Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Cuverville Island and Sunset on Anvers Island

After the Christmas holiday on board, we made a landing at Cuverville Island, then to the south side of Anvers Island at Arthur Harbor where the US has their peninsular station. Have a look!

December 26

Cuverville Island in the Ererra Channel. In 1993, I was on a trip that brought three researchers to this island where they lived for four months studying the impacts of tourism to penguin breeding. They replaced real eggs with artificial eggs that monitored the parents heart rate as they sat on an egg. Turns out there was very little disturbance to the birds.

Sorry about all of the iceberg photos but that's what makes a person go back to Antarctica time and again.

Near Cuvehrville Island.

Differential melting between harder more dense layers of glacial ice and less dense glacial ice.

The World framed by a beautiful berg.

All the colors of the spectrum enter the ice but only the blue wavelength is able to escape the ice, thus the apparent blue color to some bergs. The denser the ice, the bluer it will be.

Cross-bedded ice!

Not really - but it sure looks like a southwestern sandstone.

See the darker "lip" of ice in the upper left - it is rather flat and about 5 feet thick. It represents where the iceberg used to float on the water with everything else you see being the submerged portion. Remember that 9/10's to 1/7th of an iceberg is submerged. These are the kinds of things I point out while on a zodiac cruise. This iceberg has since broken smaller and then rotated to its present position such that 9/10th's or 1/7th of it is still underwater. Wow!

December 27

All the photographs for this day were taken between 9:30 and 10:30 at night. The sun sets here for about 2 1/2 hours but it never really gets dark. That's Mt. Français again in the cloud at 9,268 feet.

Large lenticular cloud over Anvers Island.

Large tabular bergs were seen while sailing into Arthur Harbor. This one measures about 1/4 mile wide and is about 60 feet out of the water.

More giant bergs in an Arizona-type sunset.



Like the Grand Canyon, it is difficult to grasp the scale of things here - there are no human reference points. These mountains remain unclimbed, unexplored, and for all intents and purposes might as well be located on another planet due to their remoteness and glacial ramparts.

Anvers Island scene on December 27.

Iceberg and mountain on Anvers Island.

Evening glow at Palmer Station, Antarctica. Another great night in Antarctica.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Sunny Antarctica

Before I ever had a chance to visit the Antarctic Peninsula, a fellow naturalist said to me, "When you go, may you have a sunny day in the Lemaire Channel." I never forgot those words and in my 28 trips here I've seen a few of those. But this years trip was super special, as well as a hike to the top of a hill in Neko Harbor.

High pressure beginning to set in along the Antarctic Peninsula.

The visuals are outstanding. It is like seeing Alaska, New Zealand or Norway 20,000 years ago when the Ice Age gripped the planet.

Here Shaun is trudging up to the top of a granite knob in Neko Harbor.

The landing is about 600 feet below the hill and part of our group is making their way up. Strict limits on visitation mean that only 100 people are allowed ashore act any one time. So they come over in color groups assigned on the ship.

The World anchored offshore in Neko Harbor.

From the hill, we can look to the north and see where the glacier is cracking into crevasse and spilling icebergs into the sea. Many of the bergs have receded in recent years.

A little farther up the slope we see how the brittle ice had opened up in tension cracks as it flows over a subglacial hill. This is how crevasse is created.

A black basaltic dike cuts through the pink granite. The granite is essentially the same age as many granites along the western margin of the Americas (Jurassic to Cretaceous or between 200 and 65 Ma). Most of the southern continents have a series of black dikes as well.

The World with Mt. Français in the cloud (background).

Close-up of Mount Français.

Anything that is anywhere near flat-lying will be covered in hundreds of feet of ice and snow. It simply piles up continuously through out the year. The whole landscape id ice covered and surreal.

A resident of The World making her way down the hill. The temperatures have hovered around 30 degrees Fahrenheit, although we did see one evening where it got down to about 20.

Sailing out of Anvord Bay on the evening of December 24.

Sunset to the west of Anvord Bay on Anvers Island.

We woke up to a White Christmas in Antarctica, ready to sail through the Lemaire Channel.

Check out the reference to the Una's Peaks here. These are not them but you get the idea.

The Lemaire! Dennis Puleston - we got our sunny day!

Icebergs. The channel has been choked with ice so far this season and few ships have made it through. But we found it relatively open on the Christmas morning. The wind is constantly moving ice in or out and and a few hours everything can change.

Reflections in the water.

Another one. The wind blows a lot down here so it was fun to see it so calm.

Jurassic-age volcanic rocks exposed in the eastern wall of the channel These have been bent to almost 90 degrees and are slightly altered into low grade metamorphic rocks.

Smooth sailing.

Suddenly, at the south end of the channel, a welcoming committee. Who could that be?

Why it's Santa and his helpers taking break from the delivery of presents in the Pacific Ocean islands. My this man gets around. More postings as we have internet connections!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tierra del Fuego to Deception Island Antarctica

We are underway for the first of two voyages on The World. Beginning in Ushuaia Argentina (the world's southernmost city) we sailed for 38 hours until we spotted land in Antarctica. This was one of the fastest crossings for me ever - The World's twin screws push us through the sea at an amazing 15 knots. The weather was as good as it gets crossing the Drake Passage and about as bad as it gets in the Antarctic summer once we arrived. See the photo's below.

Mt. Oliveira and the city of Ushuaia on a fine summer's day.

Three ships sailing out of Ushuaia for the Antarctic. My first trip down to the Antarctic Peninsula in 1993-94 saw 10,000 visitors. Today that number is 40,000 and growing.

View of the Beagle Channel and mountains on Isla Hoste, Chile. The weather was fine here. The three photos above were taken on December 20 and 21.

This is December 22 in the heart of the Drake Passage on a very fine day. Most of the horrible reputation that Cape Horn has for the graveyard of sailors occurred during the winter months and in my 54 previous crossings of the Drake, we called it the Drake "Lake." Calm as could be. Another 25% of those crossing were rough and the last 25% were very rough. Twice I saw 40 foot seas. This was a real treat.

Smooth sailing.

 Our twin screws push us 19 knots through the water.

 Finally the Antarctic on December 23 after a 38 hour smooth crossing. This is typical Antarctic Peninsula weather.

And then the wind kicked up about 10 AM from the east.

 And the weather turned, well, very Antarctic.

Our first destination is the infamous volcano, Deception Island, shown on this chart as the horseshoe-shaped island in the lower left. It is a caldera that lost its top about 10,000 years ago and now containing a port inside the volcano! You can read about this volcano at this link (be sure to click on the various tabs for more info along the top bars).

Map of Deception Island and the inner Harbor, Port Foster. This is a unique and wild place. The blue dot shows our landing, Whalers Bay, made at about 1 PM on December 23. As you might imagine, Port Foster makes for a wonderful harborage in an area known for stormy seas. However, in December, 1967, the volcano awoke violently with an explosive roar and three stations located in the inner harbor evacuated within 24 hours. The eruption was quite intense being propelled by the interaction of magma and ice. Compared to the 10,000 year old caldera forming event, this was just a small burp. But to the folks working those stations, it was a terrifying event. Two subsequent eruptions in 1969 and 1970 rendered all three bases forever inoperable. Note the very narrow entrance to Port Foster, Neptune's Bellow's, in the lower right.

Entering Neptune's Bellow's with almost white-out condition and a following wind of about 40 knots!

Ashore at Whalers Bay and the ruins of the two whaling stations.

The World at anchor in Whalers Bay.

Two of my expedition colleagues on this trip. The man in the center, Shaun Norman of Mt. Cook, New Zealand, was working at the British base in 1967 when the first eruption occurred and had great stories to tell about it. In all my years I never imagined meeting a first hand witness to these eruptions. Shaun was working as a 24 year old meteorologist at the time and recognized that a unique even was happening and took formal observations every 15 minutes during the event. When he radioed back to Britain that intense thunderstorms were occurring at Deception Island Antarctica, his superiors tried to correct him that thunderstorms were not possible in Antarctica. He radioed back that this might have once been the case but that the volcanic eruptions were producing electrical storms at three different places around the volcanic cloud.

Destroyed building from the 1969 eruptions.

Just a lovely beach day in Antarctica. The temperature was about 29 degrees but the wind chill made it feel like 5 degrees F. Hopefully, we'll get better weather tomorrow.

Discarded water barrels from the whaling days. Thanks for reading.