
Operating a shuttle system, from here we took a short trip to nearby Terror Cove and alighted on a similar boulder beach with wave-cut notch in the cliff of conglomerate. On a low terrace was the original instrument plinth of brick that once supported scientific instruments used by the German expedition in 1874, along with brick bases for other equipment on a low terrace beside the beach. While there many of us heard a Yellow-eyed Penguin calling. Soon after 5pm we were back aboard the Spirit of Enderby enjoying a convivial hour in the Globe Bar. Our chefs produced an exceptional meal with roast venison or John Dory fish, followed by pavolva with summer berry compote and Chantilly cream. The forecast for the following day was good so we hoped to have a full day on Enderby Island before moving south to Carnley Harbour on Auckland Island.
Photo credit: A.Breniere
Day 5. Wednesday 15 January – Enderby Island
Noon position: Latitude 50o30.46’South; Longitude 166016.85’East
Air temperature: 11oC
Water temperature: 12oC
We had an early start today which began with a wake-up call from Agnes at 6.15. This was followed by breakfast at 6.30, a briefing at 7.30, then lunch making with an excellent selection of fillings at 8.15. The weather did not look promising as we started our day in a persistent drizzle along with a light westerly. However by 9am the landing operation began and as waves broke on the beach at Sandy Bay, we were put ashore. Two huts used by parties which annually record the New Zealand (Hookers) Sea Lion population were on high ground nearby. Rodney outlined the way we would spend the day. The focus was on two walks – one across the island; the other that would take the more agile of us around the end of the island and back to Sandy Bay. We could expect to see perhaps 15 species of birds during our time here.
Simon Childerhouse of Blue Planet Marine, the organisation contracted by DoC, told us what his team would be doing over the next few weeks. About 270 pups have been born here this season to 250 females. This is the lowest tally since the 1980’s with a 50% reduction over the last two years. Males totalled 140-180 with the large dominant ‘beach-masters’ around 12-15 years old.
Participants on the long walk left before us, while the remainder had a leisurely walk along the high ground behind the Sea Lions and viewed their antics. Pups were often congregated in crèches with one gathering estimated to have 50-60 animals. Near the start of the excellent board walk across the island, was a magnificent Southern Rata covered in crimson flowers. Cassinia bushes were also in flower with the leaves emitting a distinctive aroma. About midway along the board walk, a male Southern Royal Albatross was sitting on its nest, a raised mound of soil with vegetation. Ron made it possible for Christine along with her determination, to see the nesting Albatross. Bones of two Albatrosses along with Auckland Islands Shag were also of interest. Rodney told us that there are 60 pairs of Southern Royal Albatross on Enderby Island. Those of us on the island crossing party only were taken for a short walk across the hummocky surface of grass and mega herbs. By walking in a line, an Auckland Island Snipe was flushed by David from grass along with a tame Pipit. By now the yellow Bulbinella rossi had finished flowering but we were treated to a large area of purple Anisotome antipoda. At one stage Rodney said, only two plants remained on the island but since eradication of cattle and rabbits, the mega herbs have rejuvenated. We then waked back to Sandy Bay where time was spent enjoying the Sea Lions.
Those who had walked around the end of the island were treated with some wonderful bird life. Red-crowned Parakeets were seen along with two having yellow in the head plumage, although these were likely to be hybrids. Other species seen included Yellow-eyed Penguins, a juvenile Brown Skua, Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross, Teal, Dotterels, Snipe, Tui in the Rata forest, Tom Tits, Bellbird and Auckland Island Shags. Near Teal Lake, the remains of a number of Prions probably represented a ‘Skua larder’. On the rocks near Derry Castle Reef 20-30 New Zealand Fur Seals were seen. The plant life was also of great interest. Jane identified four flowering ground orchids which included Thelymitra; Chiloglottis and Pasophyllum, along with a Gentian Centiana Iiilum from a summary of plant life compiled by noted botanist, the late Dr David Given. Unfortunately three non-endemic Milk Thistles were recognised. As with those on the shorter walk, the New Zealand Sea Lions were of interest with Brown Skuas (‘angels of death’) hovering as they waited for a young pup to stray from the crèche. Many of us saw the Derry Castle plaque. The original wooden plaque now displayed in the Southland Museum, was replaced by a photometric plaque placed in 1973 and later souvenired. The present plaque made by a monumental mason, was carried to the site a few years ago by Eric Roy (Member of Parliament for Awarua) and placed by Rodney.
All agreed that the day had been a most rewarding experience. When it came time to leave however the timing for boarding the rear of the Zodiacs had to be carefully judged. Although a few gumboots were filled, this did not match Rodney who although encapsulated in his wet/dry immersion suit, was often up to his shoulders as he steadied the Zodiac bow. Later drums of helicopter fuel were taken ashore by Zodiac and with assistance of the shore party were rolled up the beach. The chefs produced another excellent meal and at 9pm Katya began the interesting daily discussion as a list of bird species seen during the voyage was compiled.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 6. Thursday 16 January – Auckland Island
Noon position: Latitude 50o48.80’South; Longitude 160o04’East
Air temperature: 12.1oC
Water temperature: 11oC
About 3am the Spirit of Enderby left Port Ross and by 7 am we were entering Carnley Harbour, which is the caldera of the ancient Carnley volcano. The westerly wind made the sea choppy and we were treated to seeing large numbers of Shearwaters. Although partially cloudy, by 7.30 the sun had lit up the hillsides and vegetation with Rata on the lower slopes turning olive green leading to the yellow-brown of the grasses above. Bands of volcanic rock stood out and one could imagine some of these perhaps with icefalls, during the last glaciation around 10,000 years ago, although there were multiple glaciations prior to this. As we proceeded at eight knots up the harbour toward Tagua Bay, the Captain had his radar going, along with an echo sounder which registered nearly 80 meters of water below and in places a rocky bottom. We then anchored in Tagua Bay off Musgrave Peninsula (the centre of the volcano), opposite Adams Island and the Bosun raised a black ball on the foremast, signifying the vessel was stationary.
From the human history perspective, this is an interesting locality. Historic sites include the remains of the Grafton (1864) along with remains of the rock-walled hut (Epigwaitt the ‘house by the sea’); near the southern end of Coleridge Bay, the site of a castaway hut linked to the Anjou (1905); finger posts for directions to castaway depots; at the head of North Arm, the ‘Erlangen clearing’ where Rata was felled for fuel by crew of the Erlangen (1939) and coast-watcher huts from the Cape Expedition (World War 2).
Rodney called us together in the lecture room at 9am when the plan for the day was outlined. We were fortunate to have good weather as poorer conditions were expected on the 360 nautical mile voyage to Macquarie Island. According to the forecast, winds of about 35 knots from the south-west could be expected. However having a day at Auckland Island meant with favourable conditions, landings at Macquarie Island were more likely.
Two parties went ashore today. Twenty two led by Rodney prepared to bush-bash and wade through tussock and fell fields to the summit of Hill 360(m). This was the first group to depart and left at 10am. The hill was surveyed by coast watchers during World War 2 and Rodney mentioned that some years ago, he had found the original chain. The other group took the less strenuous option, by hiking from the landing place to visit the remains of the coast-watchers No.2 station; the first of three to be abandoned, then to continue to the restored look-out a short distance higher up. From here is a commanding view to the entrance of Carnley Harbour.
About noon the weather deteriorated with wind gusting to 15-20 knots (later 30 knots) along with rain and spells of light hail. Those who visited the coast watcher huts arrived back at 1pm having enjoyed their time ashore and settled into excellent salad and nachos for lunch. The huts they found very interesting along with sightings of Yellow-crowned Parakeets, Bell birds, also a green-flowering orchid Thelymitra longifolia and a club moss Lycopodium varium. No sightings were made of introduced pests such as mice, cats or pigs.
The hill climbing party also had a rewarding trip. It took around four hours to reach their objective with five nesting Gibson’s Wandering Albatross seen at the top. On the initial climb through bush and without a track, they were rewarded with sightings of Yellow-crowned Parakeets. One participant reported that on this part of the climb “one had to be a contortionist, as you clambered over and under bush”. However on reaching the tussock the going was no easier with Stephen saying “because of the peat beneath the tussock, it was a challenge to find suitable foot placement”. Once past the tussock, low scrub was encountered and on arrival at the top, the excellent views included the site where the Erlangen crew cleared Rata forest. In addition to encountering nesting albatross this group also saw Yellow-crowned Parakeets and experienced excellent botany with plants including the following also identified by Jane - Damnamenia; Helichrysum bellidioides; Bulbinnela rossi; Astelia subulata along with orchids Lyperanthus antarcticus, Aporostylis bifola and Corybas spec. It only took two hours to descend and all were back on the ship by 4pm.
This evening our chefs provided a superb meal starting with an entreè of antipasto which included fresh salmon, mussels, prawns, cheese, olives and sundried tomato. For the main course we had the choice of pork belly or lamb rack both of which were superb. The desert was a coconut pancetta with fruit compote. Katya held the species list meeting then everyone retired to prepare themselves for possibly two days of rough seas.
Photo credit: K.Ovsyanikova
Day 7. Friday 17 January – en-route to Macquarie Island
Noon position: Latitude 51o13.226 South; Longitude 165o49.090 East
Air temperature: 8oC
Water temperature: 11oC
When Agnes gave us a wake-up call at 6.15am most of us had enjoyed a good rest. We arose to a bleak day with rain and the sun trying valiantly to shine through. The anchor was lifted at 7 and by 8am with breakfast over we were heading away from Carnley Harbour. Once we had left the shelter of Adams Island the sea became very rough and as Rodney predicted, this worsened as we made our way towards Macquarie, a journey of 360 nautical miles. By mid-morning we were experiencing 7-8m high waves which often broke over the bow and bridge windows. The horizon came and went as the Spirit of Enderby handled the viridian coloured sea at 7 knots in a 20-35 knot south-westerly. It was worth being on the bridge to see the magnificent albatrosses, one of which a large Wanderer which stayed around the ship, as it took advantage of the air currents to glide with its wing tips gently brushing the surface. The galley provided a fine butter chicken on rice dish along with excellent fresh salad for lunch which was a great feat under the circumstances. Although many preferred to stay in the cabins, others spent some time on the bridge and about 1pm a pod of dolphins was sighted. By 7p.m we were over 4000m of water. The evening meal at 7.30 featured diced beef cooked with a splash of Moa Noir (a dark beer) along with a good serving of fresh broccoli, baby carrots and peas, rounding off the day perfectly. In his evening announcement, Rodney said he expected the wind to turn to the south about midnight, die down and then turn to a north or nor-west blowing 20 knots.
Day 8. Saturday 18 January – en-route to Macquarie Island
Noon position: Latitude 53o 13.207 South; Longitude 161o 29.9 East
Air temperature: 9oC
Water temperature: 10oC. Fog, with occasional light rain.
We had a good rest and in the morning arose to a moderately calm sea below a blanket of cloud with a lone Wanderer keeping us company. With better conditions the ship was doing 11.2 knots. At 8am we were over the Emerald Basin with a water depth of 3700-4000 meters. Our position was Latitude 53o03.857’S Longitude 162o 17.969’E. The origin of the name is a little obscure. A ship named the Emerald reported what may have been a green iceberg in 1821 and the ‘island’ was so-named. The present name Emerald Basin probably followed although who named the locality has not been established. We had 146 nautical miles to go and Rodney announced, we should reach Macquarie Island at 9 pm (7pm local ie Australian time) and that the latest ice map indicated clear water which should benefit our entry to the Ross Sea and McMurdo Sound. Another vessel, Kerry Packer’s Arctic P from Hobart had just left Macquarie and would be ahead of us. That vessel carries 12 passengers and has a crew of 25.
There was not a lot of bird life around, apart from the Wandering Albatross which was still with us. Other bird life up until that point had included (in addition to several species of albatross), Northern Giant, Cape (Pintado), White-headed, White-chinned and Mottled Petrels. Some Hourglass Dolphins were also seen off the bow. We were still over the Emerald Plateau with water about 4000 m deep and the ship rolling to 10 degrees. At noon we had 104.4 miles to go. After some of Bruce’s excellent bacon and egg pie for lunch, the afternoon was passed quietly. A few albatrosses and petrels were about and about five more Hourglass Dolphins were sighted. At 4.30 Rodney gave an excellent lecture on Macquarie Island. This introduction covered the history, geology (the island sits on the Australian/Pacific plate boundary), wildlife, pest eradication and the landings we hoped to do over the next few days. Fortunate to have Jane with us, we received further information on the origin of the iron and magnesium rich (ultramafic) rocks that had formed about six kilometres under the Earth’s mantle and have been pushed up.
Given the forecast, it was predicted that the wind on arrival should be from the west and 30-35 knots. The Spirit of Enderby would be on the east side of the north-south orientated island and we should stand a good chance of having perhaps two landings at the isthmus where the Australian station is located and further south at Sandy Bay. After a convivial gathering in the bar/library we sat down to an excellent meal after which we joined Katya for discussion of bird and mammal sightings today.
Photo credit: K.Ovsyanikova
Day 9. Sunday 19 January – Macquarie Island
Noon position: Latitude 54o33.97’South; Longitude 158o55.72 East
Air temperature: 7oC
Water temperature: 8oC
The ship arrived off Australia’s Macquarie Island at 30 minutes after midnight and at 8am we were positioned roughly mid-way down the island and opposite Mt. Law, one of several high points on the Macquarie Island Plateau. The westerly blowing as predicted, was whipping over the top and from around the southern end of the island, creating a choppy sea with white caps. A beautiful Light-mantled Sooty albatross was cruising around the ship. The vessel now moved back to Buckles Bay. By 10am there were spells of rain, the sea was still rough and in places spray was shooting up rock faces. We assembled in the lecture room for a briefing and met four staff who had been brought to the ship from the ANARE Station. They were Chris Howard a Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service ranger; Vicki Heinrich from the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne; Josh Tomasetti the station plumber and John Hodgson the station electrician.
By 11am and in better sea conditions, the first Zodiac was heading for Sandy Bay. This was a wet landing and Rodney again stood waist high as he helped the driver manoeuvre the Zodiac for stern disembarking. For three hours we enjoyed the groups of Elephant Seals with many sparring and attempting to bite, while others were content to lie on the beach and put up with others sprawled on top of them. There were the usual ‘trouble makers’ initiating sparring matches. We all enjoyed the experience of viewing the large Royal Penguin colony with 11-14,000 breeding pairs. Some of the birds had young chicks and the noise and smell was extraordinary, as birds entered the territory of others during their commuting to or back from the narrow stream that took them to the beach. The other large colony further north along the beach, was inhabited by many King Penguins. Not a lot of ground space here either and they too were maintaining a continual noise. A few chicks were visible with others or under the brood flap of vascularised tissue that folded down and over the young or un-hatched eggs. The birds did not take too kindly to an Elephant Seal moving through the colony to the water’s edge as we watched. A hut once used for field work with its roof covered in grass, appeared to be built from an early aircraft crate.
Back on board, Bruce and Michael had a wonderful selection of pizzas ready for our lunch. This set us right for the next part of our visit at Macquarie Island. At 3.30 we had a briefing in readiness for our landing at Buckles Bay. Again it was a wet landing requiring sliding over the rear of the Zodiac tubes and onto submerged, smooth rocks. The Macquarie staff met us at the landing place and kindly gave up a few more hours on their day off. In two groups we were taken for a walk along the western shore of the isthmus, where we saw Gentoo penguins, nesting Cormorants and Antarctic terns. Elephant Seals slumbering in clumps of tussock took exception to the intruders, snorting or grunting as we walked past. Many of us now know what an Elephant seal’s breath is like! We very much enjoyed our visit to the station and the hospitality extended to us. We were treated to scones with cream and jam, along with a cup of tea or coffee. Most of us had our passports stamped and the postmaster took delivery of our post cards. On the way back to the landing there was an opportunity to see some of Joseph Hatch’s steam digesters with excellent photographic displays mounted around the viewing platform.
When we reluctantly began our departure for the ship the wind had fortunately turned to the north and the sea was much calmer. Back on board we enjoyed a hot shower and a superb dinner with a choice of fish or rump of lamb. By 9pm we were passing the large King Penguin colony at Lusitania Bay where two steam digesters could be seen in the middle of the colony. As Rodney said in his lecture, the digesters were set up to process the penguins for their oil, however the day will come when they have corroded away and the penguins will again be in charge. By 10pm we were passing Hurd Point and on the next stage of our expedition that would see us traverse the Southern Ocean to the Ross Sea. As we left Macquarie Island, a pair of Orca was sighted along with a large number (perhaps 100+) of Antarctic Prions. Conditions now became a little rough again and following the daily discussion on bird sightings, most of us decided to have an early night to dwell on our marvellous time on Macquarie Island.
Photo credit: K.Ovsyanikova
Day 10. Monday 20 January – the Southern Ocean en-route to the Ross Sea.
New Zealand’s Scott Base 56 years old today
Noon position: Latitude 56o48.38’South; Longitude 161o39.121’East
Air temperature: 11oC
Water temperature: 5oC
The ship rolled occasionally during the night and in the morning we got up to a nice sunny day with scattered cloud. We were now on the Southern Ocean, en-route to the Ross Sea and Antarctica.
During the morning we made steady progress at 11.5 knots over water nearly 3700m deep. By noon we were in the region of the Antarctic Convergence (a temperature and salinity boundary of the Southern Ocean) about 90 nautical miles south of Macquarie. As the sea temperature falls 4-6oC (winter 1-3oC) to 2-3oC we expected to observe more oceanic birds owing to the upwelling of nutrients, then as we moved further south new species would appear. Before lunch we were shown a video relating to the pest eradication programme on Macquarie Island. This was an excellent production and complimentary copies were made available. Later Samuel delivered a lecture entitled ‘Seabirds of the Southern Ocean’. The well-structured pesentation was excellent and as a result we felt better informed about the various species of albatrosses, petrels, prions and other birds that we had already encountered, or would become familiar with during the expedition.
During the afternoon we enjoyed another excellent lecture in natural history with Katya’s introduction to ‘Cetaceans of the Southern Ocean’. This began with the origin of whales from land animals, followed by the various groups and different species. It was surprising to see what a wide variety we were likely to encounter. This lecture was followed thirty minutes later by the first of David’s lectures on the exploration of Antarctica. This focused on Sir Douglas Mawson and his first expedition to the establishment of ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition) including the founding on the continent of Mawson Station, later followed by Davis and Casey. Australia now claims 47% of the Antarctic continent. The sea was fairly calm with just an occasional roll. Of interest was the sighting of several King and Royal Penguins at Latitude 57o41’S 162o53.64E; a long way from home although Katya said this is not unusual for these penguins. After the excellent evening meal, the bird sightings were discussed and most people had an early night.
Day 11. Tuesday 21 January – the Southern Ocean.
Crossed 60o South and entered region of the Antarctic Treaty
Noon position: Latitude 60o22.943’South; Longitude 166o46.905’ East
Air temperature: 6oC
Water temperature: 5oC
We had a relatively calm sea during the night as we crossed the Antarctic Convergence, still evident in the morning with a little fog indicating the change in water temperature. At 8am we were at 59o 47.513S and 165o53.608E, and the fog was beginning to lift. A 25 knot south-easterly was blowing and the temperature outside was 2.8oC. Inside the ship we had a comfortable 22-23oC. There was not much colour to the sea today, which was a pale grey and only a Campbell Island Albatross along with a few Prions were about. At 8.28am we crossed our waypoint Latitude 60oS, a significant point as we were then in the region of the Antarctic Treaty. We were however still over deep water of about 4600m and during the day expected to pass over seamounts (mountains on the sea floor) with some rising to 201m, 264m etc below sea level.
To the south at Latitude 66o55’South Longitude 163o20’ East are the five Balleny Islands. Of volcanic origin and glaciated, these islands are north-north-west of Cape Adare. They were discovered in February 1839 by John Balleny commander of the vessel Eliza Scott and named in his honour by Captain Beaufort, Hydrographer to the Admiralty. With the most recent ice map (19 January) indicating little or no ice in the Ross Sea, Rodney planned to turn south at 165o East then continue southward at 175o with about 300 nautical miles to run before we reached McMurdo Sound.
Before lunch Part One of ‘The Last Place on Earth’, a film based on Roland Huntford’s book, also entitled ‘Scott and Amundsen’, was screened. From the bridge several albatrosses including Campbells, Grey-headed and Southern Royal were seen along with Shearwaters, Mottled and Black petrels. The best sightings of the day were three pods of 20-30 black and white Southern Right Whale Dolphins. These animals are distinguished by having no dorsal fin, a streamlined body and short beak. A pod of ten Pilot whales were also seen to starboard. During the afternoon our fine new blue Antarctic jackets were issued and these will no doubt feature in many photographs.
In the early evening Katya gave a further informative lecture on marine mammals. On this occasion the subject was the Pinnipeds (Seals) when the members of the three families were described - True Seals or Phocids; Eared Seals or Otariids and the Walruses. The Weddell, Crab eater and Leopard Seals were thought likely to make an appearance on our voyage and if we were lucky we could also see the Ross Seal. With the sea getting up from various directions, the captain turned the ship a few degrees to port to enable us to enjoy our evening meal of rib-eye steak or seared peppered fillet of salmon. At 9pm the ship moved back 10o to starboard. With a low pressure system hovering above the Southern Ocean, we took the hint from Rodney to make sure all was secured in the cabin and as usual, to have ‘one hand for the ship and one for your-self’. After a relaxing and interesting day we retired for the night.
Day 12. Wedesday 22 January – First icebergs and ice floes;
Denise’s birthday celebrated
Noon position: Latitude 63o 49’South; Longitude 172o 05’ East
Air temperature: 5oC
Water temperature: 2.5oC
We had a very comfortable night and arose to a calm sea, with a patch of sunlight emerging from cloud to shimmer on the Southern Ocean. We had been crossing the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge with shallower water depths, including the sea-mounts mentioned yesterday. At 5.20 am Valeriy the Officer on Watch, picked up an iceberg on the radar. This was soon visible as two towers and a beautiful deep blue band above the water-line, eight nautical miles to starboard. The first passenger to see the berg was Tim and Margrit, who was also on the bridge, was able to obtain a nice photograph. Last year, the first iceberg was sighted on 17 January at Latitude 62034.35’E Longitude 172o41.2’ E. On the second voyage the first iceberg was sighted on 16 February at Latitude 62o 41.2’ South and 169o 29.05’East. At 8am we were over 1370m of water and at Latitude 63o09.036’S Longitude 171o15.989’E. A number of Shearwaters and a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross were seen. This morning our day began with Bruce’s excellent pancakes, then Part 2 of the ‘Last Place on Earth’ was screened. By 11 am further icebergs were visible from the bridge and a pod of 10-12 blowing Orca were also sighted off the stern.
Samuel started the lectures for the day, telling us all about Sir James Clark Ross. This was a very appropriate topic, since we would soon be entering the Ross Sea first navigated by Ross in 1841. We received an excellent background to Ross’s Antarctic expedition by way of his early Arctic journeys and finally after Antarctica, participation in the search for Sir John Franklin. Ross’s two 32m naval ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror used by Franklin have never been found, although remains of his men along with equipment were.
By noon some of the crew reported seeing more Orca as we sailed under sunny skies. At 1.30 two icebergs were still visible at a distance and for those with good lenses, they provided an opportunity for further photography. The afternoon programme included a lecture and briefing by Rodney. This focused on the present ice situation and our route south; the Antarctic Treaty System and its governance; IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tourism Operators) obligations; along with what he hoped to achieve during our visit to the Ross Sea region. This was followed by the excellent documentary ‘The Last Ocean’ on the tooth fishing industry and the need for a marine reserve to be established.
During the afternoon three large Rorquals and ten Orca were seen and later a large male Sperm Whale accompanied by two other whales, was blowing as it moved along the surface. By late afternoon the weather was still fine with a little scattered cloud over the calm blue sea and we had good views of a few ice floes along with three large tabular icebergs. We passed a large berg to port, with a cave which had the most beautiful deep Prussian blue colour. The bar opened later than usual as the iceberg had precedence, and at dinner we celebrated Denise’s birthday, followed by the regular species list discussion which covered the last two days. By 11pm a superb sunset unfolded and together with a bright half- moon off the end of an iceberg, this presented a magnificent sight for the few people up and about.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 13. Thursday 23 January - Antarctic Circle 66o33’ S
Noon position: Latitude 68o02.514 South; Longitude 175o50.695’East
Air temperature: 5oC
Water temperature: 0oC
At 3am the crew sighted 10 Orcas and we crossed the Antarctic Circle at 03.43. It was appropriate that last evening the first Snow Petrels were sighted along with three Minke Whales. The temperature fell to -10C over night and in the morning the bright half-moon was high in the sky. This was a classic beautiful still Antarctic morning, with the sun out and a gentle swell perhaps due to a depression further south. The swell caused scattered ice floes and bergy bits, to rise and fall as if to music from an unseen orchestra. Ahead was a large ice berg tilted as if on the verge of capsizing.
Part 3 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ was screened and then we headed outside to view another large tabular berg with its upper surface harbouring numerous snow-filled crevasses to port. By now the floes had left us although we still had Snow Petrels along with the occasional Antarctic Petrel about the ship. Rodney advised that we hoped to be off Cape Adare at 8am in the morning. At 11.30 and in our newly issued jackets, we assembled on the bow for a special ceremony to commemorate crossing the Antarctic Circle. There was even a ‘hybrid Emperor Penguin’ present, although while the head was obscured, the body profile tended to give it away! Rodney dispensed a mug of mulled wine for each of us then read the following.
“By anyone’s standards this event is an auspicious occasion-very few people have crossed the Antarctic Circle by ship. So on this occasion we want to both celebrate the occasion and acknowledge its importance.
Today each one of us joins a unique group of explorers that have gone before us, not only showing us the way, but giving us courage to follow and to make our own destiny. We follow explorers such as James Clark Ross, Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, Sir Douglas Mawson, Richard Byrd, Sir Edmund Hillary and others, who pioneered new routes south of the Circle. Today we acknowledge them and their efforts.
Crossing the Circle also carries with it responsibility - a responsibility that those explorers who went before us took seriously which is part of the reason that we are here today. They advocated for the protection of these lands and wildlife that inhabited them, ensuring that future generations would have them to enjoy.
So today as we cross the Circle, I would like each of you to take this vow and receive the Mark of the Penguin - as evidence that you have crossed the Antarctic Circle and have taken the pledge which I am going to ask you to say after me.
Having endured the privations of the Roaring Forties, the rigours of the Furious Fifties and the ice-strewn waters of the Screaming Sixties to cross the Antarctic Circle, pay homage to those early explorers who have not only shown the way, but have demonstrated what it means to advocate for the continued protection of Antarctica and its wildlife and history. I [own name] hereby pledge that in accepting the Mark of the Penguin will, until I take my last expedition, advocate to everybody, even those who will not listen, the importance of the Antarctic and its wildlife and history.
Would you please step forward and receive the Mark of the Penguin.”
The Mark of the Penguin was then bestowed by Agnes. Ron then gave a moving tribute to his wife Christine who five years ago suffered an accident when scuba diving and against the odds, has proved she had the courage to bounce back and achieve a life-long dream of visiting Antarctica. The ceremony now over, some of us lingered on deck to enjoy the freshness of the weather with a 10 knot south-east blowing, before retreating inside. We then continued on our southerly course.
At 3pm David presented his lecture on the Southern Cross Expedition (1899-1900). This was the first expedition to winter-over on the Antarctic continent. Although a complex character, Borchgrevink had a team of competent scientists that left a remarkable record of observations. That ‘First Antarctic Winter’ the beautifully presented diary of Louis Bernacchi was available from the Sea Shop on board and makes compelling reading. The lecture was followed by the excellent documentary on the Adelie Penguin entitled ‘Icebird’ and a further two Minke Whales were seen at 3.45 pm. The bar opened earlier than usual and the evening meal with an entree of excellent prawns, a main of roast beef or Gurnard fish followed by a delightful desert was enjoyed by all. The bird list only contained a few species after which we prepared for a possible landing in the morning.
Day 14. Friday 24 January - Cape Adare, Robertson Bay, Possession Island
119 years ago today a landing was made on Ridley Beach (24 Jan.1895) from the ship Antarctic, during Henryk Bull’s whaling expedition
Noon position: Latitude 71o15.632’South; Longitude 170o17.427’East
Air temperature: 8oC
Water temperature: 0oC
We made an early start this morning in anticipation of a landing on Ridley Beach at Cape Adare. Cape Adare on the northern tip of the Adare Peninsula was named by Sir James Clark Ross for his friend Viscount Adare MP for Glamorganshire, Wales. We awoke to a slightly rough sea from a stiff westerly and were soon passing through scattered areas of brash ice, bergy-bits and floes with occasional Adelie Penguins. By 6.30 am the sun was breaking through and the supply vessel Italica en-route to Italy’s Mario Zuchelli Station was briefly sighted. An hour later peaks of the Transantarctic Mountains were sighted with between peaks, great glaciers descending below cloud. As we neared the Adare Peninsula we could see it was capped by a ‘whale-back’ cumulus cloud and Rodney drew our attention to many prominent landmarks beginning with Cape McCormick in the south along with the Downshire Cliffs of reddish brown volcanic rock. We also had an excellent view of dramatic Mt. Herschel(3335m) near the Hallett Peninsula, first climbed by the late Sir Edmund Hillary’s expedition on 27 October 1967. The mountain was named by Ross after John F W Herschel the noted English astronomer.
Soon after rounding Cape Adare, we entered Robertson Bay in 40-50m water. It was a beautiful sunny morning, the westerly had dropped and around us were nearly 50 icebergs of various sizes, many of which were along the coast and further north. On floes Adelie Penguins were also enjoying the outstanding Antarctic morning. As one floe passed and the obligatory penguin photo was taken, a passenger announced “Put there by the tourism board”. Great photographs were also captured of a hovering South Polar Skua. As the cloud base lifted great peaks on the Admiralty Range manifested themselves in all their glory. Mt Minto (4165m) named by Ross after Earl Minto First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, and with Mt Adam (4009) named after a senior Naval Lord to the right, both peaks were prominent against the pale blue sky. Mt Minto was first climbed by an Australian expedition led by mountaineer/geologist and prominent Antarctic personality, Greg Mortimer on 18 February 1988. Other peaks of interest included Mt Sabine (3718m). Unfortunately ice had built up from the westerly along the north and south shores of Ridley Beach, preventing a Zodiac landing. However Rodney was able to point out to us the historic huts on the edge of the large Adelie Penguin colony, along with the location of Nicolai Hanson’s grave which he and David had visited on various occasions. Sarah, Samuel, Dr Eric and others were able to obtain excellent photographs of the huts, which we hoped to be able to visit on our return north.
Many on deck were interested in the blue ice within small caves of a berg. The reason for the colour can be explained as follows. Firstly, snow appears white because air trapped between ice crystals making up the snow scatters, reflecting all wave lengths of sunlight back into our eyes. This is seen by us as white however, compacted glacial ice from which many icebergs are derived, retaining small ice bubbles which scatter light allowing the penetration of sunlight in particular, deep into the ice. Ice crystals absorb six times as much light as the red end of the spectrum as at the blue end. Since the ice absorbs most of the red light, only the blue end of the spectrum is reflected back at us to see. The best viewing is normally very old multi-year ice, although under certain conditions including with no sunlight present, the observer can be rewarded.
We left Robertson Bay and rounded Cape Adare at 11.40 and continued southwards off the Adare Peninsula, towards the Possession Islands where a message post was placed by Henryk Bull’s expedition 24 January 1895. As we progressed a belt of pack ice could be seen to the west. Late in the afternoon Rodney called us together for a briefing when he discussed the possibility of making a landing on historic Possession Island with its large colony of Adelie Penguins. There is some doubt as to which is Possession Island and which is Foyn; as charts vary. By 6pm two Zodiacs driven by Samuel and Katya, were shuttling us to a boulder beach on Possession Island. We had an interesting wet landing on the rounded shingle cobbles that rolled beneath our feet and on departure one of us had a rather unusual way of boarding the Zodiac. This was a most interesting landing and gave an opportunity to observe and photograph penguins along with their chicks at various stages of development and to enjoy the interesting volcanic islands and landscape. Cast high up on a beach ridge of the spit, was a wrecked wooden US landing craft still with its engine. This was lost from USS Edisto during a storm in the 1960’s and was rediscovered by Rodney in 1995.
Back on board we had a most convivial time in the Globe Bar, before enjoying a sumptuous dinner. The chefs really did us proud at a later hour, with seafood chowder, venison on rice/pork belly followed by a gorgeous desert with Black Doris plums, crumble and ice cream. The reading of the bird list was postponed, however there was some discussion over dinner at the non-appearance of the Southern Fulmar. Very few were seen last season. Late in the evening HMNZS Otago on fishery patrol was sighted. Although the early hours of the morning were particularly beautiful, most of us having enjoyed a special day turned straight after dinner.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 15. Saturday 25 January - Ross Sea – Terra Nova Bay – Inexpressible Island
Noon position: Latitude 74o06’ South; Longitude 169o 01’ East
Air temperature: 0oC
Water temperature: 0oC
Before breakfast (with eggs benedict made by Trudy) the Spirit of Enderby was passing volcanic Coulman Island. This large island was named by Ross in 1841, for his father-in-law Thomas Coulman. In 1902 Scott at the beginning of his National Antarctic (Discovery) Expedition, left a message post for the relief ships the following summer. The ice-capped island is three miles (4.8km) long and the highest point is 1998m (6555ft) while at the northern end is a point at 640m. A beautiful icefall was seen near Cape Anne at the southern end and talus cones had formed below steep couloirs. A large tabular berg perhaps 30 metres high, gave an approximation for the height of the island above.
We were passing over water 340 metres deep, the sea was very calm and two Minke Whales were seen. There was extensive brash ice with patches of water having an oily appearance in some places. To the west in Wood Bay lay extensive pack ice. We had some 120 nautical miles to run before we entered Terra Nova Bay later in the day. At 10am Part 5 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ was screened and Samuel followed this with a lecture entitled ‘Sea Ice – the eighth continent’. The lecture was well illustrated with easy to follow explanations which in addition to the present situation in both the Arctic and Antarctic, also covered such aspects as the importance of sea ice to indigenous peoples and wild life. By 2pm we were moving over a calm sea, a pale grey colour with reflection from the overlying cloud layer. To the west the coast and mountains were very bright and we could make out the beautiful volcanic cone of Mt Melbourne (2733m) named by Ross after the British Prime Minister Lord Melbourne. The volcano is not active though there are areas of warm ground along with fumeroles (chimneys of ice) near the summit. A long tongue of land extending to the entrance of Wood Bay terminates at Cape Washington.
During the afternoon many of us worked on our photographic collections or read in the excellent library. By 2pm Mt Melbourne (2733m) named by Ross for then British Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, became more prominent along with Cape Washington(275m)named for Captain Washington R.N., Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society (1836-1840). Weddell, Crabeater and Leopard seals were also spotted. At 4.30 David gave the first of his two lectures on Scott’s expeditions. Today’s lecture focused on the National Antarctic Expedition 1901-1904 with the ship SY Discovery, led by Commander R.F.Scott RN. The lecture emphasised the extent of science and geographical discovery achieved, including discovery of the Polar Plateau; the first Dry Valley, the Emperor Penguin colony at Cape Crozier and the farthest south journey at the time, to Latitude 82o11’South.
The weather outside was beautiful when Rodney called us for a briefing in preparation for a landing at Inexpressible Island in Terra Nova Bay. The anchors were lowered and our position was latitude 74o90.759’ South Longitude 163o45.8’ East. The landing got underway at 9.30pm and was a dry landing from the Zodiac in a small cove with large granite boulders we could step directly onto. From here we had about an 800m walk to the site of one of the most historic locations associated with Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition (1910-1913) indeed part of the ‘heroic-era’ of Antarctic exploration(1998-1917). Here following the winter spent at Cape Adare in 1911, the six-man Northern Party led by Lieutenant Victor Campbell RN, was forced in 1912 to excavate a cave in the ice as an emergency shelter when the Terra Nova was unable to collect them because of pack ice. After negotiating a way through granite erratic boulders left by retreating ice, we walked along the edge of an inlet where Adelie Penguins and Weddell Seals were seen. The rocks were of great interest and soon we arrived at the site of the ice cave which ablated away a few years ago. At least ten seal skeletons with skulls cracked where they were killed, an Emperor Penguin with parts of skin and some plumage and a rusty provision tin (perhaps Hunter’s oatmeal) were poignant reminders of some of the privations the Northern Party suffered when incarcerated for nearly 200 days. In the spring the men then sledged down the coast and arrived at Cape Evans. Before the end of summer two members of the party took part in the second ascent of Mt. Erebus. To cap the evening off, many of our party returned via the hill nearby from which a great view was enjoyed of the Priestley Glacier named for Sir Raymond Priestley geologist with Shackleton’s 1907-1909 expedition and of the Northern Party. Many had photographs taken with the midnight sun. Although it was a very late night, we all thoroughly enjoyed the rare opportunity to visit the historic site.
Day 16. Sunday 26 January - Australia Day
Terra Nova Bay – Gondwana Station; Ross Sea – Drygalski Ice Tongue
En-route to McMurdo Sound
Noon position: Latitude 74o42.415’ South; Longitude 164o 20.69’ East
Air temperature: 0oC
Water temperature: 2.4oC
During the night the Spirit of Enderby relocated to Gerlache Inlet. The day began with a 7.30 am breakfast where Eleanor and Robyn proudly displayed a tee-shirt with Australia’s flag, along with another on a stick in a glass, as they enjoyed vegemite (from a tube) on toast. Later several of us sang Waltzing Matilda. Breakfast was followed by a briefing for a landing in Terra Nova Bay. By 9am we were ready to begin our next outing which would also see us make a landing on the Antarctic continent. Nearby was the Korean supply ship BBC Danube and along the side BBC Chartering. The ship registered in St. John had a Russian crew.
We were soon enjoying the chance to photograph several Weddell Seals beside the beach and many of us walked up the hill to view Germanys summer only Gondwana Station. This was a tidy complex first established in the 1970’s with the initial hut on metal poles and beside the hut, containers and the main station building. A meteorological screen was nearby. An easy walk over gently elevated ground of granite and gneiss rocks and finer material, all products of freeze thaw weathering processes, provided an opportunity to photograph two Emperor Penguins. Although not with the bright colouration about the head, they were nevertheless still attractive and kindly posed for the many photographers – what would we do without digital cameras? We continued to the top and over a ridge from which nesting Skuas showed us their resentment at our intrusion. We then had an excellent albeit slightly distant view, of South Korea’s fine new Jang Bo Jo Station. This was a large complex and this year will have a winter-over party of 40. Sadly the quiet we had been enjoying was shattered when a Korean helicopter flew overhead to the ship. There was certainly much to see, including a rich array of plant life with red, yellow and grey lichens, mosses and algae requiring careful walking to avoid damaging the plants.
By 11am it was time to depart and after photographing a second Emperor Penguin, we made our way to the landing place. On the ride back to the Spirit of Enderby, a lone Adelie Penguin was seen sitting midway up the steep side of an iceberg. Some of the bergs were the most beautiful light turquoise, with one near the Italian Station, a deep ultramarine indicating that is was comprised of very old ice.The landing was certainly a highlight on our expedition as there was something of interest for everyone. It was also good to have a chance for a walk over the interesting natural landscape. Christine too was able to land and enjoy seeing the Weddell Seals, the nearby German station, the interesting geology and numerous icebergs from her wheelchair. As it was Australia Day, Richard who viewed from a distance in a look-a-like 1920’s balaclava pretended to be Mawson raised their National Flag and proclaimed:
‘I hereby proclaim Buxton Land. All land one kilometre north and south of 74 degrees 42.8 minutes South Latitude, of Terra Nova Bay, together with the Low Water Mark, to Longitude 163 degrees 54 minutes East, is hereby proclaimed Buxton land, this land being ideally suited for a retirement village in 2064, when the mean average water temperature is predicted to rise to 20 degrees Celsius and the air temperature to 25 degrees Celsius owing to Global Warming. God Save the Queen!’
The Captain had us moving southward while we enjoyed a lunch of hot chicken curry with coleslaw and cinnamon doughnuts. We then took an opportunity to have a rest and enjoy our photographs. After lunch we watched episodes 5 and 6 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’. By early afternoon we were well off the coast however looking at the landscape it made one think of the Northern Party and their long sledging trip back to Cape Evans, only to learn of the loss of the Polar party. Because of heavy pack ice built up against the south side of the Drygalski Ice Tongue and a light fall of snow, we only had a partial viewing of this vast floating glacier. The Drygalski Ice Tongue which is nourished by the David Glacier (after Prof. Edgeworth David), features in the South Magnetic Pole journey made during Shackleton’s expedition in 1908-09. After the evening meal when Australia Day was again marked with the National Flag on display, toasts and an excellent bottle of Main Divide pinot noir, the day ended quietly with the bird and mammal list discussion and preparation for our next landings.
Day 17. Monday 27 January – Ross Island – Cape Bird; Cape Royds; Cape Evans
Noon position: Latitude 77o33.586’South; Longitude 166o11.584’East
Air temperature: 7oC
Water temperature: 2oC
We arrived in Backdoor Bay on another fine morning with Mt Erebus standing majestically to port. The summit had a cap of cloud which gradually dispersed during the day. Other peaks, including Mt Discovery to the south, were concealed by cloud although the Western Mountains were clear, with viewings of the Ferrar Glacier, the entrance to the Taylor and Wright Dry Valleys along with Marble Point clearly visible. After a briefing the landing began at eight o’clock with us being dropped on the ice-foot at the head of the bay, where Rodney had previously broken off over-hanging ice with a spade. Here we saw four Weddell Seals including a pup from the latest breeding season and a number of Adelie Penguins from the Cape Royds colony; the most southern in Antarctica for this species. We had an enjoyable 25 minute walk over fresh snow and the dark scoria to Antarctica New Zealand’s green field wannigan (hut) where David had spent many enjoyable nights and devoured two Christmas dinners. We assembled at the edge of the ASPA (Antarctic Specially protected Area) and then 40 of us (the maximum allowed in the area at any one time) walked 100 metres down to Shackleton’s hut.
The hut was erected in 1908 and after brushing out feet, seven of us were able to enter the historic hut at a time. Inside David answered our many questions and provided interesting anecdotes acquired during the course of his research. Of particular interest was Shackleton’s signature on a label attached to a crate used as the head board on an improvised bed once occupied by Frank Wild in the area where the book Aurora Australis was printed. A total of 15 men spent the winter here. It was fantastic that Christine was able to visit the hut and by 10.30 having completed our visit including a walk around the edge of the ASPA and the Adelie colony, we were on our way back to the landing place. Of interest here was a young well-developed Weddell Seal born perhaps last October, that was using its teeth in addition to its flippers to enable it to reach the top of the ice where our group was assembled. Michael took a video and one could hear the rasping noise of the seal’s teeth on the ice.
While we were having lunch the captain repositioned the ship eight miles south, passing the Barne Glacier. A further briefing was held followed by our next landing at Scott’s Terra Nova expedition hut at Cape Evans, named for Lieutenant Edward Evans, second in command. The term ‘hut’ is a perhaps not appropriate for the prefabricated building erected in 1911. To enter this hallowed place from which Captain Scott left for the South Pole destined to never return, was a real privilege. The darkened interior had a unique ambience and unnerving tranquillity. We quietly conducted our own exploration of the many areas linked to Scott and other famous names who occupied the Wardroom, along with his men from the lower ranks who lived on the Mess Deck. Glenda found the place ‘sad but inspiring’; Tony was taken by the ‘magnificent conservation’ while Sherrel considered the hut ‘thought provoking’. Again David answered questions and we found the plan of the interior showing where the 15 officers (including scientists) and 9 men (including two Russians) spent the winter of 1911. For the second winter over, some staff left and new people arrived. Many artefacts such as two anchors from the Ross Sea Party ship Aurora, left on the beach in 1915 and the memorial cross on Wind Vane Hill to Mackintosh, Hayward and Spencer-Smith of the Ross Sea Party were seen and photographed. All too soon it was time to leave. Anchors were raised and we departed on the next stage of our expedition.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 18. Tuesday 28 January – Ross Ice Shelf; Ross Island – Cape Bird; McMurdo Sound ice edge. Chef Bruce’s birthday
Noon position: Latitude 77o13.004’South; Longitude 166o24.780’East
Air temperature: 7oC
Water temperature: 2.6oC
At 1.30am Rodney made an announcement that we were approaching the Ross Ice Shelf. The sun low in the sky was very bright however, as we neared Cape Crozier and the vast ice cliff, it was less of an influence and by 2am we were busy taking photographs. The rugged landscape of windswept Cape Crozier was interesting. We glimpsed the location near The Knoll, where Dr Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers and Apsley Cherry- Garrard, built their ‘rock igloo’ during the famous ‘worst journey in the world’ in July 1911. The large Adelie Penguin colony still has a message post from Scott’s Discovery expedition (1901-1904). The vast floating Ross Ice Shelf discovered by Ross in 1841 which is the area of France certainly attracted our attention. At 2am we were positioned at 77o25’S 169o33’E. In winter a series of ‘ice canyons’ provide comparative shelter for Emperor Penguins breeding here on the sea ice. The face of the ice shelf appeared to have been sculpted by a giant artist’s pallet knife while below the 50m high face, wave cut ice was a beautiful turquoise colour. With wave action a sucking and crashing sound could be heard from beneath the over-hanging ice. The average thickness of the ice is 330m or 1100ft - to 700m or 2300ft with about 1/7th below the surface.
By the time we woke for breakfast at 9am the next morning the Spirit of Enderby had moved to Cape Bird and we were positioned just off the research station of Antarctica New Zealand; the second hut on the site. The morning was beautiful when we landed on the beach below the field station. Here two enjoyable hours were spent viewing and photographing Adelie Penguins and seals. Some of us walked up the well-constructed steps to the terrace where we saw the two field huts which sat below an automatic meteorological station with solar panels. We did not enter the ASPA which is an area with significant vegetation. Unfortunately the swell meant the ‘Polar Plunge’ had to be cancelled and in the afternoon the ship departed for the west side of McMurdo Sound. By 3pm we were crossing McMurdo Sound and making our way towards the ice edge. The ice breaker USCGC Polar Star could be seen amidst a cluster of icebergs. An Emperor Penguin was sighted amongst the delicately coloured blue ice floes where the snow had been washed off, while the sea was a deep aquamarine. It was still sunny but the moderate breeze had a bite to it. We really enjoyed our views from the bridge and bow. Beyond the ice floes the Western Mountains, glaciers and Dry Valleys were clearly visible. Jane was very helpful with identification of landforms, familiar from her own geological research in the region. The afternoon passed quickly and we had an excellent meal with baked salmon or Coq au Vin (chicken) as main choices. It was Chef Bruce’s birthday so we made certain he enjoyed it. Michael made a cake decorated with a few candles and ‘Happy Birthday’ was sung in the galley. The ship moved to a new position from which we had a clear view of Observation Hill and the three Meridian wind turbines. At 10 pm we were positioned at 770 48.894’S 165o 28.422E. The meeting to discuss bird and mammal species seen was held, then with a long day expected tomorrow, the evening drew to a close.
Day 19. Wednesday 29 January – Ross Island – Furthest South for Spirit of Enderby
McMurdo Station, Scott Base, Observation Hill, Hut Point – Discovery Hut
Noon position: Latitude 77o 51.145’South; Longitude 166o38.527’East
Air temperature: -5oC
Water temperature: 0oC
As we neared Winter Quarters Bay in McMurdo Sound at 5.30am, many landmarks that feature in Antarctic history came into view. Mt Erebus was largely obscured, however visible in a clockwise direction were:Turtle Rock along with on the Hut Point Peninsula, Danger Slopes, Arrival Heights, Castle Rock, The Gap, Observation Hill and Cape Armitage followed by the McMurdo Ice Shelf which links into the Ross Ice Shelf, White Island, Black Island and Mt Discovery (2680m). Further to the west the low morning sun lit up the snow and the pale brown slopes at the entrance to the Taylor Dry Valley. In the foreground we were confronted with the massive infrastructure comprising the US McMurdo Station established here as AIROPFAC (Air Operating Facility) in 1955 for the USN Operation Deep Freeze One. To port was Hut Point with Scott’s Discovery Hut (1902) and on a nearby promontory Vince’s Cross; both almost lost and dwarfed by the fuel tanker Maersk Peary at the artificial ice pier. This had carried super refined diesel fuel all the way from Greece. On Crater Hill above ‘The Gap’ which leads to New Zealand’s Scott Base, sat the three wind turbines which have contributed to a substantial energy cost saving for the NZ and US programmes.
We anchored in Winter Quarters Bay at 6am in 63 metres of water and prepared for what would be a busy day. Rodney had gone to a considerable effort making arrangements with the cooperation of both McMurdo Station and Scott Base in order that we could visit the bases. The timing was excellent as the fuel tanker had discharged and a container ship was still two days away. We also hoped to climb Observation Hill and visit Discovery Hut. It was a cool -5oC and a brisk wind was ruffling the sea. Following an early breakfast we set off in Zodiacs in small groups 20 minutes apart. The sea ice had gone out and to land we nosed into a bank below the US station, with the permafrost clearly visible at around 30cms depth. Then it was a simple matter to carefully step from the bow onto land. There we were met by Kimbly, an IT specialist, who led us on a walking tour. Our first stop was at the Crary Laboratory (Albert P. Crary 1911-1987) and Eklund Biological Centre (Carl Eklund 1909-1912) opened 4 November 1991. The tour of this impressive building began in the marine science lab where live fish are usually held in the large tanks. Beverly explained the research being undertaken on tooth fish and invertebrates. Various informative posters were viewed along with glass display cabinets housing seal skulls, marine invertebrates and assorted artefacts including a ship’s kerosene lantern ca.1930-1950 found in 15 metres off Hut Point.
Liz then met us at the NSF (National Science Foundation Division Programs) Chalet where we viewed the Felix de Weldon bronze bust of Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, beside which were plaques commemorating the US Navy and 50th Anniversary of Operation Deep Freeze. The next stop was Building 155. This contained the Mess hall, some accommodation, offices and ship’s store or PX where a few souvenirs could be obtained. Other accommodation was in three large three-storey blocks with such names as Mammoth Mountain Inn and Hotel California. A short walk led us to the Chapel of the Snows. A peaceful building with beautiful stained glass window and outlook across the Sound, it had the altar allegedly from the former St. Saviours Church at Lyttelton, where Scott had worshiped. In a cabinet was the Erebus chalice thought to be linked (by the Hallmarks) to Scott’s last expedition. This is stored in Christchurch Cathedral each winter then handed over at the start of the new Antarctic season. At one stage David, a friend of the donor Miss Betty Bird of Auckland, had the silver-gilt chalice in his possession. Summer Chaplin Mike Beyer of the Air National Guard, provided a commentary on the use of the Chapel; the most southern in Antarctica.
The final places visited were Mac Ops where Shelley discussed pre-field trip communications; Mac Centre (air traffic control and not a job for everyone), where JT (Jerry) said three flights were due from Christchurch, five were being flown to the South Pole today and ‘texting’ can even be done from the aircraft. At present the Pegasus blue ice runway for wheeled aircraft had over a meter of water on it; hence the use of ski-equipped LC130 Hercules, one of which we saw from Cape Evans and now using the snow ski-way at Williams Field. We also met Sandy the Helo Ops Controller, then moved on to Mac Weather where Arthur with computer screens, carefully explained climate modelling and problems with forecasting in Antarctica. We had a coffee and cookies (it was ‘Mexican Day’) in the coffee shop/wine bar with movie theatre that occupies the oldest building on the station. Finally after a photo shoot at the McMurdo Station sign we said goodbye to the very friendly and hospitable staff. They had given up their time to assist us and extend our knowledge of the United States Antarctic program (USAP). We then returned to the ship for lunch.
During the afternoon our time was largely taken up with a visit to New Zealand’s Scott Base – our furthest south. The same landing was used and here we were taken in two vehicles over the hill to the station three kilometres away. From The Gap we could see the sea ice had largely broken out. A science team was busy observing whales of which pods of to 30 Minkes have been reported and Rodney said a helicopter had observed 100 Orcas. At Scott Base we were welcomed by Julie Patterson, Antarctica New Zealand’s HR officer. Staff then took us on our tour of the complex. This began at the TAE/IGY Hut which for David’s group was led by Anna Ryder one of the base Domestics. The prefabricated building was the first erected at Scott Base and was opened in January 1957. Hut A as it was then known, then contained the mess/lounge, galley, radio-room and the late Sir Edmund Hillary’s bunk (which he had built himself) and office. Later the hut was used for additional accommodation. David who allegedly said “Well it’s great to be home”, briefly explained to his group the history of the building. This is about to be taken over by the Antarctic Heritage Trust and a new Conservation Plan, edited by Conservation Architect Chris Cochran was recently compiled. The base staff, who are expecting supplies from the cargo ship made us very welcome. We enjoyed seeing the gallery of winter-over photographs then, in the salubrious new dining room, we enjoyed afternoon tea cookies baked by Bobby’s, who is the winter-over chef and a former Spirit of Enderby chef. Off this area is the Tatty Flag Bar along with a comfortable lower-level lounge area. Our tour of Scott Base concluded with a visit to the retail shop operated by the Armed Forces Canteen Council Burnham Military Camp, then a photo shoot beside the “pou” (Maori carving) and sign in front of the base.
On leaving the base we were taken up a side road that once led to the former US nuclear power station and from here, were able to join the walking track up the 230m Observation Hill, named during the Discovery Expedition (1901-1904). While here the USCGC icebreaker Polar Star WAGB10 after escorting the tanker out, pulled up by the ice pier. We then returned to the ship which required an interesting boarding of the Zodiacs as the tide had lowered the sea level. At 7pm some of us were able to visit Hut Point. This visit was courtesy of Al (‘Fast Owl’) Fastier from Glenorchy, iconic Programme Manager for Antarctic Heritage Trust’s Ross Sea Conservation Project. Only the hut is within the SPA. Although many artefacts have been packed away to enable essential carpentry to be done, sufficient remained for us to appreciate the history of this historic Australian building. Inside David explained that each of the huts we have seen is quite different. This hut in particular has ‘layers of history with the main focus the Ross Sea Party 1914-1917 and the privations of the men who lived here in the dark days of early winter 1916, including the loss of Mackintosh and Hayward who had been saved and then needlessly gave their lives away. The three post-Discovery expeditions all used the hut as a staging post before heading south.
The bar was a focus for many of us after such an interesting, albeit long day for which we were grateful to Rodney for making it so special. It was fitting that our capable chefs should provide a sumptuous meal of Monkfish or Southland tender rack of lamb. What a day! Christine had not only visited McMurdo Station but also joined us on our visit to Scott Base. An early to bed night followed.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 20. Thursday 30 January – Ross Sea
Noon position: Latitude 75o40.129’South; Longitude 167o57.93’East
Air temperature: -1oC
Water temperature: 2oC
A light fall of snow occurred during the night and in the morning we woke to a gentle rolling of the ship caused by a south-east wind. No birds were about. At 8am we were at 76o17’South 187o84’E. The temperature was -3oC and water at +1oC. To starboard although not visible, was Franklin Island named for Sir John Franklin Governor of Tasmania while to port was the Mawson Glacier leading into the Nordenskjold Ice Tongue that feeds to Oates Piedmont Glacier. Our next rendezvous was Cape Ann at the end of Coulman Island and there a decision would be made on our future movements. During the morning we watched the final episode of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ and then Samuel gave us a lecture about Penguins. This well-illustrated, well-presented presentation gave us a further insight into these birds which have adapted from land animals millions of years ago to a life in the sea. They only live south of the Equator and Samuel presented an insight into the biology of these special birds. By early afternoon it was snowing steadily.
At 3pm David presented his lecture ‘A Charismatic Hero’ which focused on Ernest Shackleton’s second expedition to Antarctica. The achievements were considerable with the first discovery of the South Magnetic Pole and the furthest south yet achieved for the South Geographic Pole. This lecture was followed by a very useful lecture from Katya regarding the ‘World of Contrasts’ which looked at the differences between the Antarctic and the Arctic, supported by excellent illustrations. The bar was rather quiet in the evening and after an excellent dinner, with no bird or mammal discussion following (only a Giant Petrel, a Snow Petrel and some unidentified whales seen) we called it a day. Rodney advised we had 135 miles to go to reach Possession Island which would take about 12 hours and because of ice build-up, it would not be possible to visit Cape Hallett. A decision would be made in the morning about our future plans.
Day 21. Friday 31 January – Ross Sea; Southern Ocean
Philippa announces her engagement
Noon position: Latitude 71o 16.18’South; Longitude 172o02.8’East
Air temperature: 2oC
Water temperature: 0oC
Last evening all the ice went out from in front of Scott Base so Rodney announced that the passengers from the Akademik Shokalskiy following a week behind us would be landing from the Zodiac in front of the base. We had a relatively calm night but in the morning woke to a fairly rough sea with thin layers of foaming white and white horses on the larger waves. A 35 knot southerly was pushing us along and we were doing nearly 11 knots. Below a layer of grey cloud, we had a good view of the two island groups making up the Possession Islands; including the beach we landed on below the Adelie Penguin colony. More seabirds were seen than yesterday, mostly giant petrels including a White Morph, several Antarctic Petrels and a Wilson’s Storm Petrel. Doing 10.6 knots, we followed the Downshire Cliffs that were away to port and Rodney advised the ice was moving west and that by necessity we had to continue north. Still we were very grateful for a visit to Robertson Bay from which we viewed Borchgrevink’s huts (1899) along with remnants of the Northern Party Hut (1911) with information supplemented by David’s lectures. We must also not forget that we have already landed on the Antarctic Continent.
At 10am David gave his lecture entitled ‘Triumph and Tragedy – Scott’s ill-fated expedition 1910-1913’. This was a very complex expedition with various field parties, the Northern Party that wintered as well as at Cape Adare, on Inexpressible Island along with reference made to Roald Amundsen’s Norwegian Expedition and Nobu Shirase’s second Japanese Antarctic Expediton. Having visited Cape Evans hut the lecture reminded us of what we had seen along with further information. The next gathering in the lecture room was to view a documentary called ‘Blackfish’. This focused on the Orca and the how corporate business has been reaping rich financial rewards at the expense of keeping and breeding the whale species in a captive situation. In the meantime lives have been lost and it was admitted that little is still known about the biology and other aspects concerning these magnificent creatures. One must ask how many have seen the Orca in the natural habitat.
By this time we were heading for Campbell Island and were looking forward to the natural history of this amazing place, which had already been introduced by Rodney’s lecture. The sea was beautiful when seen in sunbursts which made it look like burnished metal as we made 12.3 knots across the Southern Ocean. Lunch today was in the form of a buffet where we made our own sandwiches while Philippa announced her engagement. At 3pm Jane gave a lecture regarding ‘Antarctic Geology – Field Mapping in South Victoria Land’. In this excellent lecture Jane began with a description of the five main rock units for the region – Basement of metamorphosed sediments (480-650 m.yrs); Beacon sedimentary rocks 200-420 m.yrs); Ferrar Dolerite sills (180 m.yrs); McMurdo volcanics (0-20 m.yrs)and the ‘Cover’ or ‘Drift’ consisting of glacial, freshwater and marine deposits (also 0-20 m.yrs). This was supplemented by wonderful photographs and a description of life in the field.
The final lecture of the day was provided by New Zealand Government Representative Trudie Baker. She gave a good overview of Antarctica New Zealand, its structure and functions along with reference to international collaboration in logistic support and science. To conclude the presentation she showed James Blake’s (son of the late Sir Peter Blake) wonderful videos with time-lapse photography done at Cape Evans and other localities along with a tour of Scott Base which we had enjoyed in person just a few days ago. After a superb dinner Rodney indicated that we had 1034 nautical miles to go before Campbell Island. At a speed of 11.5 knots an ETA was expected on 4 February. During the evening the wind was expected to ease and we hoped it would remain benign for the last few days of our expedition, which was rapidly coming to a close.
Day 22. Saturday 1 February – Southern Ocean – last iceberg
Noon position: Latitude 66o 33.3’South; Longitude 172o37.3’East
Air temperature: 0oC
Water temperature: 1oC
Today the supply vessel for McMurdo Station and Scott Base was scheduled to arrive at the Winter Quarters Bay ice pier.
We enjoyed a comfortable rest during the night and by 8am were well past Cape Adare and at 67o28.209’S 172o35.163’E.
It was a fine day with a small amount of cloud and a few more birds were beginning to appear. This included a large number of Snow Petrels, Campbell Island Albatross, Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross, a few Antarctic Petrels and the first Southern Fulmar although this was debated amongst the group. To port was a large iceberg and several fragments of ice were scattered over the ocean. Mid-morning, Karen managed to capture a photograph of a large gathering of birds on an iceberg. It was decided that these were probably Antarctic Petrels due to the overall brownish colour. There seemed to be thousands of them. This morning David gave his last lecture on the ‘heroic-era’ of exploration. This was one was called ‘Fortunes and Misfortunes’ and focused on the generally little known Ross Sea Party of Shackleton’s Imperial Transantarctic Expedition (1914-1916) with most people familiar with the saga of the Endurance. David was co-author of the book Polar Castaways (taken from a BBC Interview with expedition member Alexander Stevens) which was compiled over 30 years. He had the great joy of knowing several expedition members including Richard Richards who became a close friend.
The second lecture before lunch was an outstanding presentation by Samuel regarding his 2005 winter-over at the French Station Dumont d’Urville in Terre Adelie, East Antarctica. Samuel described the long history of France’s involvement in Antarctica, the station and its composition along with the environment. His own work as a naturalist focused on ornithology and the Weddell Seal. He told us about his work environment, special celebrations including France’s National Day, Midwinter Day and of course the long travel including the one week sea voyage from Hobart on L’Astrolabe (nicknamed L’Gastrolabe). The day continued to be beautiful with the deep Prussian blue sea and more birds about, whale sightings and a large number of ice bergs. The latter included a tabular berg calculated to be three and a half to four nautical miles long.
Our blue Antarctic jackets were handed in after lunch following which we viewed part one of the documentary ‘Longitude’. This film focused on John Harrison’s obsession to construct the first chronometer to aid mariners and after 40 years earning him a prize, with Harrison dying soon afterwards. In the early evening Rodney presented a most interesting lecture which he called ‘Pelagic whaling in the Ross Sea 1923/24-1932/33; A decade of shame or ignorance’. This very appropriate lecture began with a biography of the pioneer of whaling, the Norwegian C.A. Larsen. From his research including interviews completed with whaling men while undertaking university study, Rodney gave us a good insight into the overall origins of whaling in Antarctica, but more so that in the Ross Sea. Along with the whaling were political aspects which also involved New Zealand, the setting up of a New Zealand company, the station set up at Kaipipi on Stewart Island and statistics concerning whales taken. The latter included for the Ross Sea a total of 10,487 whales processed by the James Clark Ross and C.A. Larsen in the 1923-33 decade, with perhaps 9161 whales taken by other companies.
By 9pm we were under the influence of an easterly and beginning to roll a little. Our speed was still 11.5 knots with 750 nautical miles to go to Campbell Island. The weather forecast looked good for the next two days although was expected to swing to the west. We had an interesting bird and mammal meeting - two Fin Whales and three Minke were seen today. To finish, the following quotation was found in The Last Explorer, an excellent biography of the great Australian Sir Hubert Wilkins by Simon Nash (Page 314). It is attributed to Apsley Cherry-Garrard of Scott’s last expedition.
‘Exploration is but the physical expression of the intellectual passion”.
Day 23. Sunday 2 February – Southern Ocean – Antarctic Convergence
Bosun Yuri’s birthday
Noon position: Latitude 62o14.485’South; Longitude 171o18.621’East
Air temperature: 4oC
Water temperature: 3oC
We had a comfortable night with the ship rolling a little and got up to a calm sea and 8/8ths of light grey cloud; a spell of light rain; fog coming and going and air temperature at 3oC. We were doing 11.9 knots and at 8am were at 62o57.963S and on our course of 171o28.974E. A few birds seen included numerous Sooty Shearwaters, a Grey-headed Albatross and a prion.
At 10am David gave a lecture entitled ‘Icons of Exploration’. The main focus was the run-up to the formation of the Antarctic Heritage Trust previously discussed by Trudie; work achieved; conservation problems along with the work by Australia’s Mawson’s Huts Foundation and other work by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust; Chile; Argentina and the United States at other sites. By 11am the fog had become quite thick and the sun was trying to break through but not doing very well. At 11.30 the film ‘With Byrd to the Pole’ was screened and focused on the first flight made to the vicinity of the Geographic South Pole by Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd during his United States Antarctic Expedition 1928-1930. The Sea Shop opened at 2.30 then the final episode of ‘Longitude’ was screened. This film was very enjoyable with excellent acting by Jeremy Irons and others. We assembled in the Globe Bar at 6pm for Rodney to hold his Antarctica quiz. This was a lot of fun and was won by a group scoring 29 our of a possible32. A great achievement which netted them two bottles of wine. There was no team leader and as Andrew said “we were very egalitarian - it was all for one and everyone to himself”! Following dinner and the bird and mammal discussion most retired early as Rodney predicted the ship may roll in the night.
Day 24. Monday 3 February – Southern Ocean
Noon position: Latitude 57o48’South; Longitude170o16’East
Air temperature: 8oC
Water temperature: 7oC
Very few of us had a comfortable night. With a westerly air flow, the ship rolled, pitched and we surfaced to a grey morning on a rough sea. Some of us braved breakfast, however most then retired to the bunk and then resurfaced for a light lunch. By early afternoon the sea had begun to calm, although this did not necessarily mean we had a good afternoon. Many of us continued to catch up with sleep, looked at our photographs and read or played cards in the library. The calmer sea provided an opportunity to sort luggage in preparation for our landing on Campbell Island and disembarkation on Saturday. Time had moved quickly and it did not seem like nearly a month since we departed Bluff. We were however making good progress at just over 11 knots and passing over the South-west Pacific Basin with water depths approaching 5304 metres. The day passed quietly and at 8.45pm we had a mere 216 nautical miles to go before our arrival at Campbell Island. By now the wind had picked up from the north although Rodney expected it to swing to the west. The final gathering of the day was to discuss the species sightings where Katya refused to accept a change of name from Grey-headed Albatross to Pensioner Albatross and similarly to accept a new species named after its finder Albert Ross. We then prepared for a restless night at sea.
Day 25. Tuesday 4 February – Southern Ocean – Campbell Island
Noon position: Latitude 53o’50.897’South; Longitude 169o30.280’East
Air temperature: 10oC
Water temperature: 8oC
Occasional light rain earlier
Many of us had an uncomfortable night and at 7.40am the Spirit of Enderby was at 54o28’ south 169o37’E with our expected arrival at Campbell Island around 7.30 in the evening. A small pod of perhaps three Long-finned Pilot Whales was seen by David, Andrew and crew, off the starboard bow as an occasional light rain was falling. This morning the ship occasionally rolled as by now we were encountering waves from the north-west so we looked forward to finding calmer waters once we arrived in Perseverance Harbour. Some of us had already been to Campbell Island, including Bob who made frequent visits with the New Zealand Meteorological Service and was on occasions taken there by Rodney. The volcanic island has a magnificent natural history along with a rich human history. With the sea becoming rough, only a few observers were on the bridge this morning. Bird species were increasing including six species of albatrosses (White-capped or Shy; Campbell (a mollymawk); Black-browed; Southern Royal; Wandering and Grey-headed. All of these species, plus the Antipodean Albatross (not seen today) breed on Campbell Island and some of the smaller outlying islands. Petrels included White-chinned, Cape and White-headed. A few shearwaters were also seen. Chris was a great help with identifying the species observed. It was a great pleasure to watch these magnificent birds as they soared at times with a wing-tip just a few centimetres above the water surface, then rising with the occasional wing flutter, before swooping, rising, changing direction and gaining height, as they picked up speed to soar on air currents about the ship.
With the sea getting rather choppy with scattered white caps due to the westerly conditions, many of us rested after lunch. Our speed at noon had slowed to 8.5 knots over water around 470m deep. The occasional wave broke over the bow. Just before 6pm Rodney announced we had 21.7 nautical miles to reach our way-point at the entrance to Perseverance Harbour, followed by 40 minutes to the anchorage. We had been doing 9.8-9.8 knots and the wind had been dropping. We had the first visual sighting of the main island as it loomed in the mist, at around 6.15pm when Mt. Honey the highest point (558m) was seen with Mt Dumas (500m) beyond. On the bridge Andrew asked Rodney “Are there any teal here?” As Rodney replied “Yes!” some teal took flight right in front of us so there were laughs all round. At 7pm we had an interesting view of a Sea Lion just below the surface with something in its mouth. By now on a heading of 346.8o, we were at the harbour entrance at a speed of 11.7 knots. On the bow the Bosun was preparing the anchors and used a hand crank to release the ‘Devil’s claws’ which hold back the anchor chains. We were escorted into Perseverance Harbour by a pair of Southern Royal Albatross along with numerous Giant and Cape Petrels. We turned into the harbour with Erebus Point to starboard and South Point to port with good views of vegetated lava flows, old glacial terraces, ice sculptured landforms and olive-green scrub reaching up from the water’s edge and merging with tussock higher up. Rodney pointed out a ‘haul out’ area to starboard, on which were three Sea Lions lounged. The anchors went down in 22 metres of water and dinner began with a vegetable and meat Borsch (soup), followed by a main with fillet steak or chicken, then a desert of Tiramisu (Greek/Italian), a cake soaked in coffee and Kahlua.
There is very little on this island that Rodney is not familiar with. He has spent a lot of time here over many years. In 1975 with New Zealand’s former Wildlife Service, he re-discovered the Campbell Island Flightless Teal on 26 hectare La Dent Island on his first visit there. This small bird was at the time thought to be extinct. Campbell Island is important for the breeding or presence of several species of albatross, the endemic Campbell Island Shag and very important species of ‘mega-herbs’ that have flourished since the pest eradication programme. The human history has included early scientific Antarctic and Subantarctic expeditions, whaling, farming (initially 2000 Leicester-Merino sheep, 8 cattle and 2 horses), the World War 2 Cape Expedition, former manned meteorological station (closed 1995 then replaced with an automated system) and pest eradication since 1990. It was good to be on calm waters again and following the compilation of the species list, we retired and prepared for a 6.30 am wake-up call.
Day 26. Wednesday 5 February – Campbell Island
Noon position: Latitude 52o32.991’South; Longitude 169o09.577’East
Air temperature: 9oC
Water temperature: 9.8oC
Most of us had an excellent sleep on calmer waters. It had rained a little in the night and we got up to a generally fine day, with scattered cloud and the sun appearing from time to time. A good breakfast set us right for the exertions of the day. At 7.15 am we assembled in the lecture room for the first time for a few days. Rodney gave a superb, well-illustrated introduction to Campbell Island and before setting out for our landing we were instructed to adhere to quarantine requirements with special emphasis on clothing including footwear and back packs. The day’s activities were then discussed. A total of 14 opted to do the ‘Samuel Safari’- a 14km all-day walk from Camp Cove, with an ascent of 200m taking us across the island to Capstan Cove, followed by the inevitable 200m descent and return to the ship. The remainder of us chose the interesting Zodiac cruise to Tucker and Camp Cove. This focused on the history with a return although no landing, via Garden and Venus Coves. After lunch, those of us who did the latter, then selected the shorter boardwalk journey to view nesting Southern Royal Albatrosses and mega herbs at Col Lyall (named after Lyall on Ross’s expedition) with a view down to Northwest Bay, the site of early whaling.
Passengers on the long walk were the first away and reported seeing five Campbell Island Snipe, two Antipodean Albatross with low flights of about 300m, an amazing field of purple Pleurophyllum speciosum along with other vegetation on the glaciated landscape. Those in the Zodiacs enjoyed calling at Camp Cove and Tucker Cove, with the rusting Shacklock Orion stove the only visible remnant from the farm homestead, attracting most attention. Birds seen included a Giant Petrel, Campbell Island Shag and gulls. The visit to Tucker Cove was significant as it was near here that flightless Campbell Island Teal were seen. The hike up the board walk from the former meteorological station began with us being confronted by an arrogant bull Sea Lion who was jealously guarding his harem of three cows. Bob then explained what the various buildings had been used for. After passing through flowering dwarf Dracophyllum scoparium scrub in the Sub-alpine Vegetation Zone below Beeman Hill (187m), we entered the Lower Alpine Zone with interesting ground cover. From Col Lyall we looked across to Northeast Bay and back to Perseverance Harbour. The highlights were nesting Southern Royal Albatross including some paired birds among the tussocks, flowering Pleurophyllum and for those who briefly battled the gusting nor-west wind, a view to Northwest Bay. It had been a great day and after a convivial hour, we enjoyed as always a wonderful meal from Bruce, Michael, Natalya and Zoya, followed by an often humorous discussion on the bird and mammal sightings.
Photo credit: K.Ovsyanikova
Day 27. Thursday 6 February – Campbell Island - en-route to Bluff
Waitangi Day in New Zealand
Noon position: Latitude 52o33.072’South; Longitude 169o09.617’East
Air temperature: 10.8oC
Water temperature: 9.8oC
Heavy rain and fog prevented a climb of Mt. Honey today. Instead after breakfast we gathered in the lecture room to consider options for morning activity. These included a further trip to Col Lyall; a muddy walk to the old Coastwatchers’ huts; Zodiac cruise in the outer harbour and tours of the galley and engine room. By late morning the sun endeavoured to brighten the day and Bill was delighted to find his wedding ring; on the cabin floor under a suit case. Those in the Zodiacs had a very interesting trip. Emma very much enjoyed viewing a Rockhopper Penguin, along with the other species that included three Yellow-eyed Penguins, two Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross chicks on nests and two New Zealand Fur Seals. Old lava had flowed over sedimentary rock and volcanic basalt columns, some vertical and some curved. They were coloured yellow, white, black and brown. A dyke was examined with caves at the base. The party which visited the remains of the Coastwatchers’ hut and a red-painted meteorological hut followed a muddy track through Dracophyllum scrub and Bracken. The met hut was in good repair and had furniture along with beer signs on the walls. An unusual stove or boiler was marked ‘UNIQUE’. A stop was made at the memorial to the three who died (Capt. Hasselburgh, a young woman and a sailor) and an aggressive male Sea Lion was carefully avoided on the way back to the ship.
Samuel’s party trekked up to Col Lyall. It was very foggy, blowing hard and a few Antarctic Terns were sighted. Because of the time of the day, the albatross were less active compared to yesterday, although there was still much to enjoy. Mike for example considered the hike to the top of the board walk enabled one to gain “a good cross section of Campbell Island from bottom to top, including the landscape and vegetation”. On board Bruce provided an interesting tour of the galley including storage areas, food preparation and cooking appliances. Rodney showed two groups through the immaculate engine room with green painted floor and the two bright yellow, six cylinder 1400 hp locomotive engines. Every five years the engines which are each connected to a ‘Ka me wa’ (now part of Rolls Royce) gear box, are stripped down. There are three generators.
The chefs produced a variety of excellent pizzas for lunch after which we prepared for a quiet afternoon with cabin effects secured. At 1.10 pm we departed for Bluff with 360 nautical miles to go and wind expected from the west, likely to cause a roll on the beam. Unfortunately it would be not possible to do a Zodiac cruise at the Snares Islands. It took little time to leave the harbour and we were soon beginning to roll. Many still found the library a good place to sort photographs and to catch up on the last month. Following the usual excellent evening meal, the bird list, a rather varied one for today, was compiled. At 9pm we were maintaining a good speed and were at Latitude 51o24.316’ South Longitude 169o967’ East. The sea was still lumpy, however Rodney suggested conditions may improve by tomorrow.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 28. Friday 7 February - en-route to Bluff.
The Penultimate day of our expedition. Stephen’s birthday.
Noon position: Latitude 48o52’ South; Longitude 168o38’ East
Air temperature: 15oC
Water temperature: 12oC
After a comfortable night with pale grey sea now calming, we rose to a cloudy day with a pale sun. Of interest this morning was a dead seal being eaten by numerous birds. At 10am two excellent documentaries on Campbell Island were screened by Dr Eric. With 42 species of New Zealand birds now extinct and many on the endangered list, ‘The Battle for Campbell Island’ focused on the eradication programme of an estimated 50,000+ Norway rats in the winter of 2001. Rats had been released by sealers and soon became a natural history problem. The second documentary entitled ‘The Impossible Dream – the Campbell Island Teal’ with the rediscovery in 1975, led to a subsequent successful release by the Department of Conservation in 2004. Progeny of ‘Daisy’ a female captured on La Dent in 1984 (she died in 2002) re-appeared at Beeman Station the following year. These programmes were followed with an excellent presentation by Katya about ‘The Russian Far East – The Wild Frontier’ and focused on the human and natural history, from the Kuril Islands in the south to Wrangel Island in the far north. This is another fascinating and beautiful area, where Heritage Expeditions operates a range of itineraries. The pictures of indigenous peoples, villages, wild life, botany and landscapes, were outstanding with many photographs taken by Katya herself who spent a lot of time with her parents on Wrangel Island, a World Heritage area with Arctic diversity.
By afternoon the sea was very calm with some dolphins sighted and bird life including a Back Bellied Petrel feeding on the surface. We enjoyed a quiet day which included packing and a passenger de-brief, with crew and staff already preparing for the next voyage. This evening as we passed Stewart Island to port, Bruce and Michael provided a sumptuous farewell dinner. This included a ravioli entrée, main course with hot ham and roast beef carvery, chicken fricassee, roast potatoes and assorted vegetables, a seafood selection with salmon, prawns and salads and deserts including lemon curd and chocolate cheese cakes, mini-Pavlovas and a cheese board. After travelling 4675 nautical miles (8658 kms) the final de-brief was held in the lecture room when Rodney and staff farewelled the group and thanked them for contributing to what has been a highly successful expedition. Samuel then screened his superb 22 minute slide show and made copies available to all who wanted them. We then retired with just a few hours remaining on board before departure in the morning.
Day 29. Saturday 8 February – Bluff and departure
Latitude 46o35.630’South; Longitude 168o20.35’East
The pilot boarded at 6.30am and our time aboard the Spirit of Enderby was fast drawing to a close. We breakfasted together for the last time and New Zealand Customs and MAF Quarantine officers boarded at 7.45am. After a group photograph was taken to record this momentous journey, we said final farewells. This expedition may have ended but we will take with us enduring memories of so many wonderful experiences in both natural and human history, relating to our extraordinary time on the Subantarctic Islands and in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. As compiler of this Log, the author very much appreciated receiving pictures for his personal archive following the loss of his camera while swimming at Macquarie Island and for what he has learned. Best wishes to everyone for happy travels in the years ahead. Who knows, some of us may meet again some time, somewhere in the future. Thank you.
Fifty excited expeditioners from around the globe arrived at Invercargill to begin a journey in the footsteps of Sir Robert Falcon Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton. All mustered at the Kelvin Hotel for an introductory dinner where they met their travelling companions: with whom they would spend the next 4 weeks travelling to Antarctica. Fine dining was enjoyed by all and excited introductions were made. Most voyagers retired early in the evening, in anticipation of boarding the Spirit of Enderby the following day. On board ship they would meet the remaining Heritage Expeditions staff and begin their journey south.
Following breakfast, bags were checked by security and loaded on the truck to head to the ship. Soon after this, most people made their way to the Southland Museum and enjoyed the informative Roaring 40’s display on New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands. Shortly after lunch all guests boarded the coach to drive to the Port of Bluff; arriving on board the Spirit of Enderby, travellers finally got to see their cabins and started to settle in. All guests enjoyed an afternoon of waving goodbye to the Port of Bluff, exploring the ship and attending briefings; we then sailed south through rafts of Sooty Shearwaters with the first of many Albatross following behind. Some New Zealand Fur Seals and an unidentified dolphin were both seen not long after leaving the shelter of the port. Sailing south past Stewart Island gave some protection from the wind and it was a very pleasant start to the voyage. The bar was opened in the early evening and a good turnout proved that not too many were affected by seasickness. The first night on board was then finished with a lovely meal prepared by our wonderful chefs Nicola and Brad.
The seas had strengthened over night and as we arrived at the Snares Islands early the decision was made by Rodney that it was too rough to Zodiac cruise. The ship traversed the islands, giving all early risers on deck a good look at the geography and the masses of birdlife living there. Buller’s Albatross, Sooty Shearwaters, Diving Petrels, White Chinned Petrels and Cape Petrels were just some of the species seen from the ship as the sun rose over the sea. Some Snares Crested penguins were spotted porpoising in the water, and several of the colonies on the island were viewable with binoculars. After this good look at the islands, the Spirit of Enderby steered back on course towards the Auckland Islands. The Southern Ocean gave us a taste of what she can be capable of with waves reaching approx 6 meters high - most on board travelled well and it was a good chance for everyone to test out their sea legs. Dean presented a lecture on the biology and ecology of seals and a documentary on the Roaring 40’s was enjoyed by many. This gave us a glimpse of what to expect tomorrow and we were all very excited about the thought of arriving at Port Ross early tomorrow morning, partly to see new lands, but also in anticipation of the ship being relatively still! The bar opened at 6.30pm and not long after another fine meal was served. We all retired to our bunks, weary from travel and knowing that tomorrow we would be walking the lush earth of Enderby Island.
We awoke at anchor in Port Ross, off one of the Southern Ocean’s most amazing islands: Enderby. The ship was still and we had all managed some good hours of sleep; the sun rose over flat waters and a blue sky showed promising signs for the day. After breakfast, a briefing from Rodney and making lunches we boarded the Zodiacs for our first ride, quickly assembling near the research station and moving along the beach as a Search and Rescue Helicopter came in to land for an annual fuel delivery operation. Our group headed off towards the western cliffs where Auckland Island Tomtits and pipits greeted us and were a sign of things to come: the variety and tameness of birds is one of the highlights of Enderby. Entering into a small patch of rata forest, we carried on up the boardwalk past nesting Southern Royal Albatross and through spectacular fields of flora on to the western cliffs where we could admire the nesting Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and feel the fresh wind on our faces.
A few people returned to the beach to spend some time with the sea lions and Yellow-eyed Penguins, while the majority carried on around the island enjoying an amazing walk. Auckland Island Shag colonies were in full swing, with adults caring for chicks and rebuilding nests. Birders ticked off Red-crowned Parakeets, the elusive Subantarctic Snipe and of course the Auckland Island Shag. The terrain varied from easy on the grassy sward to challenging through the tussock grasses. Everyone had fun dodging the feisty sub adult sea lions who simply wanted to play. Many young pups could be seen grouping together as their mothers were out to sea foraging to provide them with the milk they need to grow big and strong. The scenery was always changing and dramatic; some people took time out from the coast to explore inside the haunting rata forest. Yellow-eyed Penguins nervously waddled to and from the water. At last it was time to return to the ship having had a sublime day ashore with beautiful blue skies and sunshine almost all day long. The bar was lively and full of chatter as we swapped stories of the day: we all went to bed quite exhausted after the fresh air, sunshine and a good long walk.
When we awoke for breakfast we were entering Carnley Harbour and had a scenic cruise of this haven of calm in the Southern Ocean. To our starboard was the main Auckland Island and to our port the pest-free Adams Island. The harbour was filled with seabirds: mainly Sooty Shearwaters, but also some Gibson’s Albatross, Auckland Island Shags, Yellow-eyed Penguins and also the occasional Hooker’s Sea Lion. Given the weather for the day, Rodney had decided to show us one of the more historical and significant sites in the harbour, the coast watchers hut in Tagura Bay. Here we walked along the peninsula through forests of rata and dracophyllum to one hut and up the hill line to a smaller lookout hut. It was very interesting to see them and try to imagine what the men endured during those long, cold and lonely months so many years ago. What hearty souls they must have been! Once back on board we had lunch in the calm waters and then ventured towards the exit of Carnley Harbour. We had blue skies and the sun was shining as we sailed out and many people enjoyed an afternoon on deck watching the masses of birdlife around the ship.
We awoke this morning to the Southern Ocean giving us some good rolls, shakes and shudders. A southerly wind made the ship’s journey south the roughest for this voyage yet. However, many brave souls made it to breakfast and, shortly after, Dean presented an introduction to Macquarie Island - covering historical and natural aspects of an incredible little island in the middle of nowhere. In case some of us were suffering from the inability to shop, Marie set herself up a little stall in the dining room to sell postcards - we could now send loved ones in faraway lands messages from the Furious 50s on our way to the frozen continent. After lunch, Tess gave us an insight into what it was like to live on Macquarie Island– she and Dean had lived and worked there for 12 months, researching the fur seal population. It was a great opportunity to get an insider’s perspective, and made us all want to apply for a position on the island! Later in the evening the bar opened and we enjoyed the social aspect by playing cards, sharing stories and writing postcards. Many retired early to their bunks to endure another night of rough southern seas. All were looking forward to waking at Macquarie Island the following day.
After a lie in, we ate breakfast in the calm lee of Macquarie Island. Zodiacs were launched to pick up four ranger guides from the Buckles Bay station. Once they were aboard we had a briefing about our plans as the ship sailed south the short distance to Sandy Bay and came to anchor in calm conditions about a mile off shore. A low cloud hung about the shoreline as King and Royal Penguins swam out to greet the ship. Zodiacs were quickly launched and we were all ashore after an easy landing; the welcoming committee was composed of curious King Penguins and smelly, moulting adult male elephant seals. We had several hours to spread out and enjoy ourselves surrounded by overwhelming quantities of wildlife at every turn. Elephant seals (due to their huge size) were one of the most obvious: the young males wallowed in tight groups - hard to believe that these are small compared to the fully grown adult males! King Penguins were spread about the beach; by sitting quietly with them some great encounters were had. They would often come right up and peck at our boots, as fascinated by our presence as we were by theirs. Down the north end of the beach was a colony, quite a few chicks were around and some adults were still incubating their eggs, their feet held up at a 45 degree angle to cradle the egg. The other penguin at Sandy Bay is the Royal Penguin, which is of particular interest because Macquarie is the only place on earth where this species occurs. Good numbers were coming to and from their inland nesting colony and a short boardwalk led up the hill and into that colony, passing a severely rabbit-grazed patch of Pleurophyllum hookeri enroute. The penguin colony itself was busy, with moulting adults and growing chicks all mixed in together. It was a very smelly and noisy colony, particularly when the Brown Skuas came flying over in hopes of a meal. By early afternoon it was time for us all to head back to the ship to warm up and have a lunch.
About half the group joined the shuttles back to the beach for the afternoon. The fog had lifted a little and presented us with better photographic opportunities and the weather stayed quite good for the day. It was another opportunity to sit quietly and appreciate a Subantarctic island at its finest. The last of us left the beach with the final Zodiac at 6pm, tired after a long and most exciting day ashore. After dinner a few people enjoyed the pleasant conditions on deck and got some good photographs of the King Penguins still swimming around the ship.
We awoke anchored on the eastern side of the isthmus of Macquarie Island in Buckles Bay. The wind was blowing from the south west and a lot of fog covered the island. There was a light drizzle of rain early on but regardless of the conditions we were all very excited to be at this little wonder spot of the world!
Rodney gave a brief talk in the lecture room to let everyone know about the plan for the day. The conditions were not ideal, so Rodney and his team decided to bring the Zodiacs in to Garden Cove. It was a little tricky getting people off the boats and onto the slippery beach, but the team managed to get everyone ashore safely, with only a few wet gumboots! On shore conditions were quite good and, as we wandered around the station limits with our Macquarie Island guides, we got to meet not only the human inhabitants but also more of the local wildlife. Today we added the Gentoo Penguin and the Rockhopper Penguin to our list as well as seeing many more Kings, Royals and elephant seals. It was fantastic to see this working Antarctic Station and be able to go to the mess and share a cuppa and a scone with the expeditioners that spend so much time here.
We spent many hours walking the coast, learning so much and making new friends. It was an incredible experience that we will not soon forget. In the late afternoon we jumped back into the Zodiacs and returned to the ship where we ate, drank and had a delightful afternoon and evening sharing stories and downloading photos. Another great day was had by all thanks to the fantastic rangers on Macquarie Island and everybody else that we met at the station.
We awoke this morning to a calm ship heading south east for the Ross Sea. There was blue sky and sunshine overhead and a following sea pushing us along so we were already making good time. The day’s activities began with a viewing of documentaries filmed by Dean and Tessa on Macquarie Island. After this it was time to hand out the warm Antarctic jackets that we would be spending the next few weeks almost living in. A lovely lunch was enjoyed, followed by a screening of The Last Place on Earth – a documentary about the race by Scott and Amundsen to the South Pole. This was the very expedition we were retracing.
Many of our voyagers spent hours on deck or on the bridge spotting birds and enjoying the sunshine. Outside temperatures had now started dropping and a few extra layers were needed for the adventurous ones, bird-watching on the outside decks. The first good whale sighting of the trip occurred when a friendly Minke Whale surfaced twice very close off the port side of the ship. The iceberg spotting competition was also announced and we all guessed at what time we would see the first berg. The bar opened for shenanigans and most people made it there for a drink and a chat with their fellow travellers. Another great dinner was served by the chefs, and on a full stomach, many retired early for another good night’s sleep.
The weather deteriorated late last night which caused the ship to move around and roll quite a bit. Some didn’t get a full night’s sleep but all were still in good spirits at breakfast time as they held their cereal bowls to stop the milk from spilling. The morning’s activities in the lecture theatre were postponed as the seas were still quite rough so a relaxing morning was had, with many catching up on lost sleep from the night before. After a delicious lunch, it was decided that the lecture room was now safe again as the rolling had abated quite a bit so first up was Rodney with a briefing on what our plans in the Ross Sea would be. He showed ice and weather maps of the area so that we could get an idea of what to expect over the next couple of weeks. After this, we watched a documentary called The Silence Calling, which celebrates 50 years of Australian research on Antarctic bases. The bar opened in the evening and a drink and chat was welcomed by many; the first iceberg had still not been spotted and stakes were getting higher for those that had guessed we would see it tomorrow.
It was a lot cooler this morning. Sea surface temperature was now around 1 degree and the outside temperature colder still. The wind had swung to the north and provided us with a following sea speeding up our progress south and we were now cruising at an average of 12.5 knots. All this meant another fantastic day in the Southern Ocean! Dean gave a great lecture on the biology and ecology of cetaceans and how to best spot and identify them. This sparked great interest on decks and we all went out with new knowledge to try and glimpse one of the ocean giants for ourselves. At 11:24am the ship was cruising through some thick fog when we spotted our first iceberg for the trip. Everyone rushed out to see this first sign of the frozen continent: it was a non-tabular berg, big enough to qualify for the contest (being bigger than a London double decker bus). Liz was the winner of the competition and she was awarded a bottle of wine for her good guessing efforts.
After lunch Tess provided us with an excellent talk on icebergs and the origin of ice, so we then all spent more time on deck and on the bridge spotting icebergs through the mist, using our new found terminology.
At about 6:30pm we all made our way to the bridge. A special moment was at hand. At latitude 66.33.66 is the Antarctic Circle, the true boundary for the frozen continent. Crossing this frontier was a privilege that few of us had encountered before. In a scene not unlike a New Year’s Eve party, we all assembled to watch the various GPS displays count down the minutes of latitude. 64, 65, 66.34’S Hooray! Rodney announced the news and invited us on deck where we would join a select minority of the world’s population: very few have ever gone so far south.
On the bow we all met, with mugs in our hands and warm, warm clothing. To aid in celebration Nikki and Brad had concocted a special mulled wine, steaming hot and ready to serve to us out in the cold conditions. Cups full we listened to Rodney induct us into this special group and we all made an oath that we would do all we could to protect and conserve this incredible part of our planet for future generations for with opportunity comes responsibility. We all cheered and drank our wine.
In Rodney’s words:
“By anyone’s standards this event is an auspicious occasion – very few people have crossed the Antarctic Circle by ship. So we want to both celebrate the occasion and acknowledge its importance.
Today each of us joins a unique group of explorers that have gone before us, not only showing us the way but giving us the courage to follow and to make our own destiny. We follow explorers such as Sir James Clark Ross, Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, Sir Douglas Mawson, Richard Byrd, Sir Edmund Hilary and others that pioneered new routes south of the circle. Today we acknowledge them and their efforts.
Crossing the Circle also carries with it a responsibility – a responsibility that those explorers who went before us took seriously which is part of the reason that we are here today. They advocated for the protection of these lands and the wildlife that inhabited them, ensuring that future generations would have them to enjoy.
So today as we cross the circle I would like each of you to take this vow and receive the Mark of the Penguin – as evidence that you have crossed the Antarctic Circle and have taken the pledge which I am going to ask you to say after me.
Having endured the privations of the Roaring Forties, the rigors of the Furious Fifties and the ice-strewn waters of the Screaming Sixties to cross the Antarctic Circle, pay homage to those early explorers who have not only shown the way, but have demonstrated what it means to advocate for the continued protection of Antarctica and its wildlife and history. I [repeat your own name] hereby pledge that in accepting the Mark of the Penguin I will, until I take my last expedition, advocate to everybody, even those who will not listen, the importance of the Antarctic and its wildlife and history.
Would you please step forward to receive the Mark of the Penguin”
Dean was ready and waiting with the Mark of the Penguin which he stamped on each of us and we wore these badges of honour proudly into the night. After yet another incredible meal we lay to rest another day in the beautiful Southern Ocean... but this time we slept in the Antarctic!
Well, we woke this morning to fog, fog and more fog. The ship was still heading south at a good speed and even though the outside temperatures had dropped, there was less ice around than the day before.
First up this morning Rodney alerted us all to a very important issue: the illegal Tooth Fishing industry that takes place in the Ross Sea Region. It is sometimes called the ‘Last Ocean on Earth’ when in its pristine state. He showed two documentaries and we all left a little saddened with the world we live in: a world that demands a fish for our culinary pleasure, not considering where it comes from, what it looks like and what is its plight. Very enlightening! Thank you to Rodney and The Last Ocean Campaign.
In the afternoon a great documentary on Adelie Penguins was screened downstairs and then Rodney gave a briefing on Antarctica, preparing us for our imminent landing at Cape Adare.
After a delicious meal from the chefs we dropped anchor. Rodney made the decision to land this evening, as the weather was quite good, and conditions aren’t always great here. We went ashore and stepped foot onto the icy continent for the first time. Many enjoyed going through Borchgrevink’s hut and seeing all of the historic memorabilia. There were also a few last remaining Adelie Penguins wandering around so people got to get a great first look at these quirky little birds. It started getting quite dark at 11:30pm so everyone returned to the ship for a warm cuppa and bed. A fantastic first landing was had by all, and I’m sure many of us dreamed of those beautiful little Adelies that night.
Snow, snow everywhere! This morning the decks were covered in several centimetres of snow that had fallen all night, as we found ourselves now in cold, cold waters. 0.2 was the water temperature, while the outside temperature showed only 0.3, with a wind chill of approx -9.8. On decks now was only for the very brave and not to be attempted without gloves and beanie - the icy winds are quick to draw away all your heat. Out in the Ross Sea the winds picked up significantly and the waves seemed to be getting a bit bigger again. The wind kept picking up throughout the day and by about 7pm we were getting gusts of up to 50knots. Due to the strong winds there was less ice in the seas and some fog had returned.
We were now being led into the south by Antarctic and Snow Petrels, two types of beautiful birds who play around on the winds created by the ship with very little effort. They cruised past all of the windows on the ship making sure we could all see them in their habits. They were feeding all the time on tiny organisms on the surface of the water and seemed to be doing very well indeed.
Some bad news was brought to the ship this afternoon when we were notified of a large earthquake hitting Christchurch; the afternoon’s lectures were postponed and people spent time contacting loved ones in the area.
The bar was opened in the early evening and it was a nice release for some who had endured a difficult afternoon. Another delicious dinner was served by the chefs as we rolled our way south through the Ross Sea.
We awoke this morning to the ship rolling quite substantially – in the heart of a storm blowing from the south and with waves up to 8m high.
Most people braved it to breakfast but were soon back in bunks as Rodney had suggested that this was the safest place to be in seas like this. Not too long after breakfast Rodney announced over the loudspeaker that Maritime NZ had contacted us about a distress signal being released further south, near Ross Island. It seemed that there was a 14m Norwegian yacht in that area and their emergency positioning device had been activated. At this stage no one had been able to get in contact with the yacht and we had been asked to make our way to the area to assist in a search. The Steve Urwin, another ship, was also in the Ross Sea and also heading in the same direction to offer assistance. However, with the sea conditions the way they were, it was estimated that we wouldn’t get there until tomorrow afternoon sometime.
The sea conditions didn’t abate during the day so people held tight in their bunks. Due to the low air temperature, a lot of the water sprayed onto the ship had frozen onto the steel, creating a thick layer of ice on all of the outside surfaces.
Brad and Nicki did very well to serve us up a meal in these trying conditions and shortly after dinner people were back in the safety of their bunks. Rodney told us that this was the worst storm he had ever seen in this region of the Ross Sea, but I’m not sure if that made us feel better or worse!
After a very hard night’s sleep spent hanging on in our bunks due to the continuing rough sea conditions, quite a few made it for breakfast. Again it was a tricky meal, people hanging on to cereal bowels and trying not to slide off their seats at the same time. All survived though and headed straight back to their bunks for shelter shortly afterwards. The sea conditions were just as bad as the day before and now even more ice had frozen to the decks. The Spirit of Enderby was now looking like a different ship covered in this thick layer of white ice.
The search for the Norwegian yacht was still on and we were notified that the Steve Urwin vessel had now started to search in the area. They were searching by ship and by helicopter but hadn’t found anything in the ocean so far.
At around 3pm our sea conditions finally started improving and by 4:30pm it was hard to believe we had ever been in such a storm. The seas were calm enough for the crew to get out on deck and start chipping ice off surfaces. Everyone felt relieved to be in much calmer waters once again.
At about 5pm in the afternoon our ship reached the area we had been allocated to search and began a grid search between Franklin and Beaufort Islands. We searched all through the evening and night in a zig zag pattern going north to south.
After searching in vain through the night for the Norwegian yacht Berserk, our part of the search finished at 5:30am after completing our assigned search area. Nothing had been found; the Steve Urwin was to continue searching for a little longer today.
Rodney woke us this morning at 5:30am telling us about the spectacular sight of Mount Erebus. Sure enough, once we’d all managed to drag ourselves out of our warm beds and up to the bridge we soon realised it was well worth it. Wow. There it was right before our eyes, in perfect view, no clouds, nothing to stop us seeing the immense volcano. It was beautiful. We could see steam rising from its summit, and at 13000 feet this active volcano sure was impressive. We were at Cape Royds, the site of the Shackleton Nimrod expedition. This section of the Ross Sea was stunning. The Trans-Antarctic Mountains were clearly visible, running the length of our vision across the body of water opposite Cape Royds. Their sharp peaks were separated by countless glaciers. This was rugged country.
The anchor was dropped in Back Door Bay just off Cape Royds and the staff went ashore in the Zodiacs to cut some steps into the ice for our landing. It was an interesting landing, climbing off the front of the Zodiac onto a 2 meter high ice shelf. Once all were safely ashore and standing on strong ice we marched off as a group towards the historic hut. The site was a fascinating mixture of volcanic rock, Adelie Penguin colonies and the manmade relics. The hut was in good condition and had been partially restored - inside it was different to the other huts we had been into. It had a very homely feel to it with a couch and a very large living area. We explored its contents in great detail and even found Shackleton’s own signature on one of the bed heads. Once finished we marched again across the ice and back to the ship where the captain took her toward Cape Evans.
Still with beautiful blue skies and sunshine, we couldn’t have asked for better weather for the day. Ahead lay Cape Evans with a stunning backdrop supplied by Mount Erebus. After a bite of lunch we lowered Zodiacs and moved swiftly to the small gravel beach where we landed right near Scott’s Hut. This was the site of Scott’s last expedition and the hut itself was in incredibly good condition, although it has been restored to some degree. Outside was no shortage of interesting artefacts to look at and the terrain was fun to explore. Inside though was most certainly the highlight. As you walked through the doorway you immediately stepped back in time to 100 years ago, when Scott and his men mounted their campaign for the South Pole and the collection of scientific data that would help shape our understanding of this frozen continent. There were bottles on the shelves, pairs of socks on the beds, Ponting’s darkroom, Scott’s den, scientific samples and papers of the day. It really was a highlight of many of our lives to be right here in the very spot that these men had lived and worked, laughed and eaten and wintered the brutal Antarctic conditions. Dogs were to be found - long dead - but still with collars on and chained to railings; seal blubber stored for burning, stables and workspaces intact. There were some Adelie Penguins and Weddell Seals scattered around the site and most people got an opportunity to spend some time with these little characters. Rodney surprised us all by helping Allegra and Adrian to renew their wedding vows right there on the ice. All too soon it was time to leave and we crossed the bay back to the ship.
Just after returning, we got a brief visit from the Sea Shepherd ship the Steve Urwin as it sailed by before heading home to Hobart. Waving goodbye to them we headed up to the bar to drink champagne and celebrate with Adrian and Allegra while the ship made its way further into McMurdo Sound toward McMurdo Station. We were to stay in the turning basin here and what a fantastic place to spend the end of a truly spectacular day.
We awoke early this morning to the sound of the ship’s engines starting. A catabatic wind had blown in over night and started moving the ice around in McMurdo Sound - Rodney and the Captain decided it was too risky to stay as the risk of getting trapped by ice at this time of the year is very real. So our visit to the McMurdo and Scott Bases was cancelled for today and we steamed out of the sound as quickly as possible. Around Cape Evans we were in more safe and sheltered waters, the ship cut its engines and we drifted for a while. The weather outside was truly Antarctic with strong winds and the outside wind-chill temperature as low as -32 °C. A few people braved going out on deck for a few minutes just to feel how cold it can really get down here. After drifting for a while and assessing the weather forecasts, Rodney made the decision to start heading east towards the Ross Ice Shelf. After lunch we had made it as far as Cape Bird and the conditions here were quite a lot better than those further to the west. The staff got the Zodiacs in the water and started ferrying people to the beach to stretch their legs on this beautiful piece of coast. Along the shore of the beach were many spectacular rolled icebergs washed up. As we wandered up and down it was fantastic to be able to get such a close look at this pure glacial ice. There were quite a few Adelie Penguins around for people to look at and one very friendly one who came right over to the life jacket bins and stood with the group as they put their life jackets on. It was very curious and looked at us as if it wasn’t scared at all. There were also some Weddell Seals relaxing on the ice and many Antarctic Skuas in the air; some of the Skuas still had mature chicks with them so a few of the visitors found themselves dive-bombed and followed by these cheeky birds.
We were all back on board the ship and off towards the ice shelf again by about 3:30pm. At 4 o’clock Rodney gave a very interesting lecture downstairs covering some of the history in the Ross Sea from the last two centuries. Afterwards a lazy afternoon was spent while we made our way further east.
We arrived at the ice wall just after dinner. It was massive and stretched for many miles out to sea. Along its face were a myriad of caves and sculptures created by the violent weather conditions of the area. Off to the east were icebergs that had recently calved off. All in all it was a spectacular way to end another incredible day in Antarctica! To top it off, as we sailed away from the ice shelf a pod of Orca was spotted in the distance showing some feeding behaviour. They were viewed by many tired eyes through binoculars before people headed off to bed for the night.
We were up for an early start this morning and much to everyone’s delight found ourselves anchored back in McMurdo Sound. The weather was much calmer than the day before, though air temperatures remained low, with the outside temperature at -11°C. Brrrrrrrr chilly! After a quick breakfast and a briefing by Rodney we all rugged up in many layers and prepared to go ashore for the day.
It began with a tour around the American station, with some of the highlights being the science lab, the coffee shop, the chapel and of course the souvenir shop. After spending the morning with the very accommodating Americans we then got picked up in 4WD’s and taken over the icy hill to Scott Base where we got a taste of Kiwi culture. Some very kind guides showed us around this smaller but homely base. We got to see some historic artefact restoration underway and even visited Sir Edmund Hilary’s TAE hut which had many interesting historic stories. Back in the 4WD’s we were taken back over the hill to the famous Discovery Hut, where Shackleton and his men had spent long, cold, dark hours all those years ago. By this time it was mid-afternoon and some people were starting to feel the cold. A brisk walk back to the Zodiacs warmed everyone up before groups were ferried back to the ship for a hot cuppa and a warm shower.
Later in the afternoon, once everyone was back on board, we had some visitors from Scott Base. Some of the lovely base residents came to the ship for a tour, a warm scone and a chat in the bar.
A game - and maybe slightly crazy - group assembled at 6pm to climb to the top of Observation Hill. Rugged up in many layers and prepared for the freezing winds at the top, the group went ashore and proceeded in their ascent. The view from the top was spectacular, a 360 degree view over McMurdo Sound, the vast Ice Shelf and those mind-blowing Trans-Antarctic mountains. It was cold, and the wind chill on top was -30°C, our eyelashes formed crystals and froze together so we didn’t hang around up there for too long. A quick descent and back across the bay and we were back on the ship just after 7:30pm - a record-breaking time to the top and back.
As we ate a delicious meal prepared by the chefs, the captain pulled anchor and we started to sail further south. As soon as dinner was finished, all passengers were up on the bridge or out on decks to watch the Spirit of Enderby get as far south as it had ever been in McMurdo Sound. At 9:30pm we made it to 77°54.1166’S and 166°39.5714’E where the water temperature was -0.4°C and the air temperature was -10°C. It was only possible to get this far south because the ice in the sound had broken back further than it had done in 15 years. As we came to our most southern point, a huge group of Emperor Penguins (approx 60 birds) appeared on an ice floe up ahead. The captain slowly inched the ship closer until, on the bow, we were just meters from these majestic birds. This was a highlight for many on the trip: to see this many Emperor Penguins here at this time of the year is so rare that it was hard to believe it was real. On the ice and in the water around the Emperors were also many Snow Petrels feeding off something on the sea’s surface. Flocks of these stunning pure white birds flew around the ship and gave us a chance to really appreciate their beauty.
Conditions remained calm as we left the south of the sound and Captain sailed the ship north, on a course towards Terra Nova Bay. All were very weary from the eventful day and it was finally time to rest. It had been a spectacular evening and a perfect way to finish off another amazing day down here in Antarctica.
We all enjoyed a bit of a lie-in this morning and awoke to Marie telling us about the beautiful calm day outside. Sure enough, we were sailing through millpond conditions with pancake ice all around the ship. As we made our way north throughout the morning many photographs were taken of the fascinating ice forming on the sea’s surface. This was the beginning of the freeze! It looked like we’d timed it well, as it was obvious that the Ross Sea was beginning to freeze over for the winter. We would be north of it just in time.
The last episode of the documentary Last Place on Earth played during the morning and all watching bid a sad farewell to Scott and his three companions. After lunch Rodney gave a very interesting talk on whaling in the Ross Sea in the early 1900’s, accompanied by a short documentary. A couple of hours later and a little further north, a documentary called Solid Water, Liquid Rock screened downstairs. This was a film by TVNZ on Mt Erebus, the breathtakingly-beautiful mountain that we’d all been staring at for the last few days.
We continued heading north throughout the day and at just after 6:00pm arrived at Inexpressible Island. This was where Scott’s northern Terra Nova party got stranded and had to spend 8 months in an ice cave. You could see from the ship how harsh and unforgiving the landscape was: it gets its name because it was ‘inexpressibly uninhabitable’. The staff went ashore in the Zodiacs but couldn’t find a safe place to land so the decision was made to continue up the coast towards the Italian Base. We arrived shortly after dinner but there was a huge iceberg sitting right in the bay blocking our landing position. We cruised past the base but unfortunately were not able to go ashore. The Italians had all left for the winter time and it was an empty base so we weren’t disappointing anyone onshore.
It was another lovely evening in Antarctica, if a little chilly outside, and most people lapped up the beauty before hitting the sack for a calm night’s rest. Next stop Campbell Island!
This morning we awoke to the ship rolling a little bit, conditions weren’t too bad but it was strange being out of the dead calm seas that we had become used to over the last few days. The ship was set on a course for Campbell Island and overnight we had come far enough north that we were no longer seeing any icebergs in the water as we travelled. It was a strange feeling to be in the open ocean again, slightly lonely without those beautiful white bergs around.
In the late morning Katya gave a very entertaining lecture on the ‘Arctic VS Antarctic’ taking a look into the two polar regions, and the differences between them. It was fantastic to learn a little more about the northern polar region and compare it to what we’d been seeing on this trip.
At 12:51pm we gathered in the bar and had two minutes of silence to pay tribute to those affected by and the lives lost in the earthquake that hit Christchurch the week before.
After lunch we stepped back in time with a documentary called With Byrd to the South Pole, about the ‘Little America’ expedition party. This was an older piece of film covering the trials and tribulations of the Americans and their trip to the South Pole. Later in the afternoon Rodney gave a lecture on the Antarctic Treaty System and how it plays a role in the tourism industry in the area.
In the evening we opened up the bar and had a drink and a chat with fellow passengers. A Ross Sea recap was held, questions were asked and answered and everyone got the chance to review our fantastic Ross Sea experience.
It was a good turn out to dinner and many retired to their cabins early to catch up on rest as we continued our journey north.
Many were relieved to awake this morning to somewhat calmer seas. We were at the approximate equal latitude to Cape Adare when breakfast was served and thankfully the seas had definitely abated quite a bit. We noticed throughout the morning that there were many more sea birds around the ship this morning, including the first of our Light Mantled Sooty Albatross and a lot of petrels and prions.
First up on the programme this morning was the documentary Scott and Shackleton, Rivals for the Pole - a fantastic take on both Scott and Shackleton’s stories and the differences and difficulties they faced on their journeys south.
Later in the morning, and very fitting for today, Tessa gave us a very informative lecture on albatross in the Southern Ocean and how we can distinguish which birds we were looking at. We were all looking forward to getting to Campbell Island now, which is home to many albatross species, including the wonderful Southern Royal.
After lunch Nicki and Brad gave a tour of the galley: it was great to see behind the scenes and be able to see the space in which these two produce such delicious meals day after day.
Later in the afternoon part one of Longitude was screened downstairs – this is a series on the first reliable measurement of longitude, which changed forever how we navigate the seas.
The bar opened in the early evening and another lovely meal was shared downstairs for dinner. All expected to sleep well tonight as the sea conditions were still quite calm heading north.
We awoke at 8am to Rodney on the loudspeaker telling us that we were in a Category One storm. This meant that the sea had strengthened once again - the ship was certainly a lot more animated than yesterday. We were told that there would be no going outside at all and that all lower level port holes would be fully fastened down by the crew. But the salty old sea dogs were doing well -nowhere near the incidence of sea-sickness that we had encountered when we began our journey. Lectures and movies were out of the question today as the ship was just too active so it was another day of books, photos and movies in our bunks. I can think of worse ways to spend a day The staff put together a very comical quiz and many guests spent the afternoon in the bar/library area participating and having a good laugh. The bar was opened in the evening, and people hung on tight as they sipped their drinks. Dinner was slightly fast and furious, as it always is in these conditions, but still a good turn out considering the circumstances. We hoped that tomorrow the storm may have passed but, still, we were heading steadily north and with the wind behind us, were making good time.
This morning we awoke to slightly calmer seas. Everyone was relieved to see that the storm conditions had dropped off over night.
After breakfast, Dean kicked the morning off with a lecture on the research that he and Tessa performed while living on Macquarie Island for two summers. They lived there between 2008 and 2010 and spent 6 months each summer working very closely with the Fur Seal population on the island. After the seals were wiped out almost to extinction in the 1800’s the resident population on the island is recovering very slowly; we all learnt a lot about the work that Dean and Tessa carried out and a lot about these beautiful marine mammals.
After a delicious lunch we handed back our warm Antarctic jackets - back in the 60’s we would no longer need such heavy clothing. At 3pm the Sea Shop was opened up by Marie for anyone that needed some last minute shopping before our last week at sea.
The bar opened in the early evening for some drinks and fun and after a somewhat calmer meal, a Friday night movie was shown downstairs. The night finished off with a viewing of the hilarious Australian film The Castle. Many laughs were enjoyed by all who attended.
The seas had remained quite calm over night, which was a relief to many. As we headed further north, the sea and outside air temperatures climbs each day. This morning the outside air temperature was up to 10°C and the water a balmy 6°C.
This morning’s activities started off with a documentary on Shackleton’s Endurance expedition. The story outlined the hardships endured by Shackleton and his men on an expedition that went so wrong. It furthered our appreciation for modern day sailing and all of the gadgets that go with it.
Later in the morning Katya gave a talk on the Russian Far East, another of Heritage Expeditions’ voyage destinations. The Spirit of Enderby heads north in early April and spends the Northern Summer in the Northern Hemisphere. This talk perhaps inspired a few people to start planning their next big trip, maybe in the north this time.
After lunch Rodney presented an introduction to Campbell Island. This included plenty of great history and wildlife stories and we learnt about what we could expect over the next couple of days at the island. After Rodney’s lecture a short documentary called Battle for Campbell Island was screened downstairs. This is a homemade documentary on the famous rat eradication programme which was undertaken on the island in 2001. It was very interesting to learn about the eradication and to hear that the island is recovering from the removal of this pest so well.
The bar opened in the evening and we all enjoyed a drink and a chat while we could - the forecast was that sea conditions were going to ‘pick up’ overnight. After a great meal we retired to try and get some rest before we started rolling again.
Well, sure enough, the forecast was correct and we began rolling once again in the early hours of this morning. We were awoken by Rodney at 7:30am on the loudspeaker warning us to take extreme care when moving around, as the ship was getting hit by seas beam on. Breakfast was an interesting event. People managed very well as they clung to plates and cups and stayed upright all at the same time.
Because of the conditions most people spent the morning in their cabins and bunks where they could stay safe and horizontal.
We were finally able to see Campbell Island in the distance at about 11am and by 1pm were coming up to the south side of the island. Refuge at last! We ate lunch in the shelter of the east coast and then did some ‘chumming’ off the back deck. Thousands of Southern Royal Albatross, Campbell Island Mollymawks and other seabirds followed the ship as we cruised along the eastern side of the island.
When the chum was all gone the ship headed for Perseverance Harbour. Coming to anchor here in the sheltered waters of the harbour and just off Beaman Base, the old weather station, people felt great relief to be still at last. This afternoon, most people came ashore and stretched their legs on the wonderful boardwalk that takes one up to the Col-Lyall saddle; here we sat and watched the elegant Southern Royal Albatross. Many birds sat on chicks and the younger ones that were around showed some great displays of gamming. They truly are a magnificent bird and to be able to just sit and watch them is a very special treat.
Everyone was back on board the ship by 8pm for a late dinner and a nice calm sleep in the sheltered waters of Perseverance Harbour.
Everyone awoke excited this morning as a day of great activities was ahead of us. It was a wonderful day for a tramp, a few light showers, but mostly a very pleasant Subantarctic temperature. One group of walkers covered an 8hr circuit that took them over to North West bay where they had spectacular views down the coast, saw a research hut and walked for hours along beautiful hillsides past many albatross. It was enjoyed by all even if there were a few tired legs that evening.
The other option for the day was to participate in a Zodiac cruise in the morning and to do the boardwalk again in the afternoon. The cruise took us past many historical spots including the Old Homestead, the Loneliest Tree in the World, the Lady of the Heather and Venus bay. There were some very friendly sea lions in the water this morning too, and they followed the boats for a long time, playfully swimming right up to the back of the boat and jumping high out of the water. What a display! If was truly great to see these beautiful mammals playing and having so much fun - it also made us realise just how graceful and agile they are underwater.
After the Zodiac cruise we came back to the ship to warm up for a couple of hours and have some lunch and a hot cuppa out of the wind and weather. In the mid-afternoon those that still had energy and were feeling adventurous headed back over to Beaman Base and headed back up the boardwalk to Col-Lyall. It rained throughout the afternoon, but we still got another good look at those beautiful birds - with temperatures not too cold some people hung around for quite a while taking photos and enjoying being on the island.
Everyone was back on board the ship by 7:30pm and at 8pm the sub-polar plunge took place. Ten people jumped from the ship into the icy waters of Perseverance Harbour, at approx 10°C, to help raise money for the Last Oceans fund. It was a great effort by all involved.
After such a big day most people had their dinner and then retired weary and content. Goodbye Campbell Island - we would be setting sail once again at midnight tonight.
The last leg! We awoke this morning to pretty calm seas and good conditions as we sailed north. We departed Campbell Island at midnight last night and now had about 3 days sailing ahead of us for the last leg of the journey.
This morning’s activities started of with Bruce, our government representative, showing us a short documentary and giving us a talk on the Campbell Island Flightless Teal. Bruce has been involved in a reintroduction programme, bringing these unique birds back onto the main Campbell Island after pests were eradicated there. It was a very interesting movie and talk and there were lots of questions for Bruce at the end as everyone was very interested in the programme.
After lunch another New Zealand documentary was screened downstairs, this one about the ever elusive Kiwi Bird. There was a good turnout in the theatre and all enjoyed learning more about these beautiful native birds.
Later on in the afternoon Katya gave a talk on Polar Bears and the threats that they face. It was a consuming presentation and sparked many conversations about the issue.
The bar opened early this evening as the staff had prepared a cocktail party. The bar was decorated up with snow flakes and everyone came dressed as something reminding them of their time in Antarctica. Some crazy concoctions were created by the staff behind the bar and the chefs brought up platters of tasty snacks. Dinner was served downstairs later on and many were still in their creative costumes. A good time was had by all!
This morning, during the wakeup call, Marie announced that the air temperature was up to 12°C and the water temperature a balmy 12.5°C. This showed that we were moving north at a steady speed now, and it wouldn’t be too long before we were off the coast of mainland New Zealand.
During the morning, Ridgeway gave a talk on his time spent in Antarctica. It was a great way for people to understand what it’s like to live on an Antarctic station and to learn about the logistics of living in such a remote location.
The weather just got better and better during the day: we had sunshine, blue skies and glassy seas as we headed north along the coast of mainland New Zealand. Just before lunch a Humpback Whale was spotted off the starboard side, surfacing a few times to give people a great view.
After lunch many people headed up to the monkey deck to enjoy the warm sunshine. We were approaching the Otago Peninsula and there were still some albatross and other seabirds following the boat and quite a few Fur Seals lounging on the water’s surface as we glided past. It was lovely to be outside and enjoying such nice weather.
Later in the afternoon Bruce gave a talk on the Yellow-eyed Penguin, the second rarest bird in the world and one of New Zealand’s more protected species. Bruce has spent many years assisting in the research of these birds and was able to give us a really good idea of what is happening to their local population.
After a group photograph taken on the ship’s bow, the bar was opened and it was a lovely flat day to sit and have a drink and socialise with fellow passengers. Another great meal was served by the chefs and everybody went to bed happy to be in calm waters for the night.
Well, our last day at sea. This morning we awoke as the ship sailed along the coast of the Banks Peninsula. Marie announced that the outside air temperature was up to 16°C and the water temperature up to 14.5°C, significantly warmer than anything we’d felt for a month.
In the late morning we all gathered downstairs for our final briefing. Rodney led an expedition recap and then we all enjoyed watching a fantastic visual presentation that the staff had put together. Seeing the photos of all of the places we’d been over the last month brought back so many great memories. What a way to recall all of our experiences, and what an amazing trip it had been.
After lunch Marie settled up accounts as we got to the heads of Lyttelton Harbour. We anchored with several other ships just off the heads, it was a calm day with blue skies and warm temperatures. It felt HOT to all of us, who had spent the last month south.
That evening we enjoyed a final night dinner. Once again, and for the last time, the chefs put together a delicious meal. Everybody talked of the trip and of the experiences they’d shared. Most people went to bed with a full belly and a smile, ready for the final wake-up call early tomorrow morning.
This morning we awoke to find the ship tied up to the wharf in Lyttelton Harbour. After breakfast and immigration formalities, we boarded our bus and set off on the journey home. The trip had been a great success and all will carry their own memories as they go their separate ways. You are of the lucky few to see these incredible places and it is our hope that you become advocates for their future protection. Thanks for travelling with us and we hope to see you again on a Heritage Expedition in the future!
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" My wife Roslyn and I have just returned from the January 11, 2015 "In the Wake of Scott and Shackelton" expedition. We were overwhelmed by the excellence of absolutely every aspect of the trip. It exceeded all our expectations.
THE staff were so professional, engaging, helpful, considerate, knowledgeable, friendly etc. etc., and we could not have asked for better. Nathan did an incredibly competent job as EL, making all the right decisions and we felt safe and well looked after at all times. The quality of the other staff blew us away. Agnes was simply the nicest most professional hostess we have ever experienced. Also to have Don, David and Samuel as the "guest presenters" was truly an honour for us. I doubt having that level of experience, and knowledge about Antarctica in one place has not ever been replicated before. They were also great hosts/companions.
Next absolutely amazing was Connor...the chef. After the first few nights we were amazed with the quality of the food, and how well, and professionally it was cooked and presented. WHat blew us away was that he kept it up for the whole 4 weeks, while he was also driving zodiacs, up early , to bed late, and mixing with the guests - and all the time he was so friendly, happy and engaging.... and he is so young. He truly was an amazing young man, and we (and Heritage) were lucky to have him. Frank (the baker) also has to go into that category as well, with his baked foods a real highlight which we looked forward to. Dr Lesley and Ross were also so helpful, approachable and great company.
The quality of the cabins and life on board was also more than we had expected. The comfort of the cabins was perfect for us, and the daily presentations, and itinerary, and activities aboard, as well as the crew, and access to the bridge all added to the excellence of our tip.
We have had the best experience we could have asked for. I was very emotional when it came time to leave, about seeing what we had seen and doing what we had done in Antarctica, but mostly about the absolute excellence of the staff and what they did for us. It was obviously not just a job for them. They loved it too... and that flowed through to us. Please pass on our heartfelt thanks to all of them.
Please DO NOT CHANGE ANYTHING. It was worth every cent .... and in this price range it still made it accessible for the average person, and that mix of people from all walks of life added great value to the whole journey. It would be a shame if anything changed. You do not need to change a thing.
I sincerely offer you the greatest CONGRATULATIONS on what you do. Also our thanks to all the office staff who work behind the scenes to make it what it is.
" I had such an amazing trip, one I thought was a once in a lifetime opportunity. But here I am 8 months later looking at travelling again to this amazing and wonderful part of the world.
Rodney and his team ensured the very best experiences were available through careful planning and excellent knowledge of the area and weather conditions. They were nothing short of exceptional in their care of passengers safety.
Thankyou once again for bringing my life dream to reality. "
" Have to say that my expedition to the Sub-Antarctic Islands and the Ross Sea region was absolutely amazing. One could not have asked for better passengers, crew, hospitality staff and management.I take my hat off to Rodney Russ, Agnes, Sam, Katya, David, Eric, Trudie, chefs Bruce & Michael for their expertise, professionalism, being well organised and for their concern for every passenger. I recommend this expedition for anyone looking for some adventure, wildlife, comaradrie, knowledge of the Ross Sea region and the islands south of Bluff, NZ. "
" What an amazing trip, the ice conditions were kind to us and enabled us to sail right into Mcmurdo to visit all the historic huts of the early explorers (now I have visited them all). What we did not get to see this time I saw the last time, I am so fortunate. Very hard to describe to people what we have experienced and seen and of course Captain Rodney (our fearless leader),what can one say, without him we still be sailing around the southern ocean, he makes things happen. To Leanne in the office, for you made it happen and in a painless way with good administration work and excellent communication at all times,
many,many thanks for bringing this trip of a life-time together in a very smooth, efficient and professional way. "
" I was on your Ross Sea trip in January and since I came back I am still reading a lot of books about the explorers and the region of the Ross Sea.
We had an amazing experience when we landed at Inexpressible Island which is an area that is difficult to get into, so reading about Scott’s Northern Party has brought the whole thing to life. I managed to get a copy of “The Wicked Mate” the diaries of Victor Campbell, (a great read!) and also recommended by Rodney, however the book is out of print and really difficult (and expensive!) to get hold of. Friends in NZ & AUS also had difficulty getting a copy. However by chance I came across another book published in 2011, by Meredith Hooper, called “The Longest Winter” also about Scott’s Northern Party, and I have to say the book is outstanding, very well researched and written. What it does is provide a lot of insight into the lives of the men in the Northern party, but what is more relevant is that it also relates what the Northern Party were doing in relation to what was happening at Cape Evans, Hut Point and at Amundsen’s expedition and also about the exploits of the Terra Nova. It was one of the best books on this subject I have read, and therefore you may like to add it to your reading list.
I also bought Rodney & Aleks Teraud’s book Galapagos of the Antarctic on the boat, what a fantastic read and stunning photos!!
" Roughest trip ever, we were told, and that impacted on where we went. Towards the end of the journey, a fellow passenger asked me "Any regrets?. My response was "None. Some disappointments for sure, but no regrets". The day we arrived at Ross Island, sailing past Cape Bird & Mt Erebus on a clear day, visiting both Cape Royds & Cape Evans was the obvious standout. It was almost a case of too much good stuff in one day. "
" Thanks for your feedback David. Good to hear you enjoyed the expedition despite the rough seas. This was definitely the roughest return leg from Antarctica we have encountered for many years. The Southern Ocean can certainly be harsh and unforgiving at times but hopefully the memories of the glorious conditions we enjoyed off Ross Island will outlast those of the rolling seas! "
" Voyaging with Heritage Expeditions is unbeatable - globally - the true essence and meaning of exploration fills every moment of every voyage: thanks to the most extraordinary Rodney, Aaron and Nathan for bringing these "beyond the realm" experiences into our human souls, to be treasured forever. An Aaron Russ photograph of Mawson's Frozen Chair adorns my wall, for me to wonder and marvel each and every day. Lynne Taylor: Zimbabwe. "
" Thank you for the Trip Log and Species List received yesterday via our London travel agent. It will be great to recall such fantastic memories of our voyage on Spirit of Enderby. We would like to thank you personally for your enthusiasm and determination in getting us all not only to the two huts of Scott and Shackleton but also phenominal experiences at Inexpressible and Campbell. Even the landing at Gondwana, which didn't seem very appealing, proved to have great geology, scenery and wildlife... Thanks again. It would not have been possible without your leadership and expertise. "
" “the excitement of actually traveling to the places I had heard so much about was the fulfillment of a dream..” "
" I choose this expedition to access the Ross Sea - allowing us to view Capatin Scott's and Shackleton's huts, to visit inexpressible Island where Scott's Norther party were marooned for a year, to carefully negotiate pack ice and cross the Antarctic Circle to reach 77° south and also visit New Zealand's stunning Subantarctic Islands. With the knowledge and genuine love of the geographic area in which Heritage Expeditions operate and its associated natural history, I have just returned from a the trip of a lifetime in New Zealand and to Antarctica and its Subantarctic Islands. "
" When Heritage say it's an Expedition they really do mean that the holiday is run in that spirit. Nathan our expedition leader always took the time to explain what was expected with weather and ice conditions so that we always felt part of the plans. They know the area so well that whatever nature produced there was always something new and enjoyable to experience. I really wasn't sure whether my son and I would have the chance to experience the wilderness and isolation of Antarctica - to have been able to do so is a testament to the way that Nathan and the team ran the trip. A trip of a lifetime for both my son and me from the start of the booking process through landing back in New Zealand. Thank you Heritage Expeditions. "
" Thanks to the family, staff and crew at Heritage for the most magical trip to the ice imaginable. From the frozen slopes of active Mt. Erebus volcano, to the diamond dust dancing in the air across the icy continent, truly memorable and life enhancing. "