Day 1: Saturday 9 February
Data at 0800: Air Temp 16°C, Sea Temp: 16°C
Position at 1200: 46°35.65’S; 168°20.3’E
With high anticipation and perhaps just a little trepidation, most of us arrived on Saturday at New Zealand’s southernmost city, Invercargill in warm summer conditions. Over dinner at the downtown Kelvin Hotel, we met Antarctican Samuel Blanc, the Expedition Leader for our voyage to the Subantarctic Islands and the white continent. Samuel’s experience and reassurance shone through allaying that nagging nervousness.
Day 2: Sunday 10 February
Invercargill, Bluff and embarkation for the south
Data at 0800: Air Temp: 18°C Sea Temp: 18°C
Position at 1200: 46°35.65’S; 168°20.3’E
On Sunday morning we breakfast at the Kelvin and our luggage is transferred to the ship. At 09:00 we meet Dan Brown, one of our guides, a naturalist. We board a coach and set off on our first field trip, just over an hour’s drive, through the green Southland landscape to explore Curio Bay in the Catlins.
On arrival at Curioscape we are we split into two groups, one to go inside the exhibit, and the other to explore outside with Dan. The Yellow-eyed Penguin/Hoiho is found here as well as the east coast of the South Island, Stewart Island, and the subantarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands. They are a nationally endangered species, preyed upon by stoats, rats and cat etc. The warming ocean is also affecting their food supply. There are now only a few hundred of this rare penguin living on the Catlins coast. The Little Blue penguin can also be found along this coastline. These are the smallest of the world’s penguins and fish during the day close to the shore. They are the same species as the Fairy Penguin found in Australia.
While the outside group explored, the second group visited Curioscape and the Edge Experience Immersive Theatre, an interactive centre designed to share the unique stories of Tumu Toka Curio Bay. It explained ancient geological beginnings, the forces of nature and how people have transformed life on the coast many times, experiencing great riches, great loss and regrowth.
We had our lunch at the Curioscape Restaurant and returned to the Kelvin Hotel, then proceeded the 30 km to the Port of Bluff and boarded our ship, Professor Khromov, known to us as the Spirit of Enderby. The expedition staff warmly welcomed us on board and guided us to our cabins. We were pointed to the Globe Bar where a Kiwi Devonshire tea with freshly made scones and raspberry jam awaited us, plus hot tea, coffee and orange juice. From there we had to make our way to the bridge to meet the New Zealand Customs Service officer to inspect our passports and departure cards.
Once underway, Samuel conducted a voyage safety briefing and we listened intently to Dr Bren and how to best manage sea sickness. Out of port, the emergency signal was sounded and we lined up at our muster stations in our bulky yellow life jackets for a full lifeboat drill and we were packed like sardines into the two orange life boats, all good practice, and an opportunity to share the first of many new experiences together.
We sailed south, skirting around the western side of Stewart Island and enjoyed a colourful sunset as the ship picked up some movement from the low swell.
Day 3: Monday 11 February
The Snares and sea passage southward
Data at 0800: Air Temp: 14°C Sea Temp: 14°C
Position at 1200: 48°02.95’S; 166°34.9’E
At about 01:30 the weather changed slightly and the ship began pitching and rolling. Breakfast was not fully attended with some people preferring to stay in their rooms.
08:30 – Zodiac and bio security briefing from Samuel. This was an important briefing about using the Zodiacs. Samuel talked about loading the Zodiac rubber boats from the gangways, the tag system, boot washing stations and the landings onto beaches which could be either nose first or stern first depending on sea or ice conditions. The secret was “the higher the drier”. Some video clips showed us how not to do it! He also outlined the bio security restrictions, no food was to be taken ashore unless packed on the ship, no smoking and maintaining a 5 metre distance from wildlife and being quiet. No plants, rocks or animals, dead or alive should be taken as a ‘souvenir’.
Samuel outlined a Zodiac cruise that was planned along the coast of North East Island, the largest and northernmost island of The Snares group.
The ship anchored in a bay on the south coast of The Snares to protect us from the northerly. At 10:00 we quickly prepared our gear and lined up wearing life jackets as instructed and launched the five Zodiacs. There was a 10 knot breeze and the temperature was 14 °C, so we enjoyed these favourable conditions in the bay until we passed through the channel separating North East Island from Broughton Island. The eastern side was choppy with a 1 m swell. We saw many New Zealand Fur Seals with juveniles. We cruised into Ho Ho Bay and the first two adventurous Zodiacs disappeared through a hole in the cliffs. The rest of us cruised around to meet them as they emerged from the coast line.
The highlight for the birders amongst us was good close up viewing of Snares Crested Penguins. They were in the water, and on sloping ground extending high above us and into the forest. Two terrestrial forest birds were sighted, the Fern Bird and the endemic all black Tomtit. The rookeries of Buller’s Albatross extended along the edge of the cliffs and they were regularly soaring above us. Other birds seen were the Sooty Shearwater (Titi), the Cape Petrel (Pintado), Antarctic Tern, Common Diving Petrel, Great Skua and Giant Petrel.
A lone moulting King Penguin was seen close the DOC (Department of Conservation) hut at Boat Harbour Station Point. Dan deduced it was likely to be from Macquarie Island.
After a couple of hours of cruising we returned to the ship for lunch. The transfer from Zodiac to gangway was a challenge as the swell was greater than when we left the ship but everyone boarded without mishap.
© A. Breniere
Departing The Snares we headed south for Enderby Island in the Auckland Islands.
Enderby Island briefing by Samuel
At 15:30 Samuel we joined Samuel for a briefing on Enderby Island. Polynesian ovens and middens from the 13th or 14th century have been found on Enderby Island in the Auckland Islands. European explorers first saw the islands in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Sealers worked in the islands from 1805 to about 1812, slaughtering hundreds of thousands of seals. In 1842 Māori and Moriori from the Chatham Islands settled in the Auckland Islands. Englishman Charles Enderby hoped to set up a whaling base and farming settlement on the Auckland Islands. In 1849 and 1850, 200 settlers arrived from Britain. They built a town, Hardwicke, but agriculture was difficult, and they left in 1852.
Samuel outlined the wildlife we’ll encounter and the walking track where we plan to cross from Sandy Bay, the southern beach, across the island to the northern coast. It’s about 1.3 km long. Passengers were welcome to walk the 10 km around the northeast cape. This long walk through tussock required a reasonable level of fitness. His best advice was to “Keep the sea on your left. If you don’t, you’re lost in the forest.”
Plastic poo bags were issued but no instructions were needed… Samuel reinforced that since 2001; Enderby Island has been predator-free, rid of a history of pigs, cattle and rabbits. Human visitors are now its biggest threat.
Logically the next session was bio security. We thoroughly checked, cleaned and vacuumed the pockets and Velcro strappings on our clothes, backpacks, and camera bags that we’ll use, removing all traces of seeds and any dirt. The expedition team closely inspected all our going ashore gear as required under guidelines for visitors going ashore in the Subantarctic and Antarctica. Don’t pack a pest!
Day 4: Tuesday 12 February
Sandy Bay, Enderby Island and the Auckland Island Group
Data at 0800: Air Temp: 12°C Sea Temp: 14°C
Position at 1200: 50°30.45’S; 168°16.6’E
At about 03:30 the ship anchored in Port Ross enabling us to complete a night’s sleep in comfort.
08:30 – Briefing on today’s activities in lecture room.
09:30 – We passed through the boot station and then to the gangway. Agnès and Uri made several trips to offload us stern first onto the beach enabling the Zodiac to ride over the surf that kept rolling in. Three friendly DOC staff was at the research station completing a Hookers Sea Lion survey.
We all crossed the open grassed ‘penguin alley’ and found the trail starting with a passage through a dense patch of low Rata forest that was alive with birdsong (Silvereyes, Black and White Robins, Red-crowned Parakeets). We also saw Yellow-eyed Penguins and sea lions in this area. The path transitioned onto a boardwalk that crosses the island (about 1.3 km) into the open sedge land where Pipits and Double-banded Dotterels were also seen by careful observers. The megaherbs featured on the exposed highland providing splashes of vivid purple and orange amongst the green. On the way we passed the nesting Royal Albatross.
11:00 – We arrived at the northern edge of the island where precipices overlook the ocean. Sea mist prevailed but the outlook was magnificent, with crashing waves on the rocks below us, and the long tendrils of the kelp swirling around the shore. From the cliff lookout there were a number of Light-mantled Sooty Albatross also on nests. A few Royals were circling low overhead, a real treat to watch. From this point two walk options were possible. The short walkers returned by the same route but had ample time to stop and enjoy the wilderness. The ‘long’ hikers set off on a journey that took them 10 km around the north east of the island. The short walkers enjoyed their packed lunches at the DOC station - thankfully before they were invited to an autopsy on the sea lion cub by two DOC personnel. The lead, Adithie from NSW in Australia, explained everything as they took samples of organ tissue for later analysis in NZ. She told us that the death of sea lion cubs was not uncommon due to bacteria that affected the brain. Adithie took the entrails down to the beach where the Skua and Giant Petrels fought for their share. We also visited the small castaway depot ‘A frame’ hut erected by the crew of the Stella.
The last long walkers arrived back about 19:00 and we were back on board for a slightly later dinner. We spent the night at anchor for a comfortable sleep before starting our next leg to Macquarie Island.
© P. McCarthy © A. Breniere
Day 5: Wednesday 13 February
At sea bound for Macquarie Island
Data at 0800: Air Temp: 11°C Sea Temp: 14°C
Position at 1200: 51°17.25’S; 165°32.4’E
At breakfast we started heading south-west and sea swells were to about three metres. The ship was lively due to the inconsistent wave form. The great polar navigator James Clark Ross described these conditions as a ‘Jobbling Sea’. Most of us hunkered down for the day while we acclimatised to life on the ocean.
Sea Bird ID lecture by Dan
Our voyage through four of the Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand offers the best opportunity to watch seabirds anywhere on earth. Numbers and variety are extraordinary, ranging from huge albatrosses to the tiny storm-petrels and diving-petrels.
Dan's lecture introduced us to the huge variety of seabirds in the waters through which we were sailing with pointers on telling your Wandering from you Royal Albatrosses, or knowing the difference between diving-petrels and storm-petrels. A ‘Species List’ for this expedition is in the bridge. Conceivably we could see up to 90 bird species.
Documentary – Beyond the Roaring Forties (1986)
This film tells the story of the five groups of tiny islands situated in the Southern Ocean between New Zealand and Antarctica. These islands are some of the world's last few natural environments, largely unmodified by humans, an isolated haven for many unique species of birds, marine mammals, and plants like the giant tree daisies. This film tells the story of this unique nature reserve, a history of sealing and whaling, of shipwrecked and marooned castaways, and of man's doomed efforts to settle and farm at the short lived Hardwicke Settlement.
Tonight was the first hosted dinner by Samuel – he was joined by guests Patricia and Andrew, Chantal and Gerard, Sue, Romayne and Jacques. We enjoyed an entrée of Garlic Prawns this evening and then tucked into the mains which were Moroccan Lamb, Harissa Spiced Pearl Barley & Chickpea Salsa or Sesame Crusted Tuna Steaks, Warm Egg Noodle & Pak Choi with Soy Ginger Dressing. The dessert of Apple & Almond Tart Tatin & Vanilla Cream was delicious. Thanks Bek and Damien!
Day 6: Thursday 14 February
Day at sea bound for Macquarie Island
Data at 0800: Air Temp: 9°C Sea Temp: 11°C
Position at 1200: 54°05.35’S; 160°57.2’E
Documentary – Sir Douglas Mawson
At 11:00 this documentary outlined Mawson's Australasian Antarctic expedition, 1911 to 1914. Mawson, Mertz and Ninnis supported with dog teams, headed out from a base camp at Commonwealth Bay into the vast, empty wilderness. Disaster turned the return journey into one of the most stunning – yet little known – stories of survival in all Antarctic exploration. Traversing ice fields, Ninnis and his sledge fatally plunged into a crevasse. Mawson and Mertz faced a desperate scramble back to base without a proper tent, in the face of howling gales and with only tiny amounts of food. It was a dreadful journey, with the huskies becoming a source of food as well as a way to pull the sleds – a tactic that had diminishing returns as each dog was devoured.
It was a quiet day at sea with deck 3 and 4 sea doors closed due to sea conditions.
The second hosted dinner tonight was by Rachel: Guests were Lesley, Geraldine and Steve, Stephen and Louise, Kathy and Sue. Valentine’s Day cards greeted us at the tables when we sat down for dinner. The starter was Potato, Leek & Bacon Soup, with Mains of Rib Roast with Roast Potato & Mexican Beans or Seafood Linguine. The dessert was Bread & Butter Pudding with Vanilla Custard. Sumptuous!
Day 7: Friday 15 February
Data at 0800: Air Temp: 5°C Sea Temp: 8°C
Position at 1200: 54°34.15’S; 158°55.8’E
09:00 – The expedition team took two Zodiacs into Buckles Bay to pick up Rangers Chris, Chris and Luke from Macquarie Station and brought them back to the ship. Macquarie Island was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1933, so the exploitation of seals and penguins for fur and oil ceased after 110 years. In 1999 the waters around the island were proclaimed Commonwealth Marine Reserve. It is now a World Heritage site managed by the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service. There has been a permanently staffed base on ‘Macca’ since 1948 when the ships HMAS Wyatt Earp and LST3501 were in service to establish the permanent Australian presence in Antarctica.
We sailed down to Sandy Bay on the east coast of the island, and launched two Zodiacs to take the Rangers and expedition team onto Macquarie Island to set their boundaries and provide a briefing to us as we arrived in the Zodiacs.
There was a wealth of wildlife to be enjoyed. King Penguin and Royal Penguin rookeries dominate the area. The Kings Penguins are distributed mostly along the pebbly beach area whilst the Royals have the majority of their nests on higher ground, and there was a constant population movement between the rookeries and the beachfront along Finch’s Creek that provided a natural “Penguin Highway”. The white morph Southern Giant Petrels were easy to pick out amongst the birdlife.
Evidence of the success of a major vertebrate pest eradication project could be seen all around. Between 2011 and 2013 baiting, trapping and digging out burrows successfully cleared the island of rats, mice, rabbits and cats. This expensive operation was carried out mostly by aerial baiting by helicopter and supplemented by the use of specialist personnel with dogs to track down remnant individuals who escaped the baiting phase. It was hailed a success in April 2013 but constant vigilance is required to ensure no reintroduction of any of these alien animals.
We started to depart back to the ship in Zodiac loads at 11:30, the surf at the beach had increased but the team waited for the smaller waves before unloading and loading, two of the expedition team stood in waders beside the Zodiacs to help control them. In high spirits from our Sandy Bay experience we sailed back to Buckles Bay with the Rangers and they did a Q&A in the Globe Bar, at Buckles Bay we farewelled them as they boarded Zodiacs to be transferred back onto the beach.
The ship then made its way in the afternoon along the coastline to cruise past Lusitania Bay, a massive colony of King Penguins and the site of (Invercargill’s) Captain Joseph Hatch’s sealing and oil harvesting operations. After fur seals (harvested for their pelts) and elephant seals (oil) were depleted in numbers, the sealers turned to penguins for oil, slaughtering tens of thousands. Thankfully the populations have been resilient and seals and King Penguins are now abundant. Two pods of Orcas were seen close to the coast along with Black-browed and Grey-headed Albatross.
The third hosted dinner tonight was by Agnès with guests Kim and Jeff, Gordon and Jane, Alan, Christine and Barry.
© A. Breniere © A. Breniere © P. McCarthy © P. McCarthy
Day 8: Saturday 16 February
In transit from Macquarie to Cape Adare
Data at 0800: Air Temp: 4°C Sea Temp: 6°C
Position at 1200: 57°33.68’S; 159°41.7’E
We were buffeted by increasingly strong SW winds all day. The swells rose from 3m in the morning to 5m in the afternoon with white caps and several of us took time to take some great photos and video of the waves crashing over the bow. The rest of us hunkered down in our cabins.
A spot the ‘first ice berg’ sweepstake was introduced today, the criteria was that it had to be bigger than a London double decker bus.
The fourth hosted dinner tonight was by Dan: His guests were Trevor, Noel, Joy and Michael, Li, Gao and Clement.
Around the dining tables this evening we enjoyed Lamb Rack with Roasted Vegetables or Pan-fried Smooth Dory with Lemon Mash & Greens and a dessert of Apple & Berry Crumble Cake. Bek and Damien, you guys rock, literally from one side of the galley to the other. None of us really appreciate what you do and how difficult it must be in the galley when the ship is rolling and pitching and colliding with the all too frequent head on wave. Samuel does his best to convey to the captain what course may be appropriate for dinner but in the Southern Ocean you get what it delivers. An old sailors adage is "Below 40 degrees south there is no law and Below 50 degrees south there is no God"
Day 9: Sunday 17 February
Bound for Balleny Islands
Data at 0800: Air Temp: 2°C Sea Temp: 4°C
Position at 1200: 59°00.75’S; 158°23.5’E
Penguins lecture by Agnès
This is a species has endeared itself to many people through those early images from Ponting and Hurley and in more recent times Hollywood has made several children’s movies with penguin characters that proved successful at the box office.
We have already seen five species on our journey (Yellow-eyed, King, Gentoo, Royal and Rockhopper) and can expect to see a further two or possibly three species (Adelie, Emperor, Chinstrap).
Agnès used an excellent selection of images to illustrate various aspects concerning the 18 species. This began with descriptions by early explorers with Vasco de Gama comparing penguins to geese and Ferdinand Magellan comparing them to ducks. Jean-Baptiste Bouvet suggested they swam like a fish and Jules D’Urville wrote that penguins were more organised to swim than fly.
The morphology and distribution (40o - 60o South) of the 18 species was discussed along with depths at which they can dive, food eaten, their vision with a lubricated membrane, locomotion on land, adaption to cold breeding, moulting, differences in species, habits and lifespan e.g. Emperor Penguins up to 38 years old have been recorded. This really was a comprehensive presentation with much of interest.
Documentary – Saving Macquarie Island
We also watched this documentary which is about the men and women who worked on Macquarie Island, Australia (2011-2013). Their mission was to eradicate introduced rabbits, rats and mice that were damaging the island's native flora and fauna. They used aerial baiting which was followed by intensive hunting with dogs. Macquarie Island is a Subantarctic Island that lies halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica and is a vital breeding ground for marine mammals such as elephant seals and sea birds like penguins, albatross and petrels. It was produced by Claudia Babirat.
Macquarie Island eradication project lecture by Samuel
In 2006 the Macquarie Island Nature Reserve and World Heritage Area Management Plan called to eradicate rabbits, mice and rats. The Tasmanian and Australian Governments committed AUD24.7 million (EUR17 m) to fund it. At the time it was the largest eradication programme of its kind in the world. In 2007-10 employed staff began planning logistics, H&S, environmental, bait and operations. Five huts were installed to support hunting operations. During April 2011 the baiting team arrived on Macquarie Island. Aerial baiting was completed in July. Hunters with dogs hunt surviving rabbits through to 2013. The eradication project was declared successful in April 2014, 44 people, 4 helicopters, 1 ship, 12 dogs and 5 huts took part in the project. Samuel showed photos of revegetation in just the few years he has been visiting, what a successful impact the eradication program had made.
The hosted dinner number five tonight was by Dr Bren with guests Hu and Fan, Wei, Cecilia, Wang and Peng, and Trevor (Miller).
Day 10: Monday 18 February
Bound for Balleny Islands
Data at 0800: Air Temp: 0°C Sea Temp: 2°C
Position at 1200: 63°02.75’S; 159°41.0’E
The Antarctic Convergence or Polar Front which ranges from 48° to 61° S, was crossed last evening and a drop in the water temperature took place from 4°C yesterday to 2°C today.
International Association of Antarctic Tourist Operators (IAATO) briefing
At 10:00 Samuel delivered this mandatory briefing during which he explained the protocols for biosecurity and safety during landings in Antarctica. IAATO is the organisation of Antarctic tourism operators who have developed their own code of conduct and protocols to ensure that tourism remains an extremely low impact activity and proceeds in accordance with the obligations of the Antarctic Treaty. He also demonstrated how to don an immersion suit which sparked a number of test runs amongst us – nothing like being prepared.
11:00 Issue of the blue Heritage Expeditions Antarctica Jackets
Antarctica the Great White Continent’ lecture by Agnès
At 11:30 Agnes spoken about Antarctica, which was the last continent to be inhabited by humans. It’s bigger than the USA and also Australia. In contrast to the Arctic which is surrounded by land masses, Antarctica is surrounded by the Southern Ocean.
Antarctica was part of the initial super continent of 250 million years ago and named Pangaea which broke apart and to the subsequent land mass Gondwana with in the Cretaceous 65 mya, extensive tropical-like forests, plains and reptiles including Lystrosaurus; a dog-like creature and by 10 mya and the beginning of ocean circulation through the Drake Passage.
The Antarctic Convergence was also discussed which we had crossed last night. The Convergence is where northward flowing Antarctic waters meet the relatively warmer waters of the Subantarctic where they mix and the upwelling of the bottom (Antarctic) water with nutrients, is where seabirds tend to congregate and feed. Details of the marine food chain were discussed and reference made to 15 species of birds including 5 penguins; 6 species of pinnipeds (seals); 300 fish, 1,000 molluscs. On land, there is only two flowering plants, along with mosses and lichen.
Agnès discussed the early explorers, the IGY (1 July 1957-31 December 1958) when there were 55 stations and 12 countries active in Antarctica with 30 countries today, approximately 4,000 stationed in summer and 1,000 in winter. This was a very informative lecture by Agnès.
15:00 – Sea Shop. There’s nothing like a little retail therapy so the sea shop was opened and we took a chance to browse the items and grab memorabilia and some bargains.
Ross Sea Dependency briefing
16:30 – Briefing by Samuel including ice charts, weather maps, and the plan for the next day.
17:45 – The first iceberg, bigger than a double decker London bus is encountered. The winner of the sweepstake was Alan. A great guesstimation! The ship does a loop around and photos are taken of every shade of blue in the colour spectrum.
Hosted dinner number six tonight was by Peter with guests: Dick, Patrick, Dave and Linda, Jane, Sarah and Sue.
© P. McCarthy
Day 11: Tuesday 19 February
Cruise Balleny Islands
Data at 0800: Air Temp: -1°C Sea Temp: 2°C
Position at 1200: 66°34.8’S; 162°32.8’E
03:00 – The allure of seeing any crustaceans as we passed over the Balleny Seamount was too much to resist for four hardy souls but it was a little dark to see much. The ship’s search light watched for icebergs and the moon shimmered over the stern. A planet we took as Venus shone a bright yellow low in the southern sky.
08:45 – Humpback Whales were seen as we approached the western side of Cape Ellsworth at the north of Young Island. We get out first glimpse of a true Antarctic landscape with blue glaciers plunging into the sea and foreboding skies with rays of the sun glistening through. We saw 3 Humpback Whales and a young calf. The captain turns a full circle gently following the group. Adult Humpbacks range in length from 12–16 m (39–52 ft) and weigh around 25–30 metric tons! Snow Petrels dance in the skies above.
11:45 – We cross the Antarctic Circle at 66°33.051'S 162°28.200'E. All eyes were on the GPS monitor and shutters clicked at the critical moment as we crossed the iconic line that marks the zone of perpetual daylight in summer and perpetual night in winter solstices. We celebrated in the Globe Bar with the reading of an ode to past explorers and a pledge from all of us to continue to be advocates for the Antarctic, to defend it and protect its wildlife and environment until our last expedition. Samuel gave us a background to some of the early expeditions and Peter read the Ode:
“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 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 [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.
Please step forward and receive the Mark of the Penguin.”
Each person received the mark of the penguin from Rachael and Agnès, and we enjoyed and a wonderful spicy hot toddy courtesy of our chefs.
Balleny Islands lecture by Samuel
This covered the historical background of John Balleny and the geological make up of the islands.
Hosted dinner number seven tonight was by John with guests: Clair, Catherine and Simon, JJ and Hunter, Hiro and Shoko.
Day 12: Wednesday 20 February
At sea from Balleny Islands bound for Cape Adare, Antarctica this evening
Data at 0800: Air Temp: -4°C Sea Temp: 1°C
Position at 1200: 69°48.6’S; 167°15.1’E
A letter from Shackleton Bear’s mum was on the notice board today. Good to know he is still with us and being looked after!
James Clark Ross lecture by Samuel
At 10:00 Samuel gave a compelling lecture on James Clark Ross filled with images and maps and displaying a passion for this intrepid adventurer. Ross was born in 1800 and went to sea when 11 years of age with his uncle, John Ross. James Clark Ross had 9 winters in the Arctic and during his final winter there he discovered the North Magnetic Pole on 1 June 1831 with the region named for King William 4.
Ross was the logical person to lead a new expedition to Antarctica, in a quest for the South Magnetic Pole. Two Royal Navy ships named Erebus and Terror would be used. Leaving Hobart in November 1840 they entered the Ross Sea making geographical discoveries named after senior personnel in the Admiralty and friends. Also undertaken was the furthest south to 77°37’ S; 166°58’ E, thereby eclipsing that of James Weddell in the Weddell Sea. Before the end of the expedition, visits were made to the Auckland Islands and Campbell Island where numerous specimens of plants, birds and rocks were collected.
In his second expedition, Ross spent time on the Antarctic Peninsula and the ships also traversed the outer limit of ice in the Weddell Sea. Returning to the Ross Sea, a 35 kg Emperor Penguin was caught and soundings were made along the edge of the Great Ice Barrier, which Ross likened to the White Cliffs of Dover. By now Ross had confirmed the region for the South Magnetic Pole as at 75°S with Professor Gauss’s early prediction, 72°S.
In 1843 Ross, now 43 married his fiancée who was 26 and pledged to his wife not to undertake any polar voyages. The following year, he was knighted for his outstanding work. Ross was then asked by the Admiralty to lead the search for Sir John Franklin and he was to make a further trip which Lady Ross agreed to. Sadly his friend Captain Crozier, lost his life, along with Franklin and the entire crew on each ship.
During Ross’s career he had accomplished 9 winters and 17 summers in the Arctic and 3 summers in the Antarctic. He died in 1862 when only 62 years old. Samuel’s lecture was concluded with reference to the discovery of the Erebus and 11 km away, the Terror in the Canadian High Arctic. Ross had however, “opened the gate for the Ross Sea”.
Up on deck of Spirit of Enderby the Antarctica coastline was spotted way off in distance by Dick.
Documentary – Frozen Planet Part 1 narrated by the eminent naturalist, Sir David Attenborough
At 11:30 we watched a Frozen Planet documentary which begin with the High Arctic, we saw amazing footage of nature including the taking by wolves of a Bison, Polar Bears in Greenland, the largest island on Earth and the collapse of the terminal face of the largest glacier. The programme then moved south to Antarctica where there was outstanding rare footage of a pod of Orca using special strategies to take a Weddell Seal and also of Humpback Whales, followed by the amazing world within ‘fumeroles’ (steam-vents) containing delicate ice crystals, on the upper slopes of the active and most southerly volcano, Mt. Erebus (379 4m) and the underworld sea bottom of Ross Island, where Erebus reaches down to the coast. The outstanding ancient glaciated landscapes with ice falls and weathered rocks in the Victoria Land and the Dry Valleys.
Knowing your Whales and Dolphins – Cetacean ID lecture by Dan
Dan delivered a most informative lecture at 17:00 on these incredible mammals of which some species have been exploited for oil to the extent their stocks had been decimated to the brink of extinction. Some species live to 250 years. We learned about Order Cetacea and Class Mammalia; of which there are 80 species worldwide. The largest is the Blue Whale which can grow to 31-33m long. When nursing her young, the calf can put on 17 stone (107 kg) per day from the rich milk.
We then moved to geographic variation, which makes whales difficult to study. There are also variations in the Northern Hemisphere with a different species to the Southern Hemisphere e.g. the Humpback Whale which we saw earlier on our voyage. Dan mentioned aspects which we need to take into consideration when identifying cetacean i.e. sizes: small, medium and large, dorsal fin size and position on the body – closer to front or rear, splashes and the number of blow boles and the blow.
Cape Adare briefing by Samuel
At 20:30 we gathered in the lecture theatre to listen to Samuel’s lecture. James Clark Ross discovered this area during his voyages in Erebus and Terror between 1839 and 1841. In January 1895 a boat was sent ashore from the whaling expedition of Henrik Bull’s ship Antarctic. Carsten Borchgrevink was on board the boat and he claimed to have been the first to exit the boat and wade ashore. However, the ship’s captain, Kristensen, also made the same claim, so some doubt remains. Borchgrevink, an ambitious young surveyor turned sailor, was enthused by the idea of an expedition of his own and returned to Cape Adare with the Southern Cross. He landed a party of ten that overwintered in two huts (a living hut and a store hut) that remain today. The site also marks the first death on the continent. The grave of Nicolai Hanson, the zoologist on Borchgrevink’s expedition is up on the ridge line, he died 14 October 1899, during the winter of Beri Beri, a vitamin deficiency disease.
Scott’s Discovery, then the relief ship Morning, both visited briefly in 1902 and 1903 respectively. The cape was then occupied over winter 1911 by Scott’s ‘Northern Party’ who erected a hut adjacent to those left by Borchgrevink.
Cape Adare is home to the world’s biggest Adelie Penguin colony and of course humans are its biggest risk. To mitigate that good bio security protocols are critical. There are no artifacts in the hut as the Antarctic Heritage Trust (AHT) have removed them for conservation work at Canterbury Museum and will reinstate them when the conservation work on the two huts is complete.
Peter explained that last 2017-18 season, Antarctica NZ installed 3 water tank huts to support a camp for AHT while they undertake the conservation project over the next 3-4 years. China supported this by offering the use of their ice breaker Xuelong.
21:30 – The Spirit of Enderby is closing in on Cape Adare. The salt water stains on the bridge windscreens have been cleaned affording a wonderful view of the looming cape and our first glimpse of the continent. We arrived off Cape Adare at 11:30 this evening. Samuel has told us to be prepared for a 05:00 wake up call. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.
Day 13: Thursday 21 February
Cape Adare bound for McMurdo Sound
Data at 0800: Air Temp: -5°C Sea Temp: 0°C
Position at 1200: 72°04.25’S; 171°00.7’E
06:00 – We were woken by a chirpy Samuel this morning, who had been up for some time examining landing options at Cape Adare. There was an easterly swell dumping waves on Ridley Beach, which to the untrained eye may have looked innocuous but not to Samuel. The large blocks of push ice can weigh several hundred kgs and are easily moved about in the swell which is dangerous to people and Zodiacs. He made the decision not to try for a landing today, instead opting to push 750 km south into McMurdo Sound while the sea ice conditions in that area were still favorable.
We sailed past on the western side of Possession Islands; they cover 7 miles (11 km) in the western Ross Sea. Possession Island is nearly two miles long and is the most northern and largest of the islands. It was named by Ross to commemorate the planting of the British flag on 12 January 1841 and naming for Britain.
14:30 – There was another screening of the Frozen Planet documentary.
We sailed past Cape Hallett (72° 19’ S, 170° 16’ E), named by Ross in 1841 for Thomas Hallett, purser of his ship Erebus. This was the site of a joint US and New Zealand research base from the International Geophysical Year of 1957. There has been a major clean up operation over a number of years and many artifacts including huts, the bulldozer “Duck” and the magnetic observing dome were repatriated to New Zealand and have been displayed in the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch.
We also passed by Coulman Island, named by James Clark Ross in honour of his father-in-law. His wife Anne also has a cape on the southern end named for her.
Contemporary Scott Base pt 1 lecture by Peter
At 17:00 Peter gave us in introduction to Scott Base covering the location, layout, training, a site history beginning in 1957 with New Zealand’s commitment to the International Geophysical Year (IGY) and the assistance of Admiral Dufek to select the site and send over a bulldozer to assist, Sir Ed Hillary’s trek on Ferguson tractors to the South Pole supporting Sir Vivian Fuchs’s Commonwealth Trans Antarctic Expedition (TAE) and the 60 year plus American and New Zealand relationship and specifically the joint logistics pool.
At 19:00 Rachael announced dinner over the PA, thankfully the Ross Sea provides a little less movement in the galley for the chefs and waitresses. The standard continues with another awesome affair of an entrée of Dumplings with Soy Ginger Dressing, Mains of Either Smooth Dory with Herb Crust, Potatoes, Spiced Cauliflower, Almond & White Bean Hummus, or Venison Stew with Kumara Mash, Followed by a Vanilla Rice Pudding with Pineapple Salsa. The dessert is delightfully old fashioned but with a little zing. Thank you Bek and Damien!
Day 14: Friday 22 February
Continue cruising to McMurdo Sound and McMurdo Station
Data at 0800: Air Temp: -6°C Sea Temp: 0°C
Position at 1200: 76°01.05’S; 168°08.6’E
In the wake of the McCarthy brothers Part 1 lecture by Peter
At 10:00 we gathered in the lecture theatre for a lecture from our expeditions staff historian. Peter covered the account of his grandfather Mortimer McCarthy who was an AB seaman on board Scott’s Terra Novaand sailed on all three voyages into Antarctica. Peter described the conditions on board and their fight for survival during a hurricane. He also broadly covered Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition which tragically ended with the death of Scott and his southern party. Mortimer and two of his former crew members Bill McDonald and Bill Burton nostalgically revisited Antarctica in 1963 to commemorate 50 years since Scott’s expedition and they each had a mountain named after them.
At 21:00 on our way past Cape Royds in McMurdo Sound we spied Shackleton’s 1907 Nimrod hut. Samuel considered the landing conditions but decided to press onto McMurdo. We then encountered a magnificently iridescent blue iceberg that was so deep in colour that it warranted a circumnavigation of it.
About 22:00 we also encountered our first group of Emperor Penguins on an ice flow and an Adelie or two. Captain Zinchenko circled around them and the ship positioned to a perfect angle for the hordes of very happy photographers.
During the evening we could see the first signs of sea ice beginning to form on the surface. A skim of separate crystals in the form of tiny discs float flat on the surface with a diameter less than 0.3 cm (0.12 in). It resembled oil. In quiet conditions these frazil crystals soon freeze together to form a continuous thin sheet of young ice. In its early stages, when still transparent, is called nilas. Before long, many lenses were focused on this phenomenon with the late evening sun providing highlights. Any passerby would have wondered why people were taking photos of the sea.
An hour later our lesson on the food chain was complete with a sighting of a Killer Whale, the top predator of the chain, silently out for a late evening hunt.
We now have McMurdo Station firmly in our sights. This is the largest base in Antarctica and it directly supports the Amundsen Scott South Pole Station which is 1,350 km south from here. Buildings, installations, tanks and aerials invade the landscape on Hut Point peninsular.
To complete the operational picture, a US Air Force Globemaster C-17 aircraft dutifully passes over the top of us and we watch it fly in low to land at Pheonix Airfield situated between White Island and Black Island. We can see bright red lights of the airfield from the ship. We heard later that the C-17 picked up 150 passengers and within an hour we saw this flying behemoth overhead again, bound for Christchurch, just a five hour flight away!
Scott’s Discovery Hut visit
We arrive at McMurdo Station just after 23:00 and anchor in Winter Quarters Bay, on Hut Point Peninsular, a small embayment of the shores of Ross Island. It is well past our bedtime, but we take the opportunity of good sea conditions to board the Zodiacs across to the inner harbour to visit Commander Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Hut on Hut Point Peninsular.
The Australian origins of this 11.3 x 11.3 m (37 x 37 ft) hut built by James Moore of Sydney are evident with large verandahs on three sides. The hut proved too hard to heat, consequently it was never used as base and the men lived on the Discovery moored 100 yards (91 m) away, using the hut for scientific observations, drying equipment, skinning animals and as an entertainment venue. On a knoll about 100 m from the hut is a memorial cross to George Vince who slipped and fell from a cliff during whiteout conditions.
During this expedition Scott, Shackleton and Wilson reached a furthest south of 82°17’S. The expedition achieved a great deal of scientific and geographical work and established a base line for some of the earliest advances in the study of earth sciences and biology. They made the first ascent onto the Polar Plateau and discovered the first Emperor Penguin breeding colony. The first flight in a balloon was made and an aerial photo taken.
Being the furthest south of the heroic era huts, the Discovery Hut was used by Shackleton’s 1907–09 expedition, Scott’s return expedition in 1910–13 and significantly by the Ross Sea Party contingent of Shackleton’s abortive Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914–17.
The hut contains over 500 artefacts conserved by the Antarctic Heritage Trust. In 2015 the trust completed the two-year programme of conservation to weatherproof and repair the building. Today the hut is the most visited hut being close to USA’s McMurdo Station and New Zealand’s Scott Base. © D. Brown © A. Breniere
Day 15: Saturday 23 February
Visits to McMurdo Station and Scott Base
Data at 0800: Air Temp: -12°C Sea Temp: 0°C
Position at 1200: 77°50.95’S; 166°24.38.6’E
This morning started cold and blustery. At 09:00 we split into five groups and we were shuttled over in the Zodiacs to meet our American hosts for the ship visit to McMurdo Station. They were very friendly and brought down a large Chevy van to transport our group up the hill to MacTown. Our town guide was Robert who'd been down for two seasons and was knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He briefed us and then took us to the Chapel of the Snows where we warmed up briefly. We then visited the Crary Lab and our science guide was warm and welcoming, she took us to the camera over Mt Erebus and handed around samples of rock and Erebus crystals. We went over to the Chalet where the 12 flags of the original Treaty signatures were flying and a bust of Admiral Byrd added to the history. We warmed up with coffee and biscuits in the Coffee House and then into Building 155 for some retail therapy in the shop. We were then taken to the Cable TV room, radio station and an extensive record collection which were all very intriguing. We thanked Robert and wandered back to the Zodiacs. The wind was picking up and the spray from the choppy seas kept our heads down.
Lunch on board warmed us up then it was time to cross to the inner harbour again.
14:00 A visit to Scott Base. Mike the chef and Luke the electrician were waiting for us in the Toyota Trooper and we bundled in the back and drove the 3.5 km through McMurdo Station, past the fuel tank farm, through ‘The Gap’ and headed downhill to the green buildings of Scott Base.
Johnny Harrison, the Winter Base Leader welcomed us in the locker room, and outlined the tour. We met Dave our guide, who was an engineer and a veteran of 3 winters and several summer seasons. The Scott Base shop was the first stop.
Dave took us outside to a po whenua (Maori carved wooden statue) of Te Kaiwhakatere o Te Raki – the ‘navigator of the southern skies’. Peter showed us how to hongi or to greet the pou whenua by pressing noses and to exchange breath. Nearby was the Scott Base sign, both had been produced by carvers from Nga Tahu, the South Island Maori tribe in January 2013. We posed at the AA sign and the flag pole and took in the memorial to the four Antarctica New Zealand staff that had been killed while working at Scott Base.
Nearby a small flat roofed orange building contrasted against the green of Scott Base. This was the Trans Antarctic Expedition (TAE) hut, part of the original Scott Base, built to undertake scientific research during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-58. Sir Edmund Hillary was the leader of this expedition over the winter, the following summer his team embarked on an overland journey using three Ferguson tractors to lay depots to support Sir Vivian Fuchs who was making a trans Antarctic crossing of the continent from the Weddell Sea through the South Pole, and then out to the Ross Sea.
The interior of the TAE Hut was literally like stepping back in time to 1957 with Formica tables, vinyl clad chairs and vibrant wall colours adding a hint of art deco to the practicalities of a remote science base. The Antarctic Heritage Trust completed the conservation work on this hut last season and it showcases their attention to detail.
We entered back into Scott Base and went to the Hatherton Lab where Malcom, the science technician, gave us an insight into the metrological history of Scott Base and the need to continue taking weather readings which feeds into the oldest recorded data-set in Antarctica. We then toured from one end of Scott Base to the other taking in the wall of honour where all the winter team photos since 1957 are displayed. Some people found the walnut slice on offer – but kept quiet about it! The lounge sported three telescopes and afforded a splendid view out over the ice to the south. The bar also featured a picture window looking out onto White and Black Islands.
We continued through to the Hillary Field Centre (HFC) which had three new science labs named after three pioneering New Zealand women scientists: Pamela Young, the first NZ woman to work in Antarctica where she was a field assistant with her husband Ewan Young studying Adélie and Skua at Cape Bird. Thelma Rogers was a science officer and the first NZ woman to overwinter. She said, “They thought I was a feminist, but I wasn’t a feminist at all ... I just liked wearing trousers.” Margaret Bradshaw is only the second woman to be awarded the Queens Polar Medal for her work in geology at University of Canterbury and curator of Antarctic geology at Canterbury Museum.
Thanks very much to Johnny and his drivers and guides. We wish them all the very best for a happy and safe winter over the next six months.
Mike and Luke ran us back to McMurdo where we boarded the Zodiac where choppy seas and strong wind got us wet and was challenging for the drivers.
Back on board we warmed up and forgot about the cold while reflecting on a brilliant day.
Dinner tonight after a busy day was an entrée of Pâté en Croute. Mains were Roast Lamb Shoulder on Chickpea, Chorizo & Tomato or Blue Cod, Mash Potato and Broccoli & Charred Lemon Salad. Cecilia popped a champagne cork to celebrate the first birthday of the voyage with her family and friends. After dinner Bek produced a birthday cake to which we all sang happy birthday to Celicia.
© D. Brown
Day 16: Sunday 24 February
Cruising and sea ice landing in McMurdo Sound
Data at 0800: Air Temp: -12°C Sea Temp: 0°C
Position at 1200: 77°53.85’S; 166°24.3’E
Sea Ice excursion
With strong winds continuing overnight and there was no anchoring able to securely hold the Spirit of Enderby, we spent the night drifting in McMurdo Sound. The day dawned calm and we made our way a little further south along Cape Armitage, past Observation Hill and to the edge of the fast ice against the Ross Ice shelf. Emperor Penguins provided the chance to board the Zodiacs and go cruising. Within minutes we were quietly passing the sea ice floe with Emperors and a few Adélies close by, with just the hum of the Yamaha outboard and the whirring of motor drives on cameras capturing the scene with Mount Discovery resplendent in the background.
Large dorsal fins of killer whales silently rose out of the water as they cruised up and down the sea ice channels menacing the Emperors. We changed locations to another ice floe and the expedition team helped us clamber onto it. So here we are, just like the Emperors we had just seen, standing on an ice floe in McMurdo Sound with the Ross Ice Shelf just metres away and clear views of Mount Discovery, the magnificent Royal Society Range and Observation Hill on the Ross Island. Looking north we can see the green buildings of Scott Base and to our south, the imposing cliffs of Minna Bluff were a clear blue. Trevor H and Steve struck out for a run to circumnavigate our ice floe.
We achieved our furthest south at this point 77°54.342’S; 166°35.264’E.
© S. Blanc © S. Blanc © S. Blanc
Cape Evans briefing by Samuel
At 14:15 Samuel gave a briefing on Cape Evans. This was the location for Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition (BAE). Scott initially wanted to set the hut up at Cape Crozier, but opted to come back into McMurdo Sound. The Terra Nova tied up to the sea ice edge and the crew unloaded all of the stores, ponies, dogs, Wolseley motor sledges and equipment. The 50 x 25 foot (15 m x 8 m) prefabricated hut had been erected in Lyttelton as a trial run and was purposed designed after Scott’s experience with Discovery Hut. This hut would house 28 men over the winter and support the Scott’s Southern Party’s attempt on the South Pole. Scott set off from this hut on 1st November 1911 with his southern party – five of them never returned.
The hut is managed as a living museum commemorating the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration. It has been conserved by the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust (AHT) and all the conserved artefacts are laid out to represent the period of occupation during its first period of use by Scott’s Terra Nova expedition. The hut was subsequently occupied by Shackleton’s Ross Sea party from the Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition (Aurora).
16:00 – We board the Zodiacs for the short ride into Home Beach.
Scott’s Hut, Cape Evans visit
David Attenborough described this hut as “It’s a time warp without parallel. You walk into Scotts hut and you are transported to the year 1912, in a way that is quite impossible anywhere else in the world. Everything is there, commercial products, tinned food, clothing, the bench where Wilson conducted his scientific experiments with the glass test tubes and so on. The bunks, the table, outside the hut there are the bodies of the Emperor Penguins which the expedition were examining, and there is no dust.”
This hut is arguably the most significant historic polar hut on earth and the sense of awe amongst those within the hut was evident. The experience of visiting is very personal. Stepping into the hut is stepping back in time. Through the low door you enter into the Mess Deck where the men are accommodated. To the right is the galley with Clissold, the cook’s bed within arm’s reach of the stove. Lashly and Hooper are squeezed in here as well. The Mess Deck table is in the centre and to the left; against the wall are the thin metal frame beds slept in by P.O. Evans, Tom Crean, Keohane and Forde, some of the toughest men on the expedition.
Keeping with Royal Naval practices, boxes are stacked forming a bulkhead between this Mess Deck and the Ward Room which you next enter into. This area houses the officers and scientists. A long wooden table and wooden spine back chairs hints at the gatherings this group was privileged to enjoy. On Sundays the table was covered with a large blue cloth, although for ordinary meals it was covered with a white oil cloth.
We brought a copy of Ponting’s photo of Scott’s 43rd birthday dinner with us. It depicts the table set and everyone carefully staged by Ponting with only one man looking at the camera. We also brought a copy of ‘The Tenements’ photo featuring Bowers, Cherry-Garrard, Oates, Mears and Atkinson. We replicated this photo with most of our ship mates taking Bowers standing position.
Scott had a small cubicle with a desk at which he meticulously planned and laboured over, his closest friend and confidante Edward Wilson only a whisper away, and Lt Teddy Evans beside Wilson. A dark room used by Ponting is at the far end of the hut in which he slept. The Ward Room held five officers, eight scientists and four experts: a photographer, dogs, motor and ski – 17 in total plus 11 in the Mess Deck totaled 28 to winter over in 1911.
In his journal, Scott observed: "The hut is becoming the most comfortable dwelling-place imaginable. We have made ourselves a truly seductive home, within the walls of which peace, quiet and comfort remain supreme. Such a noble dwelling transcends the word "hut", and we pause to give it a more fitting title only from lack of the appropriate suggestion."
Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party used this hut as their base but for them it was steeped with tragedy in losing three men and also their ship Aurora when it was blown out to sea leaving seven men marooned until the ship returned months later with Shackleton on board. It was only then, that they realized their toil was in vain.
We spent a good four hours on site, with valuable time in the hut and were able to wander around the environs which included walking up to the top of Wind Vane Hill where a memorial is erected to Mackintosh and Hayward of the Ross Sea Party and to Spencer-Smith who died on the barrier.
We returned to the comfort of our ship and quietly reflected over dinner.
© S. Blanc © A. Breniere
Shackleton’s Hut, Cape Royds visit
To complete the day, we boarded the Zodiacs after dinner and Agnès and Yuri battled about 2 km of choppy seas and strong winds to deliver us to Backdoor Bay the southern entrance to Cape Royds. We wandered the 800 m to the hut across a rocky and lunar landscape. This hut is markedly different in layout to Cape Evans. It’s completely open and hints at Shackleton’s Merchant Navy structure. Peter briefed us at the door and we explored the interior, its lighter …. with a light honey and straw gold colour with shimmering highlights. The nose is soft, elegant and refined with aromas of crushed apple and floral notes – or was that the 100 year old whiskey discovered under Shackleton’s floor boards? This hut was built in London and prefabricated. At Cape Royds the construction was completed in just 10 days.
This hut has no tragedy with it, but the expedition still experienced hardships and several successes, the first ascent of Erebus at 3,794 m. After two and a half months of trudging with ponies and discovering a new route up the Beardmore Glacier onto the Plateau, Shackleton, Wild, Adams and Marshall reached a new furthest south just 97 nm from the South Pole. Shackleton calculated that they could reach the South Pole but did not have sufficient food to return. He wrote, “We have shot our bolt, and the tale is latitude 88°23’ South … homeward bound at last. Whatever regrets may be, we have done our best.” (9 January 1909). He wrote to his wife Emily, ‘Better a live ass than a dead lion.” At the same time Edgeworth David, Mawson and Mackay reached the South Magnetic Pole after an epic journey.
We arrived back on the ship about midnight. It’ll take a while to absorb everything! Our expedition team get in an hour later and by the time they lash down the Zodiacs, get gear sorted and prepare for tomorrow, its 02:00. When do they sleep?
© P. McCarthy
‘The Tenements’ with Trevor Hodgson taking the position of Birdie Bowers. © A. Breniere
Day 17: Monday 25 February
From Cape Royds along the Ross Ice Shelf, past Cape Crozier to Terra Nova Bay
Data at 0800: Air Temp: -6°C Sea Temp: 0°C
Position at 1200: 77°25.15’S; 169°16.6’E
07:30 – We had breakfast this morning as we rounded Cape Bird and cruised through Lewis Bay on the north side of Ross Island heading for the Ross Ice Shelf. The lower slopes of Mt Erebus in Lewis Bay was the scene of the crash of Air New Zealand flight TE-901 when on 28 November 1978 at 12:49 pm, it crashed at 445 m or 1,500 feet, killing all 237 passengers and 20 crew.
The Ross Ice Shelf is named after James Clark Ross, who discovered it on 28 January 1841. It was originally called The Barrier as it prevented sailing further south. Ross mapped it eastward to 160°W. The nearly vertical ice front to the open sea is more than 600 km (323 nm) long, and between 15 and 50 metres (50 and 160 ft) high above the water surface with 90% of the floating ice below the water surface. At 500,809 km² (193,363 sq mi) it is the largest ice shelf on the planet, about the size of France. It is 800 km (500 mi) across and up to 1,000 m deep at the grounding line along the continental coast.
At about 10:00 we about turned and travelled close to the ice shelf affording a close up view of this seemingly endless ice sheet with its angular geometric shapes bouncing light. Even standing on the Monkey Deck, one cannot see over the top of this most imposing shelf, we’re told is up to 50 m high. As we travel towards Cape Crozier, it reduces to about 12 m and we can see across the surface.
Cape Crozier was discovered by James Clark Ross’s expedition of 1839 to 1843 with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror and was named after Francis Crozier, Captain of HMS Terror. Ross also named the extinct volcano Mount Terror which rises sharply from the cape to a height of 3,230 m (10,600 ft)
A historic message post is situated in the West Colony on the NE coast of the area. The post was used by the 1901– 04 British National Antarctic Expedition to provide information to the expedition’s relief ships Morning and Terra Nova.
The Emperor Penguin colony at Cape Crozier was discovered in October 1902 by R.S. Skelton, a member of Scott’s Discovery Expedition. The presence of the colony depends on fast-ice locked between cracks in the Ross Ice Shelf. The size of the colony is limited by the area and condition of the fast ice, which also affects the availability of breeding sites sheltered from the strong katabatic winds that descend from Mount Terror.
A historic rock hut known as Wilson’s Stone Igloo is located on Igloo Spur and was the forward point for Wilson, Bowers and Apsley Cherry-Garrard when on 27 June 2011, they embarked on their ‘Winter Journey’ to Cape Crozier to retrieve Emperor Penguin eggs. Scott was initially opposed to the plan, but was convinced by Wilson, the expedition zoologist, to go ahead because he thought the eggs would play a key role in understanding how species evolve.
They set out from the comfort of Cape Evans hut on 27 June 1911 facing a 70 mile (60 nm / 112 km) journey to Cape Crozier with 2 sleds of food and equipment, and trudged into a freezing, pitch-black, gale-battered nightmare. The average temperature for the trip was –40°C. At night they had to chip their way into their sleeping bags as during the day they froze like a slab of granite. At the igloo site their tent providing roof, blew away and they spent two days in their sleeping bags without food or cover until there was lull in the blizzard and Bowers found their tent. "Our lives had been taken away and given back to us," Cherry wrote.
They reached the Emperor Penguin colony by climbing the huge walls of ice that surrounded it and they snatched five eggs. Cherry dropped two, but the others were returned to the team's sleds. The three staggered into base camp on 1 August 1911. Their frozen clothes had to be cut from their bodies. They had aged markedly and were suffering from frost bite and exhaustion. Their teeth had cracked in the severe cold, toenails were falling off and fingers were useless.
In 2000, a section of the Ross Ice Shelf calved to form a massive iceberg 295km long and 40km wide. A fragmented section of this iceberg, known as B15A, together with another iceberg (C16) lodged near Ross Island in 2001. These icebergs had a major effect on sea ice distribution and primary production. In 2001 and over several years, icebergs C16 and B15A affected the breeding success and colony locations of Emperor and Adélie Penguins by blocking access to foraging areas and destroying nesting habitat.
There are two Adélie Penguin colonies at Cape Crozier, known as East and West Colonies. Combined, they are one of the largest Adélie colonies in Antarctica. In 1958 there were 65,000 breeding pair and today there are 280,000. The presence of the B15A and C16 icebergs from 2001 to 2005 also had a significant effect on the Adélie Penguin colony.
Approximately 1,000 pairs of South Polar Skuas breed on ice-free ground surrounding the Adélie Penguin colony. Weddell Seals breed within the area. Leopard Seals and Crabeater Seals are commonly seen at sea and on ice floes in the vicinity. Killer Whales are also frequently observed.
We cruised past Beaufort Island which was first chartered by James Clark Ross in 1841, then head towards Franklin Island.
Documentary - The Last Place on Earth' episode 5 was shown.
Terra Nova Bay briefing by Samuel
We continue to push onto the Drygalski Ice Tongue (DIT) and Samuel outlines what we are about to encounter.
Captain Robert Falcon Scott, leader of the National Antarctic Expedition (NAE) (1901-1904), on board Discovery, discovered the Drygalski Ice Tongue in January 1902 and named it for Prof. Erich von Drygalski, a contemporary German explorer then in Antarctica. The Drygalski Ice Tongue is at least 4,000 years old and stretches 70 k (43 mi) out to sea from the David Glacier, a valley in the Prince Albert Mountains of Victoria Land. The Drygalski Ice Tongue ranges from 14 to 24 km (9 to 15 mi) wide.
Mawson, David and Mackay were members of Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition. On 5 Oct 1908 they set out on an unsupported expedition to locate the South Magnetic Pole. It took them 12 days to cross the Drygalski Ice Tongue.
After more than three months of gruelling travel they used a dip compass to determine the exact location of the South Magnetic Pole. It was a significant scientific achievement. They were exhausted and hungry and faced a daunting traverse of 430km in just 16 days to reach the coast to catch the Nimrod back to New Zealand, which they did. The party had been travelling for four months and were wearing the same clothes in which they had departed Cape Royds; reportedly, "the aroma was overpowering”.
The legacy of this intrepid journey is significant. Along the trek, Mawson charted the coastline, discovered several new peaks and glaciers, and kept detailed magnetic and geological records. The trip also tested the limits of physical and mental endurance and at 1,260 miles (2,027 km) remained the longest unsupported sled journey until the 1980s.
B-15, the iceberg which calved from the Ross Ice Shelf in 2000 continued to make its presence felt when in March to April 2005; it hit the Drygalski Ice Tongue and broke off two pieces each with a surface area of about 70 km² (27 sq mi).
Gondwana and Inexpressible Island landing briefing
Samuel also talked about Inexpressible Island and the harrowing story of Scott’s Northern Party in 1912 when six men survived 204 days in a snow cave when the Terra Nova could not get into pick them up.
Recently an ice-free hill 1.7 km long on the eastern side of Inexpressible Island was named Harrowfield Hill in recognition of a life committed to Antarctic work by David Harrowfield. David has been a regular guide and historian with Heritage Expeditions since 2008.
Samuel pointed out the 1 km distance from the dry Zodiac landing area to the snow cave location and the difficult terrain we would encounter. Apart from that, as with Gondwana, people could freely roam this area. He did point out that, in purist terms, we had not yet set foot on the continent, and Inexpressible Island is not connected as it is separated from land by the Nansen ‘Ice Sheet’, not a glacier. Gondwana is part of the continent so this will be the first opportunity to set foot on the continent.
18:30 – Samuel advises there is no landing at Franklin Island due to large surf from a westerly swell. He assures us he will call us around 23:30 to midnight.
23:45 – True to his word Samuel calls us to report Drygalski Ice Tongue is in view. About 25 of us venture up into the bridge and we see the Drygalski Ice Tongue on the port side bathed in an orange glow of the sun that has just dipped below the horizon. To our front we see Mt Nansen at 2,740 m is (8,999 ft) named by Captain Scott on the NAE Expedition (1901-04) for Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian Arctic explorer from whom Scott obtained much practical information for his expedition. At our 2 o’clock we see Mt Melbourne for the first time with Trevor H observing it’s like it has risen out of the ashes like a giant sphinx. Mount Melbourne is a massive active stratovolcano that may have erupted as recently as during the 18-19th Century. It was discovered in 1841 by James Clark Ross, who named it for Lord Melbourne, British Prime Minister when the expedition was being planned.
The 15 knot northerly is chilling out on the decks viewing the vast Drygalski Ice Tongue so most of us slipped off to a warm bed.
Day 18: Tuesday 26 February
Arrive Terra Nova Bay – Gondwana Station, Polar Plunge and Inexpressible Island
Data at 0800: Air Temp: -12°C Sea Temp: 0°C
Position at 1200: 74°38.55’S; 164°14.6’E
05:00 – Once again the dulcet tones of Samuel disturbs our sleep as he greets us over the PA. Announcing our arrival into Terra Nova Bay he describes the ship slowly moving through new forming pancake ice in the early morning light with Mt Melbourne right in front of us. Now fully awake we make our way to the bridge. The sea is calm, the freezing air still and dawn is approaching on the horizon. Gradually then skies are emblazoned as the sun appears and the temperature plummets another 2 degrees as the Spirit of Enderby pushes through the frozen discs. Samuel has been up since about 03:00 to look at the conditions at Inexpressible Island but a 35 knot katabatic and -13°C temp counted that out for now.
We cruise past the Italian ‘Mario Zucchelli Station’ (MZS) named after Mario Zucchelli, the late director of the Italian Antarctic Program. The station is sited close to the shore, on a rocky granite peninsula. It was built in 1985 by assembling units (modified ISO 20 shipping containers) making it an early example of sustainability. MZS operates in the austral summer where in additional to their Italian program, it provides vital air link support to the French – Italian collaboration station ‘Concordia’ at Dome C approx. 1,000 km inland up on the plateau. Concordia is also supported by the French Dumont d'Urville Station. The Italians operate out of Christchurch and form part of the joint logistics pool with US Antarctic Program and Antarctica NZ.
The Spirit of Enderby anchors opposite Gondwana Station and we can also see Jang Bogo Station, the new, blue futuristic Korean station in the next embayment.
08:00 – We enjoy breakfast to prepare for the morning’s activities.
Gondwana and the Antarctic continent
We Zodiac across to the ice edge in front of Gondwana where the skilled expedition team have cut out steps and built a path to make our landing safe over the icy surface close to shore. As we are helped from the Zodiac we are warmly greeted with, “Welcome to Antarctica!” Finally, we’ve made it! We spend two hours just wandering, reflecting on the past intense couple of days and scout around avoiding the skua in the foot hills. Many wander over the northern ridge to get a penguin’s eye view of the Republic of Korea’s new Jang Bogo Station and see the scale, complexity and commitment of this new player in the Ross Sea. Despite renewable energy such as solar panels and wind generators, fossil fuels are still the vital component with a river of glistening fuel lines running from storage tanks close to the port area into the Station.
Many people wander around the German Gondwana Station which was built in 1983, the first station in this region. They were followed 2 years later by the Italians at Mario Zucchelli Station just 8 km across Terra Nova Bay to the south. A few of us explore the rocks behind Gondwana featuring metamorphic rock such as granulite and schists and plutonic rock such as the impressive granite.
It’s time to depart and we board the Zodiacs and spot members of the Korean programme team out in a Zodiac conducting a diving operation.
© S. Blanc © S. Blanc
Safely back on board, everyone dutifully turns their tag from red to black. Rachael then calls for volunteers to jump off! Yes, it’s polar plunge time and the Russian seamen swing into action to reconfigure the gangway to remove any hazards. Agnès and Dan man the Zodiac, Samuel will dispatch from the gangway and Dr Bren arms himself with the defibrillator reassuring all jumpers that this is a professionally run event! Barry led the procession of about 15 plungers, jumping one at a time into the black water and making their way back up the gangway to the applause of the audience. Showers and the sauna provided the thermal relief.
We cruise south again and this time we are in luck – the katabatic winds have died down and we have a blue sky afternoon to explore this area. The expedition team have prepared the landing site and we have a dry landing. Most of us negotiate the 1 km stroll over ice that has been eroded by crashing waves and then hop the boulders to the snow cave site constructed in March 1912 by Victor Campbell's Northern Party, BAE 1910-13. The party spent the winter of 1912 in this ice cave. A wooden sign, plaque and seal bones remain at the site. There is an ATS historic monument nearby. The handmade plywood sign has come away from the wooden post and is in need of repair. The wooden sign reads: IN THE WINTER OF 1912 CAMPBELL, PRIESTLY, LEVICK, ABBOTT, BROWNING, DICKINSON WERE FORCED TO SNOW CAVE ON THIS SITE, WHEN THE TERA NOVA FAILED TO PICK THEM UP. NZARP 1969.
We walk up the hill behind the ice cave and are rewarded with a splendid vista of glaciated landscapes including a view of the mighty Priestly Glacier and to the right, the appropriately named Hell’s Gate Moraine where an emergency depot consisting of a sledge loaded with supplies and equipment was placed on 25 January 1913 by the Terra Nova (BAE) 1910-1913. Several of us then walk up Harrowfield Hill, along its ridge and return back to the landing area.
We take the Zodiacs back to the ship, well exercised and with a good dose of vitamin D and lounge in the Globe Bar with drink and nibbles.
Samuel hosts dinner tonight with guests: Lesley, Kim and Jeff, Clair, Catherine and Simon, JJ and Hunter, Hiro and Shoko.
Rachael announces that dinner is ready to be served. Tonight, we tuck into an excellent Seafood Chowder Starter then either the Rolled Ribeye, Lentil & Pumpkin with Herb Butter or the Baked Monkfish, Mash Potato, Green Beans, Almonds and Feta with Thyme Beurre Noisette. This was followed by Peach & Pistachio tea cake with vanilla cream dessert. How could we possibly say no? Thanks to Bek and Damien who managed to get ashore this morning at Gondwana and then produce such excellent fare for us.
© S. Blanc
Day 19: Wednesday 27 February
Tera Nova Bay to Coulman Island bound for Cape Adare
Data at 0800: Air Temp: -6°C Sea Temp: 0°C
Position at 1200: 73°31.95’S; 171°20.8’E
06:00 – A later than advised wake-up call from our Expedition Leader this morning gives an extra hour’s slumber time. Samuel announces “Good morning, good morning, another glorious morning here at Coulman Island. The sea ice is packed in against the southern coast and please join me on the bridge to see the sun rise.”
The morning sun spills over the horizon lighting up the upturned edges of the discs of pancake ice which surround the ship. The sea ice, blown from McMurdo Sound forms a belt around Coulman Island preventing the ship from venturing close and of course conducting any Zodiac operations. We navigate around the belt and through the picturesque pancake ice.
During the day we maintain a watch for wildlife and are rewarded with Minke Whales, Crabeater and Weddell Seals and a rare Leopard Seal which shows slides off the ice floe into the dark icy water to thwart photography.
Rachael hosts dinner tonight with guests: Patricia and Andrew, Gordon and Jane, Catherine and Simon, and Dick.
A quieter day today for all, except for our legendary chefs. They produce a Warming Vegetable Soup and for mains, a Succulent Roasted Lamb Rack, Provencal Vegetables & Olive Tapenade or a Delicious John Dory, Roasted Pumpkin & Sweet Pea Rissotto. For dessert an Antarctic Fresh Fruit, Vanilla Cream & Oat Crunch. How do they manage to keep this fruit so fresh after 18 days at sea?
At his regular post dinner announcement Samuel advises us to prepare for a 05:30 landing at Cape Adare followed by an 08:30 breakfast. Cape Adare looks promising! We prepare. The bonus is that our chefs might just get their first sleep-in for 18 days.
© S. Blanc © A. Breniere
Day 20: Thursday 28 February
Arrive Cape Adare and set sail for Balleny Islands
Data at 0800: Air Temp: -4°C Sea Temp: 0°C
Position at 1200: 70°21.05’S; 169°59.1’E
Samuel has been on the bridge since 03;30. We have sailed north along Cape Adare Peninsular and have encountered icebergs. We go beyond Cape Adare to avoid icebergs close to the shore and swing back around to head into the Cape Adare coastline. The sea is calm with a half metre swell. It is foggy with light snow falling covering the decks of the ship in a fine white powder.
Once again Samuel critically analyses the situation through his Swarovski binoculars watching for movement of the large blocks of push ice dotted along the beach. The sea swell is enough to push these blocks of ice around and therefore creates a hazard if we were to attempt to land people at any point along the beach. Samuel has been here before and assesses the risks given all the complexities of this beach, fast current, moving ice, sea swell. He must renege. He gives it another 20 minutes and then in his bright early morning voice wakes everyone, explains the situation and invites folk up to the bridge or to the snow covered decks.
Like a grandmaster at chess, he is immediately thinking of our next move and considers weather and corresponding sea options to plan the next leg of the voyages in consultation with Captain Zinchenko. We sail north and watch Cape Adare and the continent slip away in the cool morning light.
© A. Breniere
Plan for today - sail to the west of the Balleny Islands and cut through to make our way to Campbell Island. There is some weather to negotiate en-route....
Ross Island Recap by Samuel
We start with a little history and are reminded of the Gauss expedition (1901-03) of Drygalski wintering over in a ship trapped for 14 months in the sea ice. They managed to take aerial photos of the stricken ship from a tethered balloon and innovatively used black ash from burning rubbish to spread over the sea ice which helped soften the ice assisting their escape. Post expedition Drygalski produced 20 vols of work and two atlases documenting their discoveries.
High on the accolades and less known, Samuel highlighted Edgeworth David, Mawson and Mackay for their discovery of the South Magnetic Pole and their 12 day journey across the Drygalski Ice Tongue.
Samuel then put up a stunning image of a Snow Petrel and led an ode to it. Dan must have been in on this as he talked about the few bird species in the Ross Sea, highlighting the Lesser Snow Petrel as one of only three species recorded at the South Pole. The Lesser Snow Petrel with the less stout bill is considerably smaller than the Greater Snow Petrel overall and breeds up to 350 km inland. A single egg is laid in late November to mid-December, in a simple pebble-lined scrape built in a deep rock crevice with overhanging protection. Sitting birds spit oil at intruders. Incubation lasts 41-49 days and the chick fledges after an additional 7 weeks (late February to mid-May).
Samuel provides some wonderful quotes:
“Many snowy petrels follow in the wake of the ship, but they are silent companions, never uttering a song or a cry of delight or fear, always gliding lightly in the air and dropping easily into the water to seek the pelagic fish, which is their food.” —Frederick Cook (1900), Through the first Antarctic night 1898-1899.
Louis Bernacchi (Southern Cross and Discovery) admitted to eating them saying they were most undesirable, for the flesh was tough, dark and utterly flavourless! Dan highlighted the South-Polar Skua as a brilliant bird, also recorded at the South Pole and we are awed by the fact that this bird migrates to the north Pacific by June.
© A. Breniere
The Ross Sea has been kind to us – we’ve seen and experienced more than we could have imagined. Killer, Minke and Humpback Whales, seals and penguins, 3 bird species, including Antarctic Petrels, Snow Petrels, and the South Polar Skua. Two Antarctic science research stations, four historic huts, several historic sites, icebergs, the Ross Ice Shelf, pancake ice, Gondwana, Harrowfield Hill at Inexpressible Island, a cruise past both Cape Washington and Cape Adare.
Agnès hosts dinner tonight with guests: Chantal and Gerard, Geraldine and Steve, JJ and Hunter and Patrick.
© A. Breniere
Day 21: Friday 1 March
At sea bound for Campbell Island
Data at 0800: Air Temp: -3°C Sea Temp: 0°C
Position at 1200: 66°29.55’S; 169°25.7’E
Finally a more leisurely breakfast time of 08:00, early enough to make the most of today with three lectures and a documentary.
Birds of a feather lecture by Dan
At 09:30 Dan advances our knowledge on these unique creatures that grace us with their beauty, flight and song. Birds have multiple types of feathers and the range of number of feathers can be from 900 on a hummingbird to 27,000 on a swan. Dan talked about locomotion and how birds of prey with squarer wings use thermals to soar for hours. Some species flock together to avoid predators e.g. starlings could number 1,000,000. Dan also looked the immense powers of migration some species exhibit as well as how birds sleep on the wing and use weather to gain height and cover huge distances.
Birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs during the Jurassic (around 165–150 mya) but were decimated at the end-Cretaceous extinction (66 mya). After this, modern birds explosively diversified into one of the most conspicuous groups of animals in the modern world. There are more than 10,000 species across the globe, ranging in size from the tiny bee hummingbird to the ostrich. Their feathered bodies are optimized for flight, their supercharged growth rates and metabolism stand out among living animals, and their large brains, keen senses, and the abilities of many species to imitate vocalizations and use tools make them some of the most intelligent organisms on the planet.
In a world of change, the Yellow-eyed Penguin is facing a 30% decline. There are just 174 left in NZ. Between 1942 and 1985 the Rockhopper Penguin population at Campbell Island has declined by about 94%, most likely due to changes in the penguins’ diet through fluctuations in sea temperatures.
PCAS and Space Challenge lecture by John
At 11:00 we joined John in the lecture theatre. He is a Navy Reserve Officer and he also runs GPS Control Systems Ltd, a business where he installs GPS systems for high precision farming applications. In tandem with that they have a nationwide network of GPS reference stations to enhance GPS signals. Last summer season (2017-18), John completed the Postgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies (PCAS) a 14-week summer programme which included a 10 day field trip to Antarctica. It is the only course of its type in the world that takes students to Antarctica and has run for the last 20 years. PCAS is a multidisciplinary programme, critically examining contemporary scientific, environmental, social and political debates focused on Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
The 16 students and 4 instructors flew by C-17 to the USAP airfield and were taken to Scott Base. They completed a 2-day survival course where they learned how to look after themselves and each other. They camped out for over a week completing assignments such as a seal census, geology, weather station, snow pits, environmental impact assessment, and visits to historic huts. They also visited McMurdo to see the scale of the operation and stayed a few nights at Scott Base.
Each student undertakes a major research project on an area of interest. Topics range from current issues in the natural sciences to social science topics, historical analysis, Antarctic literature or arts.
For John’s project he employed his skill set and completed a Driving Autonomously Project with an application to enhance the capability of the traverse vehicles used to travel hundreds of kilometres from Scott Base carrying fuel, equipment and scientist to remote sites such as a hot water drilling site 350 km from Scott Base. The route has areas which are heavily crevassed requiring the team to use Ground Penetrating Radar mounted on long booms in front of the lead vehicle ‘to see’ through the surface and detect crevasses before driving over them.
On his return John heard from an engineer at Scott base who said there was a Space Challenge competition sponsored by ChristchurchNZ and Antarctica NZ, seeking a solution to the safe travel over the ice. This was very similar to John’s completed PCAS project. John entered the competition with his proposal to utilise the GPR logarithms and combine with GPR and satellite technology to remove the human element that the current traverse is so reliant on. John won first prize.
The Great White Silence film introduced by Trevor
At 15:00 the Great White Silence film by Herbert Ponting was played. This is the film that Scott envisaged to repay the sponsors that supported the expedition and to enhance his lectures. It was digitally remastered and re-released in 2011 by the British Film Institute with a musical soundtrack by Simon Fisher Turner. This impressive and moving documentary with Ponting’s beautiful still photographs is a riveting account of the expedition from the time it left Lyttelton to its tragic outcome.
Icebergs: Cathedrals of ice lecture by Agnès
We joined Agnès at 17:00 for her lecture, she outlined the three categories of ice and that polar ice makes up 10% of land and sea on the Earth’s surface with Antarctica the largest at 13,586,000 km2. Snow forms a new layer each year and then re-crystalizes, forming granular ice 50%; Firn 20-30% followed by glacial ice with 20% air as bubbles.
When considering an iceberg, waves, tides, mass of ice and accumulated snow and ice need to all be taken into account. We were then shown the International Ice Patrol Classification. This begins with Brash ice; Growlers ˂ 1m above sea level; Bergy bits 1-5 m above sea level (ASL) or 120 tonnes; small icebergs 5-15 m ASL; medium bergs 15-45 m ASL; large bergs 45-75 m ASL and very large bergs ˃ 75 m ASL or more.
Agnès then focused on glacier tomes and the naming of icebergs which use the National Ice Centre classification in which Antarctica is divided into quadrants labelled clock wise A, D, C and B. Examples of bergs included ‘B15’, the largest measured by satellite at 295 km (183 mi) long and 37 km (23 mi) wide, with a surface area of 11,000 km² (4,200 sq mi). Of the 30,000 bergs on record, they cover 4,000 km².
Icebergs typically have 9/10ths below the water surface; they are affected by density, weather, wave action and water temperature. We saw satellite images of the collapse of the Larsen Ice Shelf. To conclude the French explorer Bouvet was quoted when he considered ice bergs “They are floating rocks which are to be feared more than land.” The first iceberg photos taken in 1885 during the Challenger expedition were shown. Thanks Agnès, for a very informative presentation.
Dan hosted dinner tonight with guests: Sue, Romayne, Louise and Stephen, Christine and Barry, and Trevor.
Day 22: Saturday 2 March
At sea bound for Campbell Island
Data at 0800: Air Temp: -1°C Sea Temp: 2°C
Position at 1200: 62°05.85’S; 165°51.4’E
Emperors and Men lecture by Samuel
At 09:45 we gathered in the lecture theatre to listen to ‘Emperors and Men’. As a marine biologist Samuel gave us an account of studying Emperors Penguins over 15 months at the French Dumont d'Urville Station (DDU) which is 122 km west of Cape Denison, Commonweath Bay, on the edge of the continent, below Hobart.
Samuel counted, banded and took blood samples of sea birds, seals and also the Emperors during the winter. The Emperor is the largest of 18 species of penguin. The male and female are similar in plumage and size, reaching 122 cm in height and weighing from 22 to 45 kg. It is the only bird that breeds during the Antarctic winter, and they can dive deeper (500 m) and survive longer without eating (4 months) than any other bird. Males can lose up to 45% of their bodyweight during their continuous 4 months at the colony from the start of courtship (March-April) through to after the egg hatches (July-August). The single large egg is incubated entirely by the male for 62-67 days, with the female returning to the sea for 2 months until soon after the egg hatches. The egg, and later the young chick, is balanced on its parents’ feet during brooding. This mobile ‘nest’ allows the adults to move around, including forming their customary ‘huddles’ during severe mid-winter blizzards. Inside the huddle temperatures can reach 37°C. We watch a time-lapse of 2,000 males over a 30 minutes period where they are constantly rotating around, into the centre and back to the outside.
Samuel has a reason to study Emperors – he is keen to write a book on them, from the history of their discovery. He has been in touch with 200 people, 300 organisations from 15 countries and 1,000’s of email, from ice beakers, photographers, station leaders.
The first encounter was in 1870 by Fabian von Bellingshausen on board Vostok when he completed the 2 year circumnavigation crossing the Antarctic Circle. Pavel Mikhailov was his artist and drew the Emperor.
James Clark Ross recorded Emperors in 1841.
In 18 Sep 1902 Skelton the chief engineer from Scott’s Discovery expedition visited Cape Crozier and was the first to photograph the Emperor Penguin and a chick.
Edward Wilson was the naturalist on that expedition and counted 1,000 Emperors and brought back an Emperor egg to the Canterbury museum.
The most daring and harrowing expedition of all time to collect Emperor Penguin eggs was by Wilson, Bowers and Cheery-Garrard on their winter journey.
Coulman Island has the largest Emperor Colony in the world. In 2012 for the first time a satellite was used to complete a census of Emperors in Antarctica and counted 595,000. This was twice as many as previously counted and located 7 new colonies bringing the total to 44. Many documentaries have been made about Emperors which allows the story to be told to millons of viewers wordwide.
Samuel was asked about the future and said we still have a lot to learn from these birds.
© S. Blanc
Hypothermia, frostbite and snow-blindness in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration lecture by Dr Bren Dorman
11:15 – Luckily Dr Bren left this talk until we were retuning from Antarctica. If it had been earlier, we may not have ventured far from our ship! He discussed the role of the expedition doctor or surgeon on those earlier expeditions as being more than just a doctor. They were required to be skilled in a range of prevention and treatment. Illnesses such as scurvy still surfaced occasionally, and treating injuries such as Marshall, a surgeon from the Shackleton’s 1907-09 Nimrod expedition had to remove Mackintosh’s eye due to a hook penetrating it.
Psychological problems were common and there was some serious psychiatric illness including alcohol abuse.
Several doctors were selected to go on expeditions to provide field medical support. Marshall (above) trekked to the furthest south with Shackleton, Wild and Adams. At the same time Shackleton’s Norther Party of Edgeworth David, Mawson took Mackay, the other expedition surgeon, as they man-hauled and discovered the South Magnetic Pole.
Bren explained the effect of the wind on the ambient temperature which is known as wind chill effectively dropping the temperature significantly increasing the incidence of frostnip in moderate cases to frost bite in serious cases. McIlroy the surgeon on Shackleton’s Endurance expedition amputated Blackborrow’s toes due to frost bite.
If injury or illness occurs, the presence of a doctor is of great psychological benefit to the expedition. Most of the lessons learned during these expeditions a hundred years ago are just as relevant today.
Documentary - Ice and the Sky
15:00 – Based on the life’s work by French glaciologist, Dr Claude Lorius, who lives in Grenoble France.
Claude Lorius is now in his 80s. Years ago, as a 23 year old, he became fascinated with snow crystals. This led him to becoming a glaciologist with his first Antarctic expedition, taking place 300 km inland from Dumont D’Urville Station in 1956, in preparation for the IGY 1957-58.
At Charcot Station, Dr Claude Lorius studied snow crystals and observed variations between those deposited in winter, to those in summer. On one occasion the door was unlocked when after adding ancient ice to a glass of whisky; trapped bubbles of air were released as the ice melted. By 1965 he was analyzing air bubbles and was looking for evidence of dust and radio-active elements which had been introduced to the Upper Atmosphere.
By the 1970s human activity on the planet was suspected. Research then moved to the Russian underground Vostok Station in 1984 and supported by the US National Science Foundation. Ice cores were stored at -57°C and the Russian drillers operated to over 2,000 m depth with 20 tons of ice 150,000 years old returned to France for analysis.
The final hole at Vostok led to retrieval of 3,603m of ice spanning 420,000 years and from this the first bubble of Co2 was analysed, leading to the discovery that there were four eras of glaciation. There proved to be a link between temperature and Co2 levels and sea levels were found to have varied to 120 m. Results were confirmed by scientists around the world.
Sea ice, the eighth continent lecture by Agnès
Lecturer at 17:00 – Agnès begins with reference to the three types of sea ice; glacier or continental ice; sea ice or frozen sea water and permafrost or permanently frozen ground. Sea ice covers 7% of the Earth’s surface and 12% of the World’s oceans. In the Antarctic, it is at its minimum in February and maximum in September when the area of the continent doubles. Agnès then spoke about formation being governed by air and water temperature, wind and salt.
The various stages of sea ice formation includes Frazil (crystals), sheets, grease, nilas, pancakes, ice sheets and reference was made to salinity (35gm/L) and brine exclusion in which dense colder saline solution leaves the sea ice and extends as “brinnacles” to the sea floor.
Reference was made to Ice Concentration and the WMO colour code with ice cover measured in 10ths. The importance of sea ice to wildlife and humans, the evolution of sea ice in the Polar Regions and finally, consequences for humans concluded an extremely useful and interesting lecture.
1900 – Dinner in “Ice Culture” restaurant. Bon appetit! … and a birthday.
Dr Bren hosted dinner with guests: Jacques, Kathy, Sue, Linda and Dave and Shoko and Hiro.
Our ever-consistent chef’s prepare a Lamb Rump with Pumpkin Puree & Spiced Lentils or Monkfish with Mash Potato, Greens & Beurre Rouge for our mains and then we celebrate the second birthday of our voyage by singing happy birthday to Stephen Moon. Bek presented him with a delicious carrot cake which we all savoured.
Day 23: Sunday 3 March
Bound for Campbell Island
Data at 0800: Air Temp: 6°C Sea Temp: 8°C
Position at 1200: 58°08.85’S; 165°06.0’E
Documentary - Emperors of the Antarctic
09:30 – Documentary by Max Quinn, Natural History New Zealand.
11:00 screening Worst Journey in the World
This is a 2007 BBC Television docudrama based on the 1922 memoir written by Apsley Cherry-Garrard on Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13. The film highlights the difficulties encountered by these early explorers and the human suffering under extreme conditions. It's based on the memoir of Cherry-Gerard of 1922, who was a member of the expedition. The narrator is Barry Letts, best known for his tenure as the producer of Doctor Who, played Cherry-Garrard in the 1948 film Scott of the Antarctic.
15:00 screening Frozen Planet
This was the summer episode of Sir David Attenborough’s BBC series.
Peter hosted dinner with guests: Claire, Joy and Michael, Wang, Peng and Cecelia.
11:00 screen 'Worst journey in the World'
Day 24: Monday 4 March
Bound for Campbell Island
Data at 0800: Air Temp: 7°C Sea Temp: 10°C
Position at 1200: 54°13.35’S; 167°03.2’E
NZ Government Representative on board lecture by John
At 10:00 we joined John for a lecture about his position on board. John’s role is to monitor, educate and report on the voyage in relation to compliance with the permit.
In New Zealand all visits to the Antarctic are permitted through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT). A condition of the permit for tour ship operators is to have an observer on board when operating in the Ross Sea. New Zealand is the only ATS partner to mandate this requirement. The permit outlines the conditions the ship must follow when operating in the Ross Sea, adhering to bio security, management plans, wildlife restrictions and environmental stewardship.
Bio security is critical to prevent in the invasion of non-native species to sensitive areas such as the Subantarctic Islands and penguin colonies. The ship will adopt a proactive role to educate, monitor and report on compliance.
Another aspect is keeping a watch for any illegal fishing vessels that might be operating in the area.
John is enjoying his role and using this opportunity to provide expertise to the Expedition Leader and to engage and educate passengers and support the expedition team as required onboard or during excursions.
In the wake of the McCarthy brothers part 2 lecture by Peter
11:30 – Peter presented the story of his great uncle, Tim McCarthy who was an AB seaman on board Shackleton’s 1914-17 Endurance expedition that planned to sail to Vashel Bay in the Weddell Sea and off load the Trans Antarctic expedition to travel overland supported by dogs through the South Pole, over the Polar plateau, down the Beardmore Glacier and out onto the Ross Ice shelf to Cape Evans. The Ross Sea party on board Aurora deployed into the Ross Sea and laid depots all the way to the Beardmore Glacier to support Shackleton’s team.
The Endurance became trapped in the sea ice and was carried for over a year before she was crushed and sunk. The men waited patiently on ice floes for another six months until they could launch lifeboats and made a harrowing journey over seven days to Elephant Island. From there Shackleton’s only hope of survival was to make a bid for South Georgia using the James Caird, a 22’ 6” life boat which the carpenter modified for the journey. Shackleton selected Tim McCarthy to crew the boat along with Captain Frank Worsley, Tom Crean, Harry McNish and John Vincent in an attempt to sail 800 miles in the open boat across the Southern Ocean during winter months to South Georgia. They famously made it and Tim returned to England and immediately joined up for WW1. He was killed six months later when the fuel tanker he was protecting was torpedoed by a German U boat off the coast of Ireland.
Part of the family legacy was a movie - Shackleton’s Captain, the story of Frank Worsley from Akaroa, made in a large studio in Auckland in 2010 in which Peter was an extra.
During the afternoon, the avid bird watchers on the upper decks were having a field day today using every opportunity to identify any bird within range. Dick, Jeff and Stephen identified 23 species today!
John hosted dinner with guests: Alan, Li and Gao, Clement, Wei and Cecilia and Jane.
Day 25: Tuesday 5 March
Arrive Perseverance Harbour, Campbell Island
Data at 0800: Air Temp: 10°C Sea Temp: 11°C
Position at 1200: 52°33.15’S; 169°09.5’E
We anchored in Perseverance Harbour and were greeted by the green expanse of Campbell Island and, despite only being 10°C, it was the warmest temperature we'd experienced in the last 15 days on our Ross Sea Antarctic expedition.
Introduction to Campbell Island by Samuel
08:30 lecture. The Campbell Island group is the most southerly of New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands, lying 700 km south of NZ’s South Island and 270 km southeast of Auckland Island. It is best known as the home of the albatross, with six species in residence, including the largest albatross, the Southern Royal. Campbell Island also has a long history of sealing, whaling and farming it. Campbell Island covers 11,300 ha and is the main island of the group.
Campbell Island is five times smaller than Auckland Island. It has a unique flora with an upper alpine zone, lower alpine zone and a sub-alpine zone. There are 29 species of birdlife including albatross, pipit, teal and snipe.
The climate is cold, cloudy, wet and windy. It receives only 650 hours of bright sunshine annually and it can expect less than an hour's sunshine on 215 days (59%) of the year. Rain falls on an average of 325 days a year and wind gusts reach over 96 km per hour on at least 100 days each year.
Campbell Island was discovered on 4 January 1810, by Captain Frederick Hasselburgh of the whaling ship Perseverance and was named after a Sydney-based company, Campbell and Co. Hasselburgh also discovered Macquarie Island. Hasselburgh was drowned in the harbour, together with Elizabeth Farr, a young woman born on Norfolk Island, and a 12 or 13 year old Sydney boy, George Allwright. The first map was drawn in 1816.
The island became a seal hunting base and the seals were almost exterminated.
The French naval frigate FRWS Vire, based at Nouméa and commanded by Captain J. Jacquemart, visited the island from 28 Nov to 25 Dec 1873 to prepare for an expedition the following year to observe the Transit of Venus due to occur 9 December 1874. Coastal areas were mapped and many localities were named at this time. The following October in 1874, the French expedition returned under A. Bouquet de a Gyre to set up a camp in Venus Bay to observe examine the Transit of Venus. On 9 December the skies were cloudy, though as the time of the transit approached the sun appeared briefly giving the observers a view of Venus against the sun's corona – a view obscured by clouds at the moment of first contact. They also had a twenty-second view of Venus at the end of the transit between third and fourth contacts as it was half off the sun's disc. No useful measurements were able to be made.
In the late 19th Century, the island became a pastoral lease for sheep farming, along with a few cattle, until 1931 when it became a casualty of the Great Depression. During WWII a Coastwatcher station operated and after the war, the facilities were used as a meteorological station until 1958, when a new station was established at Beeman Cove. This became fully automated in 1995, and the post office closed.
The island is now Gazetted as a scenic reserve and with removal of cattle and sheep in the 1970s and 1980s. Brown rats were exterminated in 1992. The 11,300 hectare island was declared pest free in 2003 and was the largest rat eradication in the world using 21 people, 5 helicopters, 1 ship, 120 tonne of cereal bait at a cost $220 per hectare. The project was budgeted for NZD 2.6 million over four years. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and is administered by the Department of Conservation. The wildlife and flora, have recovered considerably since the eradication, declared successful in 2004-2005.
Since the eradication of rats, the abundance of a flightless invertebrate, the weta has increased dramatically. The Campbell Island Pipit and Campbell Island Snipe have recolonized. Grey-backed Storm Petrels and White-chinned Petrels have also both been recorded as breeding on the island for the first time.
The world’s rarest duck, the Campbell Island Teal had been driven from its Campbell Island home by rats nearly 200 years ago and was thought to have been extinct.
In 1972 a small population was discovered on rat free Dent Island. DOC completed a breeding programme in captivity and the teal have been successfully recolonised.
Samuel briefed us on a Zodiac cruise before lunch then a walk up to Co-Lyall Saddle where several albatross could be seen. They were nesting so it was imperative that they were not disturbed from their nests. He suggested staying at the top until late in the day to observe the albatross engage in their gaming dance routine.
At 09:45 we take a Zodiac cruise into Perseverance Harbour, spotting the cormorants and keeping eyes peeled for the teal. We alight at Tucker Cove onto terra firma for the first time since Inexpressible Island 7 days ago. Strong winds made for an exciting Zodiac cruise of the upper harbour where we watched Rockhopper Penguins expertly bounding over the craggy coastline and we spied a Yellow-eyed Penguin in the water. The occasional Hooker's/New Zealand Sea Lion tracked our passage from the water and Antarctic Terns called from above.
Back on board the ship we warmed up with lunch finished off with macaroons and chocolate fudge slice.
At 14:00 the Zodiacs landed us by the weather station to begin the Beeman Hill-Col Lyall track walk. We met three DOC staff who were preparing to leave the island. The 3 km track is boardwalk all the way and takes a route around the base of a massive rock outcrop of Beeman Hill and across a couple of saddles before emerging at the cliff tops overlooking Northwest Bay and Dent Island. As if on prison release, Bek was first up the hill and encountered a sea lion close to the board walk – she wasn’t sure who got the biggest fright. As she approached the saddle the wind blowing at 50 knots blew her off the board walk. At the lookout she resorted to dropping to her hands and knees so she wouldn’t be swept away by the wind howling up over the cliff tops. It was wild. Some people approaching the top sensibly turned around and some endured and experienced the sheer forces of mother-nature.
On their way up the hill, the more pedestrian walkers spotted the rare and endemic Campbell Island Snipe that was only discovered in 1997, as well as several Redpolls and Silvereyes. The Grass Tree Dracophyllum longifolium forms a dense low forest for some of the way and fields of flowering megaherbs in the genus Pleurophyllum were encountered towards the highest point of the walk.
The highlight was the population of nesting Southern Royal Albatross near the top of the walk. At almost 1 m high, with a wingspan of 3.6 m and weighing up to 10 kg, most were on nests and were docile and photogenic. As briefed by Samuel the birds started their unique gaming routines late in the afternoon, satisfying those that stayed for the duration in the cold blustery conditions.
Samuel invited the three DOC workers to the ship for a warm shower and they stayed on to join us for dinner.
Dinner in “Ice Culture” restaurant at 21:00. Ravioli with Tomato & Caper Sauce. Mains: Smooth Dory with Pea & Blacken Corn Rice Pilaf & Beurre Blanc or Pork Belly, Slaw & Mash Potato. Final: Apple & Pistachio Tea Cake with Ginger Custard. Bon appetit!
At 21:15 we departed for Auckland Island.
© A. Breniere © D. Brown
Day 26: Wednesday 6 March
Bound for Carnley Harbor, Auckland Islands and are met with severe winds
Data at 0800: Air Temp: 9°C Sea Temp: 11°C
Position at 1200: 51°01.45’S; 166°30.1’E
Documentary – The Battle for Campbell Island
The 10:00 documentary today focused on the rat eradication programme in the winter of 2001. Pete McClelland of DOC made reference to 42 species of New Zealand birds that had become extinct with further species on the endangered list. 100 days was estimated to complete the job, however it was accomplished in 26 days.
Documentary – Campbell Islands Teal
In the lecture theatre screened a documentary at 11:00 about Campbell Island Teal. The species was discovered at Northwest Bay in 1884. In 1935 the bird was described as a separate species. In 1975 Rodney Russ, discovered the thought to be extinct teal on off-shore Dent Island and later 25 pairs were removed to New Zealand for breeding. In 1990 the key to the recovery programme was a female named Daisy and researchers saw for the first time a nest which had three eggs and eventually there were 24 ducklings. By 1998, 40 Teal had been raised and following the eradication programme, 51 were released at Tucker Cove. The recovery and reintroduction post eradication was a total success.
14:00 – We approach Port Ross with a gale blowing.
15:00 – Rachael holds a sea shop and the retail therapy kicks in with lots of interest.
Heavy rain and winds gusting up to 60 knots saw us having to wait out the wild weather aboard Spirit of Enderby overnight off the Auckland Islands.
Day 27: Thursday 7 March
Port Ross, Auckland Islands
Data at 0800: Air Temp: 12°C Sea Temp: 12°C
Position at 1200: 50°32.05’S; 166°14.4’E
We woke up in Port Ross, just off Enderby Island.
10:00 – We landed on the boulder beach at Erebus Cove, near the site of the Hardwicke Settlement. Two old buildings were the castaway depot (now in ruins) and the boatshed which is dated to c.1891. Samuel had briefed us earlier on the history of the site. To recap.
In 1849 Charles Enderby, director of the Southern Whale Fishery Company, obtained the support of the British Government to establish a land based whaling station and colony at Port Ross. Three Enderby Company ships loaded with stores and settlers landed at the Auckland Islands in December 1849, where they discovered around 70 Māori and Moriori already in residence. The settlers included a surveyor, clerks, a storekeeper, bricklayers, masons, agriculturalists, labourers and medics, with 16 women and 14 children.
Rata forest was cleared and 18 prefabricated buildings including a church were built, and the settlement of Hardwicke was officially opened on 1 January 1850. The cold, damp climate and the acidic soils made agriculture impossible, and while a few whales were seen, none were caught. It was impossible to grow crops so supplies had to be imported from Sydney, but this cost was not offset by the expected income from whaling. Finally, the ill-fated settlement was dismantled and closed on 5 August 1852 with the departure of the last of the settlers.
Auckland Island has three unwelcome and destructive residents: cats, pigs and mice. DOC are planning an eradication programme for Auckland Islands beginning with both pigs and cats at a cost of about NZD22 million. Techniques are likely to include trapping and aerial and ground hunting over several years. The mice will be tackled after that.
Agnès took the first half of our group up the boardwalk to the cemetery. Enroute we saw recent rooting by feral pigs that will be targeted by the eradication programme.
In the cemetery, the four Hardwicke community grave markers hints at the hardship endured at this remotest of outposts. We thought of the parents of Isabella Younger, just three months old when she died. Her headstone, crafted from a large grindstone by her father Thomas who was an engineer, radiates sadness.
© D. Brown
The second group walked through the beautiful regeneration Rata forest to view the Victoria Tree (1875) a very old Rata where Samuel interpreted the inscription: ‘H.M.C.S. VICTORIA NORMAN IN SEARCH OF SHIPWRECKED PEOPLE OCT 13TH 1865’ (note: H.M.C.S. was ‘Her Majesty’s Colonial Ship’). Originally the tree was visible from off-shore and a marker pole held a container for messages. A further 125 m further along was the start of the main village with the site of the Governor’s House and Administration Building, although there is very little to be seen now.
Within this Rata forest, sea lions slumbered in the undergrowth and Red-crowned Parakeets, Tui and Bellbird dined on the late season flowers celebrating in full song.
Back on board the Spirit of Enderby, the peaceful encounter was the perfect final landing on our voyage – in a few days we will be back in civilization.
Antarctic Heritage Trust (AHT) lecture by Peter
Lecture at 17:00. The AHT has completed work on four of the five historic huts in the Ross Sea region over the last 10 years. Scott’s 1901-1904 NAE onboard Discovery at Hut Point Peninsular, Shackleton’s 1907-1909 BAE onboard Nimrod at Cape Royds, Scott’s 1910-1913 BAE on-board Terra Nova at Cape Evans, and Sir Edmund Hillary’s 1957-1958 TAE Hut at Scott Base. The last hut to be completed is Carsten Borchgrevink’s BAE Hut at Cape Adare onboard the Southern Cross. Peter explained the challenges of the building work inside and outside the huts. The priority was to remove ice and snow, dry everything out and put in systems to keep all moisture. The 20,000 plus artefacts across the four huts required conserving which was carried out by AHT conservators wintering over at Scott Base. The before and after photos showed the skill level and attention detail of the metal, wood, paper and textile/fabric specialists.
To keep everyone focused we met in the Globe Bar for an Antarctic Quiz with lots of curly Antarctic questions. The winners were the battle-hardened crew in the bar snug.
Day 28: Friday 8 March
Auckland Island bound for to Lyttelton
Data at 0800: Air Temp: 11°C Sea Temp: 14°C
Position at 1200: 47°02.6’S; 169°47.9’E
We cruise up to the south eastern coast of the South Island.
Heritage Expedition Voyages from Pole to Pole by Dan
At 10:00 Dan presents an amazing insight into the remote parts of the western Pacific from the Arctic to the Antarctic and only serviced by Heritage Expeditions to give expeditioners the ultimate in experiences of wildlife, the oceans, history and communities to increase our understand the implications of the future in a warming world.
Contemporary Scott Base Pt 2 lecture by Peter
11:30 lecture – Peter talked on the range of science supported at Scott Base featuring a video on Andrill, a large drilling rig mounted on the Ross Ice Shelf into the sediment and bedrock to a depth over more than 1,200 m. They recovered a virtually continuous core record from the present to nearly 20 million years ago in an effort to reveal past glacial history and to predict Earth’s future climate.
This USD 30 million multinational collaboration comprised of more than 200 scientists, students, and educators from five nations (Germany, Italy, NZ, UK and the USA). New Zealand was the project lead.
We looked at the operational implications of Search and Rescue in Antarctica which is coordinated by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) based in Upper Hutt. The pull on USAP and Antarctic NZ resources and personnel to support SAR operations can be significant and expensive.
16:00 – The Antarctic Heritage Trust charity auction items are displayed in the port side dinning room.
17:00 – The Globe Bar was due to open early for the AHT charity auction but another species appeared on our bow wave. Dozens of Bottlenose Dolphins had soon joined us and were the entertainment porporsing on both sides of the ship and riding in the bow wave. What another highlight from this magical trip.
© D. Brown
Antarctic Heritage Trust Charity Auction
Our guest auctioneer was our naturalist Dan who took to it with aplomb. Getting underway he set the tone for the evening with a Scott Base beanie going for USD 44.00.
The next 22 items ranged from cups and water bottles to quality history and children’s books, black and white Herbert Ponting photographs from the Terra Nova expedition, two Tom Cream jerseys that would have been handy at the start of our expedition, Jane Ussher’s Still Life portrayal of Scotts two historic huts and Shackleton’s Hut at Cape Royds, stamps, a framed NZD$5.00 banknote depicting, and signed by the late Sir Edmund Hillary and of course two bottles of Shackleton whisky. The pièce de résistance was a copy of South Pole: The British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913, published by American luxury illustrated book publisher Assouline with an embossed cloth-bound hardcover and collection of stunning black-and-white photography. It measures a sizable 24 in x 17 in (61 cm x 43 cm). This was generously brought by Trevor Miller who will donate it to the Northern Territory National Library.
The Antarctic Heritage Trust wishes to convey its thanks to you all for your participation and generosity to raise significant funds to support AHT in their ongoing conservation and inspiring young explorers programme.
As Rachael announces tonight’s dinner is served – she also introduces the guest chef Trevor Hodgson who whipped up a treat for us. Basil Chicken with Lime & Bacon served on pasta and spinach with a tomato sauce. Trevor produced a vegetable and gluten free version as well. Well done shipmate!
Wintering Over at Dumont d’Urville a presentation from Samuel
At 20:00 we joined Samuel again in the lecture theatre. Ten years ago as a young marine biologist, Samuel won a proposal to study marine life at the French Antarctic Dumont d’Urville (DDU) Station, living there for 15 months over a summer and a winter season. DDU is 1,300 km east of the Australian Casey Station and 2,700 km from the South Pole. It is situated on Île des Pétrels, archipelago of Pointe Géologie in Adélie Land and was named after explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville, whose expedition landed at the northeast end of the archipelago on January 21, 1840.
Dumont d’Urville was built to support French scientific research during the Antarctic International Geophysical Year 1957/1958. It opened 12 January 1956 replacing the first base, Port Martin Station, 62 km away which was built in 1950 but burnt down in January1952.
At 1,100 km south of DDU on the Polar Plateau is Dome C, the 3rd highest dome of ice in Antarctica. In the 1970s Dome C was the site of ice core drilling by field teams of several nations. In 1996 the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA) drilled to 3,270.2 m. The age of the oldest recovered ice is estimated to be ca. 900,000 years. The French and Italians collaborated to build Concordia Station at the site and it was completed 2005
DDU station can accommodate about 30 winter-over staff and 120 during the summer. Samuel travelled down on the icebreaker L’ Astrolabe 66 m (217 ft) long, which operates between Hobart and DDU. The crossing takes six days and L’ Astrolabe does 5 round-trips between November and March, it’s just been replaced by a new L’ Astrolabe 72 m (236 ft) long which completed its first mission in 2018. The new vessel can carry 1,200 tons of cargo and accommodate up to 60 personnel.
Samuel recalled at the end of the winter the L’ Astrolabe arriving and a helicopter ferried supplies to them. The first 30 minute flight was mail. The second flight was cheese and mangos! The French know how to prioritise.
During their winter over, they had one chef and the personnel helped out when required. Alcohol was free at the bar and unlimited.
The climate varied from a high of 5.9°C in the summer to a low of -29.8°C in the winter. In March the sea began to freeze and katabatic winds saw 114 knots or 212 kph. The noise of the wind was unbelievable.
Life on the Station - When the ship departed, they saw no one else for eight months. The group ranged in age from 26-55 years. Their base leader was a female who had medical experience and developed a medical response team. They would train once a month – Samuel was the anesthetist!
The base staff got on very well together and formed a great team. They had a summer Olympics, a mid-winter Christmas party where they dressed up and had a nine course meal with a 1.5 m long Baked Alaska.
Samuel actually did some work while he was there. They had 8 bird species on site. As a marine biologist he had to band 1,000 Snow Petrels. He called for volunteers and 16 put their hands up to work with these beautiful creatures. Samuel explained that Snow petrels have a defense mechanism where they spit out an oily fish smelling secretion. It’s disgusting. Samuel’s volunteers quickly dwindled.
There is an Emperor Penguin colony close by on the sea ice. The French documentary La Marche de l'empereur, (March of the Penguins) was filmed here. There is also an Adélie colony close to the station too. In March the last of the Adélies leave for the sea for the winter months. As the last Adélie leaves the first Emperors return. By 5 May the first eggs are visible. By 5 July the first chicks hatch. There are approximately 2,500 Emperors.
Samuels work consisted of counting the 35,000 Adelie Penguins. Attaching tags to 116 Weddell Seals , which required having to anesthetize them, (hence his position on the medical team), weigh them using a large tripod apparatus and attach satellite transmitters which will record dives up to 900 m. Plus, attach transmitters to Skua which migrate over Australia and through Japan reaching as far as Alaska and Greenland.
During the season Heritage Expedition arrived off the coast. Tourists visited the station and Samuel started to carve out new life as a Guide/Lecturer and ultimately and Expedition Leader.
His presentation was saturated with stunning images of landscapes, skies, sea ice, polar nights and aurora, hiking and an array of wildlife giving us a sense of scale which is hard to convey normally.
At the end of 15 months everyone wore sunglasses as they left Dumont d’Urville to hide the tears. They were headed back to Hobart and to lie on the grass with friends and smell the rain forest.
TO THE BOUNDLESS SILENCE
Day 29: Saturday 9 March
Bound for Lyttelton
Data at 0800: Air Temp: 12°C Sea Temp: 14°C
Position at 1200: 43°58.85’S; 173°14.8’E
Flight 901 Air New Zealand DC10 crash into Mt Erebus 28 Nov 1979
At 09:30 Peter delivered an overview of Flight 901, which left Auckland on its 14th Antarctic flight – offering ‘the unique sightseeing opportunity with a low-flying sweep over McMurdo Sound.’ At 12:50 the aircraft flew over Lewis Bay and crashed into the lower slopes of Mt Erebus killing all 257 people on board. The site is on the northern side of Mt Erebus and few people get to see it. It is an Antarctic Specially Protected Area 4 km by 4 km that requires a permit to enter and has a designated no fly zone under 1,000m (3,280 ft).
The cause of the crash was initially attributed to Pilot error but a commission of enquiry found that Air New Zealand had changed the coordinates of the flight without informing the crew, putting them on a collision course with Mt Erebus. The flight crew thought they were flying up McMurdo Sound and could not see the mountain in front of them due to a trick of polar light in white out conditions. Qantas had made 25 flights and continue to do so today.
Scurvy lecture by Dr Bren
10: 30 – This was an fascinating lecture incorporating the historic and physiological aspects of this disease impacting early expeditions. Scurvy was described as early as the time of ancient Egypt. It was a limiting factor in long distance sea travel, often killing large numbers of people.
In 1753 James Lind, a Scottish surgeon in the Royal Navy, proved that scurvy could be successfully treated with citrus fruit. The Royal Navy and Merchant Navy were required to provide a daily lime ration to sailors, hence the term ‘limey’, for British sailors.
At the start of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration, scurvy and hunger were the two major nutritional issues. Confusion still existed concerning the cause of scurvy. It was known that it was related to food but it was uncertain how. Two main theories existed, one was that it was caused by a deficiency of fruit and vegetables and the other that it was caused by a toxic material in tinned foods. In addition, older theories that it was caused by dirt and damp still carried weight.
When Robert Falcon Scott made his first expedition to the Antarctic (1901–1904), aboard Discovery, the prevailing theory was that scurvy was caused by ‘ptomaine poisoning’ in tinned meat. However, Dr Wilson discovered that a diet of fresh meat from Antarctic seals cured scurvy before any fatalities occurred.
Today we know scurvy is the result of a deficiency of vitamin C in the body. As our bodies are unable to produce vitamin C we must get it from our diet. If a person’s diet is deficient in vitamin C they will start to show signs of scurvy, such as spongy gums, loose teeth, opening of old wounds, spots on the skin, paleness, and depression. Scurvy is treatable by giving a person vitamin C, but if this does not happen scurvy will ultimately result in death.
Briefing for disembarkation at Lyttelton
16:30 – Samuel tells us to prepare for disembarkation including Customs and MPI. We should use coloured string for luggage destinations, iSite capacity in Christchurch. We’ll breakfast at 06:30, be alongside at 07:00 and depart the ship onto a bus on the wharf at 08:30.
Ross Sea Antarctic Cruising: ‘In the Wake of Scott and Shackleton’ Recap by Samuel
This chronologically covered our expedition. Starting with the ‘worst journey’ (as did Cherry-Garrard) which was the Auckland Island to Macquarie Island leg and also leaving Macca. The ship had to zig zag to change course for every meal. *See expedition pdf booklet for maps and photos.
In total we saw 97 species of birds (including 9 penguin species & 41 petrels & albatrosses). We saw 16 species of mammals. We covered 5,013 nm or 9,284 km!
Thanks to Captain Dmitry, he is very shy, but is always asking how we are. He’s been working in the Ross Sea for possibly 25 years. Thanks to Olga and Yulia for their tireless work in the galley and dining room. To Andre, Yuri etc. on the gangway and in the engine room. The Bosun who had to drop the anchor in crazy wind.
To chefs, Bek and Damien who prepared 83 meals: 28 breakfasts, 27 lunches and 28 dinners and we still had fruit for breakfast and lettuce at lunch today.
To Natalia and Albina who care for our cabins professionally and with a smile.
Thanks to Chef Ludmila who cooks for the Russian crew producing traditional cuisine before we dine.
Our Zodiac operators: Samuel, Agnès, Dan, Rachael, Peter, and of course the grinning Yuri have enabled us to visit numerous locations from the challenging surf beaches at Enderby and Macquarie to the chilling weather at McMurdo and Cape Royds and getting us safely onto ice floes or ice edges. We’ll remember staff standing in a swell, with water up their chest as the Zodiacs were held. Many hours are spent on the rear deck, ensuring the Zodiacs are refueled, re-inflated and prepared in readiness for our landings.
If one word stands out its Humility.
We’ve seen the Emperor, ‘the emperor of Antarctica’.
The Killer Whale – peaceful moments.
Ice slowly breaking.
History, where we‘ve been. The journeys, Scott and a party of five to the South Pole. Three men to the South Magnetic Pole, Edgeworth David, Mawson and Mackay.
The snow cave at Inexpressible Island. If you look very carefully – you’ll see the same rocks – (photo of Patrick taken in the same place 107 years ago)
The huge scale.
Humility when I see you all exploring.
Humility when you see the ice after I’ve woken you at 05:36 am when the sea is covered in pancake ice – what a stunner.
When we get 17 hours of sun and the daylight hits the tabular iceberg.
A few words from famous people:
“Why then do we feel this strange attraction for these Polar Regions, a feeling so powerful and lasting, that when we return home we forget the mental and physical hardships, and want nothing more than to return to them? Why are we so susceptible to the charm of these landscapes when they are so empty and terrifying?”— Jean-Baptiste Charcot
“I am hopeful that Antarctica in its symbolic robe of white will shine forth as a continent of peace as nations working together there in the cause of science set an example of international cooperation.” Statement made during IGY operations in 1957, inscribed on Rear Admiral Richard E Byrd, Memorial at McMurdo Station.
“If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo. Literature, and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater; the only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it.”- Andrew Denton
“The tranquility of the water heightened the superb effects of this glacial world. Majestic tabular bergs whose crevices exhaled a vaporous azure; lofty spires, radiant turrets and splendid castles; honeycombed masses illumined by pale green light within whose fairy labyrinths the water washed and gurgled. Seals and penguins on magic gondolas were the silent denizens of this dreamy Venice. In the soft glamour of the midsummer midnight sun, we were possessed by a rapturous wonder—the rare thrill of unreality.”– Sir Douglas Mawson
“The land looks like a fairytale”. – Roald Amundsen
Last but not least, there are 49 people I would like to thank, because without you we wouldn’t not be here and Heritage won’t exist. That’s all of you. You will see once back home how hard it is to share with friends the smell of the penguins, the sounds of the ship slicing through the ice.
This trip is dedicated to people who you would’ve liked to bring with you, or would have like to be here.
On behalf of the team – thanks
Expedition film ‘In the Wake of Scott and Shackleton’ by Dan
Dan’s masterpiece provides an overview of our 30 day adventure into the remotest corner on earth. Dan set out from day one to unobtrusively video the expedition which was no small undertaking given his role as a guide driving (and maintaining) the Zodiacs, helping us at each landing and engaging with us on land and the ship. Unsurprisingly his film oozes nature with striking footage and still images. All of us star in this memento which we’ll treasure and share for years to come. Thanks Dan for preserving our unique experience.
Dinner tonight consisted of a five course meal that culminated with an impressive cheese platter created by Damien and Bek, they were joined by Olga and Yulia and took a bow, to a rousing applause for all of their stellar work. In keeping with the French theme, the lights were dimmed and a birthday ‘cake' was presented to Samuel. The 'cake' was flat and round and Samuel initially thought it may have been a sugar cake but instead it was a Camembert cheese round with four candles! How very appropriate for our Expedition Leader! We all sang happy birthday to celebrate his pending birthday.
© P. McCarthy © P. McCarthy
Day 30: Sunday 10 March
Port of Lyttelton
Data at 0800: Air Temp: 14°C Sea Temp: 15°C
Position at 1200: 43°36.27’S; 172°42.98’E
06:30 – Breakfast.
07:30 – Along side number 7 wharf.
08:30 – Luggage into the coach. Prepare to board and file past the expedition team. Hugs all round and last goodbyes.
Thanks for sharing the journey – may it remain an everlasting flame within.