The Ross Sea region of Antarctica is one of the most remote places on Planet Earth and one of the most fascinating places in the continent's human history. With shipping restricted by impenetrable pack ice to just two brief months each austral summer, few people have ever visited this strange and beautiful territory, with opportunities for non-scientific personnel limited to a handful of tourist expedition ships. Heritage Expeditions offers such a voyage on its own fully equipped and ice-strengthened ship Spirit of Enderby, crewed by some of the most experienced officers and sailors in the world and staffed by a passionate and knowledgeable expedition team. This is a unique opportunity to experience nature on a scale so grand there are no words to describe it.
The Ross Sea takes its name from Sir James Clark Ross who discovered it in 1841. The British Royal Geographical Society chose the Ross Sea for the now famous British National Antarctic Expedition in 1901-04 led by Robert Falcon Scott. That one expedition spawned what is sometimes referred to as the 'Race to the Pole'. Ernest Shackleton almost succeeded in 1907-09 and the Japanese explorer Nobu Shirase tried in 1910-12. Scott thought it was his, but was beaten by his rival, Norwegian Roald Amundsen in the summer of 1911. Shackleton's Trans-Antarctic expedition in 1914-17 marked the end of this 'heroic' or 'golden age' of exploration, but many of the relics of this era, including some huts, remain. The dramatic landscape described by these early explorers is unchanged. Mt Erebus, Mt Discovery and the Transantarctic Mountains are as inspiring today as they were 100 years ago. The penguin rookeries described by the early biologists fluctuate in numbers from year to year, but they still occupy the same sites. The seals which are no longer hunted for food lie around on ice floes seemingly unperturbed. The whales, which were hunted so ruthlessly here in the 1920s, are slowly coming back, but it is a long way back from the edge of extinction, and some species have done better than others. Snow Petrels, Wilson's Storm-Petrels, Antarctic Prions and South Polar Skuas all breed in this seemingly inhospitable environment.
There is so much to do and so much to see here, from exploring historic huts and sites to visiting penguin rookeries, marvelling at the glacial ice tongues and ice shelves, and understanding the icebergs and sea ice. Then there are all the seabirds, seals and whales to observe and photograph, modern scientific bases and field camps to visit and simply the opportunity to spend time drinking in the marvellous landscape that has always enthralled visitors.
Lying like stepping stones to the Antarctic continent are the little known Subantarctic Islands. Our journey also includes The Snares, Auckland, Macquarie and Campbell Islands. They break our long journey but, more importantly, they help prepare us for what lies ahead, for these islands are part of the amazing and dynamic Southern Ocean ecosystem of which Antarctica is at the very heart. It is the powerhouse which drives this ecosystem upon which the world depends.
Pre/Post cruise transfers, one night hotel accommodation in a twin share room (incl. dinner/breakfast), all on board ship accommodation with meals and all expedition shore excursions.
All items of a personal nature, laundry, drinks, gratuities. International/domestic flights, visas and travel insurance.
Our ship - The Spirit of Enderby:
The Spirit of Enderby is a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel, built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and is perfect for Expedition Travel.
She carries just 50 passengers and was refurbished in March 2013 to provide comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins approximately half of which have private facilities. All cabins have outside windows or portholes and ample storage space.
On board there is a recently updated combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room (March 2018). The cuisine is excellent and is prepared by top NZ and Australian chefs.
The real focus and emphasis of every expedition is getting you ashore as often as possible for as long as possible with maximum safety and comfort. Our Expeditions are accompanied by some of the most experienced naturalists and guides, who have devoted a lifetime to field research in the areas that we visit. The ship is crewed by a very enthusiastic and most experienced Russian Captain and crew.
The name Spirit of Enderby honours the work and the vision of the Enderby Brothers of London. The Enderby Captains were at the forefront of Antarctic exploration for almost 40 years in the early 1800s. It also celebrates Enderby Island, arguably the greatest Subantarctic Island in the world.
Classification: Russian register KM ice class
Year built: 1984
Accommodation: 50 berths expedition
Main engines: power 2x1560 bhp (2x 1147 Kw)
Maximum speed: 12 knots (2 engines),
Cruising speed: 10 knots(one engine)
Bunker capacity: 320 tons
Day 1: 10th February
Today our expedition began with arrival at the Southland city Invercargill. Most of us were already booked into the fine Kelvin Hotel, where the staff looked after us extremely well and we soon learned that the World Shearing and Wool Handling Championships were being held at HT Stadium Southland.
We had an exceptionally fine dinner and met Dave Bowen, General Manager for Heritage Expeditions along with Dr Pat Campbell from Australia. Dr Pat will be with us on the expedition. We enjoyed meeting our fellow expeditioners and most of us enjoyed a quiet night before departure tomorrow evening.
Day 2: 11th February
Excursion in Southland. Bluff and Stewart Island
Noon position - Bluff: Latitude: 46o 35.544’S; Longitude: 168o 19.979’E
Our ship taking us south arrived in the Port of Bluff early his morning, after an expedition to East Antarctica, when whales, seabirds and beautiful ice had been enjoyed. The expedition had also visited the South Magnetic Pole. Early this morning and with only a day to bunker, take on freshwater and provisions, before our departure this evening, we met David, a member of the expedition staff. Assisted by the ship manager Max, our bags were loaded in a truck for conveyance to the ship. Some of us took the opportunity to do some last minute shopping, however most of us decided to go on an excursion.
It was a beautiful morning with 21oC forecast and with John our coach driver, along with Jemma a geologist with Te Hikoi Museum in Riverton as our guide, we set out on the beautiful Southland countryside. The excursion was arranged by Venture Southland and Jemma gave a most interesting summary of the stages of early settlement in the region.
The first stop was 10.20 a.m. at the Thornbury Vintage Tractor and Implement Club. Here we were split into groups and members of the debt-free club, showed us an amazing collection with the oldest tractor 1914. The Avery Duplex Gasifier made in the USA was destined for river protection and was rescued from a paddock. There were thrashing mills and harvesting machines such as reapers, chaff cutters, a saw mill and displays of other machinery, including dairy utensils and early household goods. The DVD shown was extremely good.
From there we visited Shirley and Bob Anderson’s sheep farm with 600 head and where carrots and potatoes are also grown. While we enjoyed a typical farmers “smoko” break with scones, coffee and tea, Bob showed us how to shear sheep and also demonstrated use of a wool press. We examined fleeces and the very fine stock of Border Leicester Romney Cross/Coopworth sheep in yards outside. They were 18 months old and will have their first lambs next spring.
At 12.30 we departed for Colac Bay and lunch at The Bay Tavern. The lunch which included a complimentary glass of beer or wine was excellent. We had a choice of Stewart Island fresh blue cod, salad and chips; wood-fired pizza; locally made “bangers” and mash; Southern lamb shank and Chicken. The helpings were certainly very generous and gave us a further opportunity to talk amongst ourselves. As we headed back along the coast to Riverton, Jemma gave a good commentary on the local geology. This includes younger rocks ranging from 0.25 to 40 million years ago, older and hard basement rocks of 150-280 mya.
We arrived at the ship at 4.30 p.m. where we were welcomed by staff, shown our cabins where our bags had been placed, and then enjoyed a glass of juice and fresh baking, in the Bar/Library. A Customs Officer came on board, checked us against a list and at 5 p.m. we assembled in the Lecture Room for our first briefing.
Helen outlined essential house-keeping requirements, Samuel introduced the staff who made brief comments and then went through safety procedures, explained the general emergency and abandon ship alarms, introduced us to the two types of life jackets (one for Zodiac travel) and procedure for Zodiac boarding and disembarking. Soon afterwards we participated in the mandatory lifeboat drill. Many of us then adjourned to the Bar/Library.
A few details on the ship will be of interest. The 72m (236ft) Akademik Shokalskiy is one of five ships of the same class built in Turki, Finland, as research vessels, with our ship constructed in 1984 and listed on the Russian Register as KM ice class. The ship has a bunker capacity of 320 tons for the two 1560 HP (1147kWt) engines achieving 12 knots and while cruising comfortably manages on one engine10 knots. Originally built for oceanographic work, it is owned by the Russian Federation Far Eastern Hydro-meteorological Research Institute in Vladivostock where it is Registered No. 179. It has 22 Russian crew.
Of interest is the naming of the ship. On Main Deck (Level 3) a panel by a portrait of Y.M. Shokalskiy, refers to “a highly respected academic CCCP 1856-1940, [who] lived a long and amazing life.” He was associated with several prominent scientists and the great Arctic explorer Fritjof Nansen. Shokalskiy’s primary interests were in the fields of geography, oceanography and cartography and he compiled works titled “Oceanography”. He was a respected President of the [Russian] Geographical Society.
This evening we had an excellent meal, with the main choices being Stewart Island salmon or Lamb and with winds from the north-west at 25-30 knots forecast, along with the possibility of rough weather ahead, we decided to make sure our possessions were carefully stowed and to remember the advice of “one hand to the ship and one for yourself. At 8 p.m. we saw a large ship the Taiyuan next to us, being loaded with wood chips and at 8.30 p.m. the launch Takitimu 2 transferred to Pilot and soon he was taken off and we were on our way across Fouveaux Strait. Our journey south had begun.
Day 3: 12th February
Stewart Island Southward bound and The Snares
Noon position - Bluff: Latitude: 47o 40.295’S; Longitude: 167o 02.755 ’E
Air: 13.5oC Water: 13oC
We enjoyed a good sleep until between 3.30-4 a.m. when on leaving Stewart Island, struck high seas. The ship rolled and pitched and at 7.30 a.m. we were at 47o50.788’S 166o51.300’E. Our course was 221.2 knots and we were doing 10.7 knots, subjected to 50 knots of westerly and The Snares appeared in low strato-cumulus 12 nm away. The temperature was 17oC and water 13oC. A few birds about included Buller’s and White-capped Albatross.
After good progress at 10.a.m. we turned back to Stewart Island, the EL and doctor had made a decision to Medivac a fellow passenger.
We had a brief look at The Snares, a predator-free island reserved for mainly scientific landings only, where we had hoped to do a Zodiac cruise.
The main island ahead of us was discovered independently on 23 November 1791 by Capt. George Vancouver HMS Discovery and by Lieut. William Broughton HMS Chatham, both of the Vancouver Expedition. The subsequent sealing era decimated the population. A small group of 3-4 convicts was here for seven years, lived in five huts, grew potatoes and they were rescued in 1818.
The pest-free island requires a permit to land and is of great interest to science parties from the Universities of Canterbury and Otago, along with the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). Only 10 people a year are allowed to land and this includes members of two families who take Rock Lobster (crayfish).
Although off-shore, we had a distant view of the granitic rocks and zoning of vegetation with, Olearia lyalli, the tall ‘tree-daisy’ prominent and a further ‘tree-daisy’ Brachyglotis stewartiae; both well adapted to salt-laden air Other plants here include Cook’s ‘scurvy grass’; a megaherb (the term was introduced by Lyall on James Clark Ross’s expedition 1842); a shore Veronika with small white flower, and large Poa or tussock grass, this mostly on higher areas.
The many birds include Snares Crested Penguins (Eudyptes robustus) of which there are 25-28,000, Buller Albatrosses nest on grassy ledges on cliff faces and there are Cape Petrels, Giant Petrels, Brown Skua, the small black endemic Snares Tom Tit, Arctic Terns and the small brown Snares Islands Snipe. The Sooty Shearwaters, a burrowing petrel on the higher areas of the main island and the most prominent bird species, with a calculated 2.7 million pairs (1971), had mostly flown before dawn, although some were seen earlier.
On arrival at Stewart Island we turned around passing between Pearl and Anchorage Islands. The ship had the Port anchor dropped by Bosun, Sergei, in a wide area of open water having a depth of around 35m. We were at 47o10.236’S; 167o41.851’E and outside enjoying a warm 16o.
While some staff helped with Medivac many of the rest of us enjoyed being out of the wind on the stern and watched the Captain and crew land a few blue cod and a sole. These and two much larger cod were tossed back to a pair of Mollymawks, one of which dived to retrieve a cod before it went beyond reach. Two of the fish were about the size of the birds that ate them. We had great views of the smooth rock faces above the waterline with beyond, the dense native scrub. Other birds present included Grey-head and White-capped Albatrosses.
By 6 p.m. we had lifted anchor and were resuming our journey south with Auckland Island the next landfall. The bar then opened for drinks before dinner after which most of us had an early night.
Photo credit: A Bishop
Day 4: 13th February
Southern Ocean; Auckland Islands – Ranui Cove; Erebus Bay
Noon position - Latitude: 50o 26.182’S; Longitude: 166 o22.563’E
Air: 14oC Water: 13oC
We rolled a little in the night however most of us had a good rest and surfaced this morning to a clear, pale-blue sky, and with a temperature outside at 8 a.m. of 12oC. Numerous albatross were about and included Shy and Wanderer along with Cape Petrels, shearwaters and prions. We pushed along at 10.7 knots and were over 143m of water, on a course of 197o. Our position at 8 a.m. was 49o45.958’S 166o42.143’E; with an ETA at Port Ross, around 12.30 p.m.
The swell continued from the west although had eased, and by 10.50 a.m. we could see in the distance, the Auckland Islands. Good numbers of birds about the ship included three species of petrel; White-chinned, White-capped and Giant Petrels. Our expedition arrived at Port Ross at 12.15 p.m. while many of us were busy with our quarantine measures, including vacuuming clothing, back packs and boots.
We had lunch at 12.30 p.m. and then a pre-landing briefing at 1.15, during which Samuel outlined the programme and gave an introduction to the history and natural history of the Aucklands.
Ranui Cove is a secluded cul-de-sac, not visible from Port Ross. Tucked away in Rata forest, with large and ancient trees, is the New Zealand World War 2 Coast Watchers’ base of the secret “Cape Expedition and Survey Party”. The expedition based at Auckland and Campbell Islands, had to keep watch for enemy shipping. In the end no enemy shipping was sighted and scientists and surveyors went on to undertake successful careers.
Following rapid departure from Port Chalmers New Zealand, of the German cargo ship Erlangen without its full load of coal, the Erlangen headed south and found a good location to hide, at the head of the North Arm Carnley Harbour on Auckland Island. The largely Chinese crew cut 400 tons of green Rata for fuel and unbeknown to the Germans, Rata is one of the few timbers that burns when green.
On arrival at Ranui Cove, remains of the wharf were visible and we saw two large huts had been joined to make one. A further older hut was in the bush. This was a most interesting and peaceful place, with numerous Bellbirds greeting us with a chorus. There was also Tui and Tomtits present. The beach of large waterworn basalt boulders had limpets.
Photo credit: A Breniere
The base was constructed in 1941 and sufficient supplies for three years, was left for the four men including two scientists and a radio operator until 1946. This fascinating place is one of two such facilities on Auckland Island; the other being at Tagua Bay. Each had a separate lookout hut, on a high point away from the main building.
The outside walls and some of the inner walls were clad with “Malthoid”, while plywood painted pale cream and pale blue, was also used in the interior. There were several rooms off a porch and central passage, these carefully replaced by Department of Conservation.
One room which appeared to be the laundry and perhaps a storeroom, had a “Methven 12” cast iron copper, another the kitchen, had an “Orion” range with Heat Indictor gauge made by Shacklock in Dunedin and two large brown enamel teapots. Also present was a Patriotic Fund dart board and drawers beneath a bench, were labelled Wholemeal, Rolled Oats, Dried Fruits, Sugar, Flour and Bread.
In what we presumed to be the living and dining area, was a small heating stove made in Dunedin and a shelf with books. One was titled Mental Efficiency and Other Hints to Men and Women and many were stamped with NZ Military Camps Library Service. One dated 1914 was stamped, National Patriotic Fund Board War Library Service. Some old lime juice bottles were labelled Ballins; a former Christchurch company. A bedroom had on a wall a series of circuit breakers and frequencies for communication with Campbell Island further south. Furniture included a stool and chair improvised from box wood.
David was especially interested in this site which he had visited on the last Heritage expedition. He had also known some members of The Cape Expedition including Dr (later Sir) Robert Falla a former Director of the Dominion Museum (now Te Papa Tongarewa) and Mawson man, who had served with Mawson as ornithologist during the BANZARE and Charles (later Sir) Fleming, eminent palaeontologist.
One item which attracted our attention was an 11 verse poem titled “Fifty South” by Jonnie Jones with the second verse reading
Where the Rata bloom in the autumn breeze
And the bellbirds serenade
Where the pipits flit beneath the trees
And orchids flower in the glades…
We could relate to this and most of us climbed a steep hill side opposite, to view the lookout hut with its commanding view of Port Ross. The few artefacts included a book, crockery and a newspaper 23 July 1938. From the knoll close by, there was a fantastic 360o panorama, taking in Enderby Island, Port Ross etc.
Those who remained in the vicinity of the huts enjoyed the peacefulness, the Rata canopy gently swaying in the breeze, the many plant communities where each species had its place, and the nearby stream rushing down to the cove. An exciting observation was of a pair of White-faced Herons.
We headed back to the ship which was relocated to a new position at Port Ross and began moving ashore at 6.20 p.m.to the site of the Hardwick settlement, named after the Earl of Hardwick.
On arrival, David gave a brief talk on the history of Hardwick and reminded us of an artist’s interpretation of the Hardwick settlement, shown in Samuel’s introductory briefing. All the vegetation had been cleared for some distance back from the water’s edge. We enjoyed the short board walk to inspect the cemetery. It was peaceful with Bellbirds calling and the fragrance of the bush, which here was Dracophyllum sp., Broadleaf, Southern Rata and other species. Small mauve orchids were near the boardwalk.
Hardwick was a British Colony established by Samuel Enderby in 1849 and which lasted until 1852. The idea was fuelled by James Clark Ross’s report and the Prospectus issued was lauded by British politicians. It turned out to be the smallest, short-lived and most remote of British colonies and was a complete failure. When the final accounts were done the venture barely broke even.
The settlers comprised tradesmen, women and children who arrived on the Samuel Enderby (and later also on the Fancy and Brisk) found on arrival, 50 Maoris with three pa (village) sites. They were wearing loin cloths of seal skin and apparently had plenty of rum.
The settlement had roads made of beach gravel and there was a safe anchorage. Farms were established on Enderby, Rose and Auckland Islands. However mustering was a problem and two horses landed were not used. Although the Maoris had some success with growing vegetables, the British settlers did not as the soil derived from volcanic rocks was too acidic. Turnips were the size of radishes and there was only limited success with cabbages, peas, celery, lettuce and potatoes.
Curiously when a visit was made by Sir George Grey from New Zealand, a ball was held in his honour and the same day a whale caught yielded 40 barrels of oil. Whaling did not prove successful.
In the end the venture which lasted only two years and nine months and cost ₤30,000 would have been better run from New Zealand. In that time there was two infant deaths, five weddings and 16 births registered. In 1852 the Maoris left for New Zealand and after dismantling most of the buildings the settlers returned to Britain.
Today only the boat shed (with a possible telegraph pole associated with the WW2 Cape Expedition), and collapsing depot shed remain. Traces however can be seen of the road, built by Maoris who were paid with bank notes, an example of which we saw in the Southland Museum. A pile of bricks was perhaps from a former house chimney.
From here we walked through open Rata forest to inspect the Victoria Tree. The inscription made by men from the Australian ship Victoria in 1863 during a routine search for castaways. The stump is steadily deteriorating and various suggestions were made on its protection.
In 1863 the Auckland Islands was gazetted within the boundaries of New Zealand.
The bar was busy this evening and everyone had enjoyed the first of our landings. After a fine meal which included “Pork Wellington” and Crème Brulee, we went to bed early as a long day is expected tomorrow.
Day 5: 14th February
Auckland Islands – Enderby Island
Noon position - Latitude: 50o 30.344’S; Longitude: 166o 16.861’E
Air: 10oC Water: 12oC
St. Valentine’s Day
We had a good night’s sleep and this morning got up to occasional rain showers, and a stiff wind. Breakfast was slightly earlier than usual and at 8 a.m. we all assembled in the Lecture Room for an introductory presentation and briefing for today’s time on Enderby Island.
The first Zodiac went ashore with staff at nine and by 9.30 a.m. we were all ashore. This morning we landed on a kelp-covered rock platform with 50 Giant Petrels sitting on the water. We then made our way to some sheds used by the Department of Conservation.
Chris the senior member of the party undertaking research on New Zealand Hooker’s Sea Lions and Yellow-eye Penguins gave us a welcome to the island and outlined some of research being carried out. Of this seasons breeding season, 1200 pups were on Dundas Island and 300 at Sandy Bay. There was a slight increase compared to last year, although the population is only half what it was in the 1990s. Research focused on foraging and population and the penguins were doing well with nests 20-30% more than last year. The Yellow-eyed Penguin has been shown to swim up to 45 km off-shore and dive to over 100m.
We had two options on Enderby Island today. These were a short walk of 1.3km to the far side of the island and a long walk of 8-10km. The long walk would take between 4½ and 6½ hours.
Helen and David set out on the short walk with about a third of our number taking part in this. We made good time over to the north side of the island and were rewarded with a rare viewing of three Southern Royal Albatrosses, putting on a gamming display for us; rather unusual for those on the boardwalk when on Enderby Island. Most of the Rata and also the Cassinia had completed flowering and only a few Gentians were out. There was occasional light rain and hail, but this did not deter us.
On reaching the end of the boardwalk, Samuel led us through tussocks, along the top of the cliff, in the hope of seeing nesting Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, however, these were not present today. Of interest was the thick layer of peat containing wood and the many ocean rounded boulders, left here when sea level was much higher several thousand years ago. Most of us then went back down the boardwalk, leaving JJ and Hunter enjoying the wind as it swept over the tussocks.
David took JJ, Hunter and Tom, to view the Stella castaway depot and site of the early farm house, with only a small cast-iron stove visible today. While there time was spent enjoying the calls of about five Bellbirds. When one sang a particular tune and then stopped, another Bellbird took over and resumed the tune. They appeared to enjoy our presence and sat on branches within reach; truly a special moment.
Later after having returned to the grassy sward above the beach, Samuel explained to us many features of the sea lions which include pups with adult females and males. Many photographs were taken and one small pup that had tired itself out, lay down in front of us and had a sleep, while the mother made occasional checks to see how her young was.
Photo credit S Blanc
By early afternoon we were back at the boat shed and Will, the youngest of our party and accompanied by his grandfather Denis, when asked what he found most interesting today said “I saw a little penguin chick and when I looked at it, it hid underneath the track [boardwalk]”. Will who is almost seven, is keeping a photo record of his observations and is compiling a diary. Kathleen said her highlight was the sea lions. “I enjoyed doing some sketching. The light was perfect and I watched for 30 minutes, a male pup in a mud wallow, having a wonderful time.”
The long walkers had what can be best described, as a fantastic experience enhanced by fine weather. Soon after splitting from our friends on the short walk, we continued along the cliff tops and came to the site of the men who died when the barque Derry Castle (Captain Goffe) founded on a reef on 20 March 1887.
There were only eight survivors who managed to find there was a castaway depot on Enderby Island. They were however, unable to reach it and survived on grain and shellfish for 92 days. Finding an axe head, they built a boat that enabled them to reach the depot at Port Ross and were eventually rescued by the Awarua. The figure head from the Derry Castle is now in Canterbury Museum Christchurch. A small plaque in the vicinity of the graves commemorates those here till eternity.
The birds included Red-crowned Parakeet (Kakariki); Arctic Terns; Yellow-eye Penguins; Tom Tits; Auckland Islands cormorant; and other species. New Zealand Hooker’s Sea lions were seen and one estimate was 60-70 animals. Bob from Utah was busy taking photographs, when according to those nearby he was then approached by seven females who continued to advance, with this leading to males being “fired up” and advancing as well. Bob showed them his “big camera” and they retreated, although according to one version of events, he said “I was charged at by them”. Also of interest was the sighting of a sub-adult male elephant seal.
Perhaps the highlight was the Rata forest. When we entered the calls of Bellbirds was soon about us and our group immediately went silent. The songs were recorded on cameras and this was one moment we will never forget. Unfortunately it was time to move on and after negotiating the final area of tussock we continued over the grassy sward to the huts and then were conveyed back to the ship. It had been a magnificent few hours on Enderby Island.
This evening we began our departure from the Auckland Islands at 6 p.m. and the bar opened at 6.30. Many present enjoyed looking at their photographic record of the day and the dinner menu began with a Starter of Caesar Salad followed by for the Main, with a choice of Roast beef accompanied by a roasted vegetable medley, peas and gravy or, Bacon wrapped chicken breast with creamy polenta. The Final, was a superb Sticky Date pudding with butterscotch sauce. This was a fitting meal for our departure from New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands after a truly wonderful day. Thank you Chefs, you did us proud.
By 7.30 p.m. we were passing the entrance to Carnley Harbour and it looked very bleak, toward the head of this large body of water. We then passed Adams Island and the wind and sea were getting up. From the bridge, we had great views of Shy, Gibsons and Wandering Albatrosses, as we watched waves crashing against black basalt cliffs. Thought was given to what it must have been like when sailing ships were wrecked in darkness and the difficulty in setting foot somewhere on the dangerous rocky shore, with towering cliffs. And so we have for the meantime left New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands and now to Australian waters.
Photo credit: A Breniere
Day 6: 15th February
Southern Ocean. Enroute for Macquarie Island
Noon position - Latitude: 52o 14.464’S; Longitude: 163o37.608’E
Air: 10oC Water: 12oC
Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton’s birthday (b. Kildare Ireland 1874)
The Akademik Shokalskiy was hit by a few swells in the night and most of us had little sleep. However we got up to a cloudy but fine day with the sun trying to shine. We have made good progress at around 8-9 knots, on a course of 230.7o. At 7.45 a.m. light rain was falling and the occasional big wave went over the bow. Several species of birds are about and included very beautiful Shy and Wandering Albatrosses, shearwaters and a few others. At 7.50 a.m. our position was 51o52.343’S; 164o20.951’E and the air temperature was 9oC.
Later today or this evening we expect to cross the Antarctic Convergence. This band of water which has a marked increase in salinity and decrease in temperature is an important oceanographic feature. It forms an irregular wave-like band, around the Antarctic continent with water of the Antarctic Circumpolar current meeting warmer water from temperate latitudes. The Convergence also prevents warmer waters from reaching Antarctica and it is of great interest to biologists.
By noon the sea was calming and our course was being maintained at 8.4 knots over water about 4200m deep. We still had a SW blowing at 12 knots and 6/8ths cloud. The air temperature had lowered to 10oC and water temperature was still 12oC. We should meet the Antarctic Convergence sometime this evening. A few albatrosses were about and a dolphin seen earlier.
A few of us were busy in the Bar/Library with our photographs or reading, while Guy and Barbara Carnaby with occasional help from others, kept themselves occupied with rather large puzzles.
The fish and chips, beautiful fresh salad and blueberry muffins for lunch was first class and the afternoon continued to pass quickly with many of us resting in the cabin. The sea had calmed although the occasional roll emphasised the need to keep one hand for the ship and one for yourself.
At 3 p.m. Helen kindly arranged for us to purchase postcards and these will be sent from Macquarie Island. The opportunity is also given to have the official Macquarie Island stamp in one’s passport. As with any others, this is not an official stamp, although in the case of Macquarie, we do enter Australian waters and territory.
Also at 3 p.m. the water temperature had fallen from 10oC to 9oC at 6 p.m. It will fall even lower during this evening. The air temperature had also fallen from 12oC at 3 p.m. to 10oC at 6 p.m.
We enjoyed a fine meal again with lamb rump or Jerk-seasoned Monkfish and the ice cream in a brandy snap basket, was a great hit. Outside the sea had levelled out and at 8.40 p.m. the wind was 5 knots and a little swell only Samuel said we hope to be at Buckles Bay around 11 a.m. There were very few of us up late this evening.
Day 7: 16th February
Macquarie Island – Buckles Bay, Lusitania Bay, Sandy Bay
Noon position - Latitude: 54 o 30.406’S; Longitude: 158 o 56.838’E
Air: 9 o C Water: 8 o C
By 8 a.m. Macquarie Island was appearing as a long grey shape in mist and cloud, with the Judge and Clerk Islands visible off the north end. A northerly was blowing at around 10 knots, with white horses over a rumpled sea. The anchor was dropped 8.30 a.m. in 21.5m a short distance off Buckles Bay on the east side of Macquarie Island, with the surf breaking on the shore.
Our position was 54o30.406’S; 158o56.838’E, although this may change during the day. It was overcast and the air temperature was 13.5oC, with the water 9oC. North Head and the green hills of Macquarie Island stood out prominently and a few Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, shearwaters and Giant Petrels were about.
Macquarie Island has a long history. This began with the discovery by Captain Frederick Hasselburgh in July 1810 and sealing began soon afterwards. It was then estimated there were between 200,000-240,000 seals and in the first 18 months 120,000 skins were taken. Between the years 1810-1819 there are 207 recorded ship visits. The island was named after Colonel Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales 1810-1821.
On 11 December 1911, Douglas Mawson who arrived at Macquarie Island from Hobart, on the SY Aurora wrote;
“Macquarie Island…was sighted on December 11…This habitable island has a length of over 20 miles and greatest breadth of 3½ miles. The chief vegetation is tussock grass and Kerguelen cabbage, but it abounds in a truly wonderful population of birds and animals. At one time it was a favourite haunt of the valuable fur seal, but for fifty years or more only odd specimens have been seen. The ruthless slaughter by the early settlers is responsible for this almost complete extermination. Sea elephants, however, are numerous, the bulls being met with up to 20 feet in length and weighing some 2 tons.”
In 1911 Mawson placed five men on Macquarie Island to operate his northernmost base for the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 1911-14. Years later and having been instrumental in a cessation to slaughter of wildlife for oil, Sir Douglas Mawson paved the way for Macquarie to be recognised as a Nature Reserve. In his eyes what made the island so special, was the abundance of its bird and animal life. In 1919 when the last oiling party was on the island he wrote “This little island is one of the wonder spots of the world.” In 1971 the island along with its surrounding islets and reefs, became a Conservation Area. It was formally declared a Nature Reserve in 1978 and in 1997 received World Heritage status.
Macquarie Island has an approximate length of 34km, a width of 5km, an area of 128km2 and an annual rainfall of 905mm. Cold mists, sea-fogs, rain showers and strong winds persist all year round. Last year 1200mm of rain was recorded. The highest point is Mt. Hamilton, named for Harold Hamilton, and is 433m. In the 19th Century, Emerald Island was supposed to exist south of Macquarie, however, various searches for it were unsuccessful and the island may have in fact been an iceberg. These have been sighted from time to time from Macquarie Island.
Macquarie Island has very important geology. The rocks are 10-30 million year old (myr) basalts which include areas of pillow lava formed when super-heated lava is cooled very quickly under the ocean. These rocks are 2-12 myr old and some can be seen at Sandy Bay. On the plateau in the north are ultramafic rocks formed at least 6km below the earth’s surface. The island is important geologically, as it is the only known area of oceanic crust in relatively pristine condition, and independent of any other continent. The World Heritage rating was based on this geology. The island sits on a major plate boundary and earthquakes are fairly frequent, with a 6.5 magnitude quake last winter.
Along the coast rock “stacks” are remnants of a former eroded coastline. While on top of the island are water-rounded boulders, similar to those on Enderby Island, which date back several hundred thousand years.
The island is rich in bird life with Antarctic and Fairy Prions, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels; Grey, White-headed and Blue Petrels, Macquarie Island Shags (Blue-eyed Cormorants), Light-mantled Sooty, Wanderer and Grey-headed Albatrosses and Northern (Brown) Skuas.
Insects too are abundant, however, in contrast, there are only 45 vascular plants (have vessels conducting fluids – water plus mineral salts and food) of which three plants are endemic to the island. Because the island is too far south, there are no trees or shrubs and the flora is dominated with megaherbs, tussock grasses and ferns. Prominent plants are the Tussock grass (Poa foliosa); Macquarie Island “cabbage” (Stilbocarpis polaris) and the Macquarie Island daisy (Pleurophyllum hookeri). With the island declared pest free in 2014, vegetation and birdlife has increased dramatically.
The first lecture for the expedition was given by David at 10.15. The presentation titled “Lost in the Mists” began with brief mention of the discovery and naming of Macquarie Island and then outlined the work and daily life undertaken by Mawson’s five men at his northern outpost in 1911-13.
The outstanding results included the first detailed survey and geology done of the island, the comprehensive meteorological, observations, the extensive collection of natural history specimens and importantly, the first wireless transmissions sent to and from Antarctica, including relaying to Australia and New Zealand.
It was, however, not a happy party as within six months there were frequent personality clashes. The leader Ainsworth, although dedicated to his meteorology, was not suitable for the position, as was the New Zealander Sawyer, one of the wireless operating staff. The other New Zealander Harold Hamilton, also dedicated to his work later fell out with Mawson, as he never completed his reports as required by his contract.
A shortage of food did not help matters and we were not all that enthusiastic at the idea, of eating elephant seal heart stuffed with herbs then roasted, along with liver or kidneys. Attempts to grow vegetables were unsuccessful. Flightless Wekas, a native New Zealand bird, were tough and fish had worms in their flesh. By June 1913 supplies were severely diminished and the diet was almost completely protein.
At 11.30 a.m. an engine was started and the ship positioned for a new anchorage.
The excellent documentary “The Silence Calling”, a history of Australia’s Antarctica programme, previously known as ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions) and now the AAD (Australian Antarctic Division) was now screened. This was narrated by well-known journalist Tim Bowden, the title having come from his excellent book of the same subject.
The title of Tim’s book was very appropriate as many visitors and writers of the polar regions, has commented on the silence that can be experienced in Antarctica and which is occasionally like none other.
One author was Robert Service, who wrote of the remote Canadian wilderness. In Antarctica, Mawson was influenced by Service and Shackleton too, the latter having a love for Browning. More recently, Antarctic literature has provided an outlet to publish one’s poetry.
Helen’s father, the late Brian Ahern, who embraced the outdoors, was a talented poet and often described his thoughts and feelings for Antarctica and its early explorers. One person he commemorated was Nicolai Hanson, the 28 year-old biologist, who died on C.E. Borchgrevink’s expedition to Cape Adare in 1899. Hanson is considered to be the first person to be buried on the Antarctic continent.
By noon we were still off Buckles Bay and large waves were crashing against the shore and rocky outcrops. In spite of the bleak landscape to port, Erkki was finding this excellent birding weather and had already seen King Penguins, a Gentoo Penguin, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Brown Skua, Antarctic Prion and other species.
After lunch we relocated to Lusitania Bay and were able to obtain an appreciation of the extent of the large King Penguin colony. While here it was interesting to see numerous King Penguins with some as a large “raft” near the ship. In the midst of the huge colony, one could see three of Joseph Hatch’s steam digesters (one topped over three years ago) and David gave a brief outline on how the large coal-fired “pressure cookers” operated. Steam was used to extract oil from blubber, with each penguin taken at the Nuggets colony, producing about half a litre or one pint during the 12 hours required. Here up to 2700 penguins a day was processed and the oil which accumulated at the top of the “soup-like mixture” was drained off and put in wooden casks. Remains of the penguins at the bottom of the digester, was then removed.
Photo credit: A Bishop
Just before 3 p.m. the Captain turned the ship around and we headed north along the coast to Sandy Bay where it was hoped to do a landing. A briefing for the landing was held and we learned much about the geology from Andrew, and we then watched two DVDs; “A History of the Macquarie Island Wireless Station 1911-1914” and one on the Pest Eradication programme with narration by Keith Springer the New Zealand Project Manager. The island was declared pest free in 2014 and since then, there has been a dramatic recovery of vegetation and bird life.
Three Rangers from the Australian station spent 3½ hours trekking along the coast and in the end, kindly received our mail from Connor. They did at least have a hut available for the night. However the Gods were against us. The wind came up, along with occasional strong gusts and with it the state of sea. The gangway was opened on the starboard side, then closed and an attempt then was made on the port side. In the end, the decision was made to cancel the landing but we did at least have excellent viewing of swimming King Penguins along with the occasional Gentoo.
Gavin was able to obtain some very fine footage and there was laughter as well, when on two occasions crew member Vladamir on the starboard gangway platform, had water suddenly at waist level. When it was decided to cancel the landing, Vladamir laughing, proudly showed his waist high waders. Passenger safety was paramount and the right decision had been made.
At 6.30 p.m. the bar opened and we all enjoyed a very convivial hour before dinner. The garlic prawn Starter, followed by the blue cod and venison were judged excellent as was the beautiful Vanilla panacotta with minted pineapple salsa for Final.
Samuel announced that a further try is planned for the morning and this evening we would remain at the present location off Sandy Bay, with hopes for better conditions in the morning.
Day 8: 17th February
Macquarie Island – Sandy Bay
Noon position - Latitude: 54o 33.969’S; Longitude: 158o 56.140’E
Air: 10oC Water: 8oC
We had a good rest last evening and early this morning the sea was calmer although not for long, as the wind had come up. At 6 a.m. was only 10 knots however by 7.45 a.m. as forecast, was 25 knots and gusting to 30 from the north, along with a swell of two metres. The island had the tops concealed by mist, the air temperature was 11oC and our position at Sandy Bay - 54o33.916’S; 158o56.177’E.
About the ship, was large numbers of the very beautiful King Penguins of which, many were swimming just below the surface, others rolling as if to clean themselves and with neck outstretched as if to observe the surroundings, their continual calling as they communicated among themselves. This really is a fine place to enjoy nature at its best and a better forecast is set for tomorrow.
Today was spent at Sandy Bay and began with a lecture by Samuel titled “Penguins”. This very appropriate since we are surrounded by penguins, who appear to be curious at our presence?
We returned to the Lecture Room at 10 a.m. to extend our knowledge on wildlife. Samuel began with a brief explanation on the latest wind chart, the anticipated conditions for tomorrow and the intention to a have two landings before we turn to the South. He then moved to his presentation “Penguins” was outstanding and supported with superb photographs.
The lecture began with reference to early observation and collecting of penguins. Bouvet de Lozier’s French research expedition in 1739 was sent by the Kind of France to look for new land. Bouvet reported ice islands (icebergs), whales and seals. They discovered an animal that resembled a duck and could swim like a fish, however, did not know what it was. Dumont D’Urville’s expedition observed that the creature was more adapted to swim than fly and that its body was covered with “fur”.
Today 40 species of penguins are known to be alive at some stage on the planet, with 14 of these once on the New Zealand mainland. For science today, there are 18 species alive. Fossils found on the Antarctic Peninsula, indicate that the largest penguin known was 1.8m tall, weighed 50 kg and lived 37-40 mya. The fossil penguin known as “Waimanu” discovered in New Zealand was 0.9m tall and lived 62 mya.
We then learned that penguins live only in the Southern Hemisphere, although the Galapagos Penguin lives in tropical waters. The highest concentration is in the zone of 40-60o south and there are six different for the genus Spheniscidae which has 18 species and six varieties. The Macaroni Crested Penguin, is the most abundant with 9-11 million.
Various features were described and the Gentoo which breeds on Macquarie Island is the fasted swimmer at 37 km/hr. Of interest also was the depths at which penguins can dive with the Yellow-eye 56m; Adelie 180m; Gentoo 212m; Royal 326m; King 343m and Emperor an amazing 564m and remaining down for 27 minutes. Other adaptions such as for travel, breeding, social life and conservation of energy was of great interest.
We also learned the differences between King and Emperor Penguins and now know how penguins find one another in a large colony. Each penguin has an “acoustic signature” which is recognised by an adult of chick and if within five metres, when one calls, the others in that area cease.
Samuel was once told by a guest “They are nice, but they look so stupid!” If that is so, why then, does a penguin dive from two metres of ice into water of -1oc; can reach 20 km/hr in water of -1o; can scratch its head; can [an Emperor] walk 40,000 km over ice in its life time and show an interest in a dog?
At 11.30 a.m. Helen opened the Sea Shop and there was great interest in the variety of merchandise. There was a fine selection of apparel, also books, ornaments and items for children.
At noon the wind was still blowing at 30 knots although the state of sea appeared better and later Chris the senior Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service Ranger, will come onto the ship for the evening, in preparation for the day tomorrow.
This afternoon saw many of us return to the Lecture Theatre for a documentary “Mawson Life and Death in Antarctica.”
Tim Jarvis an Australian polar adventurer, who had at the time, undertaken the fastest unsupported solo journey to the South Pole, losing 27% body weight in the process, replicated Mawson’s journey after the death of Ninnis. He was accompanied by John Stoukino and Dr John Tingay, the latter monitoring Tim’s progress which included a similar diet to Mawson’s solo journey.
The portrayal of Mawson and Mertz along with readings from Mawson’s diary was very well done and the journey added to our knowledge in medical science and the extent to which a human being can tolerate such a reduction in diet and expending of energy.
At 4.30 p.m. we were drawn once more to the Lecture Room. Agnes gave a very well presented lecture “Sea birds of the Southern Ocean”.
The lecture began with an explanation as to where these birds are found, the boundary being the Polar Front although 60o South latitude is also used. There is at least 300 species of sea birds and these have features inn common such as life span, with some extraordinary examples given. For example an adult Emperor Penguin banded in 1976, was sighted by Samuel in 2006 and was still about Dumont D’Urville Station in 2016. This made the bird over 40 years old. A Snow Petrel banded in 1968 was 38 years old in 2006 and seen again last year at the French station.
We then considered the feature of the “tube-noses” with some having a single tube on top of the beak and others having two, with one each side. Because the birds drink sea water a special gland in the skull enables the bird to excrete salt. Different sizes and forms of social behaviour was mention. Both vary considerable and for the latter, this includes for breeding; isolation, burrow, under rocks, platforms and pedestals.
Agnes then showed a number of slides illustrating the differences in each bird. We did our best to remember these, however there are often subtle variations and then there is the matter of juveniles. Nevertheless most of us have an interest in birds and we will be better off for having attended Agnes’s presentation.
By 6 p.m. the sun was shining and the sea had calmed. This provided an opportunity for Chris to be collected and will spend a night with us. All hoping that the Gods provide a good day tomorrow.
Day 9: 18 February
Macquarie Island – Sandy Bay; Buckles Bay; Southern Ocean
Noon position - Latitude: 54o33.995’S; Longitude: 158o56.139’E
Air: 12 o C Water: 8 o C
We had a comfortable night at Sandy Bay and this morning got up to fog, a 15 knot wind and moderately calm sea. By 8.30 a.m. the ship had relocated to Buckles Bay from where two Rangers, Kim and Marcus, had been collected and along with Chris, will accompany us at Sandy Bay. Having seen numerous King Penguins about the ship, we looked forward very much to being ashore and to now seeing them at close quarters.
By 10.30 we were all shore. The swell when we left the gangway was about a meter and considerable concentration was required for leaving the landing platform and entering the Zodiac. Once on shore Chris welcomed us then gave a briefing. He began by saying, “it has taken me three years to realise people have given something to the island for 207 years. We need to give ourselves time which we just have, by waiting a day; patience for the wild life which will come to you and an understanding as to why the island is as special as it is.” We were then introduced to Kim and Marcus and by 10.15 the sun was shining.
Now we were then free to wander and enjoy the magnificent opportunity of seeing King and Royal Penguins at close quarters, along with elephant seals which were all non-breeders including a moulting female pup perhaps from last season. One amused several of us when it opened its mouth to reveal a pink tongue, with a generous coating of sand. Chris advised “when you see an Elephant seal with one eye open, it is looking at you. Then if you are too close, it will open its mouth and finally bark or roar at you.” Flying birds were plentiful and included Brown Skua, Giant Petrels (five White morphs were seen), Macquarie Island Shags, Arctic Terns and a pair of Light-mantled Sooty Albatross.
There was also some early human history and some of us saw near the King Penguin colony, the remnants of one of Joseph Hatch’s sealing huts. It was uncertain if this was the corner of the hut or the base for a stove. Nearby behind a rope barrier was the site of the try works, where an iron try pot once stood, for rendering down of seal blubber for oil.
One item that caught our eye was an old hut with grass growing over it, at the back of the colony. This dates back to ANARE c.1951, and once held a Walrus amphibian aircraft engine. Asbestos will be removed from the roof and the hut will remain. A similar hut is at Lusitania Bay.
Today we would each leave with different memories of our special visit to a special place, whether this relates to King Penguins, molting Royals, or the antics of the elephant seals. Many of us observed at the King Penguin colony, a small chick in brown plumage, being harassed by adults and given some protection, while a Brown Skua waiting for a chance to take the chick, was also kept away by adult penguins. These chicks were just one month old and compared to the Royals, spend the winter here although are mainly fed toward the end of winter, and won’t depart the colony until the end of next summer. It was interesting to see large chicks or “oakum boys” in down, and a second hatching had taken place with some adults on eggs.
Photo credit: A Breniere
The Royal Penguin colony, with perhaps two thirds missing had chicks at various stages of moult and some of those that had completed their moult seemed very large. An excellent panel at the platform answered many of our questions and it was clear that the fledged chicks had to run a gauntlet from the colony down Finch Creek. There were many wily Skua waiting and numerous remains of those that did not make the safety of the sea.
For many of us, we were content to sit or lie on the sandy beach during a nice sunny morning observing penguins as they walked past; sometimes at arm’s length. This gave us a good chance to study the texture of their beautiful plumage, already mentioned in Samuel’s lecture “Penguins” with a few having a distinct greenish tinge on the top of the head or about the throat and their calls, occasionally reminiscent of an Emperor Penguin. Their habits such as preening absorbed our attention and most of all we will not forget their curiosity and tameness at our presence.
Agnes was lying down when a penguin offered her piece of dried seaweed. This was not accepted, so the penguin then showed interest in her hair and was recorded by Idaho Bob. A King Penguin was also seen by Alan D. pecking at the foot of a Giant Petrel which eventually grew tired of the attention and flew off. One could not help but be amused at the way they waddled before taking flight.
Many photographs were taken this morning including by James M. from New Zealand’s Forest and Bird, who then waded off-shore in the reef area, with an underwater camera on a pole. James obtained outstanding movie with his Go-Pro and it was particularly interesting to see the flexibility in the King Penguin flippers when swimming and also using the feet like a brake. Gavin another of our enthusiastic photographers, enjoyed the ideal conditions that are rare on the island and also obtained great footage of penguins from the ship.
Only too soon we were back at the ship, stripping off our field attire and enjoying a nice lunch while the ship at 2 p.m., prepared to move to Buckles Bay, for the next stage in our day at “Macca”.
The afternoon activity began with a short briefing in the lecture Room at 3 p.m. and soon using two Zodiacs, we were heading in foggy conditions to Garden Cove, to alight on a steep shingle beach with a good swell breaking from time to time.
Nearby were some Gentoo (a word from India) Penguins, and a few Rockhoppers were seen on the headland by the landing place. In the water long fronds of kelp swirled as the swell in the bay came and went. Nearby were some fur seals, although it was unclear if this was the New Zealand or sub-Antarctic species.
We now split into three groups each with a Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Ranger, to look after us and walked via an elephant seal barrier, through the AAD station where after lunch, a few “tradies” were working. The base operated on a two hour time difference to behind ourselves.
A new boat shed was in the process of being constructed and one of the first places that we inspected, was an old “Nissen” hut with shelves holding numerous early artefacts. These were all labelled with inventory numbers and many went back to the sealing era. There were three oil try pots. One of these identified on the basis of marks present in a 1912 photograph shown by Chris, had come from the hut site we saw at Sandy Bay. On shelves were barrel staves; a pair of farm dray wheels and various other interesting objects. Outside was a recently discovered corroded mass of iron hoops; once intended for use on large barrels that would be filled with oil.
We noticed the large ANARESAT dome, containing the satellite communication equipment; the meteorological station and balloon shed from where an instrument package attached was then released outside, also the “quiet area” with two huts where magnetic observations were made and which is a no-go area for any metal objects. The site that has been recording ground and marine magnetic variations since 1939 was earlier used for observations during Mawson’s AAE in 1911-13.
The primary emphasis on research at Macquarie Island has a wide spectrum of disciplines. In addition to the above, there is also investigations into the island’s tectonic history; changes in the ozone layer, the diet and population studies of penguins and migratory seabirds, and the archaeology of early human activity.
A few minutes was spent on the platform beside the steam digesters where pre-1910, it took 12 hours to extract oil from up to 2000 penguins in a large digester. King Penguins were found unsuitable as the oil had a tendency to become rancid. The printed metal information panels were very well done and added to our knowledge of this bizarre early island industry stamped out, following agitation by Mawson following the AAE.
We were surprised at the lack of elephant seals. A few were in their wallows about the vehicle track which led to a boardwalk up Razorback and also on West Beach. This season there were 3000 elephant seals and for the entire island, there were 9000 ashore with also, hundreds of Giant Petrels consuming the placenta. Many of the birds caught had stainless steel leg bands attached, but then decided to occupy the “quiet area”. In spite of the numbers of seals, there has been a 1.5% rate of decline, although the reason for this has not been established. In other areas no decline has been observed.
In addition to viewing on West Beach moulting Gentoo Penguins and an off-shore rock outcrop where Macquarie Island cormorants nest, we saw the 16m carcase of a male Sperm Whale. This huge mammal which can grow to 18m long was found by someone out walking on 23 January. It was then a dark grey colour however, was by now, off-white and with large pinkish areas indicating early decomposition.
Marcus, a Parks Ranger and one of our guides manged to locate the area of the stomach and over two days and using a long knife, he extracted 20 squid beaks. He thought because the mouth was in the water, that food may have washed from its stomach. Today there were hundreds of Giant Petrels in the vicinity and 60-70 including two White Morphs, were counted as they tried to peck through 30cm of blubber, to gain access to the muscle beneath. As each swell came in birds were washed off and then in spite of a large surface area (about 12cm each side of a triangle) for their webbed feet, they had difficulty walking up the slippery surface to resume their gigantean feast.
Eventually the skeleton or what is left of it will remain and perhaps provide an exhibit at the proposed new museum shelter, under which or over which, the digesters and other exhibits will be placed. The whale was on the AAD web site soon after it was reported and has attracted much interest.
Most of us had never seen a dead whale before and certainly not one of this species, or one of this particular length. On a bank where it had been placed, the end of the lower jaw still contained some teeth. One very large specimen was shown and it was possible to see the extent of the tooth, previously in the jaw bone. Some large pieces of whale bone were also broken away and being “fresh” was of considerable weight. In New Zealand, Maori have first right to whale bone and Sperm Whale teeth, as these were shaped and carved as a neck pendant 600 or more years ago.
The whale experience today, was certainly an unexpected and interesting addition for our time ashore.
The air temperature was 9oC and a light wind of 8 knots blowing made the visit very pleasant, as did the wonderful hospitality of the station staff (including the Rangers) of which there are 31, although most were not seen on this their day off. In the Mess we enjoyed hot scones with raspberry jam and cream and a cup of tea or coffee.
Today the AAD staff had enjoyed an English breakfast as brunch and the evening meal being prepared, was to feature roast duck along with roast potatoes, broccoli, onions and carrots. We were able to buy some stamps, commemorative envelopes, postcards and books. The fridge in one corner behind the bar was well stocked with varieties of Cooper’s beer, brewed in an area of the pump house. The Australian ice breaker and supply vessel Aurora Australis, is due on 17 March and those from the last winter and the current summer will depart for Hobart on the 25th. Chris mentioned 11 ships will have visited this summer.
By 7 p.m. it was time to depart and soon we were enjoying dinner and on our way to the Ross Sea and Antarctica with an ETA at Cape Adare about Noon on the 22nd. A memory for many of us was seeing Will with a seal skull, he found on the beach at Garden Cove, but unfortunately was unable to keep.
Photo credit: A Breniere
Day 10: 19th February
Noon position - Latitude: 57o 33.646’S; Longitude: 160o56.595’E
Air: 11o C Water: 6oC
The sea was calm last night and at 8 a.m. the sea had a light swell, with a 13 knot wind from the south and air temperature of 7.5oC. We were now passing over the Convergence with water temperature at 6oC. A lonely Royal Penguin out in the vast Southern Ocean was seen by the bow, as we forged along at 12.2 knots on a course of 159.6o with the sea, an incredible 3680m deep. Our position at 7.45 a.m. was 56o41.418’S; 160o22.153’E.
The morning passed quietly and at 10 a.m. we viewed Part 1 of Longitude, which concerned the invention of a time piece to enable mariners to establish where they were (latitude was by now known) and to receive for the day, a substantial cash prize. This was followed at 11.30 with the issue of our Antarctic jackets that will be worn during our days in the frozen south.
Many of us were on the bridge where 2nd Mate Evgenii, veteran of many Ross Sea voyages, carefully explained when we may cross the Convergence. Going by the chart, Evgenii suspected 0400 tomorrow. This morning birds seen which included Royal Penguins, King Penguins, a White Morph and a Wandering Albatross. A pod of seven Hourglass Dolphins was seen and Erkki observed two whales blow, although they were too far away to identify. By Noon we were over the Macquarie Ridge with still a considerable water depth, and moving along nicely at 11.8 knots on a course of 159.9o.
Just before lunch two whales, which based on shape of blow and dorsal fin appeared to be Minke, surfaced near the ship. Hayden was able to obtain a good photograph of the dorsal fin. Lunch with a piece of baked chicken, wedges and salad, followed by a piece of fresh banana cake was excellent and Will came out with an original joke which all approved of - “Why do penguins not get sick? Because, they are sea birds”
After lunch the first of seven episodes for “The Last Place on Earth” was screened at 3 p.m. This was film is based on the controversial book by acclaimed author, Roland Huntford, who wrote originally under the title “Scott and Amundsen”. David, who knew the late Sir Peter Scott (Captain R.F.Scott’s son), and still has contact with the family, gave a brief introduction before our viewing.
The afternoon was sunny with a little scattered cloud and areas of pale cerulean blue sky. In places light fog was over the water, this being typical as we are now near the Antarctic Convergence with the sea water colder than the air temperature. A Royal Penguin 450 nm from Macquarie Island was seen at 4 p.m. which is perhaps understandable as we are entering an area rich in food.
At 5 p.m. Samuel arranged for a de-brief on the wonderful day yesterday at Macquarie Island. Andrew was first to speak and drew attention to the fine exposure of pillow lava visible in a rock face beyond the Sperm Whale carcass. Using other examples such as a magnificent ice-worn cliff on the Antarctic Peninsula, Andrew carefully explained how they are formed below the surface and he then discussed hydrothermal vents on the deep ocean floor and how important minerals are concentrated in these. He finally had us amused when he made reference to a paper focusing on the pressure produced when penguins poo.
Samuel next discussed the historic observations of King Penguins. The first of the species was collected by Captain McBride in the Falkland Islands and was described by Thomas Pennant (1726-1798). The bird was also described by Bougainville who, probably because of the gold on the clothing of dignitaries, referred to the colour of the beak as “royal’. However the first detailed description of the species was given by John Miller in 1778 although most people attribute this to Captain James Cook.
Next to speak was David who drew attention to remains of one of Joseph Hatch’s sealing huts at Sandy Bay and how a photo graph taken in 1911-12 with geologist Leslie Blake of Mawson’s party, standing beside the door with a seal oil try pot nearby. From marks on the try pot, this confirmed that one at the AAD Station had been up lifted from the site some years ago.
Agnes then tested out knowledge for identification of Giant Petrels. Both Northern and Southern species were seen yesterday on the Sperm Whale and it was useful to see photographs again of both species which we are now very familiar with. The Northern Giant Petrel has a pale red tip on the bill and the Southern a light yellow-green tip. The breeding was also discussed with a single egg laid in November and incubated for 50 days. The chick does not fledge until late April-early May.
Agnes then made reference to the deep diving ability of Sperm Whales. The elephant seal is able to dive to 1500m and stay down for two hours. However the Sperm Whale is exceeds this by diving to 3000m and staying submerged also for two hours. This is achieved by Eco-location is used to locate prey (squid) and the whale as with the elephant seal, overcomes the immense pressure by collapsing and reducing the size of its lungs and having a low heart rate. It then returns to the surface and rests while oxygen levels are restored.
This evening we will crossed latitude 60o and are then in waters governed by the Antarctic Treaty. Nothing in the way of waste can be disposed of and all waste on the vessel including grey water is retained.
The day came to a close with Happy Birthday sung for Judith and following a lovely meal, a large cake was enjoyed by all. As usual there is interesting conversation around the dining table and this often continues in the Bar/Library. Tomorrow we look forward to a resumption of lectures by staff.
Day 11: 20th February
Southern Ocean Latitude 60o Antarctic Treaty governance; Antarctic Convergence
Noon position - Latitude: 62o12.747’S; Longitude: 164o19.550’E
Air: 7o C Water: 2oC
This morning the sea was calm and low fog was about the ship. At 4 a.m. the water temperature was 5oC and at 7.45 a.m. was 4oC, indicating we are at the Antarctic Convergence.
The air temperature was 5.5oC. We had a slight swell on the sea, a 12 knot wind from the South and were over 1800m of water. Our course was still 160o and a steady 12.5 knots was being maintained with the position at 8 a.m. 61o24.885’S; 163o42.426’E. By 9.30 the fog was lifting and sun was beginning to filter through.
At 10.30 we assembled in the Lecture Room for a mandatory briefing. Samuel’s excellent presentation began with IAATO (International Association Antarctic Tour Operators). We were first reminded that the Antarctic Treaty 1959 and subsequent Environmental Protocol to the Treaty 1991, states that Antarctica is to be regarded as a Continent of Peace, for Science and is now considered a Natural Reserve.
The areas covered by IAATO, focused on Guidance for Visitors - keeping Antarctica pristine including not introducing non-native species, no graffiti, no litter, no erection of cairns no evidence left of one’s visit (except in official visitor books); protection of wildlife including the 5m rule, avoidance of nesting and moulting birds including penguins; care of Antarctic heritage with no touching, removal, disturbance or damage; non-smoking and staying safe.
IAATO strongly recommends that visitors take time to simple stop and reflect on Antarctica. We are all ambassadors for Antarctica.
IAATO also works closely with Treaty Parties and reports on such aspects as rare animal sightings, shipping etc.
Part 2 of Samuel’s presentation introduced the geography of the Ross Sea region and reference to the Order in Council for handing over by Britain, of the Ross Dependency to New Zealand in 1923. The Ross Sea has an average depth of 350m with the greatest at around 900m. There is an extensive Continental Shelf.
Special attention was given to CCAMLR (Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) 1982, and the late 2016 decision, of the 25 members to create the world’s largest Marine Reserve. This becomes law on 1 December this year and the 1,550,000 km2 area will have a General Protection Zone, Krill Research Zone (west of Cape Adare) and Special research Zone which allows limited research and fishing for krill and tooth fish. The duration is for 35 years at which time members can review progress made.
Samuel pointed out that the Ross Sea region has 37% of Adelie Penguins, 30% Emperor Penguins and 30% Antarctic Petrel populations.
Part 3 then focused on past and present ice maps available via www.polarview.aq along with the various colours used to classify ice thicknesses, with dark for 100% or heavy. The present wind map was shown along with weather stations for the Southern Ocean, with this indicating a general lack of information.
As part of an extension of knowledge, we will deploy five for NIWA (National Institute Water and Atmosphere) buoys at latitude 63, 66, 69, 72 and 75oS, take the GPS position for each when released and this will then be forwarded to NIWA. Each buoy will transmit to satellite, sea level, barometric pressure and water temperature. They will last around two years and can be programmed to release data each hour, 12, 24 or 48 hours.
At 12.15 Part 2 of Longitude was screened and the fog had left us. We were now being subjected to a 30 knot wind from the west and the ship was rolling a little making it difficult to walk about the deck. A few Black-billed Albatross and shearwaters had been seen and our water depth at Noon was 2359m.
Lunch was a little later today and we returned to the Lecture Room at 2.30 for a presentation by David “An Introduction to Exploration of the Ross Sea”.
This lecture which did not include discussion on the “heroic-era” (1895-1917) that will be the subject of following lectures, began with the early notion of a southern continent termed “Terra Australis Incognita” to balance land masses in the Northern Hemisphere, the great voyages of Cook, during which the Antarctic Circle (66o33’ South) was crossed for the first time; the discovery of continental Antarctica by Bellingshausen (1820) and the Antarctic Peninsula by Smith and Branfield (1820).
The lecture then considered the three national expeditions in search of the South Magnetic Pole, led by D’Urville (France - 1837-40); Wilkes (US – 1838-42) and Ross (Britain – 1839-41), when the South Magnetic Pole was not discovered but the Ross Sea was penetrated for the first time.
Norwegian whaling (1923-31) was mentioned with for the period 1923-33, 10,587 whales being taken and 887,596 barrels of oil produced. During this time the first of Admiral Richard Byrd’s five expeditions took place and introduced a new era of exploration with aircraft, ships, land vehicles and communications. Also at this time the American aviator Lincoln Ellsworth on his 1934-35 attempt, successfully undertook the first Trans-Antarctic flight.
The presentation ended with the establishment of the stations marking the permanent presence of the US at the Geographic South Pole (90o South) and New Zealand at Scott Base, the successfully first crossing of Antarctica, during the Commonwealth Transantarctic Expedition (1955-58) and finished with the International Geophysical Year ((1957-58) which marked the beginning of the modern scientific era. David’s next lectures will focus on the “heroic-era” expeditions to the Ross Sea.
After a brief rest, many of us returned to the Lecture Room for Part 2 of “The Last Place on Earth.”
At 6.10 p.m. officers on watch were seen observing a vague shape on the horizon which as we neared, proved to be our first iceberg on the expedition. It was 6nm miles away and was verified by the Chief Mate with a further berg to Starboard.
This was in the region that we expected to see them. Course was changed slightly and we then once the berg was off our port bow, we did at 6.50 a circuit and were able to enjoy the pale blue shades with ice a delicate blue extending below the water line and also one could see ice well away from the berg. Waves were breaking and occasional cracking sounds were heard. The iceberg was estimated to be 25-30m high and 400m along one side.
Wendy won the prize with her time of 6.21; Terry was second with 6.47 and Chris was third with 5.20 p.m. Helen won the staff contest with a nearest time of 9.45 p.m. At the time we were beside the berg, the ship position was 63o 26.164’S; 165o29.245’E. Also early evening we saw a Campbell Albatross, White-headed Petrel and earlier several Soft-plumaged Petrels.
The Thai red fish curry was excellent and by 8.30 p.m., the air temperature was down to 6oC and the water had lowered to 1oC. A 25-30 knot west-north-west was blowing, a few white caps were on the sea and most of us decided to retire early, while the brief front passed over.
Photo credit: A Breniere
Day 12: 21st February
Southern Ocean – Antarctic Circle
Noon position - Latitude: 66o37.145’S; Longitude: 167o56.582’E
Air: 12o C (Sun on thermometer) Water: 0oC
The ship rolled a little last evening. This was expected as Samuel said a low pressure was to pass through and leave us within 24 hours. At 7.30 a.m. a replica of Mt. Everest emerged from the murk and was slowly left behind as it continued north.
Wind was coming from the west and gusting to 40 knots and the sea had white horses and the occasional “bergy-bit” with one nice blue example. The air temperature was 5oC and the water1oC. Beyond a grey sky over an ocean nearly 3000m deep and our position was 65o49.350’S; 167o19.654’E.
Before 10 a.m. Samuel, Agnes, Andrew and Jonathan with help of two sailors, had to secure a Zodiac and in the process received a wetting. The sea however, appears to be easing and we were advised further icebergs are ahead. Lectures have been postponed for today.
By 10 a.m. we began to see more icebergs and some of these had a wonderful variety of shapes. There was a row of four; one like a “turtle shell” over which waves washed; a fluted “growler” (a large block of ice only just on the surface) that reminded a guest of a “chicken nugget”; one resembling a mountain range; one with an image of President Donald Trump, along with several fine examples of tabular bergs and a large berg that appeared to be on the verge of toppling over. Each iceberg had something special about it and not one was the same. In addition there were many “bergy-bits” and smaller fragments, as we continue to make our way south.
Erkki noted a number of birds began to appear about the time we saw the icebergs. There was an Antarctic Prion, Arctic Terns, Sooty Shearwaters, Black-browed and (?) Campbell Albatrosses and at 11.15, the first Antarctic Petrel was seen.
Many of us saw the excellent documentary made by Anthony Powell and titled “A Year on Ice” also the title of a book by the late Warren Herrick, who led the 1995 winter-over party at Scott Base. Anthony’s film included time-lapse photography of Scott Base and McMurdo Station. He returned to Scott Base for his third winter-over in 2016, when “drones” were used to good advantage.
At 11.34 a.m. as we passed over water about 2000m deep, with a few “sea mounts” and one at 423m depth, we crossed the Antarctic Circle. We were south-east of Sturge Island at the bottom of the Balleny Islands chain and the bridge GPS read 66o33.4’ S.
The ship was rolling and the occasional wave went over the bow. The sun was now out and there was much to see in the way of ice in its various forms. After lunch at 1.30, many of us returned to the Bridge or took advantage of a brief course change, to tidy the cabin or have a rest. The wind appeared to be dropping and we had the occasional roll as lunch ended.
The afternoon passed by quietly as we continued on a course of 171.6o. The first Southern (Antarctic) Fulmar appeared and a large colony of these is on Sturge Island and perhaps other localities on the Ballenys. Earlier we had some Snow Petrels, although with the ice gone so did they. Other birds we saw late this afternoon, included Cape Petrel and numerous Sooty Shearwaters.
We changed course to make life easier for our hard working chefs and enjoyed a very nice meal with a Starter of Kingfish ceviche with crispy Tortilla; Main of Catalana style lamb rump or Chicken Supreme and a very refreshing hip-made Sorbet with Vanilla Tuille. The previous course was resumed at 9 p.m. and with the wind already dropping, we should have a more restful night; the first for us in Antarctica proper. Our ETA at Cape Adare is anticipated for mid-afternoon tomorrow.
Day 13: 22nd February
Southern Ocean – Antarctic Circle ceremony; Cape Adare Zodiac cruise
Noon position - Latitude: 71o02.617’S; Longitude: 170o06.112’E
Air: 2.5o C Water: -1oC
This morning portside cabins were lit up by bright sun and an almost cloudless sky; just a few scattered strato-cumulus; tinged lemon. At 7 a.m. the air was 1oC, the water temperature 0oC a 7 knot northerly was blowing and we were over 2700m of water. Our course was 176.3o and the Shokalskiy was making good progress at 12.5 knots.
Our position was 70o03.142’S; 169o55.781’E, and we still had around 60nm to go before Cape Adare with an ETA of 1.3. The sea was calm although by 7.30 very small pieces of ice gave from a distance, the appearance that we were entering an ice field. This was not so. Before long the appearance of the sea, had now changed to an appearance as if the water had thickened, this indicating that it was close to freezing, in which case it would have perhaps not many hours later, had a more oily appearance with “grease ice”. A few Snow Petrels, Antarctic Fulmars and Cape Petrels were about.
At 10 a.m. we checked our clothing and backpacks, to ensure nothing from Macquarie Island was being transferred to Antarctica and at 11.00, we had a briefing for Cape Adare. At 11.30, because of the bitterly cold wind, we then gathered in the Bar/library, to commemorate our crossing yesterday, of the Antarctic Circle.
Helen then read the oath.
‘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 Sir 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 … hereby pledge that in accepting the Mark of the Penguin will, until I take my last expedition, advocate to everybody, even those who will not listen, the importance of the Antarctic and its wildlife and history. Would you please step forward and receive the Mark of the Penguin.’
We then drank a toast of mulled wine and the “Mark of the Penguin” was applied to the forehead by David and Agnes and many photographs were taken. By now we were steadily approaching our objective and as the cloud base slowly lifted, great peaks on the Admiralty Range named by James Clark Ross, manifested themselves in all their glory.
Three particularly high peaks had the upper parts in cloud. The first frequently remarked on by early mariners, is Mt. Sabine 3719m (12,205ft) and was named by James Clark Ross on 15 January 1841, after Lieutenant Colonel Sabine of the Royal Artillery, Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society and “one of the most ardent supporters of the expedition”. Well to the west was Mt. Minto ( 4163m), also named by Ross, after Earl Minto First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, along with Mt Adam (4009m), named after a senior Naval Lord. Mt Minto was first climbed by an Australian expedition led by mountaineer/geologist and prominent Antarctic personality, Greg Mortimer on 18 February 1988.
A pod of Orcas which included a mother and calf along with four adults, were seen and lunch was advanced to 1.15 p.m. Soon afterwards we went up to the bridge, from which we had a great view of the end of the Adare Peninsula with Cape Adare named by James Clark Ross on HMS Erebus, 11 January 1841, for his friend Viscount Adare MP for Glamorganshire, Wales. Ross was unable to land because of ice and wind.
Ahead of us was Robertson Bay, with this feature named by Ross, after Dr John Robertson, surgeon on HMS Terror. Samuel said “If we manage to land, it is unlikely that we will find a beautiful sandy beach with trees and coconuts.”
We entered the bay in bright sunlight, dropped anchor. Zodiacs were launched and soon we were enjoying excellent and rare viewing of wildlife.
A Leopard Seal was feeding on a penguin, while a few Skuas salvaged pickings floating nearby. James M. from Forest and Bird today obtained a rare underwater record of the smug-looking Leopard Seal near the Zodiac. Hayden another enthusiastic photographer photographed a pair of Skuas on a small block of ice, having a tug o’ war over the penguin’s head; residue from the Leopard Seals meal. On several occasions the seal surfaced near the Zodiacs and we had an excellent view of the spotted undersurface. Along the north beach of the cuspate foreland, it was clear that we were unable to land and apart for the enormous blocks of ice bobbing around, there was a big swell from around the point of the low-lying gravel feature.
Continuing around the point of the foreland, we then moved offshore along the south beach and again a landing was impossible. We were however treated to fine viewing of Adelie Penguins on large blocks of ice at least one other Leopard Seal, 5 Crabeater Seals and 8 Weddell Seals some of which, were one or two years old. Two of these had a beautiful silver-grey coat with lighter blotches or large spots. In addition to South Polar Skuas, there were numerous Giant Petrels including a White Morph, and we had an excellent view of a Wilson’s Storm-petrel skipping across the water surface. As with north beach it was impossible and dangerous to even attempt a landing
Some beautiful ice bergs were photographed with one in particular having a lovely blue-green and some may wonder about the reason for this.
Glaciers, shelf-ice and icebergs often exhibit as we have seen crevices and cracks, emitting large areas of deep, iridescent blue. Snow appears white because air trapped between ice crystals scatter, reflecting all wave lengths of sunlight back to our eyes and is seen by us as white. Snow crystals can be reflecting or refracting. Compacted ice deep in a glacier or glacial ice sheet retains small air bubbles which scatter light, allowing the penetration of sunlight (when present) deep into the ice. Ice crystals absorb six times as much light at the red end of the spectrum and since ice absorbs most of the red light, only the blue end of the spectrum remains reflected back to us.
The volcanic rocks of the Adare Peninsula with frozen waterfalls provided further interest and toward the head of Robertson Bay, we saw to port the Warning Glacier named by Borchgrevink’s 1899 party and at the head of the bay, the Adare Saddle. On top of the peninsula and above Ridley Beach one could pick up the large erratic boulder surmounted by an iron cross on which David reattached the inscribed plate in 1981, at the site of Hanson’s grave. On the beach below there was an excellent view of Borchgrevink’s huts and remnants of the Scott 1911 Northern party hut.
Unfortunately today was not our day for closer inspection of the historic huts in the ASPA (Antarctic Specially protected Area 159) and one can only imagine the heartache of Louis Bernacchi, who wrote in 1899, “It is indeed a strange fiat of fate that one is born and bred at the other extremity of the world, should come to this extremity to die!”
ODE TO HANSON
From “That First Antarctic Winter” and reproduced Courtesy: Helen Ahern
Ah’ Hanson is your spirit night?
In the stillness of dark shadow by.
I feel your fear of Deaths cold stalk
through frozen crystals walk.
In lonely bunk your last days spent
On the edge of vastness, endless, spindrift sent,
The Antarctic Continent.
In humble turmoil your soul sought flight
when grappling with your wretched plight.
Though you did not know it then
How were you to know, I would be your friend.
The outside world seems endless dark
as the end of flare of life’s last spark.
The Black ridge of Cape Adare
offers hope to your despair.
Through a door shaft of light so bare
you can picture your last resting place so clear.
A lens to past short year,
of youthful love,
spirit and cheer.
Ah’ Hanson, stretch to the sky.
The Adelie stands wide eye.
Shows spirit and call.
Your legend life story small, has no end, will not fall.
Cape Adare 2 February 1997
There was something for anyone with a camera and Gavin considered a special moment, was capturing an image of our ship, when framed by icebergs. We lifted anchor and by 5 pm, had rounded Cape Adare and were bound for the Possession Islands. We followed as Ross did, along the Downshire Cliffs (also named by Ross) with an area of red volcanic rock and above, the highest point, Hanson Peak.
Some of the icebergs we passed were most spectacular. One looked as if it had been sculptured and another had an opening through one end, with the most beautiful electric blue light, backlit by the sun and yet another, had a distinct band of discoloured snow above the ice.
At 6 p.m. James saw a Minke Whale and we enjoyed an excellent meal and the Cream of cauliflower soup; porterhouse steak with duck fat roasted potatoes, chicken roulade stuffed with garlic prawn mousse and wrapped in bacon, followed by berry crumble with ice cream, was a fitting meal after a most enjoyable day.
This evening a 4th buoy was put in the sea about 11 p.m. near Possession Island and with the possibility of a landing being made perhaps at 10 p.m. many of us went to bed for an hour of rest. In the end no landing was made and at 1.30 a.m. although we had cloudy conditions, the sky was much lighter than one would imagine.
Photo credit: A Breniere
Day 14: 23rd February
Ross Sea – En-route to Terra Nova Bay; Coulman Island; Emperor Penguins
Noon position - Latitude: 73 o46.407’S; Longitude: 169o 05.176’E
Air: -1.5o C Water: -1oC
Birthdays: Wendy and Guy
Today we rose to a calm sea and 8/8ths cloud. By 8 a.m. we were approaching Coulman Island, making 9.1 knots on a course of 201.8o and at 73o18.969’S; 169o36.858’E. The air temperature was -3oC and the calm sea -1oC.
On the bridge, Erkki had already sighted at 6.30 a.m., the first Emperor Penguin and observed many Snow Petrels were about. By now we were off Coulman Island a large island of basalt, named by Ross in 1841, for his father-in-law Thomas Coulman. Ahead of us lay Cape Wadworth and an impressive ice cap of apparently uniform height, extending along the top of the island.
This morning a comment was made about the regularity of the ice cliff height. New Zealand glaciologist Dr Trevor Chinn states, this is basically an optical illusion. The ice cliffs are all about 20m high because this is the thickness of what we term the “rigid ice” or the “top zone” often on the seaward face as seen by us. When the ice is much thicker than 20m, plastic flow happens and the cliff moves forward to thin the ice. We need to remember that unlike glaciers at temperate latitudes, such as New Zealand’s Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers the Antarctic ice is frozen to the ground with glaciers in the Victoria Land Dry Valleys for example, showing only slight movement.
Within half an hour we were having good views of two Emperor Penguins, Adelie Penguins and a Crabeater Seal and a few large pieces of volcanic rock were seen on floes. This was just a taste of what was to come.
Captain Igor kindly took the Akademik Shokalskiy through an area of loose ice floes with numerous Crabeater Seals and Adelie Penguins. Then Samuel observed a group of six Emperors, and this was followed by another group of 16. So as not to disturb the larger group, the ship was taken carefully near the penguins and we were treated to a rare sight at close quarters. It was especially unusual, as the birds usually congregate as a group in the winter and perhaps the fact that Coulman Island has the largest colony in the Ross Sea may have helped. Everyone including Will with his first camera managed to obtain a photo of an Emperor Penguin. Erkki counted over 90 Emperor Penguins during the morning and estimated a total of over 100 in the area, which Samuel said was very likely.
One amusing moment occurred when a sleeping Crabeater Seal on a floe, did not wake until the ship nudged the edge of the ice. It raised its head and looked most indignant, as the large blue hull passed by and even then was in no hurry to leave the floe.
Breakfast with excellent salmon bagels and poached eggs, was postponed until 9 a.m. by which time, we were heading for Terra Nova Bay.
At 10 a.m. David gave his presentation to an enthusiastic audience, titled “Carsten Borchgrevink – amateur adventurer and explorer.”
The lecture began with discussion on Borchgrevink’s early life and education, his time on Bull’s whaling expedition and plans for an expedition of his own. This attracted the attention of Sir George Newnes who supported the expedition financially, with a donation of ₤40,000 – over ₤4.5 million in 2014.
The expedition was well prepared with interesting innovations such as the first use of sledge dogs (75) in Antarctica, the Primus stove for cooking, dehydrated food and even bottles of Eau de Cologne as deodorant. The first wooden huts to be erected on the continent were Norwegian, with interlocking boards and in one of these ten men would spend a very cramped winter in 1899. Once the ice of Robertson Bay had frozen over, some sledging was done and apart for that a major meteorological record was compiled, along with magnetic and other data and collection of marine organisms new to science.
Unfortunately there were personality problems with the English members generally keeping to themselves. There was also knife-pulling and drinking to excess by Borchgrevink who was regarded as a joke, by those better educated.
In addition to the science achievements, a party achieved the furthest south on the Ross Ice Shelf, thereby exceeding that claimed by Ross in 1841. Late in life, Carsten Borchgrevink received major honours however this was not until after the death of Sir Clements Markham. By 11 a.m. we had passed the Borchgrevink Ice Tongue, and were now off to Starboard, Lady Newnes Bay (named by Borchgrevink after his sponsor Sir George Newnes wife). We then passed Cape Anne on the southern end of Coulman Island.
At 11.30, we watched the third episode of The Last Place on Earth and were now over fairly shallow water of 435m of depth with an interesting bottom feature north-east of Coulman Island named the Mawson Bank. Lunch today was a very nice mushroom quiche with crinkle-cut chips and salad and at 3 p.m. as we went through an area of floes, we were able to photograph further Crabeater Seals, Emperor and Adelie Penguins. A Leopard Seal was also sighted.
The final showing of Longitude was shown and it was sorry to see that John Harrison who was eventually awarded the coveted prize for his work, died before he could enjoy the benefit of his reward. Today one can visit the Greenwich Maritime Museum in London and see the Harrison clocks and watches, all works of art.
This afternoon the sea remained calm and there were some nice icebergs about. Oceanic birds were conspicuous by their absence with only a Skua having been sighted since late morning. At 5 p.m. we again went to the Lecture Room and listened to a very interesting and useful lecture by Andrew.
Andrew’s lecture titled “Glaciers are Cool” was supported with excellent graphics that were not complex and both clear and informative, along with interesting photographs.
We began with being told glaciers are on the Equator, although the extent of ice has diminished and we are presently in an Interglacial. Eight to nine meters of snow will produce only 1 cm of glacial ice with snow accumulation in the neve at the head of the glacier and the weight of ice, accounting for movement. Snow however has 90% air and glacial ice has 20% of air as bubbles.
The difference between temperate and polar glaciers was discussed including the processes of creep, sliding and flow with low gain and loss resulting in slow moving glaciers and high gain and loss leading to fast moving glaciers. The structure of glaciers included ice streams and valley glaciers, with an example seen yesterday, having a piedmont glacier where the ice had passed down a narrow valley and then spread out on the coast.
The different circumstances by which valley glaciers and tidewater glaciers are formed was mentioned and reference was made to ice shelves with the largest, the Ross Ice Shelf being 472,960 km2. Finally we learned about the formation of icebergs, with 9/10ths of the mass being below the surface and in places can create furrows on the ocean floor; bergs that must be five meters above the surface and 300+m2 in area; bergy bits up to 5 meters above the water and 100-300m2 in area, growlers that are usually low lying and brash ice, the accumulation of pieces one meter + wide.
The lecture concluded with an interesting discussion on glacial landforms and did you know that the average thickness of ice across Antarctica is 2.4 km?
This evening in the Bar/Library, we had a recap on the wonderful morning in particular. Samuel mentioned that it was not surprising to see so many Emperor Penguins as 25,000 pairs winter over at the Colman Island colony, discovered by an American helicopter pilot at the start of winter in the early 1980’s. Between 7.30 a.m. and lunch time today we saw 70-100 adults on one year old ice floes. On interest was the observation that adults were already standing on their heels, in preparation for winter and that the colony then is 45km from open water. A further interesting comment was that the colonies can now be counted from a satellite photo; quite a change from when the first colony (at Cape Crozier) was discovered in 1902.
Samuel then gave an outline for a potential programme in the next few hours and David spoke briefly on the history of the Scott Northern Party at Inexpressible Island. We then had an excellent meal again with lovely John Dory fish fillet or Roast pork loin and for desert, two birthday cakes were shared. With the possibility of a start in the early hours, we all had an early night.
Quote of the day
“And at the end
of the day, your
feet should should be
dirty, your hair
messy and your
Photo credit: A Breniere
Day 15: 24th February
Terra Nova Bay – Inexpressible Island; Gerlache Inlet-Gondwana Station and Continent landing
Noon position - Latitude: 74o 38.43’S; Longitude: 164o14.225’E
Air: +3o C Water: -1oC
The day definitely started early for some of us and when we looked out a side door at 2.30 a.m. or so, it was fairly dark and beyond was a beautiful red band on the horizon below cloud, indicating the last of the sunset. This was also reflected in the deep blue ice along the terminal face of the Priestley Glacier; named after Raymond (later Sir) Priestley, a member of the Scott Northern party and earlier Shackleton Nimrod expedition. It was -6oC out and the sea was frozen in small sheets of ice about 1m2 or less.
At 4.30 a.m. Samuel had returned from an inspection of the small cove used for access to the landing on Inexpressible Island. It was all go for a landing and we were told the Zodiac operation would begin in 30 minutes. The staff then departed to prepare the landing site, which consisted of large boulders with a coating of ice.
We set out as dawn was breaking and pushed through the thin layer of ice. Upon arrival, we were assisted off the bow and then followed David over some hard sastrugi on snow, with the ridges created by the katabatic wind for which the area is notorious. After threading our way over and around boulders, some with black and others with red lichens, we reached the site of the snow cave in which Captain Scott’s Northern party spent 209 days including the winter in 1912.
It took a little while to find the site and the original plywood sign was spotted by Cathy, with the four language (French, Russian, Spanish, English) Antarctic Treaty plaques, out of view owing to a large boulder. The historic site where six men, led by Lieutenant Victor Campbell lived is marked by a cairn. There are a few bamboo fragments once used at the entrance tunnel and bones of Emperor Penguin and Weddell Seals. The party in the spring walked down the coast for 230 miles and on reaching Hut Point, found a message stating the polar party had died.
When the snow cave site was rediscovered by a New Zealand party in January 1963, bamboo poles covered with seal skins that had formed the roof of the entrance tunnel, were found protruding from a snow drift. In 1969-70 a wooden plaque was placed and in 1981 Sir Ranulph Fiennes placed the metal Antarctic Treaty plaques. It was interesting to see the extent of erosion on one of the supporting wooden uprights. This amounted to about 5 mm.
Nearby a cache included an Emperor Penguin skeleton and three seal skulls which had been broken open and the brain removed. One section of vertebra had butchering marks. Andrew also found remnants of a one gallon paraffin fuel tin. This was left on the island as it could only be removed with a permit.
David spoke for a few minutes on the significance of the site and we obtained photographs, before heading down to the water’s edge where some Weddell Seals were lying. By now a light breeze which had been 7-9m/sec had become one of 20-21 m/sec and Samuel was anxious for us to return to the ship. The sea was beginning to refreeze and no sunrise was present today.
The anchor was raised at 7.15 a.m. and the ship relocated to the vicinity of Gondwana Station. We had breakfast at 7.30 then prepared for our next landing.
By 8.30 it was overcast and pretty cold out on deck and 30 minutes later, the temperature had fallen to -4oC. Pancake ice was forming and as we moved along the coast with its brownish rocks and beautiful glacial topography, we glimpsed Italy’s Mario Zucchelli Station and ahead lay the impressive long Campbell Glacier.
The Zodiac operation began at 9.45 a.m. and we could not get over how calm the sea was. From the ship we could see Germany’s Gondwana Station that began with placement of the small elevated orange painted hut in the 1970s and South Korea’s Jang Bojo Station, which opened in 2011. We landed on an ice-covered beach and were soon enjoying our first walk on the Antarctic Continent.
Photo credit: A Breniere
There were Weddell Seals on the shore and some swimming by the beach and a most interesting gentle landscape with brown and grey gneiss rocks; some with garnet crystals and foliation. It was really good to stretch the legs and enjoy the fresh air and solitude. About 30 Skuas were flying about, a lonely Adelie Penguin and a moulting Emperor Penguin was seen with Erkki having seen this morning ten Emperors on floes.
Many of us walked over the hill to obtain a view of the large South Korean Station that was like something from Star Wars and also the Campbell Glacier with large caves and twisted surface with huge seracs. There was something of interest for everyone and Karen E. found an unusual yellow sponge on the beach while others sat and watched the four Weddell Seals swimming. Samuel gained pleasure from sitting on a boulder and hearing a sleeping Weddell “singing”.
At 2 p.m. after a magnificent lunch of seafood chowder made by Matt and fresh rolls made by Connor with help from David, we turned to the East following the sea ice and then began to make our way south towards Ross Island. The afternoon was fine, sunny and the sea calm, with a great view of Mt. Melbourne (2732m) named by Ross for Lord Melbourne the British Prime Minister of the time, of a huge tabular iceberg and of the landscape to the south of the Italian station. The Ortelius was also seen on its way towards Mario Zucchelli Station and Andrew was able to talk on the Bridge phone. Some Minke whales were seen from the Bridge, although were too far away for us to have a good view of them.
At 6 p.m. we entered a field of ice with large pancakes, many of which had small pancakes floating on them and at 6.45 with a good audience, the last climate buoy was put over the stern of the ship.
We enjoyed a further convivial hour in the Bar/library then a superb dinner. This began with a Starter of beetroot and goats cheese salad, followed by Lemon & thyme roasted chicken breast or Honey & rosemary lamb rump each having a nice assortment of vegetables. The Final was Kiwi Pavlova.
At 7.30 we were again heading north while the Captain sought a passage that would lead us to McMurdo Sound with Cape Royds and Cape Evans on Ross Island. Six Emperor Penguins were seen along with Adelie Penguins and two Crabeater Seals. More fine wild life was expected later.
Also of interest, was a “sun dog” with strong colours, to one side of the sun now lower in the sky. This phenomenon an optical illusion created by ice particles was very beautiful and the similarly splendid Mt. Melbourne which has near the summit areas of warm ground, was still visible. By 8.50 pm our position was 74o58.454’S; 126o55.782’E, and we were observing the new ice as the sea was freezing and ahead was open water.
After a long and interesting day, many of us retired early as tomorrow promises to a very special one.
Photo credit: S Blanc
Day 16: 25th February
Ross Island – Cape Royds – Shackleton’s Hut
Noon position - Latitude: 76 o 47.818’S; Longitude: 166 o47.379’E
Air: 4o C Water: -1oC
This morning after a good night’s rest, we got up to a pristine morning with an almost cloudless sky (a little strato-cumulus, tinged lemon) no wind and hardly a ripple on the sea. We were just north of Franklin Island, another feature named by Ross and after the Governor of Tasmania, with the ice cap on top clearly evident.
Ahead of us lay Ross Island under a mass of cloud. We were doing 12.4 knots and the air temperature was 0oC and our course was 194.8o. By 9.05 it was 6oC outside.
At 9.30 Samuel briefed us on the ice conditions with ice slowly drifting north. Terra Nova Bay would he expected be closed within two days, so we were very fortunate. With 10/10ths ice, much of the ocean to the south and east is now inaccessible and the calm conditions have meant, the sea is freezing early. Last evening the second engine was engaged at 9 p.m. and we then headed north toward Cape Washington, then during the night to the East. The ice around Antarctica forms at a rate of 60km2/min.
A map of temperatures was shown and we can expect very low temperatures with perhaps -30 to -40oC. Today Cape Evans was predicted to be at -22oC or less. Samuel than mentioned the channel into McMurdo Station with old hard ice that could break up and make navigation very difficult. The channel is about 300m wide. Zodiacs can go through brash ice about 2-3 cm thick. Captain Igor said to Samuel “We go, we have a look.”
David then gave his lecture “Triumph and Tragedy” which covered Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913.
The lecture began with a comment that the second Scott expedition was a complex one involving various sledging parties along with science undertaken by the expedition ship Terra Nova. This was followed by an introduction to the expedition and the various staff appointments including Dr Edward Wilson who was on the Discovery expedition 1901-04.
In addition to the depot-laying in the autumn of 1911, the loss of ponies and near loss of some of the men on ice floes, science undertaken in the winter was conveyed with the screening of original coloured images produced by Herbert Ponting with the new Lumiere process.
The lecture then considered the Polar journey when Scott and four others died during their return from the South Pole and also the victory claimed by Roald Amundsen who had the advantage of not only a shorter journey, but also the supply depots placed the previous autumn, along with more efficient means of transport through the use of dogs.
The Northern party which was originally named the Eastern party, received after initial attention given to the loss of the polar party, considerable praise for their sojourn in a snow cave. This expedition will be covered in a later lecture. The lecture concluded with a summary of major achievements of the expedition.
As we headed further south the most magnificent panorama of the peaks on Ross Island was for all to enjoy. From Port to Starboard, we could see Cape Crozier, Mt. Terror (3262m), Mt. Terra Nova (2130m), Mt. Erebus (3794m), Mt Bird (1800m), Cape Bird and in the distance, Mt. Discovery. Then there was the majestic Trans-Antarctic Mountains extending as far as we could see, in the direction of Cape Adare. We all spent some time on the bow or bridge, where Samuel mentioned that we were following the track taken By Ross in 1841.
Immediately ahead lay Beaufort Island and on this occasion, we continued along the West side as we proceeded to the entrance of McMurdo Sound. The sea was already freezing over and extensive pancake ice was encountered. At 1.15 the ship was turned so we could have a closer look at a pod of Orca. There were perhaps three large bulls with their prominent dorsal fin along with some calves. In spite of the -3oC we spent considerable time on the bow enjoying these superb mammals.
Photo credit: A Breniere
We had an excellent salad and lasagna for lunch and continued to enjoy the Ross Island landscape with its icefalls, ice and black volcanic and ice cliffs, as we proceeded towards our proposed landings at Cape Royds and Cape Evans. Samuel had us all in the lecture room at 2.30 p.m. when the ASPAs were explained along with other aspects as relate to the significant historic huts of Shackleton and Scott.
At 3.45 we were approaching Cape Royds with a superb view of the Royal Society Range and its high peaks, including the tallest; Mt. Harmsworth first climbed in 1957 and then the tallest peak in Antarctica to be ascended.
We had a further briefing for landings at Cape Royds (ASPA 121 – not permitted and ASPA 157 – Shackleton’s Hut and immediate environs), with the landing getting underway at around 5 p.m.
We had an excellent view of the coast as we approached the cape, named by Commander Robert Scott for his meteorologist, Lieutenant Charles Royds of the Discovery in 1902-03. Edward Wilson and Scott camped here in 1903-04, while watching out for the relief ship Morning. We briefly glimpsed Shackleton’s small hut. Backdoor Bay was found to have a large area of ice at the head and on this were numerous Weddell Seals. We then moved position to inspect Black Sand Beach where it was found we could land and the ship was positioned at 77o32.010S; 166o06.033E.
On arrival we grouped up then tramped along the beach, up a short slope of frozen snow and across an almost moon-like undulating landscape, for perhaps 2.5 km. We saw a wonderful range of rocks with areas that resembled dry-stone walls of lava, the rock being Kenyte loaded with crystals of feldspar and in places, narrow channels provided convenient tracks. David noted that a track has formed since visitations began to the area following his first visit here in 1977. Other rocks were granite and other glacial erratic’s that had been transported from the west of Victoria Land and left after ice had melted.
It took most of us about 40 minutes to reach Shackleton’s hut that was seen earlier and was nestled in a convenient hollow beside the ASPA with Pony Lake and the almost vacant Adelie Penguin colony. This is the most southern penguin colony and had numerous moulting birds in the vicinity of the hut.
Samuel opened the door and we then after having our footwear cleaned, entered in groups of seven with David inside to explain various aspects of the hut which has been fully restored and artefacts conserved, by New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust, which he assisted with the establishment and was Executive Officer.
There was much to see with interesting items being Shackleton’s name (twice) on a packing case board at the head of a bed (Wild had his signature on a board above); reams of paper intended for use for the book Aurora Australis printer here in 1908; the huge American Mrs Sam coal range; Wiltshire hams; the acetylene plant for lighting made in Aberdeen Scotland and colourful Edwardian labels on canned food.
Many of us enjoyed walking about the vicinity and had great views across to the Western Mountains. Beyond the historic site, was a green hut that David enjoyed many nights in during his work here for the Trust in the 1990s.
Only too soon we were heading back to the landing and in the meantime, discovered the ship had drifted to the South and then had to retrace to the North. At 8.30 we very much enjoyed refreshment in the Bar/Library before dinner at 9 p.m. This evening we saw the sunset go down and Mt Erebus that was while we were at Cape Royds obscured by cloud, was clear and a beautiful pink. With the likelihood of an earlier start tomorrow, we retired to our cabins.
Day 17: 26th February
Cape Evans – Scott’s Hut; McMurdo Sound ice edge – Orcas and a walk on the ice; Furthest South; Cape Bird
Noon position - Latitude: 77 o37.946’S; Longitude: 166o24.291’E
Air: -7oC Water: -1oC
After a good night’s sleep, we started the day with an earlier breakfast. At 7.15 a.m. the air temperature was -10oC and frost smoke was over the water; a sure sign that the surface was about to freeze over, with this earlier than usual. We were about 300m off-shore from Cape Evans where we could clearly see Scott’s Hut and two anchors were put down in 83m depth. Perhaps in the vicinity of where Scott’s “motor” was lost in 1911? Cape Evans was named by Scott for his Second in Command Lieutenant Edward Evans RN.
By 8.13 a.m. the air temperature had lowered to -12oC and we [prepared to leave the ship to inspect Scott’s Hut. It was bitterly cold out and the shore which was mostly snow covered, had a line of icicles along the entire length. One of the two anchors from the ship Aurora was not visible however we saw the second anchor exposed near the Scott expedition latrines, with both having been left on the beach since the ship was blown out in a blizzard in May 1915.
Visiting Scott’s hut that was the home of the Ross Sea party in 1915-17, was a moving experience. It was a hallowed place with tranquility, a darkened interior, and quite different to what we expected – so large and with so many objects inside. Johnathon checked our boots which as with yesterday were brushed and any stones caught in the tread were removed. Seven of us along with David could be in the hut at any one time and with the cold wind and low temperature outside, some of us had ice on our face.
Within the hut we enjoyed a much warmer environment than that outside and the first thing many of us noted was the smell of seal blubber stacked in the annex. This had been cached in late 1916, when the seven survivors of the Ross Sea party, anticipated spending a third winter in Antarctica. Also of interest was the extremely good repair done to the lower half of an entrance door into the hut proper. The same time had been used and unless pointed out, it was difficult to recognize the new addition.
Photo credit: S Blanc
Photo credit: S Blanc
David who has visited and worked at Scott’s Hut in various ways, beginning with that of a New Zealand Antarctic Society “hut caretaker” in 1977, was able to point out many things of interest. He too, was however, shown objects that he was unaware of. Dr Pat drew attention to two medicine bottles. One labeled Blue Pill and another advised that the contents should be taken with water in a wine glass. Kathleen pointed out something in Pontings famous photograph of the “Tenements” that after more than 100 years, a string was still hanging from a bunk that once had a desert spoon attached.
On arrival the suggestion was that we looked at the famous Ponting photo taken at Scott’s last birthday dinner, memorised this, and then take a look at the Wardroom table. The entire setting and ambience of the hut was quite unexpected and many of us considered it was just as if the early explorers had walked out. It was interesting to discover what David termed the “layers of history” and various artefacts could be assigned to either Scott’s expedition or that of the Shackleton Ross Sea party. There was much of interest from a sock with a label A. Cherry-Garrad, to a poignant inscription in pencil by Dick Richards, on a wall beside his bunk.
Many of us walked about and also climbed Wind Vane Hill to see the cross erected in 1916 to the memory of three men of the Ross Sea party. From here we had a commanding view of the immediate surroundings with the “Ramp” on which were ice-cored “dirt cones” like mini volcanoes and beyond was the Barne Glacier with layers of wind-blown grit in its exposed icy face. To the South was the Delbridge Islands with in the foreground Inaccessible Island, beyond Tent Island and to the east Big and Little Razorback Islands. Some large icebergs were also of interest and a few of us took advantage of the opportunity before leaving, to have a second look in the hut and adjoining stables.
By 12.50 we were all back on board and enjoying the warmth of the ship along with a nice lunch at 1 p.m. As Samuel said, the hut “is a very special place for history”.
Not many know that the Terra Nova actually took four prefabricated huts to Antarctica for the Winter Quarters and a small hut for magnetic observations at Cape Evans; the Eastern/Northern Party at Cape Adare and a hut that was intended as a meteorological observation hut at Granite Harbour. The latter hut was obtained by Scott’s agent Joseph Kinsey. For many years this hut was at his home on Clifton in Christchurch. Following the 2011 earthquake, it was removed and is now on Godley Head near Sumner.
The anchors were raised and we prepared to depart further south in McMurdo Sound for the ice edge. By now the sun was shining, there was scattered cloud and we had a good view of a large iceberg and the 12.5km long Erebus Glacier Ice Tongue beyond which was the Erebus Ice Fall. Soon we were receiving views of the sprawling McMurdo Station, with Scott Base out of view beyond Observation Hill.
We continued along the ice edge until a point was reached where the shipping channel was encountered. Broken ice had completely filled the 7.9 nm channel to Winter Quarters Bay, and this was beginning to re-freeze and spelled an end to the hope of visiting McMurdo and Scott Base. A few years ago the icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov with five engines,entered the channel and was held up for 12 hours. The position of the ship at the entrance was 77o45.404’S; 166o14.141’E and this would be our furthest south.
Of great interest were several pods of Orca. There were some fine big whales with prominent dorsal fin and one in a pool some distance up the shipping channel gave a display of spy-hopping, where by the Orca rose vertically from the water before descending the same way. Nearby were two seals and perhaps it was looking for food.
A scheme was quickly devised for us to experience walking on the sea ice. Soon a Zodiac was launched and a suitable place found, where the Zodiac could be almost beached and thereby enable us to step onto the ice. A “Bar” was set up, with a box of sparkling Lindauer and we all enjoyed a ration of sparkling wine, in our complimentary mug with the Heritage Expedition crest. About an hour was spent walking around the snow surface and enjoying the sound of the snow under our rubber soles.
Much hilarity resulted when crew man Vladamir passed over the bow a mooring rope and staff then attempted to pull the ship. Many photos were taken including poses with some of us, trying to push the Akademik Shokalskiy back from the ice edge. Soon we were back on board in the warmth of the ship and were fortunate to see further Type C Orcas. The engine was turned off briefly and we had excellent views of these fine mammals with adults putting on a fine display.
At 5 p.m. we departed from McMurdo Sound in the direction of Cape Bird, Cape Crozier and the Ross Ice Shelf. At 5.45 we had a briefing in the Lecture Room when the ice situation was carefully outlined with satellite photographs and an explanation on the lack of ability to enter the former shipping channel. The Captain had the final call and we had to accept this.
Already the channel was re-freezing and a major concern was that if our ship entered the channel it would not be able to turn around let alone, handle the heavy 1.5-2m ice floes. Much of the ice had been “milled” by the enormous three stainless steel variable pitch props of the 400ft USCGC Polar Star.
Samuel then outlined plans for a possible landing at Cape Bird and mentioned that tomorrow morning we should be at Cape Crozier and from here view the Ross Ice Shelf which at 4700km2 is the area of France.
We had a very convivial evening in the Bar/Library with music, discussion about the day and enjoyed a poem “The Mountains Above” modified from one by P. Dangerfield “The Harbour Above” by Maravon to “honour the explorers of this region”
Following Maravon’s poem, David presented a water colour painting he had done, to Samuel and Agnes, of 23 Adelie Penguins on the ice edge near Cape Evans. This had been a further magic day when in perfect weather, a Zodiac cruise was made with Minke Whales blowing beside the boats and beyond was the vista of the Erebus Ice Fall.
We arrived off the Cape Bird New Zealand research station at 8.30 p.m. and Zodiacs were launched for a landing at 9 p.m. Cape Bird a further feature named by Ross for Lieutenant Bird of the ship Erebus, is officially located at 77o14’S; 166o33’E although we anchored at 77o12.932’S; 166o25.102’E.
Many of us took advantage of a landing and enjoyed a walk to the ice cliffs north of the Adelie Penguin colony. Others did not walk far and enjoyed seeing the few moulting adult Adelie Penguins, several Weddell Seals and a Crabeater Seal that rolled and slid on the ice and then scratched at its teeth with a flipper. A few went up the track to examine the New Zealand field station; the second on this site.
A message received from Scott Base advised they were sorry that we were unable to land and hoped to see us next season. It had however been a wonderful day during which our entire complement of 47 guests had visited Scott’s Hut.
Day 18: 27th February
Ross Ice Shelf, Cape Crozier and Franklin Island
Noon position - Latitude: 77o 10.855 ’S; Longitude: 169o06.332’E
Air: -7 oC Water: 0oC
This morning we got up to find ourselves off the vast Ross Ice Shelf on the north coast of Ross Island. Beyond was Cape Crozier with its undulating surface of dark volcanic outcrops along with, small cones, interspersed with snow. At 7.30 a.m. there was a 15 knot wind blowing and the sea had a ripple. The temperature was -10oC and at least one of our portholes this morning, had ice on the inside. Our position was 77o25.465’S; 119o59.928’E.
At 9 a.m. the engine was restarted and we then cruised along part of the Ross Ice Shelf followed by a closer look at Cape Crozier.
The ice shelf which extends for 850km from Cape Crozier to Cape Colbeck is named for James Clark Ross, who made the discovery in 1841. Ross named it the “Ice Barrier” and at the time claimed that there was as much chance as sailing through it, as the White Cliffs of Dover.
It is steeped in history from the time of the first landing and ski trip south at the end of Borchgrevink’s expedition in January 1900, to the first aerial photo taken from a balloon during Scott’s first expedition in 1902. Sledging trips by explorers followed and later long traverses by American and New Zealand science parties. In winter when the sea freezes, Samuel pointed out that the open water is 1500km away.
The face of the ice shelf appeared to have been sculpted by a giant artist’s pallet-knife while a guest suggested it resembled icing on a cake. Below the 50m or so high face, the ice was a very beautiful turquoise colour. With wave action, a sucking and crashing sound was occasionally heard from beneath the over-hanging ice and amazingly several small clusters of Adelie Penguins were on occasional areas of sloping ice, while above a few South Polar Skuas and Snow Petrels were seen.
The average total thickness of the ice is 330m (1100ft) - to 700m (2300ft) with about 1/7th below the surface. This morning however, we saw roughly 25m above the waterline, although Samuel mentioned this rises to 60m in the West.
Fine layers representing snow deposition which Andrew mentioned, was as with the flatness of the surface, due to the angular nature of the ice crystals. Because of the warmer water temperature the ice at sea level is undercut and is further cut by wave action. Shortly before reaching the end of our pass along the front of the shelf, we saw a large indentation and an even larger one before we turned. Here we may have seen an iceberg in the making.
The Ross Ice Shelf is one of the great natural features on our planet and is visible from space. Today it continues to fascinate scientists and for over five decades, many expeditions have examined its unique characteristics including by way traverses, and drilling with a flame-jet drill through to the sea below in the 1970s and photograph of a fish above a mud bottom.
Photo credit: S Blanc
The rugged landscape of windswept Cape Crozier was very interesting. David, who has been lucky to visit the rock “igloo” twice, recognized the Knoll on which this was built. He pointed out the location where Dr Edward Wilson, Lieutenant Henry (Birdie) Bowers and Apsley Cherry- Garrard, built their shelter, during the famous “Worst Journey in the World” in July 1911 and the title of Cherry-Garrard’s famous book.
Wilson never managed to establish a link between the Emperor Penguin and reptiles. Where the ice shelf butts and buckles against Cape Crozier, “ice canyons” provide shelter during nesting in the dark, cold, windy, days of mid-winter. When they first began breeding there is unknown. The large area previously occupied by the Adelie Penguin colony, still has a message post from Scott’s Discovery expedition (1901-1904) although this was not visible today, as was the summit of Mt. Terror.
Soon before 11 a.m. and at 77o25.514’S; 169o25.658’E; we started toward Franklin Island. On deck it was now -8oC and a 17 knot wind was keeping us company. As we left the area on our journey west a pair of Minke Whales, was observed blowing a short distance to port.
It certainly had been an exciting morning and a rare privilege to see so close the towering cliff of ice. From the “Monkey Bridge” it was possible to look over the surface at the top of the shelf. As this faded away into the distance one could imagine an early sledging party disappearing from view. Before lunch we view Episode 4 of “The last place on Earth”.
At 3 p.m. Samuel gave an extremely well prepared lecture on Sir James Clark Ross. Samuel said when he first visited the Ross Sea he saw the word Ross on a map and became interested in who the sea had been named for.
The lecture began with reference to Ross having been born in 1800 and when just 11 years of age, he entered the Royal Navy and sailed to the Arctic five years later, with his Uncle John Ross. A search was being made for a North-West Passage, and in the process, the young James Ross did a total of four winter-overs.
Mercators Map dated 1595, indicated the presence of a North Pole on a magnetic roc k and this was surrounded by sea and four land masses. Ross then became second in command on Edward Parry’s expedition with the aim to reach the North Pole from Spitsbergen. However in the process they found themselves at night drifting backwards and achieved only 1 mile in five days but did reach latitude 82o north and were 800km from the North Pole. Ross then with his uncle and as second in command, did a further winter and on 1 June 1831 discovered the North Magnetic Pole at 70oNorth, establishing that the pole was drifting North.
Ross had met Francis Crozier in the Arctic and when asked by the Admiralty to lead a new expedition south, he appointed Crozier to organise the expedition for which two ships were obtained, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, along with a large quantity of supplies.
This was the start of what would become two expeditions to Antarctica. The expedition left England on 25 September 1839 and sailing south via the Cape of Good Hope and Kerguelen Island, they reached Tasmania, where Governor Sir John Franklin welcomed and assisted the expedition. From here, the Auckland Islands and Campbell Island were visited, when the botanists Sir Joseph Hooker and David Lyall, made discoveries of many new plants. At Campbell Island the Terror was grounded at Perseverance Harbour and had to be unloaded before refloating.
The expedition sailed south and on 11 January 1841 entered the Ross Sea when Mt. Sabine 3720m was sighted and drawn by Hooker. Many new geographic discoveries were made and continuing south to an area they named McMurdo Bay, the mountains on the High Island now Ross Island, were also named after the ships. This was followed by the Ross Ice Shelf which Ross concluded was floating.
The ships were lucky not to lose their rudders that were damaged by ice, replaced and a fish was found frozen to the bow. The expedition also sighted Orca along with a seal subsequently named after Ross. The ships collided trying to avoid an iceberg. The expedition again entered the Ross Sea before returning to Tasmania and also visited New Zealand.
In 1842 they then made their way to the Falkland Islands and from here, explored the Antarctic Peninsula, then known as Louis Phillipe Land. Many places were named including Snowhill Island. From here they visited South Africa and then returned to England. His farthest south had been 78o10’S; 161o27’W on 23 February 1842.
Although he never reached the South Magnetic Pole, Ross was knighted for his work and later returned to the Arctic to search for the missing Franklin expedition that had been sent in 1848 by John Barrow with the ships Investigator and Enterprise, to search form Franklin however Ross was unsuccessful and later it was established that the entire crew of 128 had died. In the last few years, the ships Erebus and Terror used by Franklin have been located in shallow water. Ross had spent nine winters in the Arctic, 17 summers in the Arctic and three in the Antarctic. In this time much was learned about Inuit culture – food, clothing and travel.
The lecture had been extremely interesting and using Google Earth and original ship positions, Samuel was able recreate the voyages of Ross. Importantly Ross had opened the Ross Sea. He died when just 62 years of age.
At 5 p.m. we again assembled in the Lecture room for a further interesting lecture by Andrew. This was titled “Ice is not just for drinks.”
Andrew began by explaining sea water freezes at -1.89oC. When liquid the water consists of densely-packed molecules, however it expands when frozen and at 4oC the crystal structure is dense. However fresh water can be cooled down with the addition of salt and this is often a method used to calibrate thermistors that are able to be used for measuring temperature.
As seawater cools, small grains form as fine spicules and columns of ice in quiet waters and eventually they become longer which leads to the formation of what is termed “frazil ice” When there is sufficient frazil ice, the term “grease ice” is applied and we saw some of this forming at Inexpressible Island. In areas of open water “frost smoke” occurs and we saw this at Cape Evans.
As the area grows “Nila” ice is the result and by now, crystals growing down become more cohesive and the salt molecules begin to leave the ice. If conditions are right “pancakes” form. These lily pad-like structures sometimes with small on larger pancakes, have by now crystal growing fast. As the pancakes clump together to form ice floes that when joined become “pack-ice”. As a result of wind action pressure ridges and below the water, keels form. Pressure ridges can be many meters high. Pack ice is described as follows. First year is regarded as seasonal and is ~ 120cms; second year is ~250cms then there is multi-year of two to four year (or more) ice of ~300cms.
We now learned about algae which grows under sea ice and forms the basis of the food chain in Antarctic waters. The ice transmits light and in summer algal blooms which we have seen on up-turned ice, provides the food required for zooplankton and such organisms as krill. We finally considered ocean circulation and for the last three years, the changing extent of sea-ice around Antarctica. Needless to say, there were many questions fielded by the audience and the lecture had very much added to knowledge gained on the expedition.
The bar was once again a setting for conviviality during which Chris suggested perhaps “Long-Lasting Porridge” could be used as a new bar ‘nibble”. Being from Scotland, he is very familiar with the dish and mentioned that by using oatmeal salt and water, the porridge when could be placed in a drawer to set, then “cut up into blocks” and eaten next day. At the particular table there was much laughter and the decision was made to not try this with drinks (unless of course accompanied with whiskey).
During the excellent evening meal, Samuel commenting on the Spirit of Enderby, presently in the Ross Sea, that they had broken the world record for the furthest south for a ship. This was 78o43.997’S. The ship had to navigate through more than 30nm of ice to better the previous record by reaching 78o44.008’S, although Rodney said “it was actually more than 30 miles of ice probably closer to 50 miles of ice…”
A further message from Rose, the Winter Leader and Doctor at Scott Base, said they were sorry we were unable to visit, however hoped the base could see us next season. We are probably the last ship that will be so far south this season.
By 8.30 p.m. we were off the west side of Franklin Island, which we had passed previously. We anchored at 76o09.530’S; 168o18.602’E. With a temperature of -5oC and a wind blowing at 20 knots, it was not particularly warm out. However at 9.15 a Zodiac was launched and a small group of us landed on the shingle beach of the island.
The post-glacial cuspate foreland made up of a series of beach ridges had not many days ago been the home to a large colony of Adelie Penguins. It was now a waste land covered with patches of snow through which was wet yellow-brown guano and scattered carcasses of chicks. It had snowed in the last few hours and an estimated 30 Weddell Seals were about the area. A number of these appeared to be last season’s and sported beautiful silvery coats. Many good portraits were taken and James from Forest and Bird was one person who did not mind lying in the snow to obtain these.
That was not all. In addition to several scattered clusters of Adelies, some of which were moulting, we saw two Emperor Penguins and a flock of around 50 Skuas flying above the beach, may have been about to migrate north. The landscape also was captured on film and we all had our own pleasurable moments. Alan and Cathy went for a nice walk along the coastline and Samuel when in the water in his waders experienced a passing Weddell Seal beside him, followed by a Crabeater Seal.
Snow began falling and after 10 p.m. we had returned to the ship, having had a further special experience on an island in the middle of the Ross Sea.
Photo credit: A Breniere
Day 19: 28th February
Noon position - Latitude: 74o 01.73’S; Longitude: 170o18.15’E
Air: -5.5oC Water: 0oC
We had a comfortable night however this morning a 30 knot wind was blowing from the south-west and it was -6oC. We were doing 10.6 knots along a course of 002.2o and were south-east of Coulman Island. Samuel advised the met stations we had put over board were all working and the Meteorological Service in New Zealand, may request the same for next season.
A nice programme was arranged for us by Samuel and Helen. This began with a lecture by David at 10 a.m.
“A Charismatic Hero” was concerned with Ernest Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition 1907-1909 on which Douglas Mawson had his introduction to Antarctica. The lecture began with an introduction to the expedition, including fund raising, appointment of 15 who would winter over and then the send-off from Lyttelton on New Year’s Day 1908, with many thousands present.
The main focus was on the two expeditions with the first to within 98 nm of the Geographic South Pole led by Shackleton and the second to the South Magnetic Pole with the party led by “The Prof” Edgeworth David, who was then 50 years old, and the oldest member of the party. The latter party reached the general vicinity of the Pole that had been sought by Ross.
Other achievements of the expedition included the first ascent of Mt Erebus with the party led by “The Prof”; the first use of a motor vehicle in Antarctica, with the 12-15 HP Arrol Johnston car travelling as far as the Erebus Glacier Tongue and the publication of the first book in Antarctica, the Aurora Australis. In addition there was made science undertaken including the geology as concerned Mt Erebus and in freshwater biology.
Following the expedition, Shackleton returned a hero and was knighted for his accomplishments. However his wife Emily (nee Dorman) would have to put up with his further expeditions one of which was unsuccessful while on the last, he died at South Georgia, where he rests today. The lecture concluded with David (assisted by Agnes) playing a recording with a post-expedition comment by Shackleton. Very rare and was done on a wax cylinder made by Edison Records. Scott‘s voice was never recorded.
At Noon Tony great grandson of “The Prof” was guest lecturer and gave an excellent power-point presentation on his forbear and titled “In the Wake of Scott, Shackleton and Edgeworth David. Sir Tannat Edgeworth David KBE DSO FRS was born in 1858 and while at school, was regarded as “a good specimen of English boyhood”.
In 1880 Edgeworth David married Caroline Mallet and in 1891 and now 33, he was appointed Professor of Geology at the University of Sydney. In 1897 he had a taste of expedition life, when he visited the island of Funafuti and supported Darwin’s theory concerning the formation of coral atolls, the subject of one of Darwin’s significant books and now a collector’s item. Edgeworth David then was recognized by the geological Society London, the geographical Society France and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society.
In 1907 he asked Shackleton if he could make a return trip to Antarctica as he had an interest in glacial landscapes and wanted to see them for himself. Much to his wife Cara’s horror, Shackleton asked The Prof if he would stay on. Understandably, this caused considerable upset, however a kind letter from Shackleton helped ease the situation. As well as leading the party on the first ascent of Mt. Erebus, he led the party to the South Magnetic Pole which until the 1980s was the longest unsupported expedition with nearly half the 1260 nm (2335 km) travelled, involving relaying of the sledge with stores and equipment.
Edgeworth David gave considerable support to Douglas Mawson and Lieutenant Nobu Shirase’s Antarctic expeditions and also later to, Shackleton’s Ross Sea party. He served in WW1, continued with his career in geology, was knighted in 1920 and when he passed away in 1934 from pneumonia, received a State Funeral. The next-of-kin are very pleased to have had such a prominent member of the family.
We enjoyed Tony’s lecture very much. It was well presented and generated some interesting questions.
By Noon the south-westerly was still blowing at 40 knots, although the sea had calmed somewhat and we were moving along at 10.3 knots and over 600m of ocean. By 2.30 we were off the east coast of Coulman Island and heading for Cape Hallett. The wind had decreased to around 25 knots. A few birds had been seen including Wilson’s Storm-Petrels and Snow Petrels and floes were in the water along with icebergs not so far away.
Episode 6 of The Last Place on Erath was shown and we returned to the lecture room at 5 pm when Andrew gave another of his first-class presentations. This one was titled “Antarctic Rocks” and began with a general discussion on geology and rocks of course, convection cells and the movement of Earth’s plates (Plate tectonics) with transformation, divergence and convergence taking place along the margins of new “crust”.
Andrew now introduced us to the geological time scale. This began in the early Cambrian of 540 my ago with the break-up of the Super-Continent Pangaea and in the Silurian a period of climatic cooling 430mya with shallow marine environments. In the late Permian 260mya life was occurring and swamps formed as ice retreated. Then250mya during the Permian/Triassic, animals such as Lystrosaurus the herbivore that roamed and in the Jurassic, Gondwana separated from Laurasia and 95% of life on Earth became extinct. This also coincided with a meteor impact in Mexico 180mya.
By the Miocene 20mya, there was rapid cooling and the Drake Passage had opened. Mammals were now dominant. There is a debate as to when glaciation started in Antarctica and by the Holocene 98% of the continent was ice-covered.
The lecture now moved onto the matter of rock formation and discussion turned to East or Greater Antarctica which has the oldest rocks about 3.5 billion years old, the formation of the Transantarctic Mountains with 2.5 km thick sediments of the beacon Supergroup along the west margin laid down 200mya, with the sediments also coinciding with similar rocks in South America. West Antarctica consists of five blocks with the rocks spanning 3.2-3.5 billion years dating back to perhaps the period when Gondwana broke up.
The lecture concluded with discussion on the types of fossils found and where in Antarctica. These covered terrestrial life including plants and animals and marine life. Antarctica is also rich in minerals which are presently found only in ice-free areas, but include gold, silver, copper, coal and oil.
We had a beautiful meal once more with a Starter of shrimps and prawns and a Main of beef ribs or salmon followed by the usual very nice Final. At 8.30 p.m. we were approaching Cape Hallett which we hope to reach about 11 a.m. tomorrow. By now the wind had increased and is expected to continue as such for a few hours.
Day 20: 1st March
Possession Islands; Cape Adare
Noon position - Latitude: 71o32.402’S; Longitude: 170o51.641’E
Air: -3oC Water: -2oC
Last evening it snowed and we drifted off the north end of the Hallett Peninsula and had a calm night. About 1.30 a.m. the ship was rolling a little and the engine was restarted at 5.10. We were unable to enter Mowbray bay, on account of large moving tabular bergs, with one which had large and smaller boulders on top, estimated to be five miles long.
At 7.45 a.m. we were at 72o08.379’S; 170o38.589’E, and on a course of 030.6o and doing 8 knots with a 35 knot south-east behind us. The air temperature was -2oC. By 8 a.m. the Possession Islands was visible in the murk, off the Port bow and at 9.15 we had excellent views of the islands. A large tabular berg had a cave near one end with a view through this and snow was blowing off the tops of bergs.
Nearing Possession Island, Andrew explained the volcanic geology with remaining harder rock having formed in the lava and looser, weaker rock, having eroded away. Much of the landforms he said would be under the surface.
A low flat area was perhaps moraine from the last glaciation. There were many Adelie Penguins and David pointed out a wrecked USN landing craft, that had been washed overboard and onto the island in a storm. Almost certainly it is from the US Operation High Jump in the late 1940s when 13 US ships were in the area. It was first reported by John Charles and Rowley Taylor who were on Rodney Russ’s expedition, 7 February 1995.
Along the boulder and cobble beach a big surf prevented any thought of having a landing here. Many of us obtained good photographs although Dottie said one had to hang on when out on deck. By 9.55 we were at 77o52.382’S; 171o09.207’E and heading for Cape Adare.
At 10.30 David gave a lecture titled “Biscuits, Sea Salt and Hoosh” to a good audience on the Northern Party that wintered in the snow cave on Inexpressible Island in 1912. Compared to the Bridge Level two where the Lecture room is, was quite stable.
By way of introduction, we were reminded of the reason for a Northern party and of Scott’s instructions. On being collected by Lieutenant Pennell from Cape Adare where the six men led by Lieutenant Campbell, had wintered over in a hut in 1911, surveying and geology was undertaken in the region named Southern Foothills but later known as Inexpressible Island.
Because tents were no longer habitable that the Terra Nova in spite of Pennell’s three attempts, was unable to collect the party, Campbell instructed the men to dig a snow cave. This then became their home for over 200 days. Their diet was discussed and having visited the site, we had a greater appreciation for what the men had gone through.
In the spring, the men trekked with two sledges, 230 nm down the Ross Sea and coast to Mc Murdo Sound, collecting food from depots as they went, along with geological specimens left by Professor David on Depot Island. They reached Discovery Point to receive sad news of the death of Scott and his four companions and then continued to Cape Evans. After recuperating the second and third ascents was made of Mt Erebus and at the close of Scott’s expedition and when heading north on the Terra Nova, a visit was made to the ice cave and a depot left.
The presentation concluded with reference to the rediscovery of the snow cave site in 1962-63, subsequent visits and the founding of the Scott polar research Institute by Frank Debenham and Raymond (later Sir) Priestley.
By 11.30 we were passing several large icebergs along the Downshire Cliffs and heading for Cape Adare. Of interest was a flock of 100 Antarctic petrels and Erkki estimated c.300 went by. Also a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross was seen along with Skuas, Snow Petrels, Wilson’s Storm-Petrels and Giant Petrels.
The wind was really getting up with gusts up to 25.4 m/sec or over 100 km/hr. This did not deter Dottie who ventured on deck and said “Everybody says two hands. It’s a bit frightening, but no so bad’. At 2.10 p.m. we rounded Cape Adare and the wind was doing its best to reject us and was gusting to 65 knots. There were large bergs and a wild sea with white horses. Much ice had left North Beach since our last visit and apart for moulting Adelie Penguins along the top of the shingle beach, the entire foreland was just a barren, brown wasteland.
The Captain continued up Robertson Bay and we had beautiful close views of glaciers, the big peaks and at 2.45, Samuel had us assemble in the Lecture Room for a briefing which covered Plan A, B, C,…T and [the] Weather Forecast. We planned to remain in the bay overnight and the wind is expected to slowly drop. This could enable us to land late tomorrow morning and we will depart Antarctica about Noon.
If we go direct to Campbell Island, this is 1125nm (2085km) and should we head west, we may visit the Balleny Islands, a voyage of 850nm (1575km). Samuel then gave an indication of what we can achieve at Campbell Island, before departing for Lyttelton and in the meantime, aim to stay ahead of two weather systems and as Shackleton often said – “Patience”.
By now the sun was out and clouds were interspersed with patches of a weak blue sky. The wind coming over the Adare Saddle was picking up and at 4.11 p.m. reached 31.1m/sec or roughly 110 km/hr. We had a good view of the Duke of York Island, which David landed on by US Coast Guard helicopter from the USCGC Glacier in 1981. At this time a flight was being made, to try and locate the stone hut built during Borchgrevink’s expedition in 1899.
The hut was not found, however today there was an opportunity to have a further search from the ship, using binoculars. One potential area with large rocks, south of the Murray Glacier, where it exits around the island was noted and photographed. Unfortunately only a photograph exists in a book published after the expedition and in terms of the landscape, this is not very useful.
We continued to the head of the bay and within 1.7 nm of the Newnes Glacier with its impressive icefalls, seracs and transverse crevasses. This was a highlight of the expedition and of course many photographs were taken. Beyond the Duke of York Island we had a great view of Mt Sabine, Minto and Adam. At 71o39.498’S; 170o14.498’E, and with 231m of water, we turned to starboard at 5 p.m. and continued towards the entrance of the bay.
Near Ridley Beach the engine was turned off and the ship parked for the night. The position was 71o31.228’S; 170o06.699’E and water depth 180m. Outside it was a cool -2oC. The wind continued to blow and we were moving at 2.3 knots and as Bob said, “quite good for a ship of 6000 tons.”
Photo credit: A Breniere
Day 21: 2nd March
Cape Adare; enroute to Balleny Islands
Noon position - Latitude: 71o18.659’S; Longitude: 170o10.379’E
Air: 4oC Water: 0oC
We drifted in a north veering north-east last evening and had a great night’s sleep. Gavin and the write were up on deck early to view and record the gorgeous light on the Admiralty Mountains and icebergs. Peaks gradually emerged beneath a band of dark grey cloud, glaciers were a delicate cerulean blue, valleys a deeper ultramarine and snow faces a pale lemon yellow. There were at least 40 icebergs off Cape Adare and further south, including some touched by the sun a bright gold.
One could only imagine Ross with telescope standing on the deck of the Erebus and remarking to his Chief Officer, “I will name these mountains after the Admiralty and the high mountain, Mount Sabine.” He would then go to the great cabin and make notes on their new chart and write up the log. It could easily have been a morning such as we experienced today.
At 7.30 a.m. we were positioned at 71o16.115’S; 169o57.132’E over water 348m deep. The air temperature was 0oC and compared to yesterday, a light wind with a few small waves. Barometric pressure was holding and at 8 a.m. the engine was started in readiness for the day and the ship relocated to nearer Ridley Beach. The position was then 71o17.954’S; 170o10.354’E.
The evolution began with staff going ashore soon after 9 a.m. and a landing site was found mid-way along South Beach off which, a large Leopard Seal was seen and a second Leopard Seal later. Timing was pretty critical and the skill of Connor (beyond his Chef duties) at the helm, along with Andrew also driving today, was much appreciated by all.
David said he had never seen so many dead penguins on his previous expeditions, including one landing from the Spirit of Enderby. Samuel thought while most were chicks from this season may have suffered from a lack of food, more likely a storm could have resulted in undeveloped plumage being wet, freezing and leading to their demise. There was not a lot had evidence of predation by Skuas and many were seen today, along with Giant Petrels, numerous Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, a few Snow Petrels and an occasional Antarctic Fulmar.
The guano was wet and it will be a long time before we forget the pungent aroma. For those of us who went ashore, it was our second continental landing and enabled us to see the first living hut on the continent, along with the bunk of Nicolai Hanson in which he died and became the the first person known to be buried on the continent had died.
The hut was already opened by Jonathan and David, and after boot cleaning we entered three (along with David) at a time. Key items of interest were: the stove that nearly asphyxiated several when sleeping, at a time when Borchgrevink and others were away; evidence of the fire that nearly resulted in loss of the hut; a side of Swan brand bacon from Wiltshire England; a large earthenware crock that once contained greengage jam; dog coats of camel hair with red braid, also used to cover up drafty corners of the hut; Hanson’s initials by his bunk; in the porch, the sledge perhaps used to transport his casket and the beautiful pencil drawing on the roof above 23 year old Ellifsen’s bunk.
The following poem accompanies the drawing and the suggestion is the mature looking woman may be Ellifsen’s mother.
Alle klokker bringer fjernt All the bells distantly ring
bud fra gamle dager tales from days past
alle blomster vender sig All the flowers turn
og ser med suk tilbake with sighs they reminisce
Outside was the bow of the whale boat; once erected as a toilet; an anchor from the Southern Cross and a bundle of small wooden stakes intend to have Union Jacks attached for marking sledge trails. We wondered what various remnants of wooden supply boxes once contained. It really was a special time.
Each of us gained something different from the landing which is often not possible; as we discovered, on our way south. In addition to the wonderful Adelie Penguins of which many were moulting, 7-8 Leopard Seals, 4 Weddell Seals, possibly 2 Crabeater Seals and a small unidentified whale were seen. The human history was very special too. Kathy said she had a look about the remnants of the Scott Northern Party hut for Priestley’s pipe, and “All I found was a penguin leg sticking out of the guano”.
The sun was out by 11 a.m. there was little wind and today 29 visited the huts. Others were content to enjoy the amazing location from which we also had wonderful views of the Admiralty Range and its peaks. Bob who walked to the far end of North Beach where it ends at a high cliff took an amazing photo of large basalt beach cobbles and a rock the size of a water melon, in a high wave.
Timing was the essence for not only a dry landing, but also when it came to departure with in one Zodiac David was seen to do a “barrel roll” off the tube into our conveyance, while Guy was given as he put it, “a little assistance”. We were all on board by Noon and enjoyed a hearty lunch.
Samuel said we were very lucky to land as already ice was beginning to move along both beaches, thereby blocking access. Just after 1 p.m. both engines were started, the anchor was lifted and after heading north for a while, the course changed to west and we proceeded towards the seldom visited Balleny Islands. As we bid farewell to Cape Adare with the beautiful light on the mountains and our wonderful landing, two pods of Orca were also seen.
The afternoon went very quietly. A few were on the Bridge, the 5th episode of The Last Place on Earth was screened, and many of us decided to have a rest. We had an outstanding dinner with Surf n’ Turf (steak with garlic butter and prawns on top) and Baked John Dory, both pronounced as excellent. Many second helpings of roast potatoes were also enjoyed as was the Final. With a little rough water perhaps in the early hours, we turned in for a comfortable night.
At 9 p.m. we were doing 13 knots and were pushed along by the swell, making good progress to head off a low pressure system.
Photo credit: A Bishop
Day 22: 3rd March
Balleny Islands - Glaciers, ice caps and whales
Noon position - Latitude: 67o18.519’S; Longitude: 164o26.577’E
Air: -2.5oC Water: 0oC
We enjoyed a comfortable night and by 7.30 a.m. the southernmost island of the Balleny Group, Sturge Island, was appearing off the bow. Grey patches of rock surrounded by snow merged with a low band of grey cloud. Around us were six ice bergs of varying size and shape. A few Cape Petrels and a flock of about 15 Antarctic Fulmar were seen with several sitting on the water. The Balleny Islands is a major breeding area for the bird. For the last three years, the species has for some reason been scarce in the Ross Sea.
At 7.45 the air temperature was a cool -1oC, we were on a course of 330.8o and moving along nicely at 11.9 knots over 2700m of water. To the north-west a “seamount” or underwater mountain reached up to about 100m below the surface. Our position was 65o56.347’S; 165o10.259’E. The island became more distinct although the sea was now choppy with scattered whitecaps. A few Cape Petrels and fulmar were seen and we then began to travel along the west side of the island.
We had a good view of a tongue of ice from a glacier on the south side and beyond lay Cape Smyth with some rocky islets off shore. Much of this area is shown as uncharted and there are variations in the British and Russian hydrographic charts, with the British chart indicating 1ll the islands in the group are 1.3 nm further West. Other variations include naming and soundings.
Sturge Island is surrounded by steep rocky cliffs 800-900m high and also ice cliffs including those on a large glacier tongue near the south-west end of the island. It was best described as a fearsome coast.
The Balleny Islands listed as being at 66o55’S; 163o20’E consist of three large islands - Young (after Josh Young) with Borradaile to the south, Buckle (after John Buckle a merchant) with Sabrina Island and the Monolith to the south and Sturge (after Thomas Sturge another merchant). To the north of the island chain is the Balleny Seamount (308m). The islands are of volcanic rock, glaciated and trend north-west to south-east for approximately 100 nautical miles. The highest peak is Russell Peak 1524m, on Sturge Island.
They were discovered by John Balleny, commander of the sealing vessel Eliza Scott and sent by the Enderby Brothers London, on 11 February 1839 and named in his honour by Captain Francis Beaufort, Hydrographer to the Admiralty. An accompanying vessel the Sabrina commanded by Thomas Freeman, was caught in a storm and neither ship nor crew were seen again.
Balleny was the second to land south of the Antarctic Circle (the first was Bellingshausen who named Peter 1 Island) and on return to England with only 200 seal skins, he faded into obscurity.
They were next seen by Ross following his expedition to the Ross Sea when he decided to check out the discovery although then named Smith Island but later realized his mistake. Commander R.F. Scott visited and the islands were again seen in 1936, during the Discovery 2 expedition. In 1958 the French expedition visited and in the 1960’s the NZ/US Balleny Islands Expedition took place when a landing was made. Samuel mentioned that there have been only 25 landings since the islands were discovered.
At 9.40 we were on a course of 319.7o, moving along at 11.8 knots and at a position of 67o38.942’S; 164o42.771’E. Ten minutes later course was changed so as to go around the end of the glacier tongue and by now the sun was beginning to shine although the top of the island was enshrouded in strato-cumulus. Some very nice icebergs were about however, it was very difficult to be out on the Starboard deck, although Agnes managed to get some excellent photos.
At 11 a.m. five Humpback whales were seen blowing and the ship was turned to Starboard to obtain a better view, which included the tail flukes. At 11.30 three Minke Whales were also seen and later a further seven Humpback Whales. This was a wonderful surprise and most of us obtained a good photo record. The position of the ship was 67o17.235’S; 164o28.881’E.
We were now on a course of 308.2o and continued along the west side of the island and the sea became much calmer. Bright sun was shining and we were able to obtain excellent views of the glaciers, rugged rock cliffs and of ice bergs. A good audience then saw the last of Episode 6 for The Last Place on Earth at the end of which, David briefly discussed various errors including one in which Scott’s Cross on Observation Hill was shown with the Cape Evans hut.
After a fine lunch of fish and chips with Jonathan assisting the chefs we found that Sturge Island was astern, Russell Peak was clearly visible and Cape Freeman also clearly seen. As we steadily drew closer to Buckle Island, we experienced a good swell. Many of us took the opportunity to rest or view the excellent documentary “Ice Bird” which is concerned with the lifecycle of the Adelie Penguin. Although made some years ago, it is still well worth seeing.
At 3.50 p.m. we were approaching Buckle Island and had an excellent view of Sabrina Island which has a Chinstrap Penguin colony and the impressive Monolith. Unfortunately no penguins were in the water, although some were seen using binoculars. The wind and swell from the East was really moving through with the wind gusting at times to 40 knots and had us rolling to 30o.
The island is lower than Sturge with the highest point 991m on a contour of 945m. From here north most of the island was ice. Andrew mentioned the volcanic stacks that had resulted from volcanic activity on the sea floor. We glimpsed a massive ice cap which then was engulfed in cloud that spilled over to the west side and providing marvelous cloud effects. The sea was very wild with white horses and streaked with foam. Nevertheless some of us ventured on deck and with camera peering around a corner, managed to obtain a few photos. Our maximum gust was 80 knots; approximately 150 km/hr, this exceeding the wind at Roberson Bay.
By 4.10 some layers of rock was visible, as we proceeded on a course of 372.3o at 9.7 knots, over water with a very rough sea floor ranging from 300-700m below. Our position was 66o55.184’S; 163o11.845’E.
As we progressed north along the west coast of Young Island, the echo sounder was on continuously, so as to keep watch for any uncharted rock near the surface. The island was once again glacial geomorphology “in action”. Topped by an ice cap, this reached down steep slopes to terminate in an ice cliff. In places where there were shallow, valley-like recesses, cirques were forming with ice within, then reaching down to the coast to form a lobe-shaped crevassed glacier in the lower margins, that terminated in a coastal ice cliff. Above the ice cap, cloud, white as reflected from the ice below, merged with a dark grey sky. The coastline can be described as forbidding.
By 4.30 we were at 66o51.851’S; 163o07.706’E. and we were moving at 8-9 knots and outside it was a fresh 1oC. An hour later we were nearing the end of Buckle Island with to Starboard Cape Cornish. The final island we looked at was Young Island when we would turn to Starboard, again meet a wild sea from the eats and proceed to Campbell Island, our final landfall.
Young Island like the others had an impressive ice cap with in places glaciers and layers of black volcanic basalt. Being in the lee of the island, we had a better view and at 6.47 p.m. we again crossed the Antarctic Circle at 66o33.4’S.
The bar opened at 6 p.m. and by 6.50, we were abreast Borradaile Island with nearby the much smaller Row Island. The ship position was 66o35.453’S; 162o36.137’E. Five minutes later we were by the end of Young Island, the most northern of the Balleny group. Our course now was 307.6o and we were making 9.4 knots. Wind from the East was now beginning to make its presence felt and James M. pointed out two whirlwinds near the top of the Young Island snow covered ice cap. Ahead the sky was a beautiful lemon yellow tinged orange.
In reasonable shelter of the island which lay to Starboard, we enjoyed dinner at 7.30 p.m. and at 8.10 entered a field of brash ice. Soon we were being subjected to a wild sea with about two meter high waves, formed by wind passing over the top of the island and striking the ship on the beam. A large whirlwind was seen further off to Port and a few braved the elements to secure dramatic images of the sea and dark sky. Bob was observed wedged on the Bridge deck behind the Starboard door. He was at one stage enveloped in a sheet of spray.
The wind was often gusting well over 40 knots and at the time, we were about 0.7 nm off the ice cliff of the island most of which, had an ice cap and only occasional patches of black basalt rock visible. Several flocks of about 15 Antarctic Fulmar were seen and the birds tended to follow the wave trough will still air. We also saw out last Snow petrels; a truly beautiful bird for our farewell to the land of ice and snow.
At 9.05 and with the wind of less violence, we were near the end of Young Island and at 66o21.167’S; 162o12.106’E. We passed a fine rounded iceberg, then Cape Ellsworth and were on our way towards Campbell Island. Samuel urged us to check our cabin for any items that may become mobile in the night.
Photo credit: A Breniere
Day 23: 4th March
At sea – enroute to Campbell Island
Noon position - Latitude: 63 o44.557’S; Longitude: 167o44 .073’E
Air: 4oC Water: 2oC
It was not the best of a night for most people, however this morning the sea was considerably calmer and was expected to improve during the day. At 8 a.m. we were at 64o24.550’S; 163o19.899’E on a course of 014.5o and doing 11 knots. The air temperature was 3oC and Erkki said he saw an albatross, although was uncertain if this was Royal or Wanderer.
A programme for the day was put up by Helen and this began at 11 a.m. with the very good documentary “The Last Ocean” which focused on the tooth fish and recently created Ross Sea Marine Reserve.
The fish originally termed Chilean Sea Bass a similar species to the Ross Sea fish, is known as the Patagonian tooth fish and was caught out of South America. The fish was next sought by vessels operating commercially from New Zealand. The fish were caught by “long lining” and at least one vessel was lost.
In recent years CCAMLR (Convention for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) based in Hobart, have at meetings endeavoured to gain protection for the Ross Sea and to try and limit the taking of the fish, for which not a lot is known about the species. They are thought to be long lived and they are important to the diet of Weddell seals and perhaps also for Orca.
Late in 2016 Russia and China agreed to support the other countries, with the result that the Ross Sea Marine Sanctuary, the largest such protected area in the World and with a small area set aside for the fishery, comes into force next December.
The sea slowly calmed during the morning although at noon a 20 knot wind continued to be with us from the East. Light snow flurries occurred and birds sighted included Antarctic prion, Sooty shearwater, Cape petrel, a possible Black-browed albatross and two Light-mantled Sooty albatross.
The next item was a lecture by David at 2.45 p.m. titled “Heroes that history Forgot”. This focused on the Ross Sea party of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Transantarctic Expedition 1914-1917.
Most people are familiar with the disaster involving the loss of the Endurance and it is often stated that Shackleton never lost a man. This is certainly correct for the Weddell Sea party, but not so for the Ross Sea party in which three Australians participated and sadly three Englishmen men died.
The focus of the lecture was on the depot laying to Mt. Hope at the bottom of the Beardmore Glacier for Shackleton who planned to cross the continent with motor sledges and dogs, the illness suffered from scurvy, the loss of the three men (including the leader Lieutenant Aeneas Mackintosh), the drift of Mawson’s former ship the Aurora and the rescue of the seven survivors by Shackleton who went as a passenger, when the seven survivors were rescued on 6 February 1917; almost a century ago. Some of the men from both parties served in World War 1 and the expedition marked the end of the “heroic-era” 1895-1917.
Mention was made of some of the surviving men David had met – Dick Richards GC to whom the lecture was dedicated, Irvine Gaze and Morten Moyes, the latter having been a member of Mawson’s Western party in 1911-14, along with various next-of-kin. Although the expedition has not received the attention that the Weddell Sea party led by Shackleton has books on the subject are increasing an two of which are in our on-board library.
At 5 p.m. Agnes gave an excellent lecture on “Seals of the Antarctic”. This was well explained with excellent images; many taken by Samuel.
We learned that there are 130 species of marine mammals in the world and that seals are in the order of Carnivora and sub-order Pinnipedia with 15 species of the Otaridae or fur seals and sea lions. There are 18 species are Phocidae or True seals along with one Walrus. The smallest seal is the Caspian seal 1.5m long and 85kg and the largest is the male elephant seal 5.8m long and 2-5 tonnes.
The True seals are distinguished by not having an external ear, whereas the Otaridae do. All pinnipeds have fore and hind flippers although true seals which have short and small flippers are unable to stand on their flippers. The Otaridae have long and large fore-flippers. Eared seals use their fore flippers for forward motion and the rear flippers for steering, whereas True seals use hind flippers for forward motion and steer with their fore flippers.
Other features mentioned included sight adapted for diving; whiskers that help to locate prey; a god sense of smell and the ability to recover oxygen levels following deep diving.
The characteristics of the four Antarctic species – Weddell, Crabeater, Leopard and Ross, were mentioned, with the most numerous being the Crabeater with an estimated 30 million in Antarctica. Aspects covered for each species included size, weight, colour, diet including dentition, habitat, population and breeding.
Reference was made to the 1972 Convention for the Protection of Seals and we were then shown various images and asked to identify the species. We scored highly and the only seal which we had not seen on the expedition was the Ross Seal.
At 6 p.m. Samuel advised the state of sea had improved and that tomorrow should be calmer and that we have 628 nm to run to Campbell Island.
Day 24: 5th March
At sea – en-route to Campbell Island
Noon position - Latitude: 59o. 10.604’S; Longitude: 166o13.116’E
Air: 7oC Water: 5oC
This morning we were over 3000m of water and the sun was beginning to shine through gaps in the strato-cumulus cloud. We were maintaining a course of 018.8o and our position at 8 a.m. was 69o02.321’S; 165o44.923’E.
An interesting programme of lectures was arranged, and this began at 10.30 with “The Emperor Penguin - a 200 year history of a legend.” by Samuel. Samuel began by saying his personal work began at the French Antarctic Station Dumont D’Urville on Petrel Island, where he was a marine biologist and worked on demographic programme for seals, sea birds, Emperor and Adelie Penguins.
The Emperor Penguin colony which he became especially interested in was 1000m away from the station and he was able to observe the entire life cycle, although in winter he could only work outside a maximum of two hours. He established that there were 9-10 penguins in an area of 1m2 where they would huddle fo 10-12 hours before moving. This way they conserved heat. Samuel also calculated that the males and females would walk up to 20-40,000 kilometers over the sea ice during their life time. This equated to twice around our planet. Samuel then realized “I had a love story started between the Emperor Penguin and myself”.
Samuel then gave us an interesting history that began with the discovery of the King Penguin and then the Emperor during Bellinghausen’s expedition and the finding of an egg on the ice during d’Urville’s expedition and how the egg perhaps came to be where it was. Interesting photos were shown of penguins during Borchgrevink’s expedition, when they were tied to a sledge and others that were tethered so they could not get away.
Observations were made during the heroic-era and later expeditions and French film maker Mario Manet completed the first film of the species which in 1944 was the best nature film at the Cannes Film Festival.
An interesting aspect was that satellite imagery has confirmed that all 46 colonies are around the coastline and that these have 238,000 breeding pairs (twice the number previously known, with the largest Emperor penguin colony on Coulman Island with 25,298 pairs. In the Ross Sea seven colonies represent 30% of the entire population.
Samuel closed with an anecdote concerning a penguin chick which he found following a storm, outside the lab then briefly left it on his desk while he got dressed before returning the chick to the colony. When he returned it was gazing at its picture on the computer screen. The chick then taken back to the colony began calling. Samuel said “I had my back turned and the penguin was looking at me” then a female Emperor Penguin recognising the call, arrived to claim it.
This was a wonderful lecture supported by superb images and of course, Samuel’s knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject.
We returned to the Lecture Room at Noon for our next lecture by Agnes.
Titled “Who owns Antarctica - Geopolitics and Protection of the White Continent” the lecture began with reference to the discoverers and explorers, the fact that there were no indigenous people, the need to have a legal system to rule activities and the territory principle.
Agnes then discussed the seven (plus one) territorial claims and when these took place and when each country officially made their claim. The UK, Argentina and Chile each overlap, Norway curiously, does not have its claim extending to 90o South and no defined limit at 60o, while Germany who based its claim on historical exploration, has not had its claim accepted.
In 1947 the United States which had not made any claim but reserved a right to do so, pressed for a peaceful solution and two years later a claim by India was refused. The USSR which also based a claim on the Bellingshausen expedition and in the end the USSR built Vostok Station on the site of the Geomagnetic Pole.
A major event occurred in 1950 when the ides of a Third International Polar Year was suggested. This became known as the International Geophysical Year 1.07.1957-31.12.1958 and involved 55 countries including 12 in Antarctica, with scientific stations.
The Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) was an important development with the objective of sharing information including weather forecasts and logistic support.
On 1 December 1959 the Antarctic Treaty a simple document with 12 Articles, was signed in Washington and became effective on 23 June 1961. The continent was to be one dedicated to peace and science and would cover all the land and ocean to 60o South. Military activity; nuclear explosions and disposal of radio-active waste were prohibited. There was however, no reference to the environment. Article 4 of the Treaty froze all claims; there would be no new claims, and there was non-recognition of sovereignty in Antarctica.
Today there are 53 Treaty Parties which includes 29 Consultative Members and 24 non-Consultative Members which can attend meeting but have no voting rights.
Agnes then made reference to the various Conventions and to the Protocol 1991, which replaced the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral resources signed in Wellington in 1988 and to the two Articles and various Annexes which includes the Conservation of Fauna and Flora, management of Waste, Marine Pollution and gave further protection to historic sites etc.
At 2 p.m. we had 240 nm still to travel, the sun was out and the swell lessening. We then gathered in the Bar/Library at 3 p.m. to celebrate Will’s 7th Birthday. The area was decorated with streamers and balloons and a magnificent “Lego” cake made by Matt was cut. This will be an occasion Wills will long remember and Andrew F. kindly provided a drink for those who wished to have one.
David gave the last presentation for the day; “Preserving Icons of Exploration”. This began with discussion on the human history hundreds of years old in the Arctic, compared to the Antarctic, where it is very young, long with the great variety of sites present and photographs were shown of these.
Early work was discussed with in 1960, the objective to clear the huts and environs of rubbish and to retrieve any artefacts worthy of retention; to clear the huts of ice and snow (Cape Adare was done in an emergency situation) and to restore the huts as near as possible to the original appearance and to make them weatherproof.
Conservation problems were already evident and formation of a government Historic Sites Management Committee and publication of a Corporate Strategic Plan by Gerry Turner was pivotal to plotting a way forward.
It was important to take into account historic “values” such as; what part did the sites play in conveying history; to what extent were they associated with major events and renowned persons; to what extent could archaeology, architectural and other research add to knowledge of the sites and to what extent did the huts illustrate, technological aspects of the period.
This led to formation of a structured management regime and the first conservation plan by Gerry and David for the Ross Island huts, followed by establishment of the Antarctic Heritage Trust in 1987 which has full Charitable status with tax deductibility.
Because of the location and issues involved, the conservation and implementation plans are different to more traditional documents. Key sites not have added protection in the form of an ASPA (Antarctic Specially Protected Area) and they have been recognized by the World Monument Fund and British Antarctic Territories.
Other countries including Australia, the UK, Chile, Argentina and the USA have for many years also been active in field work at the various sites in East Antarctica and on the Antarctic Peninsula.
At 5.30 “The Last Ocean” was shown again by popular demand and for those guests who missed the previous showing. At the close of the film, Agnes spoke briefly about the declaration signed in Hobart in late 2016. Only a small group visited the Bar/Library this evening and as usual, all enjoyed a very fine meal.
Out ETA for Campbell Island is now expected to be 10-11 p.m. tomorrow evening. Most of us retired early but not before enjoying a nice sunset. Many of us were asleep when we were advised about 11.30, that a nice Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) was visible in a clear night sky, which also had a fine orange moon not far over the horizon and a good view of the Milky Way.
This saw many of us on the stern and port-side deck, although it was difficult to obtain a photo without a long time exposure of 20 or more seconds. For an hour pale green-white curtains and other shapes, wafted and went across the night sky from horizon to horizon. It was a rare sighting and thanks to Connor that we saw the Aurora. Usually in this part of the world the sky is cloudy and it was the first time Samuel had such a viewing for over a decade, since his time at Dumont d’Urville Station.
Photo credit: A Breniere
Day 25: 6th March
At sea – en-route to Campbell Island; Aorora Australis
Noon position - Latitude: 54 o 23.36’S; Longitude: 168o28.55’E
Air: 9 o Water: 5 oC
After the excitement of last evening, we rose to a nice calm undulating sea with the sun out and an air temperature of 8oC. The water temperature was 9oC and depth around 1400m. At 8 a.m. our position was 55o12.963’S; 168o08.904’E. Samuel advised that our ETA at the entrance to Perseverance Harbour is now 9 p.m. and a full programme has been arranged for the day.
After an excellent breakfast (how many of us have “hash browns” at home?) the day began with handing in of our Antarctic jackets at 10.30 a.m. These have served us well and at 11 a.m. we returned to the Lecture Room for an excellent documentary on the famous French glaciologist, M. Claude Lorius.
For Claude Lorius, his life-changing career began on 31 October 1956 when he left as a student, on the ship Norsel for a year-long scientific expedition and when seeing his first iceberg “would forever be consumed by this unforgettable sight.” From Dumont D’Urville he spent a year at a remote, underground, scientific station Charcot, named after the great French explorer, on the polar plateau 300 km inland. He was 23 years old and this was where his career as a glaciologist began.
Three men collected data during the IGY. Soundings revealed outlines of valleys and of mountains below the ice and he said “my fate was sealed…there was a spirit of camaraderie”. There was a difference between summer and winter snow and no two crystals were the same and it took a flake of snow 50,000 years to reach the coast. Charcot Station was abandoned and he had “a single-minded determination to return [and I] came home with a unique view of the world-a passion for science.”
He then went on an American expedition in October 1959, when 2500 km of unchartered land was traversed. Data was collected each 50 km and in the analysis of date found “a nugget in a pile of ore” collected at -25oC. The spectrometer that could look at the invisible world of atoms, was only recently in use and could be used to interpret records of ambient temperature when the snow fell. Claude Lorious who had always “been torn between my passion and my job” then wanted to examine the deepest ice possible. In 1962 and 30 years old he completed his thesis.
He returned eight years later to Dumont D’Urville, with new drilling equipment. When it was discovered over a glass of whisky, that air bubbles from the past or “atmospheric fossils” were trapped in the ice. Past events such as atomic explosions could be dated and in the 1970’s scientists began to suspect human activity was creating major environmental problems.
He then began drilling at Dome C on the Antarctic Plateau and reached ice 3259 m thick. In December 1977 the scientists returned to Dome C and established the Ice Age of 20,000 years ago. They then drilled to 892m and dated the cores at 40,000 years before present. Work with Russians at the USSR Vostok Station in 1974, was “like a pleasant return to the Charcot of my youth [and] Vodka a cure for altitude sickness.” Here the ice was drilled to over 2000m with 150,000 year old ice collected containing crystals from 400,000 years ago. The men of science at Vostok, “had preserved the science as an act of conscience.”
Later drilling at a rate of meter an hour, reached 3603m with ice obtained being 420,000 years old and revealed four cycles of glaciation on Earth with variations in temperature of 5oC.Sea levels also varied up to 120m and back to 80,000 years ago, eight climatic cycles. By analyzing the air bubbles, the CO2 had a strange effect when the Ice Age was reached. The rise in CO2 is now at a rate never seen before in history and undoubtedly this can be placed fairly and squarely at what humans are doing to the environment..
The film was inspirational and research with the ice cores is ongoing in France. Samuel has had the honour of meeting Claude Lorius on several occasions.
By Noon the sea was considerably calmer and a beautiful mild day. During the morning birds seen included Southern Royal, Wanderer, Gibsons and Gray-headed Albatrosses, Diving and White-headed Petrels and an Arctic Tern was seen by JJ and Hunter.
At 2.30 p.m. the Sea Shop opened and this provided a final chance for us to secure a momento of our expedition.
Andrew gave an excellent lecture titled “Volcanoes – a hot topic” at 3.30 p.m. to a good audience.
It was interesting to hear that volcanoes happen on any planet and that they have a molten or liquid interior. The planet Mars for example, has a volcano 24 km tall and 440 km across. On Venus, there are “domes” 20-24 km wide.
We were then told about the tectonic setting for volcanic activity which includes continental rifts, underwater and re-issue eruptions, hot spots and volcanic island arcs in which two oceanic plates collide such as the Allution Islands along a subduction zone.
Eruption styles included Fissure, such as amid-ocean rift zone with lava flows, Central with a cone and parasitic cones on the outside along with formation of Crater lakes. There are also various types of eruptions including, Icelandic; Hawaiian; Strombolan, Vulcanian; Vesuvian; Plinain and Pelean, with Low to High Viscosity from Icelandic to Pelean and associated ash clouds from Strombolian to Pelean.
There are in addition, various types of lava flows and these are primarily, a’a’ formed of basalt; Pahoehoe with ropey or lobe structure; Block lava that often moves slowly and Pillow lava from underwater eruptions. Volcanoes are also major hazards as was seen from examples shown, including Mt. Pele with one survivor in 1902; Mt. St. Helens in Washington State, which erupted in 198 and Mt. Vesuvius AD79 with pyroclastic flow that led to deaths from asphyxiation.
We were shown how many eruptions take place, along with film of present day situations such as on the island chain of Hawaii; of hydrothermal vents with chimneys; the formation of Sea Mounts in which volcanoes form on the sea floor and how coral atolls have originated.
The presentation was supported with excellent “animation” clear diagrams and photographs and we were left wondering when we may be in a situation with a volcano erupting, and many presently overdue.
At 5 p.m. we had an initial briefing for arrival at Campbell Island and were told about the long and interesting history, along with the flora and fauna including the endemic Teal and saved from Dent Island where it was re-discovered by Rodney Russ, along with the endemic Snipe located on Jacquemart Island, both now successfully breeding on Campbell island; post eradication. There is no doubt the species survival was due to rats not having been on the islands.
By 6 p.m. we were well over the Campbell Plateau with water about 430m and the highest point on the island was becoming visible and we enjoyed the usual pre-dinner socializing in the Bar/Library.
Campbell Island is the dissected remnant of a volcano and at Perseverance Harbour can be seen excellent columnar basalt. Basement rocks are schist and are overlain by Cretaceous sandstone, conglomerate and carbonaceous mudstone. In the Palaeozoic era (dating from 2mya) the island was glaciated. The island has a unique flora with an Upper alpine zone, Lower alpine zone and a sub-alpine zone. There are 29 species of birdlife including six species of albatross, Pipit, Teal and Snipe.
The island was discovered in January 1810, by the same mariner who discovered Macquarie Island; Captain Frederick Hasselburgh of the whaling ship Perseverence and was named after a Sydney-based company, Campbell and Co. The name of the impressive harbour we entered was also taken from the ship. 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 island became a seal hunting base and the seals were almost totally exterminated. In 1874 the French scientific expedition led by Captain J. Jacquemart and many localities were named at this time. The expedition later returned under A. Bouquet de a Gyre to examine the Transit of Venus. A technician M. Juris died from typhoid and is buried in a lonely grave, on a small headland at the head of the harbour.
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 WW2 a Coast Watcher 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 here also 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 island was declared pest free in 2003 and was the largest rat eradication in the world. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and is administered by the Department of Conservation and the wildlife and flora, have recovered considerably since the eradication, declared successful in 2004-2005.
Our Chefs start early and really work hard and today we enjoyed an excellent and also nicely presented meal – Fish pie in a ceramic dish topped with creamed potato or, Beef Korma with Basmati rice and Crispy Roti followed by a superb bread and butter putting with caramel sauce.
At 8.35 p.m. we were at 52o41.667’S; 169o13.262’E on a course of 013.4o and moving along at 12.3 knots. Numerous birds were about including Lesser Shearwater, Gray-head, Royal, Campbell and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses. There was a beautiful sunset and good views of smaller islands and the main Campbell Island. Scattered cumulus was over the island and conditions appeared excellent for our day tomorrow. By 9 p.m. we were at the entrance to the harbour then turned to port with the anchor dropped at 9.30.
Day 26: 7th March
Campbell Island – Motu Hapuku
Noon position - Latitude: 52o 32.974’S; Longitude: 169o09.699’E
Air: 1 oC Water: 10oC
This morning we woke to a nice still day with scattered cumulus clouds hovering overhead and just a ripple on the harbour. As dawn broke, the former meteorological station buildings came into view
along with the hills surrounding the harbour taking shape. A few of us up and about, anticipating a nice sunrise examined the interesting landscape before us, and looked forward to activities touched on at the briefing yesterday. By 8 a.m. the air temperature was 10oC.
Those walking to West Bay left at 9.30 on their 10.5km walk that would last up to eight hours and with a nice calm harbour, the remainder of us headed out in the Zodiacs at 9.50 a.m.
This Zodiac cruise would last about two hours and the Zodiac began along the south side of the harbour. As we left we passed the shallow water off Terror Point where Ross’s ships grounded in 1840 and observed a large raft of Sooty shearwaters that were diving for small fish. On our approach, they took flight and we observed the webbed feet spreading as they picked up speed on the water surface.
We saw numerous birds at close quarters, including Campbell Island Cormorants, Kelp Gulls with young; Red-billed Gulls; Brown Skua; Antarctic Terns; Campbell Island Pipit with pale yellow feathers revealed in the tail when flying; Light-mantled Sooty Albatross; Giant Petrel and on the water, further flocks of Sooty Shearwaters and 15 Southern Royal Albatross. A Yellow-eyed Penguin was also seen. We enjoyed very good views of nesting Light-mantled Sooty Albatross with well- developed chicks in grey down, with two nests unusually close together, and well sheltered by Dracophyllum.
Other aspects of interest included evidence of former glaciation with bowl-like depressions or “cirques” on the hillside and the former outflow stream courses. The geology included a deep narrow fissure-like cave and wonderful columnar basalt formed by slow-cooling of the magma that may have flowed into a valley. Below this was a layer of breccia and the tuff or ash.
Of interest was a second overlying (in places) stratum of columns which Andrew thought represented a later flow and was perhaps a lobe on the front of the lava. Several large columns were on a beach and Alan S. remarked “Anywhere else in the world, this would have a name. I suggest Campbell Island Organ Pipes.”
The botany included at the lower slopes, Veronika a Hebe sometimes interspersed with Poa (tussock) grass merging with Dracophyllum scrub, which was seemingly impenetrable. On the rocks near sea level was white crustose lichen.
Not far from the harbour entrance, we crossed to the north side at 10.50 a.m. and passed a further smaller site with columnar basalt. It was interesting to also see more shingle beaches than previously.
We were back on board at noon, we sat down to a delicious lunch of freshly baked bread; still steaming when placed on the table, along with hot cauliflower soup. We then prepared for our second adventure – a walk to Col Lyall, to view the magnificent Southern Royal albatross and enjoy views from the summit of East and West Bays. Heritage Expeditions is the only company which also has permission to leave the board walk, for better examination of the magnificent birds.
Photo credit: A Bishop
The walk would be 3.5km from the landing site to the first platform with a further short stint to the end. It would take 45 minutes to an hour at a reasonable pace, to reach the col.
On arrival at the landing we were among the first to use the new boardwalk installed by crew from the New Zealand frigate HMNZS Otago in February. This was excellent and for the length of the boardwalk work included, modifications with new netting and short lengths of wood, drainage channels and clearance of vegetation.
There was much to see with some megaherbs such as Anisotome latifolia and Pleurophyllum speciosum the purple daisy, still flowering along with small orange and white toadstools, mosses and birdlife which included pipits and Campbell Islands Snipe, with Helen seeing five today and Hunter with JJ one.
It was however, the great albatrosses in flight or sitting on nests that attracted out attention and as the day went by, birds began gamming and moving closer to us on the boardwalk. Their calls and display with outstretched wings and affection shown to one another will be something we will always remember.
Then there were albatross in flight that occasionally, soared close overhead with a great “whoosh”. Other birds were on nests with large chicks and good views were enjoyed of these. Sometimes the parent partially stood up revealing a little black eye above a ball of white down, peering from beneath the large body.
From the end of the boardwalk, we had a wonderful panorama before us with small off-shore islands far below and on land, two very nice volcanic dykes above the yellow tussocks, while albatross overhead took advantage of the lift provided by air currents.
By 5 p.m. we began to make our way back to the landing. However one person who will always remember his visit was Will. He completed the entire hike, observing plants and bird life as he went and in doing so, almost accomplished his first outdoor walk. Some of us enjoyed seeing on return to the landing, three Campbell Island Teal.
The 13 Northwest Bay walkers also had a most enjoyable time and after returning at 4.30, six were dropped at the landing and then headed up the board walk to view the albatross.
It was an interesting but demanding walk for some of the party with in places, tussocks over the head and obscuring the feet and also having to be held on to. Sarah became acquainted with mud and every now and then was heard to emit “Oh!” thus indicating a further close encounter with the mud. The walk included two climbs and descents, along with views of a nice calm sea.
All this was worth the effort, as items of interest included excellent views, Southern Royal Albatross with large early chicks, at least one Snipe and James M. found in limestone a fossil bivalve resembling a scallop, about 50cm in width. Below the cliff were three elephant seals that appeared to be males.
The DoC hut was also visited and a record left by their staff, noted that the hut was in good condition, however, a sea lion they hoped to see, was not present. On the way back an inspection was made of a cave near the end of the walk, this containing two rather old armchairs that may have been from the Coast Watchers era.
Needless to say once all were on board and cleaned up, there was much discussion in the Bar/Library and many called it a day with an early night in the bunk.
Day 27: 8th March
Campbell Island; en-route to Lyttelton
Noon position – Latitude: 52o 33.017’S; Longitude: 169o09.906’E
Air: 12oC Water: 10oC
Women’s Day in Russia
This morning we got up to a foggy day and rain, resulting in cancellation of the Mt. Honey climb. Most of us then enjoyed our last Zodiac ride for the expedition. This took us to the upper reaches of the harbour. A small number of us had a repeat or first visit to Col Lyall, although found that there was not a great deal of activity among the albatross. Nevertheless the walk was very enjoyable and good photographs were taken. Bob obtained a full-frame image of an albatross head. A dead bird beside the board walk noticed on the previous expedition had no evidence of death from perhaps fishing tackle, plastics or other contaminants. The great size of the beak was of special interest.
During the cruise around the harbour, we had wonderful views of porpoising sea lions and felt the display was especially for our benefit. Others followed the Zodiacs and several with head above the water, observed us when we pulled into the landing at Tucker Cove.
We cruised around the shoreline looking at birdlife and Samuel pointed out the automatic weather station which has replaced several huts and people. While the sun was out, we had lovely views of the bright green Hebe against the yellow-green foliage and pale brown branches of Dracophyllum.
At Tucker Cove we went ashore to inspect the large cast iron Shacklock Orion coal range. On arrival Fedor gave an excellent demonstration of how to do barrel roll out of a Zodiac and into shallow water –back first, which fortunately did not leave him wet and cold. David and others had previously shown how it can be done into the Zodiac. The stove has had the vegetation sprayed around the base and this has enabled the brick platform on which it originally stood, to now be clearly visible. There is no sign of the surrounding homestead although archaeology may reveal foundations.
On the beach apart for a few scattered bricks and a bottle, nothing but the stove remains. Of added interest were coloured cobbles and flakes of silica rich chert or chalcedony that would have been associated with limestone. This material has been found as early Maori artefacts on Enderby Island.
From here we stopped at Camp Cove where limestone was outcropping on the beach, and walked over undulating boggy ground to view the Sika spruce, planted by Lord Ranfurly Governor of New Zealand, about 1902-03. At the time the suggestion was that a forest could be established. Known as “the loneliest tree in the world” the tree features in the Guinness Book of Records – and there are other contenders.
We were unable to make a close inspection as 11 female sea lions and three males, which included two young males, had taken over the area immediately in front of the tree. A large male jealously guarded his harem and kept close watch on the other two males. We managed to obtain good photographs and then continued the excursion.
Photo credit: A Breniere
A cruise now took us past the headland with the grave of a young engine room technician, Paul Duris, who died during the French Transit of Venus Expedition, 22 September 1874. The French observatory under the auspices of the French Academy of Sciences set up its observatory on land at the head of Venus Cove and also planted presumably at the area named Garden Cove, potatoes, cabbages and other vegetables. A 20m stone jetty was also constructed, along with pens for sheep and pigs.
On 9 December the skies were cloudy, though as the time for the transit approached the sun appeared briefly giving the viewers a view of Venus against the sun’s corona-a view obscured at the moment of first contact. They also had a 20 second view of Venus at the end of the transit between the third and fourth contacts as it was off the sun’s disc. No useful measurements were made, although the French astronomers fared better than the German party on Auckland Island. The French visit was one of six French expeditions sent to observe the transit. Other countries were the Netherlands, USA and UK.
A curious item on the beach near Paul Duris grave was an iron pot with ornate supporting leg. It is not sure what this item may be; perhaps for laundry, although had an opening in one side. When the French expedition first established their station, they set themselves up between Camp Cove and Garden Cove and it is possible this may be a link with that party. Good archives are available in France and may have a stores list. It is unlikely that there is any association with early sealing.
We enjoyed a good view of Garden and Venus Coves then made our way back to the landing slipway where the Col Lyall walkers were collected and a pair of Teal was seen. Various birds seen this morning were similar to those observed yesterday, however we also had a close up look at a young Antarctic Tern, without the black “cap”; the bright orange base to the beak of cormorants and learned that it takes five years for a Kelp Gull to obtain adult plumage.
From here it was back to the ship and out of the Zodiac for the last time, followed by a good rain shower and of course the boot washing station.
As with our two first-class Chefs who have ensured the inner-man was amply catered for with fine nicely-presented dishes, it would be remiss not to mention our Zodiac drivers. There was much more to this work than driving. The boats had to be checked, carefully stowed each time, refueled and inflated as required and cleaned after use. All the staff operators of the inflatables demonstrated a high level of experience and had our interests at the forefront of every operation.
We had an excellent lunch and at 1.45 p.m., both engines were started as we prepared to depart Campbell Island. At 2 p.m. we left the anchorage and made our way to the open sea and towards the Port of Lyttelton and left the entrance by Davis Point at 2.25. Many albatross including Grey-headed and Light-mantled Sooty, were seen along with Sooty Shearwaters.
Our journey now took us along with east side of Campbell Island although the view was mostly obscured by cloud. By now the sea a little rocky with waves on the beam and by 4 p.m. we were at 52o18.572’S; 169o24.424’E and over the Campbell Island Rise with water only 150-200m deep. By now the sun was beginning to break through.
About 6 p.m. Erkki who spends a lot of time on the Bridge, saw a pod of around eight Long Fined Pilot (?) Whales.
Another very convivial night in the Bar/Library with a chance to talk about the day, exchange photos and discuss our experience during the month. Happy Birthday was sung for Bob who said a very nice few words in appreciation for the fine cake baked today.
Wills also showed Agnes and David his wonderful, neatly written and illustrated journal. The landing at Cape Adare, where James M. assisted him in setting foot on the continent, clearly had made a great impression as did the historic hut, of which he wrote “Borchgrevink’s hut (the first hut) was very small compared to the other huts.”
Tonight we can have a good sleep in as breakfast will be at 9 a.m. The sea has picked up although Samuel said will ease during tomorrow morning.
One hundred and one years ago today, the Rev. Arnold Patrick Spencer Smith of Shackleton’s Ross Sea party, died on the Ross Ice Shelf, 8 March 1916; just a short distance from safety of Hut Point. In May the leader Mackintosh accompanied by Hayward, would die during their foolhardy crossing to Cape Evans.
Day 28: 9th March
En-route to Lyttelton
Noon position – Latitude: 48o 42.028’S; Longitude: 171o07.537’E
Air: 12 oC Water: 11 oC
After a busy day, we had a generally comfortable night. There was some rolling, however by late morning the sea was as predicted much calmer. At 8 a.m. the air and water temperature was 11oC and we were on a course of 016.8o. Our position was 49o28.26’S; 170o45.80’E. A few sea birds about in the morning and included Royal Albatross, Wilsons Storm-Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters. Erkki is very pleased with his work and while previously unfamiliar with the Southern Ocean, he has on this expedition seen 41 species all new to him.
Two documentaries were shown. The first dealt with the eradication of rats on Campbell Island in a world-breaking project by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. This involved extensive planning and operating from the site of the former meteorological station and often in marginal weather, the use of five helicopters to spread the bait in 1992. Campbell Island was declared pest-free in 2003.
The second documentary concerned the rediscovery by Rodney Russ on Dent Island, of the small brown flightless duck, known as the Campbell Island Teal in 1975. The species was the Campbell Island Snipe, only survived, because the island was predator free. A total of 20 birds were found and in 1994, seven were returned to Mt Bruce Sanctuary in New Zealand. In 2005, 55 Teal were sent back and the following year, 54 were released on Campbell Island, where they have adapted in a now predator-free environment. On our expedition, we have been very fortunate to see both the Teal and the Snipe.
The better sea also enabled some of us to begin packing our cases as an early departure is only a day away. And by Noon we were continuing at 12.1 knots on 016.8o over the Pukaki Rise and water around 1200m deep, south-east of Stewart Island with the sea floor recorded as mud and silt.
At 3 p.m. we again adjourned to the Lecture Room for a guest lecture by James Muir. The lecture was titled “Forests, Birds, Rivers and Oceans” and was a short introduction to the Royal Forest and Bird Society of New Zealand, along with an award winning documentary by James, about freshwater conservation in New Zealand, followed by a peek of video footage taken during the last four weeks.
James began by telling us about the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society formed in 1921 and is the largest private conservation organization in New Zealand with 200,000 members and a further 100,000 overseas. James is on the Board of the Society which has 30 staff in its National office. The Society has a legal team that works with local government and makes recommendations to Government.
He then showed a film titled “River Dog” produced with Oscar Hunter. The excellent and moving documentary featured as the main star James father, Grant Muir, and it focused on the Paharoa River in the Wairarapa, which borders three sides of Grant’s property. The documentary concerned cattle that were polluting the river and destroying native vegetation along the banks and how Grant has resorted to using his five dogs to chase the cattle back to where they belong and which he is likely to have to keep doing for years to come.
However the has been a good outcome as farmers are beginning to understand the need to conserve the river. Further details are on www.riverdogfilm.com
The next item was a screening of a short selection from James outstanding photography with appropriate music. This will be made available to the Forest and Bird Society and also to Heritage Expeditions.
Our second guest lecture for the day was at 4.30 p.m. by Jonathan, the New Zealand Government Representative and was titled “In the Navy”. This provided background to the navy, its capability and important role in the Southern Ocean region; in particular, in relation to fisheries.
Johnathan began by introducing the Royal New Zealand Navy which in 2016 commemorated its 75th Anniversary, attended by vessels from several countries. The Navy began in 1941, as a Division of the Royal Navy, however has links back to Captain Hobson in 1840.
We learned that there are ten ships with six classes and a regular force of 2700 of which 22% are women. The Navy’s Mission is, “to contribute to the security and prosperity of all New Zealanders through the delivery of versatile, responsive and effective maritime military capability across the spectrum of operations.”
In 2016 the Government committed to NZ$1billion for new ships including a new ice-strengthened multi-purpose tanker and general cargo vessel, for Antarctic operations. The role of the Navy is diverse and includes fisheries surveillance in the Ross Sea.
Johnathan outlined New Zealand’s involvement in Antarctica, made reference to operations with the Royal New Zealand Air Force and areas of the Law he is associated with. This includes litigation, teaching and instruction, rules of engagement and status of force.
With the opening of the bar this evening, David was compare for a Quiz. Questions were taken from four previous quizzes and 30 questions with a mix of mostly history and natural history, resulted in a tie for first prize of 24/30 won by Happy Feet and Team Zodiac. Some of the questions were difficult, however the winners each received a bottle of Spirit of Enderby Pinot Noir and a lot of fun was had by all. And what was that word starting with “m” ?
We enjoyed a fine meal and the evening wound down with a lovely sunset and moon reflected on the water as we made our way along the east coast of the South Island towards Lyttelton. Most of us had a quiet and early night.
Day 29: 10th March
En-route to Lyttelton. The last day. Blue whales and a Fin whale
Noon position – Latitude: 44 o 44.10’S; Longitude: 172o52.10’E
Air: 15oC Water: 13oC
We enjoyed a nice calm sea last night and this morning, there was little cloud and sunshine. At 7.45, the air temperature was 14oC and water 13oC. We were now moving along at 9 knots on our course of 019.6o and over about 540m off water with the sea floor having patches of shell, sand and occasional areas with pebbles and mud. By 9 a.m. North Otago and the mountains beyond, was faintly visible.
To Port was Cape Wanbrow and Oamaru, where Scott’s ship Terra Nova called early one morning in February 1913. By the time people had got up to go to work, the ship was well gone and heading for Lyttelton. Left ashore was Captain Pennell and Dr Atkinson, who then after sending telegrams to the expedition agent Joseph (later Sir) Kinsey, took a train to Christchurch. Our position this morning was 45o23.607’S; 172o35.344’E – just short of the 45th parallel, marked beside State Highway 1 with a large boulder and marble plaque.
At 10 a.m. the magnificent documentary “Ice and the Sky” was screened for the third time on our expedition and attracted a good audience. The documentary has to be one of the highlights of our expedition and the reference is Wild Touch Productions Luc Jacquet La Glace et le Ciel 2016.
This was followed at 11.30 a.m. with an introduction by Samuel to the Russian Far East and the expeditions undertaken by Heritage Expeditions.
The nicely presented brochure outlines in detail the above alternatives.
By noon we were making steady progress north at 9.8 knots and approaching the Canterbury Bight with water 440m deep and the sea floor having areas of mud and in one place rock. Outside it was warm and sunny. However as we were about to enjoy lunch, about 50 Dusky Dolphins were seen off the bow, good photos were obtained and a New Zealand Fur Seal was sighted. There was much more to come.
At 3.52 p.m. Samuel announced that a Blue whale and a Fin whale were seen blowing off the Starboard Bow. We were still on our course of 014.0o and were over 80m of water at 44o07.555’S; 173o05.219’E. However that was not all. One Blue Whale became four (3 adults and 1 calf) and perhaps there were more Fin Whales. This was celebrated with hot cocoa on the bow, in bright sunshine. Ahead lay the bulk of Banks Peninsula. We had seen the two largest mammals on the planet and to have one, a few meters from those of us standing at the Bow, was the icing on the cake.
During the afternoon, we were also busy attending to our accounts, completing packing, enjoying time on deck and at 5 p.m. we entered the Lecture Room for our final briefing, discussion on the expedition and we viewed the outstanding slide show compiled by Agnes. On behalf of the passengers, Steve gave an envelope to Samuel and Agnes for their forthcoming marriage in France, and a vote of thanks was passed by Tony. In reply Samuel and Agnes thanked everyone, including the expedition team along with the hard working and capable Crew. On our expedition, we have travelled almost 5000 nm.
The bar then opened as expected and at 7.30, we enjoyed our final dinner for the expedition at 8.30. Needless to say, our Chefs went to considerable trouble with the following:
Salmon with potato Rosti (made by Andrew and Pat) and hollandaise; Panko crumbed chicken in apple slaw and Sriracha mayo; pork belly in braised red cabbage; beef porterhouse in duck-fat Pilas; Rack of lamb in pearly barley risotto; Assorted cheeses including Brie, Camembert and excellent Whitestone Windsor Blue from Oamaru and profiteroles. It was a superb meal with staggered dishes accompanied by a nice glass of wine.
Samuel gave a well-deserved vote of thanks to Svetlana and Natalia who have looked after our cabins and to Katya and Victoria who have looked after our dining tables and meals. Our Chefs Connor and Matt were also toasted.
At 9 p.m. and now off Banks Peninsula, we were at the pilot station by 9 p.m., the anchor was dropped, and we prepared for a quiet night before leaving the Akademik Shokalskiy.
Day 30: 11th March
Port of Lyttelton 6.45 a.m.
Latitude: 43o 36.608’S; Longitude: 172 o 43.090 ’E
Air: 18oC Water: 11oC
The Pilot arrived at 6 a.m. and by now we had most of our effects packed, and prepared to walk down the gangway a final time and a dry landing.
Our expedition is now at an end and as we leave for our homes, with many far beyond New Zealand we left a month ago, it is time to reflect on the many wonderful experiences we have enjoyed and new friends made. With exception of a small number of days, the “Weather and Ice Gods” treated us extremely well.
The compiler of the above account has enjoyed very much your company, and expresses thanks for assistance with information; whether it was birds or mammals, when Erkki (Eric) shared his sightings, or the variety of information such as navigation from Denis, to activities during landings, when other guests were of great assistance.
It is hoped that as we leave the Akademik Shokalskiy, it is au revoir but not goodbye, and that all of us will be Ambassadors for the Sub Antarctic Islands and for Antarctica; as pledged at the Antarctic Circle. For the writer, the log has been a rewarding task and an Austral winter project, will almost certainly be compilation of a photograph album, thereby ensuring the outstanding expedition is perhaps still underway.
As Samuel said “We are guests of Antarctica and on this planet.” Thank you.
Click here for species list for this voyage.
Noon position: Latitude 46°35.82’S Longitude 168°20.67’E
On our way at last, with 49 of us about to experience magnificent sub-Antarctic Islands administered by New Zealand and Australia, followed by the natural beauty and links with the extraordinary human history of the Ross Sea region of Antarctica, south of New Zealand.
We arrived yesterday in the southernmost city of Invercargill. Here we stayed at the Kelvin Hotel and had a beautiful meal. This morning we were assisted with our luggage by Heritage Expeditions to the ship and it was placed in our cabins.
Many of us visited the excellent Southland Museum in its beautiful garden setting. Of interest was The Roaring Forties New Zealand Subantarctic Islands video and exhibition of historic artifacts and Maori artifacts.
After lunch we were conveyed by coach to Bluff a small coastal town and port about thirty minutes from Invercargill and famous for Bluff Oysters. Here we boarded the Spirit of Enderby, and were shown by staff to our cabins and cleared by Customs.
We left on schedule at 4pm with a Little Blue Penguin swimming beside the ship. Following escort with the Pilot we were then on our way. At 4.45 we assembled in the lecture room for our first briefing - introduction to the ship and safety. A practical demonstration as required by international maritime regulations, took place with the two lifeboats.
By 9p.m the sea was up a little although this did not prevent a few of us from enjoying the sun going down about ten minutes later, the sunset and view of Stewart Island to starboard. By now the ship was beginning to “dance” and we preferred to head for the cabins.
Noon position: Latitude 48°56.72’S Longitude 166°32.28’E
Rodney advised soon after 5a.m that we were off the Snares Islands and some of us went up to the bridge. Although still fairly dark, we were able to see hundreds of Sooty Shearwaters in “rafts” or flying about, before heading further afield to feed.
With the ship rolling, a day of rest was declared and many took the opportunity to catch up with sleep, read or visit the Bridge. At noon the sea was still rough with “white horses” from the westerly swell, along with a good 30 knot northerly.
From the Bridge several species of albatross and Cape Petrels could be seen. A few Shy Albatross were on the water and environmental scientist Roy reported a Giant Petrel killing a Cape Petrel while in flight.
At 7.50p.m we were at 50°20.57’S 166°24.50E. Although the sea was still, our progress was good with 11-12 knots being maintained. Not so many sea birds about although it was a good day for sighting birdlife. A Shy Albatross and a Black-bellied Storm Petrel were seen to take small fish.
By 8.20 Enderby Island appeared through the murk off to Starboard and soon we were entering Port Ross Harbour, with considerably calmer waters. We anchored at Port Ross at 9.07pm. Once again we enjoyed an excellent meal and the birthday celebrations for a passenger, complete with cake.
With our first day now concluded, we prepared for what promises to be a most interesting landing and full day tomorrow.
Historic Event! At 2a.m 100 years ago today (then a Monday) the SS Terra Nova hove to off Oamaru, New Zealand. Two Officers were landed to dispatch a message to London via Christchurch, advising the deaths of Captain R.F. Scott and his party.
Noon position: Latitude 50°30.46S Longitude 166°16.7E
We all benefited from a comfortable night and arose this morning to a beautiful day with just a light breeze stirring the sheltered waters of Port Ross.
We had a briefing at 8.15a.m where Rodney gave an excellent introduction to the Auckland Islands. This included a précis of the geology and human history including phases of settlement along with the diverse natural history.
While the Zodiacs were prepared for landing, we carried out mandatory quarantine measures including vacuuming of clothes and back packs and boot scrubbing with a bio-control liquid.
The day was beautiful with just a light breeze and all of us were ashore at Sandy Bay by 10.30a.m.
Of interest was a “finger post” with inscriptions perhaps by WW2 coast –watchers, giving direction to the castaway depot; the “Stella Hut” in Rata and primeval-looking Dracophyllum trees and stunted Rata nearby.
Rodney gave a brief talk before Katya led us over a grassy sward, thence through Casinia bushes and red-flowering Rata to an excellent NZ Department of Conservation board walk. This eventually saw us on top of the island and crossing an extensive area of seedling Rata and other plants.
The Southern Royal Albatross observed last month on a nest beside the board walk was still in residence and is one of 60 pair on the island. Also seen was a New Zealand Falcon being chased by a Skua.
Once across the island, time was spent enjoying the wild surface of the sea as waves crashed into cliffs far below. We had good viewing of Shags and a group led by Rodney, set out to try and find an Auckland Islands Snipe, being successful with one sighting.
Katya took a further group along the cliff top, to view three adult Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, with four large chicks. A keen northerly was blowing, although this did not in any way hinder activities.
Rodney, Brent and Konrad with around 33 passengers, set out on the eight mile hike around the eastern end of the island. On the way they passed the reef where the Derry Castle was wrecked in 1887, then continued past Bones Bay. A mass grave is in the vicinity and the original wooden marker is exhibited in the Southland Museum, Invercargill.
The remainder of us headed back via the board walk, to once again enjoy the beauty of the extraordinary, natural environment. In the Rata forest we were treated to the superb sound of a Bellbird chorus, as several birds fed on nectar of Rata flowers in the canopy. Many of us obtained good photographs of the birds. Also observed in the same area were Red-crowned Parakeet, Tomtits, Pipit and a Blackbird.
Some seals had tags on each fore-flipper along with a white or yellow disc on the head. A small number of immature bulls were making their presence known, while a large grey bull Elephant Seal lay nearby and was probably preparing for moulting.
The long walkers enjoyed the trip immensely. Birds seen included Yellow-eyed Penguins, a Snares Crested Penguin, Erect Crested Penguin, Banded Dotterels, Red-crested Parakeets, three Snipe, two New Zealand Falcons along with New Zealand Fur Seals. Konrad particularly enjoyed his first visit, saying that the highlight for him was recording a Bellbird’s song with the bird barely a metre away.
By late afternoon we were all on board after a wonderful first landing in the Subantarctic islands. Needless to say, discussion continued in the bar and library area. After a splendid dinner Katya convened the first bird and mammal meeting for the voyage.
Noon position: Latitude 50°78.8’S Longitude 166°04’E
The anchor was lifted at 3a.m and the ship relocated via the east coast of Auckland Island to Carnley Harbour. Here numerous seabirds including Sooty Shearwaters, Auckland Islands Shag and albatross were present. With a choppy sea and mist shrouding the hillsides, the landscape seemed a fairly forbidding place.
After breakfast the Spirit of Enderby was moving up North Arm and by 8a.m had passed Musgrave Peninsula and a number of historic sites including shipwrecks.
A pre-landing briefing was held at 9a.m and we were told of the background to the World War 2 Cape Expedition No.2 Coastwatcher huts at Tagua Bay. We then prepared for our last landing while at the Auckland Islands.
By 10am we were on a beach consisting of basalt and limestone boulders, Rimu and Dracophyllum scrub. One Rimu tree was exceptionally large and probably several hundred years old. Some sighted a New Zealand Falcon. A Yellow-crowned Parakeet was briefly sighted, as a second bird was heard calling nearby.
We trekked up the narrow track, until we reached derelict buildings from the Number 2 Coastwatcher Station. The main complex had most of the roof and walls missing and was in a very decrepit state. The brief stop enabled photographs to be taken.
Continuing on, it was not long before the former Coastwatcher aerial mast was seen, followed a little higher up by the restored lookout hut. Inside were a few artifacts including an old shoe, some tins and a tattered sheet of meteorological instructions including the Beaufort scale for estimating wind speed. From here there was a commanding view east through the trees toward the entrance to Carnley Harbour. We spent a few minutes taking photographs of the hut and its contents, along with a delicate mauve orchid nearby, which Rodney said is one of several species on Auckland Island. We then trekked back down the hill and a buffet lunch was enjoyed.
At 1.30 the anchor was raised and we were on our way in a stiff 20-25 knot nor-west sea and on a south-westerly course toward Macquarie Island. By 3p.m we were passing windswept Adams Island with its forbidding partially mist shrouded landscape. From the Bridge one could observe numerous albatross and other birds.
Following the evening meal and Katya’s bird/mammal discussion, the small number of attendees also had the opportunity to see outstanding photographs of the New Zealand Falcon and video of a singing bellbird.
A hundred years ago the SS Terra Nova arrived Lyttelton New Zealand
Noon position: Latitude 53°16.85’S Longitude 161°30.66’E
The Spirit of Enderby danced during the night. At midnight we passed over water sounded as 4444m deep on the Emerald Basin. The naming of this feature on the sea floor has not been established. By 8a.m we were still on our south-west course.
The ship was very quiet this morning, as we continued to make good progress with an average speed. A few Shy Albatross were accompanying us although with the deep water of around 3840m, bird numbers tend to drop off dramatically. It is also unusual to see mammals in this area.
This afternoon the seas seemed a littler calmer. Credit to our chefs who along with the waitresses continue to produce and put high quality meals on the table irrespective of the conditions.
By 7p.m the wind had eased and the calmer sea was a deep cobalt blue with a few scattered “white horses”. We had our bird and mammal meeting when lists were up-dated and items of interest were discussed.
Noon position: Latitude 54°34.027’S Longitude 158°55.925’E
The Spirit of Enderby arrived at Macquarie Island just before Midnight and anchored off the ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions) Station at Buckle’s Bay, in about 30m of water. The position here was 54°30’S 158°57.09’E
Macquarie Island is approximately the same size as Adams Island in the Auckland and Campbell Islands, and is located approximately mid-way between Tasmania and Antarctica. It is a ‘young’ island centered on an underwater ridge known as the Macquarie Ridge, which is part of a fault zone marking the Australian-Pacific Tectonic Plate Boundary. This started forming 30-11 million years ago.
After breakfast a Zodiac was sent ashore and returned with resident rangers from the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. We then relocated to Sandy Bay. Rodney assembled us in the lecture room at 9.45 for our briefing and by 10.30, we were being shuttled ashore. The morning was sunny although a brisk breeze blew. To greet us on the shore was a hunter who is part of the pest eradication programme (rabbits), along with his two dogs.
We had a memorable morning with time spent at the King Penguin colony, where a ranger and scientist answered our many questions. There were developing chicks in light brown down along with many penguins with eggs or very small chicks on their feet beneath a warm fold of vascular tissue.
We were fortunate to be able to obtain good photographs at close range. The gorgeous colouration of the head ranged from cadmium orange “ear patches” down to burnt sienna on the throat, then fading into a deep to pale lemon-yellow. We also obtained a record of amusing incidents such as a Brown Skua being challenged by three King Penguins probably because the Skua wished to remain on a certain mound of grass.
Along the beach were groups of moulting Elephant Seals. Younger Elephant Seals were occasionally sparring and chest-butting as if to show who was in charge. Some of the bulls were huge and showed little respect for smaller animals as they launched themselves on top. A few in the water roared and made half-hearted attempts to bite one another as they exerted a challenge for retention of the particular area of water.
Most of us walked up to the viewing platform, which over-looked the vast number of feisty Royal Penguins. These were also moulting and the Station Leader was very helpful at the lookout by answering numerous questions. Moulting was well advanced and there was a continual procession of birds moving from and to the sea by way of Finches Creek. At least one Royal Penguin fell victim to a Brown Skua as we watched.
About midday some of us who were at the Royal Penguin viewing platform felt a short, sharp jolt from beneath. Trevor said ‘it lasted about three seconds and was a sideways shudder.’ Earthquakes are not uncommon here, with one being recorded last December. The island began emerging some 600-700,000 years ago.
Other birds sighted, included Northern and Southern Giant Petrels including a white morph, with these birds making up 10% of the southern species. We also saw the Macquarie Island Shag and albatross. As often happens at Macquarie, a squall with sleet came through and a short time later the sun was again shining. Most of the days of the year there is some rain.
Once back onboard we prepared for our next excursion to the ANARE Station. With time moving on, Rodney called us together for a briefing before the next stage of our visit to ‘Macca’ as the island is affectionately known to ANARE expeditioners.
By 4.30p.m the landing for Buckle’s Bay was underway. On shore we were met by Wildlife Service Rangers who took us in groups by way of the excellent board walk up the side of Razorback to a viewing platform. Birds sighted from here included Light-mantled Sooty Albatross with a pair giving a brilliant display of formation flying, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, Brown Skua and the non-endemic Redpoll. A few large bull Elephant Seals in wallows created in tussock grass, gave the occasional grunt from their resonating chamber in the large wrinkled proboscis, forming part of the nose.
During the remainder of the afternoon short-lived squalls with hail and sleet moved through and after being taken along the beach beside Hasselborough Bay named after Captain Frederick Hasselborough who discovered the island in July 1810, we enjoyed seeing numerous Giant Petrels, moulting Gentoo Penguins followed by a look at various facilities.
The ANARE staff made us very welcome in their Mess Hall. Here we were treated to fresh scones with cream and jam along with a nice hot cup of tea. Many of us bought postcards from the friendly station postmaster. Proceeds from these went to those suffering from the recent Tasmanian bush fires. Our tour was concluded with a further look at other facilities including large iron try-pots associated with early whaling. Unfortunately a large bull Elephant Seal on the board walk meant we were unable to view an excellent display of pictorial panels beside two steam digesters! These were associated with the infamous entrepreneur Joseph Hatch who in the 1890’s, rendered down penguins for their oil.
A brief visit was made to the small Rockhopper penguin colony located on a cliff below the former ANARE ‘ham radio’ hut. Back on board we had a very convivial hour in the Globe Bar and Library before enjoying a late meal at 9.15p.m. So ended a most interesting and educational day on Macquarie Island. We now prepare for the next phase of our expedition.
Noon position: Latitude 54°31.25’S Longitude 158°57.81’E
We had a good, well-needed nights rest, rising this morning to a cool 3°C at 8.15a.m, along with a light coating of snow on the higher points of Macquarie Island. The wind was up and sea had scattered “white horses”. At 8.45 an announcement was made that a pod of 20 plus Broad-finned Pilot Whales, was off the stern of the ship.
We assembled in the lecture room for a briefing by Rodney on what we can expect for the next stage of our expedition. Ice maps indicate conditions for entering the Ross Sea are in our favour. He outlined three reasons: the Ross Sea current, the high pressure system and melting of ice over the summer months. Our course will probably be from about Latitude 70°, then along the 160° Meridian. Rodney also mentioned that the fuel tanker for McMurdo Station re-supply is presently discharging at the ice pier, and the icebreaker chartered by the US National Science Foundation is working in the channel.
In his second lecture, Rodney provided further useful information on Macquarie Island. This included the geology, human history and natural history, which because of the remoteness of the island, includes 40 species of vascular plants, 80 mosses, 100 lichens, 23 sea birds (12 pair of Wandering Albatross are highly protected) along with four species of seals. This lecture was followed by an excellent presentation, ‘Ocean Wanderers – Southern seabirds’ and will assist considerably in identification as we proceed south on the expedition.
By 1.20p.m the wind had increased to 35-40 knots and a confused sea was covered with “white horses”, sheets of spray off the wave crests and patches of foam.
Noon position: Latitude 55°10.20’S Longitude 159°24.69’E
Soon after breakfast, we proceeded west and enjoyed an excellent view of the large King Penguin colony spread along the coast. From a distance one could make out three rusting steam digesters, now surrounded by tens of thousands of penguins. Large numbers of them were swimming and calling in the vicinity of the ship. Yesterday Rodney remarked that having been almost wiped out by Joseph Hatch’s operation, it is fitting that the penguins will outlast the steam digesters. With the maritime environment, these will eventually continue to corrode then disintegrate. Some Royal Penguins were also seen in the water by the ship.
Once past Hurd Point the second engine was engaged. Our ship has two 1500h.p two-stroke engines, linked to a Swedish gear box with variable pitch propeller. We now headed for Longitude 180 and the Ross Sea. By 9.45 the ship was away from the comparatively sheltered lee of Macquarie Island and started rolling. With no programme in the lecture theatre today, few were about the ship and many took the opportunity to rest. Fortunately this afternoon the sea calmed and the bar was the focus for the usual convivial discussion.
Once again the chefs and kitchen staff did an outstanding job with the evening meal. The bird and mammal list was completed with recorded bird sightings including three penguin species, four albatross species along with six petrel species. Antarctic prions have been recorded on seven out of the eight days. As the setting sun painted the sky we called it a day. Beneath mauve-grey clouds, the sky turned gold with broad corpuscular rays and sea birds added to the Southern Ocean splendour.
Noon position: Latitude 58o55.95’S Longitude 164o07.5’E
Thanks to a much calmer sea, we had a good rest last night and rose to a fine day with high cloud.
This morning the first Wilson’s Storm Petrel was sighted, this being an indication that soon we expect to encounter a new range of sea birds.
This morning we have been making steady progress at 12.5 knots, helped by a calmer sea and lunch was enjoyed by all. We were at this time passing over about 4200m of water. There is usually interesting discussion often of a serious nature at tables over meals, along with occasional humorous banter.
After lunch David H. gave his first lecture titled ‘Douglas Mawson: Stalwart of the Heroic-Era’ which examined Mawson’s Australasian Expedition 1911-1914 on which four New Zealanders (two on Macquarie) were included. On board a number of passengers are from Australia and there was keen interest in David’s presentation along with discussion of scientific and geographical achievements. Sir Douglas Mawson paved the way for Australia’s claim for 47% of the Antarctic continent.
Just before 3p.m a small pod of Broad-finned Pilot whales was seen some distance away and the presence of albatross indicated the whales may have been feeding. Katya’s excellent presentation ‘Cetaceans of the Southern Ocean’ was enjoyed by a full house at 4p.m when she outlined the evolution from a coastal living, hooved carnivore 35-40 million years ago, the various orders, species and main features, that will assist with identification.
Not many species were recorded at the evening meeting with this doubtless to do with the great depth of water we are passing over. This is expected to improve over the next two days, when the Convergence is crossed at an angle. This evening as we progress south, the sea is reasonably calm with a few “white horses”.
Noon position: Latitude 62°46.22’S Longitude 169°29.05’E
We had a very comfortable night and rose to a calm sea, although unfortunately with 35 knot winds from the south-west on the beam forecast this evening and a low pressure area of 961m, the calm conditions may not continue. The day began with blue sky, patches of low level strato-cumulus cloud and cool air temperature of 3°C. About 8.30a.m the first iceberg was sighted at 62°S from the Bridge to Starboard with the 'first iceberg sighting' competition winner announced also. A few Black-browed Albatross were about. At 9a.m Rodney advised that we had 490 nautical miles to run to the Way-point on 180° latitude.
This morning David H. presented his second lecture entitled ‘Forerunner to the Heroic-era – from Ross to Borchgrevink 1841-1900’. This lecture began with the early voyages of D’Urville, Wilkes and Ross, with the latter discovering the Ross Sea in 1841. The first landing on the Victoria Land coast according to the log book appears to be from Captain Cooper’s sealer Levant in 1853. This was followed by a landing from the whaler Antarctic at Cape Adare in 1895. The first winter spent by an expedition on the continent took place in 1899. The same year on Adrian de Gerlache’s Belgian expedition, his ship Belgica wintered-over off the Antarctic Peninsula.
Before lunch the first part of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ based on Roland Huntford’s controversial book Scott and Amundsen (the title is from the US edition) where comparisons are made of the two explorers. Of interest was that Frank in 1966-69 served as an AB on the Hvaler a passenger/cargo vessel and that Amundsen’s wooden home is outside Fredrikstad, where most of the whaling ships were maintained.
Steve gave an excellent, beautifully illustrated lecture, entitled ‘Feathered fish or Flippered Fliers” when he outlined the evolution of penguins, including the ancestral bird ‘Waimaunu’ having been 1.4m tall and with fossil remains found in New Zealand. Penguins were originally named by Thomas Cavendish after the Welsh Pen Gwyn. Today there are 17+ species ranging from 1-38kg. The middle of the lecture was interrupted for a short time by announcement of a whale sighting. Many converged on the deck although by now the whale of an unidentified species was some distance off. Fog was over the sea beyond the stern and about this time, we were crossing at an angle the Antarctic Convergence, having come out of the southern side.
Just before 5p.m an estimated three Fin whales were seen about 100m off the bow. A few seabirds including Pintados were about and the water depth was according to the chart 260m. The sea was now up with increasing “white horses”. Most retired to the cabin and prepared for what promised to be a rough night.
Noon position: Latitude 66°37.49’S Longitude 170°51.82’E
As expected, the ship rock n’ rolled during the night with this increasing by early morning. Today we got up to find port holes iced over and a temperature at 8.15a.m of -5°C. Only a few were at breakfast, with many laying low in the cabin. By late morning the sky was beginning to clear as the low pressure system moved off to the east. The sea was very disturbed and flecked with “white horses”. At 11.30 we crossed the Antarctic Circle (66°34’S) although the planned celebration was postponed. At this point, the sun does not set on the longest day of summer. Occasional squalls with snow passed by, while the crane, rigging and other fixtures had an icy shroud.
At 12.30 the first Southern Fulmar was seen and by 1p.m an interesting iceberg. This had several components above the sea and was seen as it passed to Starboard to be a delicate pale blue colour.
By mid-afternoon with calming seas, quite a few sea birds were present. Light-mantled Sooty Albatross were present and more Southern Fulmar appeared. The Antarctic Petrel also made its initial appearance. The chefs once again did us proud with a beautiful meal topped off with rum truffles and lemon sorbèt. The bird and mammal discussion meeting was followed by a debate as to the species of one bird photographed. In spite of the excellent library reference books, along with the combined on-board knowledge, the matter was not resolved and the photograph was simply noted as a bird species.
With the nice evening light many took the opportunity to take photographs of icebergs and also of ice that had accumulated on the rear deck including the Zodiacs festooned with icicles. By this evening we had turned to the south-east and were making our way toward the 180°meridian. We should reach this by noon tomorrow. The wind is dropping and the ice edge is not far away.
Noon position: Latitude 68°01.44’S Longitude 179°08.71’E
This morning now in clear seas, we began passing ice floes with a large belt of pack ice off to Starboard. In the gentle swell were scattered floes, ‘bergy-bits’ and the occasional ‘growler’(blocks of ice barely visible on the surface and about one metre tall). Numerous seabirds included Southern Fulmar, Cape Petrel, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and Sooty Shearwaters.
At 10a.m we assembled in the lecture room where Rodney used the whiteboard to give an interesting and useful description of where we were and what we hoped to do in the days ahead. Mention was made of the low-pressure system of 940mb with the expected arrival about 2p.m on Wednesday 20th. The ice left McMurdo Sound three days ago and at this stage it looks good for landings at Capes Royds and Evans (Scott’s Terra Nova Hut 1911-13), along with further south, Hut Point (Scott’s Discovery Hut 1902-04), Observation Hill with a memorial to Scott erected January 1913 and perhaps New Zealand’s Scott Base. Unfortunately US authorities have advised a tour of McMurdo Station is not possible because of dangerous ship unloading/loading operations. No word has yet been received concerning a visit to Scott Base but we remain hopeful of a visit. From Ross Island we will then begin our way north.
David H presented his second lecture on early exploration of the Ross Sea region entilted ‘Antarctica Unveiled - Scott’s National Antarctic (Discovery) Expedition 1901-1904’. In this lecture he outlined key events of the expedition and introduced Ernest Shackleton, the subject of his next lecture. Of interest was reference to David’s contact with Reginald Ford, steward on the ship Discovery and of Edward Wilson’s early interest in the life cycle of the Emperor penguin.
Part 2 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ was screened with a pause to spend time on the Bridge that was rewarded with 15 Humpback Whales, five Orca and a Crabeater Seal. A Humpback Whale appeared to have had the top edge of the dorsal fin chewed off and a calf had unusual white markings. For those on the Bridge there was more to come. We were treated to a superb display of 15 Fin Whales blowing. Also seen were three flocks of 50+ Sooty Shearwaters.
By now patches of blue sky were appearing, although much of the sky had extensive stratus cloud. Rodney gave a very informative lecture ‘The Antarctic Treaty System with reference to tourism’. This was very appropriate as we were now south of Latitude 60° , and under the governance of the Treaty.
The origin of the Treaty, Consultative Members along with those with observer and non-voting status, Claimants, Articles of the Treaty and duties required by such organisations as Heritage Expeditions was carefully explained.
Katya presented another very interesting lecture entitled ‘The World of Contrasts-Arctic versus Antarctica’. Many interesting comparisons including ice and permafrost, plant and animal life, human inhabitants, political differences and why people have in historic times travelled to the polar regions of the world, was artfully explained. By 5p.m after a break from the ice, we again had floes of varying shapes and sizes, along with a few icebergs passing the ship. The wind was up and there was a noticeable increase in the swell.
Noon position: Latitude 71o33.35’S Longitude 179o56.0’E
Another comfortable night as we began heading south although we were too far away to see Scott Island. We did however cross the International Date Line into Wednesday then today at 11.45a.m today crossed back into Tuesday. By 8a.m we were passing through a thin belt of ice floes and had sighted six Crabeater Seals. Several Antarctic Petrels and the occasional Southern Fulmar were accompanying the ship.
David H. gave his presentation entitled ‘A Charismatic Hero- Shackleton’s 1907-1909 Antarctic expedition’. This was of interest as Shackleton had been a member of Scott’s Discovery expedition a few years previously. The lecture began with further discussion concerning the problem of dogs on Scott’s long journey in the 1902-03 summer, then focused on the establishment of Cape Royds and scientific accomplishments including the first ascent of Mt. Erebus and long sledging journeys to near the Geographic South Pole, attainment of the Magnetic South Pole along with a western geological expedition. The Sea Shop opened and many of us bought books, garments and other interesting items.
By noon intermittent snow was driving in from the south. The sea continued to be relatively calm with scattered “white horses” with ‘bergy-bits’ and ‘growlers’. More Crabeater Seals were reported, also a whale, possibly a Minke. Some penguins were observed enjoying a free ride on a ‘bergy-bit’ and at 1:30p.m we had a distant view of the South Korean research support ship Aaron.
At 4.30 Steve gave his presentation ‘Frozen Gardens: Antarctica’s Coolest Secrets’. This lecture focused on ice of both freshwater origins via snow over the continent, the frozen surface of the sea, the importance of the ice, along with the many forms and great beauty some of which we have already enjoyed. An indication of perhaps an early autumn appeared today in the form of some frazil or ‘grease-ice’. By early evening we were still in open water with ‘bergy-bits’ riding on a swell as if to the direction of an orchestral accompaniment.
The bird and mammal discussion was a fairly short one although now we are getting further south, we can expect to see more seals and hopefully increase the species list for sea-birds. As we turned in for the day, the sea was calm with only an occasional ice flow and we looked forward to seeing new places in the days ahead.
Noon position: Latitude74°09.90’S Longitude 173°34.65’E
Last night was mostly calm however we were in for a further reminder that in Antarctica the weather can change very quickly. We have also begun to appreciate the sheer magnitude of the Ross Sea which including the Ross Ice Shelf, is a giant embayment on the coast line of continental Antarctica, along with its continental shelf.
A Snow Petrel was sighted on the water where the wind speed is lower and under such conditions, the sea surface is favoured by birds. No mammals were seen. At noon the sea had some very large swells with water freezing on the bow and deck equipment. Large patches of sea had foam and “white horses” had sheets of spray streaming off their crests. Icicles were forming along the top of the Bridge windows.
The bird meeting this evening was not a long one, with only four birds with three species – Snow Petrel (1); Antarctic Petrel (2); Wilsons Storm Petrel (1). The sun set below the horizon at 11.45.
Noon position: Latitude 77°32.6’S Longitude 166°02.5’E
Had a pleasant calm night and those who rose about 5a.m when the ship was near Franklin Island, were treated to a glorious sunrise. At 5.30 two or three Humpback Whales (and later one Minke Whale) “were enjoying what seemed like their first sun rise with blows transformed to a gold colour”.
At 7.30a.m a large tabular iceberg from the Ross Ice Shelf lay off the Port bow while to Starboard, we could make out Beaufort Island near the entrance to McMurdo Sound. Recent snow had dusted the eastern slopes since our visit last month, leaving steep volcanic ridges in relief and valleys prominent. On the southern corner is an Adelie Penguin colony. Far to the west were the vast Trans-Antarctic Mountains.
We were now in open water with occasional ‘bergy-bits’ and moving at a steady 12 knots. The air temperature was -1°C. As cloud moved off the summit we had an excellent view of Mt. Bird (1800m). Patches of rock, small volcanic cones along with a distinct shallow crater rim, were visible in the soft morning light. Ice cliffs around the northern coast also had areas of rock visible at the base. It was a beautiful morning and as Rodney said, “this is what you have come here for”. At last, a darkened sky beyond the stern indicated that we had left the Ross Sea weather system and were now enjoying better weather over McMurdo Sound. A light wind was present and the sea a little choppy. Two small green New Zealand refuge/science huts became visible as we moved along the coast from Cape Bird, and soon Mt Erebus (3974m) reared its massive summit with a cloud of steam issuing from the active crater. Along the coast features such as the Shell Glacier and Quaternary Icefall presented a totally different appearance to that seen in January because of recent snow.
Rodney called us together in the lecture room at 10.30 when he explained the landing procedure for Cape Royds and for other visits today and tomorrow.
We began the landings for Cape Royds at 1p.m. With an opening found in ‘push ice’ along the beach, we were soon assembled on Black Sand Beach, a short distance north of Cape Royds. The weather was beautiful and we began our 35 minute walk up a short snow and ice slope. Soon we were passing the site of the American penguin research camp which was all strapped up for the winter.
We walked down a track where we assembled at the edge of the ASPA (Antarctic Specially Protected Area No.157) then with 40 allowed in the area at any one time we proceeded down the gentle slope to Shackleton’s hut erected in 1908. This has been conserved by the Antarctic Heritage Trust which also looks after the artifacts within and outside the building. Only eight were allowed in the hut at any one time and of course everyone wanted to see Shackleton’s signature, his cubicle and to know where the whiskey and brandy was stored.
All of us had a marvellous time and the visit was definitely a dream come true. Some passengers gave a special toast with replica whisky from a silver flask to the memory of Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton. Near the hut were Adelie Penguins well advanced with their moulting and many of us walked about the perimeter of the ASPA. Pony Lake had a thick deposit of snow on the surface along with melt water channels. Beyond over an almost white-coloured calm sea, were the beautiful Transantarctic Mountains while behind the hut was an ice-free Backdoor Bay, then beyond lay the great bulk of Mt.Erebus.
All too soon it was time to leave and retrace our steps up the slope down which Shackleton’s motor car had been driven and ponies led 105 years ago. Back on the ship, Rodney took advantage of the good weather to hold a briefing at 8.30p.m for a landing at Cape Evans. Here Scott’s Terra Nova Hut was the place from which he and his men departed for the South Pole in 1911 and were destined never to return. The hut then became in 1915, home for members of the Ross Sea party supporting Shackleton’s 1914-16 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
The ‘wet landing’ was soon underway and again with only 40 allowed in the ASPA (No.155), some of us were landed near the camp and laboratory hut complex of the Antarctic Heritage Trust. A total of 12 including a guide were permitted in the hut at any one time. The visit here meant a great deal to all of us. One passenger remarked “the hut left a strong impression of the people who had been here.", and all passengers came away with their own precious, yet shared memories of the visit. The Cape Evans visit was concluded about 10p.m. Many had enjoyed a second look in the hut and also taken the opportunity to inspect other historic features including the cross on Wind Vane Hill, erected in 1916 to the memory of the three Ross Sea Party members. By 11p.m we were ready for a good rest after a great day and looking forward to tomorrow.
105 years ago today, Ernest Shackleton’s expedition was left at Cape Royds and the Nimrod departed for Lyttelton New Zealand.
Noon position: Latitude 77°49.8’S Longitude 166°21.6’E
We awoke to a cloudy, cool morning. Many of us visited the Bridge after breakfast to enjoy the beautiful new ice forming on the surface of the sea with ’pancakes’ in some places resembling lily pads with up-turned edges. On one ice floe were two Emperor Penguins, the first seen on the expedition and here the water was about 70m deep. The Russian icebreaker Vladimir Ignatyuk was in the ‘turning circle’ of Winter Quarters Bay and the cargo ship Ocean Giant was at the ice wharf. Beyond could be seen the sprawling (albeit tidy from our distance) US McMurdo Station with not a sign of life anywhere. The three Meridian wind turbines on Crater Hill had two gently turning in the breeze. At 7a.m we were at 77°51.1503’S 166°38.0388’E. On Observation Hill (230m) the memorial cross to Scott and his party could be seen. We assembled in the lecture room at 7.15 for a briefing, when the first group was told to be ready for departure at 8a.m. Although Scott Base was pleased to assist and provide transport, US authorities were unfortunately unable to allow a visit to the station. Soon after the briefing the wind had got up and the bay where we had hoped to begin our landings became filled with ice. All we could do was accept the situation and hope that perhaps this may change and that we could at least visit Hut Point.
At 10.30 David H. gave a lecture entitled ‘Fortunes and Misfortunes – Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party 1914-1917’. By noon we had moved a little further north. The ship was again surrounded by new ice with floes fragmented around the edges from colliding with one another. An Orca was sighted in a lead. Further contact was made with New Zealand’s Scott Base and at 2.30pm the first of four groups each with staff members, began to shuttle ashore. A good landing site was seen at the ice foot below the US helicopter hanger. Here we were met by two hospitable and friendly staff from New Zealand’s Scott Base and driven around the base of Observation Hill, through The Gap and down to Pram Point on which Scott Base is located at Latitude 77°51S Longitude 166°45’E. About the pressure ridges were an estimated 400-500 Weddell seals. After viewing the unusual Ngaitahu Maori carving recently unveiled by New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key, we briefly inspected memorials to New Zealanders who have died during service with the New Zealand programme in Antarctica and were then taken into the base.
Here we met the Winter-Over Base Leader, had an opportunity to shop, view the spacious kitchen, dining and bar facilities and in the vast new Hillary Field Centre, meet four conservators from the Antarctic Heritage Trust, working on 1500 artefacts from Cape Evans. Those undertaking the specialised work have come from several countries including the UK, Holland and France. Of interest was a conservation carpenter using timber from Norway to replace pieces missing in a Colman’s flour box. Other artefacts were on display.
The afternoon slipped by very quickly and soon we were in the Globe Bar. By 8.30p.m Rodney advised conditions were suitable for a landing at Hut Point. The landing was underway by 9p.m with us alighting on the ice foot, beside a low cliff of volcanic basalt cracked by freeze-thaw action. We made our way up a low icy incline to Scott’s Discovery Expedition hut (ASPA 158), dwarfed against a backdrop of the sprawling US logistic support and science station. The container ship Ocean Giant was busy nearby. About 30 of us had the history explained by David who pointed out many features linked to the ‘heroic-era’ expeditions. For example, we saw where gravity measurements were taken in 1903-04; the window left open by Shackleton’s men in 1908; the blubber stove made by Scott’s men in 1911 and on this, a frying pan with pieces of seal blubber, cooked by the Ross Sea party members in the winter of 1916.
The hut, an important staging point for all the early sledging parties, was surprisingly warm inside although we had been advised to wrap up warmly and by doing so kept any cold out. By 10.15p.m with light snow driving in from the South and a temperature of -9oC we were back on board. It had been a great day.
Noon position: Latitude 77°16.4’S Longitude 166°12.0’E
This morning we were woken about 5.15a.m by Rodney on the PA suggesting that anyone who wished to climb Observation Hill to get ready for departure. At 7.15a.m the ship moved briefly further south of Observation Hill to 77°51.47’S 166°38.16’E. This point can be taken as our ‘furthest south’ during the expedition. About 30 took up the challenge and were driven by Steve and Katya to the ice foot. On return to the ship, Steve said as a result of spray, they were each covered with a sheet of ice. It was very cold with a 30 knot wind at the top, which took about an hour to reach over a very icy track surface. About eight walkers reached the summit. Others in the party were about ten metres lower, when a message was received from the Captain that the ship was dragging her anchor. With the cold, strong, wind, the decision was made to retreat. Nevertheless it was a rewarding experience for all.
At 9.10 we departed from our anchorage of the last few hours and headed for Cape Bird and the Ross Ice Shelf. The morning was declared a time for rest and an opportunity to catch up with diaries, letter writing and reading. Soon we were passing the Erebus Glacier ice tongue, Dellbridge Islands, Turk’s Head visited by Griffith Taylor with his bicycle (in the Cape Evans hut) in 1911, Cape Evans, the Barne Glacier, Cape Barne and Cape Royds. By 10.45 it was bleak and snowing.
As we approached Cape Bird the sea in spite of its roughness, was very beautiful and made more interesting by the contrast of the forbidding landscape beyond. Because of the conditions there was no possibility of landing at Cape Bird where we could have seen further clusters of moulting adult Adelie Penguins. Instead we continued past the New Zealand refuge and science hut, this clearly visible on the post-glacial terrace, along with ice cliffs tinted a subtle light blue. After rounding Cape Bird the sea became much calmer. We proceeded over Lewis Bay below slopes which were the setting of the Air New Zealand Erebus tragedy and thought of those who had lost their lives.
The imposing bulk of Mt. Erebus (3974m) along with the companion peak of Mt. Terror (3230m) made for a lovely sight.
At 5.15 as we passed Cape Crozier with the site of the large Adelie Penguin colony, Rodney drew our attention to the presence of a message post placed by the crew of the ship Discovery during Scott’s first expedition in 1902. He also pointed out the Knoll beside which although not visible is the rock ‘igloo’ built during the famous ‘worst journey in the world’.
The mist cleared to give a good view of the vast Ross Ice Shelf. This is about the area of France and varies in height with the ice shelf here being about 30 metres. Rodney said that on one occasion his expedition followed the ice shelf as far as the former Bay of Whales, with the journey taking three days. A Minke Whale was seen. During the bar hour David H. became a salesman for MacKinley’s replica Shackleton 1907 whiskey. To help create an appropriate atmosphere, Katya put on music from a pipe band. Several of us including some staff, sampled the pale golden spirit with the shot glass bearing Heritage Expeditions logo as part of the cost. Proceeds will go to the Antarctic Heritage Trust for purposes of artifact conservation.
The bird and mammal list was shared for the past three days, and then most of us retired for an early night. With an improvement expected from the weather, we retraced our route west to Cape Bird where the evening will be spent and an assessment made in the morning for a possible landing. A very nice sunset appeared over the summit of Mt. Bird, with the sun’s rays reflected in the sea.
Noon position: Latitude 77°07.11’S Longitude 166°18.74’E
Once again we had a very good night's rest. This morning we rose to a nice sun rise with the sky tinged pale apricot, a calm sea and with our ship lying off the New Zealand Cape Bird field station. To the north Beaufort Island looked magnificent.
Most of the penguins had left and clustered, fat, moulting Adelies, were in places along the beach or the largely vacated northern colony area. Numerous Skuas soon to leave for the north, always on the lookout for food, were wheeling overhead. From the ship one could not fail but smell the odour of guano from the now almost vacant, extensive main colony area.
After breakfast we had a briefing then at 8a.m began our landing. We greatly enjoyed the opportunity to stroll about the idyllic locality, with close views of the penguins and Skuas, along with the icecap entering the water nearby. Some of us walked around the refuge/science hut where considerable science has been undertaken since the 1960’s, or viewed the automatic weather station, along with the red box of survival equipment below the terrace. The Cape Bird landing made a special impression on to all who landed this morning. On return to the ship a small number became elite members of the ‘Polar Plungers Society’. About 20 women and men in various stages of dress braved the waters! The water temperature was 0°C and the brave souls were rewarded with hot chocolate and time in the sauna beside the lecture room.
It was a great morning and Rodney summed it up by saying “the weather played in our hand again”. Before lunch the anchor was lifted and having completed this part of our programme, we said goodbye to Ross Island.
At 4.30p.m Rodney gave us an update on what we could expect for the remainder of the trip. Heavy ice has unfortunately ruled out any possibility for Terra Nova Bay, with the ice increasing all the time due to the current moving north.
David H. gave his final presentation entitled ‘Triumph and Tragedy-Scott’s ill-fated expedition 1910-1913’. This was of interest to all present and concluded the lecture series on the ‘heroic-era’. The Globe Bar had a special feature this evening, a large ball of ice retrieved by Steve from Cape Bird.
Noon position: Latitude 73°36.35’S Longitude 171°26.06’E
We had a good rest last night and continued our voyage northward. This morning at 8.15a.m we were at 74°S 171°E, with an air temperature of -1°C. The sea was up a little and the occasional “white horse” was present.
The weather was overcast with no land visible to the west. Marieke arranged a full programme for the day with the first item Part 4 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’. An Antarctic Petrel was found near the bow and taken to the Bridge - although released the petrel returned and for some time maintained a presence in the vicinity of the bow. Other birds seen this morning included Mottled and Snow Petrels along with the South Polar Skua, which indicated we are now encountering a greater diversity of species.
Before 2p.m Rodney accompanied by the Captain had us in the lecture room for a briefing where the present situation was explained. It seemed a possible landing at Cape Adare is for the second time this summer was not possible. While yesterday there was a degree of optimism, the forecast for wind is not good with about 40-45 knots from the S-SE. A low pressure system in the outer Ross Sea was important to consider, not only the ice and exit from this, but also the fact that being further north, darkness is setting in. The Captain stated the ice was “very dangerous” along with the fact that Robertson Bay where Ridley Beach with Borchgrevink’s huts is located, has a 4-7 knot current. Both Rodney and the Captain wanted us to be aware of the situation with the result being that Cape Adare would not happen. Instead a course change would be made to 72°/180°, thus ensuring we can reach open water with the added possibility of having wind behind us. The Captain concluded his remarks by stating “this is not the Bahamas”.
By late afternoon it was still bleak outside. We saw the excellent documentary ‘The Last Ocean’ which focuses on tooth fishing along with the need for creation of a marine reserve in the Ross Sea. Rodney then gave his lecture on Pelagic Whaling in the Ross Sea during the 1920’s - 1930’s when we were astonished to see figures for the numbers of various species taken; in particular the Blue and Fin whale species. Of special interest was that Rodney when a student at Otago University, interviewed several former whalers as part of an oral history project. These men led a hard life and the information Rodney recorded is already a valuable archive of New Zealand and whaling history.
Noon position: Latitude 71o37.9’S Longitude 179o38 ’E
Another very comfortable night and by breakfast, the ship was passing through ice. Light snow had fallen during the night and continued intermittently during the morning. Antarctic and Snow Petrels were about the ship and mid-morning a Minke Whale was seen along with further sightings later.
During the morning Marieke arranged for us to view the ‘Last Place on Earth’ Part 5, followed by ‘With Byrd to the Pole’.
It was not very warm about decks with the light coating of snow though by lunch time the sun was trying to break through. At 2p.m a large iceberg was barely visible. At 3p.m Steve presented his fascinating lecture ‘Golden Door of Adventure - The life and crimes of Australia’s Photographer/Explorer Frank Hurley - a candid focus on the man behind the camera’. Hurley is well known for his photography including cine film on Mawson’s 1911-14 expedition along with Shackleton’s 1914-16 expedition.
We left the beautiful ice about 4p.m when at 71°22’S. The sea now became a little choppy with a few “white horses” and Rodney recommended we made sure all was firmly stowed in our cabins. After yet another beautiful meal, the bird and mammal meeting was held with species of birds now beginning to increase. A few ‘bergy bits’ were about.
We entered heavy floes with some above the surface of the sea, a good two or three metres thick and occasionally piled up. A large rounded ice berg was passed and many of us who ventured on deck could not get over how dark it was outside. The berg astern was absorbed by the darkness along with an estimated 80 Adelie Penguins on a floe nearby. One passenger said “now I know what the berg must have looked like at night from the Titanic”. To obtain photos of floes by the ship many used flash. The ice lasted until about 10.30 when again we were over a largely ice-free inky black sea.
Noon position: Latitude 67°28.73’S Longitude 179°56.29’W
With the exception of a few small pieces, most of the ice appeared to have left us in the night. This morning we rose to a cloudy day with a fairly calm sea along with only a few white caps. At 8.15 our position was 68°S and the air temperature 0°C. During the afternoon Katya gave an excellent lecture entitled ‘Adaptions of Marine Mammals’ This was followed by the film ‘Ice Bird’ which portrayed the life cycle of the Adelie Penguin. Numerous bird species including a Blue Petrel were seen today, along with a Humpback Whale. Having sighted Scott Island we had now entered the Southern Ocean. By this evening the ship was starting to move about on a rising sea.
Noon position: Latitude 63°46’S Longitude 176°55’W
Most of us had an uncomfortable night and at 9a.m we were doing 9.5 knots into a north-easterly airflow, with around 740 NM to go to Campbell Island.
During the day we watched the final episode of ‘The last Place on Earth’, ‘Solid Water, Liquid Rock’ centered on Mt. Erebus and ‘90° South’, Herbert Ponting’s film on Scott’s ill-fated expedition 1910-1913. The ship was pretty quiet for most of the day with passengers resting in cabins or having clandestine meetings to discuss ‘The Great Enderby Review’ production planned for early next week. A pod of Long-finned Pilot Whales was sighted. They were not very close and estimates ranged from 5-20 mammals. Feeding very close to the whales was a group of albatross in the middle of which was a solitary Grey Petrel.
The swells continued to make life uncomfortable with only a few out and about. Dinner was followed by the bird and mammal discussion and we retired hoping for a better night.
Noon position: Latitude 60o37’S Longitude 174o05.5’E
The ship put on a great dancing performance in the night due to a strong westerly airflow catching us on the beam and disrupting our north heading. Our chefs continue to do an outstanding job producing beautiful meals under very difficult circumstances.
The Captain then effected a course change, breakfast was split into two sittings and crew closed the 300 Level porthole covers. To make life more comfortable, we were now running 30° to Starboard with big swells four to five metres and making around 8.5 knots. The weather outside was overcast. Little happened during the day and unfortunately lectures or documentaries were not possible. A hardy core however, was checking the skies and ocean for birds and mammals and some managed photography by braving the ‘monkey bridge’.
By this evening we had 455 NM to run for Campbell Island with a little improvement forecast for the ‘albatross latitudes’. Tomorrow the wind is expected to turn to the south-west with a speed of 25-30 knots.
Noon position: Latitude 57°49’S Longitude 170°45.8’E
Very little sleep for anyone and we made the best of the day confined to cabins although a few of us played card games or prepared for ‘The Great Enderby Review’. At 8.50am Rodney advised we had made good time overnight although wind from the west was expected to ease tomorrow. Around 345 NM is left to run for Campbell Island which we expect to reach late tomorrow evening. At noon we were passing over water 4755m deep with the chart indicating 5607m and the Campbell Plateau expected this evening. Some of us on the Bridge were intrigued with sighting a New Zealand Fur Seal swimming off the bow.
Of interest was a news release advising that yesterday a three km piece calved from the Erebus Ice Tongue. This has taken place from time to time including in 1911 during a storm, the 1940’s and in 1980. Dr Tim Haskell, a New Zealand sea ice specialist, estimated each km would have five million tons of water and if five km had calved, this would supply water needs for Auckland lasting 150 years.
By this evening the wind had picked up and we had 251 NM to go.
Noon position: Latitude 54°45.04’S Longitude 171°51.9’E
Another one of those nights with rocking, the usual creaks and groans, rolling and little sleep. At 8.15a.m we were at 55°S 171°E with 174 NM still to run. The ship has been going north-east since midnight on a course of 40°with a speed of 11-12 knots and with big rolling swells from the south-west. Rodney said he could not recall a north-bound trip such as this. We have had two low-pressure systems in 24 hours, with deep lows and wind of 35-40 knots, oscillating north-west to south-west to west. By noon there were a few patches of pale blue sky, areas of mist (perhaps rain) with a little sun lighting up the horizon. The sea was very confused with large swells. There were a few albatross and smaller petrels around the ship due to the proximity of Campbell Island.
At 2.30p.m we assembled in the Starboard dining room for a briefing from Rodney with the Captain present. Campbell Island was still 150 NM away and we have been traveling east with the hope of then returning north-west to the island, although this would take two days. Rodney and the Captain were unable to recall ever experiencing two low-pressure systems in one day. We have been managing 12-12.5 knots and it is important to maintain good, straight steerage so they had taken the difficult decision that because of the big swells of nine metres we had to abandon hope of a landing at Campbell Island and instead, to run for the Port Lyttelton. As Rodney said “it would be foolhardy and irresponsible to go against a swell of nine metres, with risk of damage to the ship and people. I can only recall one other occasion like this.” Contact has been made with Heritage Expeditions office in Christchurch, with staff ready to amend travel arrangements where necessary. Now we had an indication of changed arrangements, there was a chance to begin packing or rest.
After dinner Katya called us together for one of the last bird and mammal discussions and by 8.30 most people had retired for the night.
Noon position: Latitude 50°21’S Longitude 175°03.6’E
It was much calmer last evening and this morning we got up to a sunny day with scattered cumulus clouds along with a good swell prevailing. At 8.15a.m we had a variety of birds now accompanying the ship. The weather map indicates a fifth low pressure system lies behind us with 55+ knots of wind in the vicinity of Campbell Island, so we were relieved that the right decision had been made to head north.
A variety of birds was with us today. Only a few of us were on the Bridge today to enjoy the birds and wild waves. A young albatross was seen to land on the water and investigate a Fur Seal. In addition to the albatross, Black-bellied Storm Petrels could be seen with their distinctive flight as they flew close to the sea for food and to evade predators such as Skuas.
Noon position: Latitude 45°53.57’S Longitude 174°03.54’E
The sea was certainly calmer and today we were greeted after 7a.m with a very nice sunrise that transformed cumulus clouds on the horizon to gold. Numerous albatross were accompanying us while to starboard was the Bounty Trench, a potential source of food. With return of life jackets from the landings, along with our insulated Antarctic jackets and settling of accounts and travel arrangements, the expedition really was drawing to an end. This afternoon a few albatross and smaller birds were about although nothing like the number seen earlier today and between 4.45-5p.m the 45th Parallel north of Oamaru was crossed.
The ‘Great Enderby Review’ was held in the bar. At 7p.m we enjoyed the final celebratory dinner. This was an outstanding meal beginning with a seafood entreè, followed by a superb roast meal with ham off the bone, roast beef and chicken, along with a selection of roasted or steamed vegetables; salads with fillet of salmon; a variety of desserts including apple crumble and pavlova and of course, a cheese board.
We had our final recap in the lecture room when Rodney thanked all of us. He said that nothing is pre-ordained; nothing is simple and the trip had been made possible by all of us. The expedition team was then introduced with Brent on behalf of the Department of Conservation, thanking us all for treating protected sites with respect. Wilson then spoke on behalf of us and said Rodney had put on a ‘brilliant show’. Katya’s fine power-point slide presentation was screened which will provide a lasting memory. So after traveling 5070 miles, our expedition was drawing to a close.
Noon position: Latitude 43o36.28’S Longitude 172o42.93’E
About midnight the Spirit of Enderby anchored almost opposite the City of Christchurch. After the closing activities of last evening, we had an excellent nights rest. This morning we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise, a small flock of Cape Petrels and two Bullers Albatross but the ‘blowing whales’ proved to be pieces of kelp and the discharge from the city’s treated sewer outfall! At 8a.m the Pilot vessel came along side and the pilot boarded for the remainder of the journey to the inner harbour of Lyttelton. We had beautiful views of the historic town which suffered considerably from earthquake damage in 2010-2011. We tied up at 9a.m and Customs had our documents checked and prepared to leave our home of the past 30 days.
We disembarked the ship and many of us went with David to the Canterbury Museum, where he was a former Curator and assisted with establishment of the then named National Antarctic Centre. The morning was warm and the city was beautiful despite what it has gone through in recent years. On the way we passed an oak tree in Ensors Road. Here is a plaque unveiled by Sir Ernest Shackleton in 1917 following rescue of the men from the Aurora, who had been left on Ross Island in 1915. We then stopped at Canterbury Museum in Rolleston Avenue. Here we met Paula Granger, the Communications Manager for the Antarctic Heritage Trust. Courtesy of Heritage Expeditions and the AHT, we were able to view the renowned Scott 1910-13 centenary exhibition, complete with a simulated lay-out of the Cape Evans hut. Many interesting artefacts included the White Ensign flown half-mast when the Terra Nova returned to Lyttelton in 1913. David then took us on a tour of the Sir Robertson Stewart Hall of Antarctic Discovery, which he helped the Museum Trust Board and fellow curatorial staff establish in 1975. Many artefacts associated with the ‘heroic-era’ expeditions mentioned by David in his lectures were explained to us. Then it was into packing and closure to a wonderful four weeks with Heritage Expeditions.
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" In the safe hands of expedition leader Rodney and ship captain Dimitri, The Spirit of Enderby took us on a journey of a lifetime. The adventure of crossing the notorious southern ocean, the remarkable history and huts of the 'heroic age' explorers, the mesmerising wildlife encounters, the scenic snow clad mountains of the Antarctic continent, Mount Erebus and the Ross ice shelf. This trip is remote, exciting and quite unlike anything you will experience anywhere else on earth - if you are interested and able my advise is 'Just do it'. "
" Thanks very much for your kind comments and great photo Stacey! We hope to have you travel again with us soon.
" Hi guys,
I just wanted to say thank you so much for such a fantastic expedition we experienced in the Southern Ocean. The sites, especially the huts, are quite moving and just so humbling to actually be there. The restoration that has been done is incredible. And having the extensive knowledge of the Duke is unsurpassed. I am still watching back the videos of his explanations in the huts.
All joking aside Katya, I have learnt a lot about the birds and can certainly recognise much more than the beginning of January.
I have been raving about the whole trip to family and friends and can't watch the photos too often. I love being able to talk about all we saw and experienced from the likes of Hill 360 to the expanse of the ice.
Despite having only been home a few weeks I still cannot believe I was actually down there and also on the other sub-antarctic islands. All I can say is thank you. It has been fascinating reading the recent logs online too.
I trust Samuel and Agnes had fun travels around the South Island.
I look forward to getting to the Arctic next year now. Thank you again and keep up the great work! "