Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Antarctica, A Whale Of A Presentation


From my welcoming on board the Akademik Ioffe, I have had a favorable impression of the Quark Expedition staff. As time goes on my first notion is further validated.

Interacting with them and being at the various presentations,  I sense their passion for their individual calling along with the joy they have of being here.

Attending an Antarctic Marine Biology presentation by Jimmy is no exception. From the Pacific Northwest, Jimmy annually tracks a pod of migrating whales some of whom he believes personally recognizes him.

His knowledge and enthusiasm about his passion clearly comes through as he talks about it.



Sperm Whale Did you know NASA and other space programs use sperm whale oil in some of their equipment in space?





The oil has properties that can withstand various pressure differences something the sperm whale has to deal with as it dives to the depths of the ocean.



Rasta Jimmy With a sense of humor,  Rasta Jimmy puts on:

A Whale Of A Presentation.

He even includes stuff about the dolphins.







Antarctica, Zodiac Business Class


This morning my on going classified plan to arrive in the “Mud Room”  after the crowd is gone is about to pay dividends.  A zodiac final boarding announcement is being made as I am headed that way.

So far, I am the only one in the zodiac queue. This gives me an opportunity to chat it up with Emily another of the great Quark Expedition staff members.

Emily runs the on board gift shop but I make no promises to visit as I am not a NBS (Natural Born Shopper). She makes another final boarding announcement but the status quo remains.



Jimmy Whale Watcher Today, I am the sole passenger on the zodiac with Jimmy.

Jimmy is a  marine biologist with a specialty in whales.





Nicholson Harbor Leaving the Ioffe, I can see some of the various ice formations that were talked about in the presentation that I attended last night.




As we race by kayakers enjoying a beautiful morning on the relatively calm seas, areas of “Blue Ice” can be seen along the shore line.

Along the way we pass small pieces of ice that have made their way to seas from the sounding frozen landscape. In some areas down here frozen sheets of ice can be found that are up to 30 miles long.



Dr Timor Just before our landing we stop at a group of zodiacs to pick up a few “riff raffs” that are anchored just of shore.

Dr Timor, the ship's doctor.




A New Yorker The awesome zodiac mechanic, from New York and a few others.








Lynn My Business Class ride ends as I am welcomed to our landing spot by Lynn our Expedition Leader.





Even without dinner, wine or a movie, I am one lucky passenger. This has been “The Best Business Class” ride I have ever taken.



Untitled 0 07 53-22 Wait, is that a colony of Gentoo Penguins I see in the distance?





Antarctica, I Go Walking



Midnight Port View While most of my fellow passengers have retired for the evening, I am having a Patsy Cline moment and go for a walk.







Ioffe Midnight Bow Midnight View From The Akademik Ioffe Bridge




In stretching my Patsy Cline moment, it is well past midnight by the time I make my way to the bridge of the Akademik Ioffe. From earlier visits in the day, I have befriended a few of the officers on the bridge and they welcome my company.



National Geographic Explorer Off in the distance,  I am told is another ship.

It is the first one we have seen since leaving the Beagle Channel four days ago.




From the signature on the Ioffe’s radar display, it is believed the ship is the National Geographic Explorer.



Midnight Sun We have now traveled so far south than even at midnight there is a fair amount of light and a sliver of the fading sun can be seen over the horizon.



As we head towards West Antarctica, I am told we are in the Gerlache Strait between New Scotland Island and the Antarctic Continent.

Again, the experience of a life time continues even past midnight.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Antarctica, Ice, Ice Baby


While sailing to our next destination that will have us navigating around icebergs, we get an opportunity to attend another informative lecture.

All right stop collaborate and listen ….



Iceberg Whirlpool This time it is on ice.

Earth Ice, Ice Shelf, Ice Crystals, Icebergs and Glaciers.





Joining the lecture in progress, I am glad to see there is a comedian on board the ship. A question is presented by the lecturer which asks. Which is greater by mass all the life on earth or all the ice on earth?

The room bursts into laughter as the comedian responds, cows!



NH Huge Glacier A Huge Glacier



Did you know 95% of the earth's ice is glacial or that some of the bases of the glaciers in Antarctica are over one hundred thousand years old?

I am looking forward to seeing tomorrow some of the things that are discussed in the presentation.

In particular “Blue Ice” which is formed over thousands of years when ice crystals interlock and there is no air spaces between them.



Blue Iceberg This trip is turning out not only to be fun but educational as well.







Monday, February 21, 2011

Antarctica, Leaving Deception Island


Having completed a “True Polar Plunge”, I return to the Ioffe but not as fast as promised.

A long hot shower that involves continually drenching my feet with warm water and my mild fears of frostbite are starting to subside.


Day 4 Dinner Dinner this evening is served buffet style but the highlight of it all is desert.







Day 4 Desert I get to have ice cream.



And seeing as I almost froze my toes off, I think I should get to eat all the ice cream in the world.

What do you think Lieutenant Dan?



Polar Plunge ListAt the ship’s reception desk, The Polar Plunge list is posted.

Here, those that have  taken the plunge check  their names on the list.




I feel honored to be on the list, having survived a chilling but fun and memorable experience.  From the check marks I can tell that almost 25% of the Ioffe passengers are nuts!

Besides taking the Polar Plunge, the one thing I will recall most about visiting Deception Island and landing on Whalers Bays is the wind.



Shared Toast While having a glass of  “fine imported” red wine, thanks to John my roommate from the UK, he tells me the winds are still blowing strong even as we sail away from Deception Island.



I am fascinated by this for two reasons. One, it seems ironic that Deception Island would be a safe harbor since we received little protection from the wind. Second, it leaves my mind to wonder how brutal the weather must be here during the dark days of winter.

Stepping outside into a passage way near our cabin, the wind is so strong that when I turn my back to it I am literally carried from the starboard (right-side) to the port (left-side) of the ship.

On the open seas Deception Island is fading in the background as the wind and waves produce an occasional giant spray off the bow of the ship. Having had my fill of wind for the day, I return inside to the comfort of the Akademik Ioffe.

In a few minutes, I will head down to the ship’s bar where I hope to win a few “Nil Hands” playing a game or two of Spades.





Friday, February 18, 2011

Antarctica, Taking The True Polar Plunge


While there are many beers from around the world, we all know that there is only one King Of Beers, Budweiser. Quit laughing, I am serious. The same comparison can also be made in reference to Polar Plunges.

Although done annually in places like Minnesota, USA and Vancouver, B.C, there are only two regions in the world where one can experience the King Of Polar Plunges.



WB NeptuneWindow I happen to be in one of them, Antarctica.







Even with the sun shining, the weather seems even colder as the wind continues it's harassing ways. This scenario reminds me of a winter day in Minnesota where there is often clear blue skies but bitter cold temperatures. Something that becomes confusing to the mind if you are not use to it.



WB Peter Walking along Whalers Bay, Peter and I discuss our individual strategy for the Polar Plunge.

So far, I am favoring his plan. “Get In, Get Out, Go Home!”




Arriving at the launch spot, others have already gathered for the plunge. The first plunger of our group is getting prepared as I review plunging instructions with Val, one of the expedition staff members.



WB First Plunger A True Polar Plunger




WB Val Instruction Complimenting Val's instructions, with the Ioffe in the background, the first plunger is in the water, “Just like that!”







WB Peters Plunge Peter’s Polar Plunge




WB Peters Return Peter makes his entry then returns victorious.

He vividly comments on the temperature of the water. “So, Cold!”





Since Peter is busy getting his body temperature back to normal, the plan for him to capture my plunge is not going to work. Fortunately, my Cabin 314 roommate, John is witnessing this almost insane spectacle and agrees to do the honors.

Sometimes it is interesting how the mind works. Even as the wind is howling around us with the temperature in the 30's, I am not cold as I strip down to my tropical swim trunks.



WB Polar Proof Ready to take the plunge, I pause a minute to remove my watch.

I know it is waterproof but I am not sure if it is polar-proof.




Then I am racing into the wind driven waves with no thoughts of how cold the water is at that moment. I dive in to the applaud of the Russian judges who  give me a 1.3 score.




WB Don Plunge Taking The True Polar Plunge





WB Freezing It is only on my rapid return to the shore that I realize, “The water is …F.. F…. Freezing.”







WB Drying Off Using a towel to dry off does me no good, the wind now becomes my friend and does a better job.





Again, I do not have a sense of being cold but my feet are numb. I look down and although they have lost some color, I am thankful to still have toes.



WB Victory Even with a 1.3 score, I feel like the King of The Polar Plunge, not bad for an island boy.

Yeah, Mon!







Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Antarctica, Getting Dive Bombed


After a fruitless search for a blown away backpack cover, Peter and I are now out of time to explore Neptune's Window and begin walking back towards the shoreline.


WB Shreiking Bird A shrieking sounds from the sky and I quickly realize that we are being attacked.








WB Dive Bombing Bird Dive Bombing Bird



Looking up, a medium size  white bird is making diving bombing runs at my yellow covered head.




WB Peter's Turn Then comes Peter’s turn.







Innocently we have walked near a nesting area and this bird is vehemently defending it's territory.

This incident exposes my naivety to life here. I think like most others, I am use to flying birds nesting in trees.  Ummm, but there are no trees here. So let’s see, 1 plus 1 really does not equal 3!



WB Ground Nest Ground Level Bird Nest



It would never have occurred to me to watch out for a bird nest on the ground. Another sin of nature committed here and I can think of only one way to cleanse our souls. Peter and I are now on our way to do so.



Antarctica, Peter, Peter …..


WB Lagging Behind Lagging behind my friend Peter as we head towards Neptune's Window, I watch as the wind rips a waterproof protective cover off  his backpack.






WB Flying Cover Flying Waterproof Backpack Cover



This becomes an incident that we were cautioned about during our briefings on the Ioffe.



Whalers Bay Landscape In order to preserve the beauty of this area we must be careful to not introduce any foreign items on to Antarctica.





Although now an unfortunate innocence situation, a gray nylon cover is racing across the continent in search of a new home where it is not welcomed.

Our attention is now turned to recovering it but we cannot keep up with the speed at which it is moving. It is blending well with the surrounding black and white terrain making our search very difficult .



WB Blinding Reflection Along with the cover's chameleon effect, the sun's blinding reflection off the snow covered hillside also hinders our efforts.




I see the cover blow around a small hill and this gives me a little hope that it will be slowed down as it will somewhat be sheltered from the full force of the wind. I am disappointed.

Our effort to find the cover becomes fruitless. I feel a sense of guilt and disappointment as I do not want to be a part of destroying or impacting the beauty that is here.

I hope nature will forgive our innocent mistake which unfortunately turns out to be the first of two that we will have made before the day is over.




Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Antarctica, Walking Around Whalers Bay


The wind here seems even stronger than on the ship as Peter and I stroll around the black volcanic surface of Whalers Bay.



WB Hills Now somewhat in a valley, we are closer to the surrounding hills and that maybe a contributing factor.





We are told that in a few months this area will be covered with green plant life along with penguins that like to spend the spring time here. For now, there are only a few of them.




WB Chilin Peguin Chilin Penguin On Whalers Bay




WB Burrowed Penguin Here, they are smart enough to stand with their backs to the wind or burrow into the ground for protection from it.





WB Sleeping Bird Even some birds are dug in and asleep with their heads turned backwards to guard against the unrelenting wind.






WB Skua Skua




WB Antarctic Gull Meanwhile, a few skuas have gathered near pools of standing water where others are taking bird baths.





I imagine with the blowing wind the temperature is somewhere in the 30 degree or less range. However, I am quite comfortable thanks to the parka provided by Quark Expedition.



3 Birds Feeding Along the shoreline,  I am reminded of the famous Bob Marley's song “Three Little Birds”.





However, the birds I am watching are sitting on crashing frigid waves and I don't think they are singing sweet songs and melodies.

I quietly wonder with a smile if there has ever been a Jamaican Antarctic Expedition Team. I know for a fact there has not been one from The Bahamas.



WB Decaying Shack Scattered around this area of the bay are the decaying and fragile remains of the whaling industry.




We are cautioned to be careful and not to touch them while viewing them. It is amazing that some of the buildings were habitable given that the conditions here can become so cold and severe.



WB Decaying Boat Old Whaling Boat



Next we head towards Neptune’s Window where we hope to get a glimpse of the actual Antarctica Continent which is about 19 miles away.



WB Neptune's Window Neptune’s Window






Then something interesting happens. Peter, Peter …..




Monday, February 14, 2011

Antarctica, Landing At Whalers Bay


Standing in the zodiac queue, Peter and I attempt to solicit more volunteers for this afternoon's possible Polar Plunge.  Comparisons with Hawaii are not working and we fail miserably in our attempts.



CAN 047 Since anchoring at Deception Island, the howling wind has continued to make it's strong presence known.




In coping with the peer pressure, the seas are returning the favor in kind. This makes docking and boarding the zodiacs a little more challenging than normal.

Today, it is a shorter ride to our landing spot and I welcome the ride from the small white cap seas.

Arriving at Whalers Bay we are given a nice introduction to the island by Lynn our Expedition Leader. Lynn's introduction also includes an open invitation for any of us crazy enough to do the Polar Plunge to return to our present spot at 5:45pm.

With the anointed time for our challenge set, Peter and I are off to explore a bit of Whalers Bay.




Sunday, February 13, 2011

Antarctica, Journey To Deception Island


Day 4 Brunch Returning from our first landing of the day,  we are welcomed back on board to a delicious brunch as the Ioffe sets sail for Deception Island.






Day 4 Chili Antarctic Chili




DI Rough Seas Although there is much daylight remaining, as we approach our next destination, the weather seems as different as night and day.





Under mostly cloudy gray skies the sun is battling to make it's warm presence known. The temperature has fallen considerably and along with the wind howling at over 35 miles an hour it is an experience that in an odd way I am enjoying.



Jim Cantore Jim Cantore would be proud of me as I faced the forces of nature TWC style, slanted.







DI Bow View View Of Deception Island From The Akademik Ioffe



Since others are more comfortable and smarter to enjoy the views from the shelter of the bridge, initially I am alone on the bow of the Ioffe.



DI Close Up However, soon enough I am joined by one then two other perhaps brave or crazy souls.





Our insanity helps us fight the elements as we experience a true bit of Antarctica. In a conversation with one of the passengers I am told the winds are over 36 knots (about 40 miles an hour), too much for kayaking. He's now excited to join a few of us who are insanely looking forward to doing the Polar Plunge.



DI Deception Inlet In taking in the scenery, I am reminded that beauty can be found in all aspects of nature.




Being fortunate to experience the most remote and sometimes most hostile area on the planet in and of itself is just awesome.



DI Entrance A rugged landscape covered in snow along with a sea that can be unforgiving gives me a profound respect for what is here.




It is hard to imagine being here in winter or anytime during the 180 days without sunshine.

Russian commands over the PA snaps me out of my imaginary thoughts and I get back to enjoying the reality around me. Although the wind is still relentless, on the port side of the Ioffe the sun is winning the battle in the skies as we enter the caldera at Deception Island.




DI Entering Caldera Entering Deception Island



The entrance to Deception Island is relatively narrow but once inside the caldera the island forms a safe harbor against the Antarctic weather.

Beyond the entrance is Whaler's Bay where we will make our next landing. From the winds and current sea conditions, I can tell our next zodiac ride could get interesting. Even inside the caldera the wind is cold and still blowing strong as it pours down from the surrounding snow covered hills.

Thankfully, there are more areas of blue skies where the sun's heat just might be breaking through.



DI Starboard Bow Soon enough the Ioffe practically comes to a stand still and I stay on deck to witness it being anchored.

By no means a simple process.



With the Ioffe anchored I can see our next landing spot which still has decaying buildings left behind from the long since deceased whaling industry.

I am told at one point there was even an airport located here, a part of one of a few scientific research centers that were destroyed by volcanic eruptions in the 1960's.




DI Whaler's Bay Whaler’s Bay, Deception Island