poletopole: (Default)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 57°03.1' S 87°00.9' E
  • Course 38°; Speed 15.8 kts
  • Air temperature 5°C; Wind 12 kts; Direction 300°
  • Weather: Cloudy; Visibility 8
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 362.2 nautical miles

A very, very quiet day on the ship today.I see hardly anyone around all day long. Either the partying was more decadent than it appeared or the ship's rolling is thinning the ranks. We reach 10 degrees regularly now, lolling in the swell. The icebreaker has a rounded bottom, the better to handle the ice, which is not too suitable for long ocean trips.
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Year End

Dec. 31st, 2007 08:00 pm
poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 61°50.0' S 79°44.2' E
  • Course 38°; Speed 14.4 kts
  • Air temperature 3°C; Wind 28 kts; Direction 30°
  • Weather: Cloudy; Visibility 2-4
  • Ice Cover: 0
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 332.4 nautical miles

New Year's Eve finds a few very large icebergs, very far north, drifting along as the ship hurries north. The captain neither pauses nor turns; during the day we pass an illegal Japanese fishing vessel, south of 60 degrees, and a group of humpback whales, without stopping for a second look. During dinner the ship passes through a set of large and picturesquely decayed icebergs that must be last of the giants spawned by the great ice shelves, as we see no more afterward, and they must have been caught in a strong current to come so far north. But even the largest doesn't merit a second look, an admiring circumnavigation. One, channeled on top and sides and carved with caverns at its base, calves as we pass.

The Russian crew's attitude toward the illegal fishing is that it isn't a problem. They're not at all into conservation or protection of resources; take what you can because someone else will get it if you don't, is the attitude. It's not a comfortable fit with the ostensibly eco-correct philosophy of the company chartering the ship.
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poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 66°25.1' S 73°16.6' E
  • Course 0°; Speed 15 kts
  • Air temperature 1°C; Wind 12 kts; Direction 40°
  • Weather: Cloudy; Visibility 7
  • Ice Cover: 6/10
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 227.7 nautical miles

On leaving Davis Station, the ship immediately turned northwards to begin the week-long journey to Perth at the highest speed practicable. There was some compensation in the weather, which held good; the low sun turned the ice pack lavender, rose, and gold and despite thin cloud (the better to show the colors), a similarly tinted half-moon was visible above the ice. The sunset-sunrise lasts for hours with no definite beginning or end; it looks at 2:00 much as it did at 00:30.

We're obviously not going anywhere near the Shackleton Ice Shelf, which makes this voyage much less than a "semi-circumnavigation of Antarctica". D is disappointed. I cannot understand how the itinerary was arranged to be so tight that so little time to actually see Antarctica has been available. No allowance was made for bad weather or unfavorable conditions.

The schedule lists today as an expedition day, but that's not going to happen: for the last time this trip, the Zodiacs are lifted from the bow deck with the cranes, motored to the stern, and lifted onto the helicopter deck to be tied down for the crossing to Australia. The helicopters' rotors have been removed and the helicopters rolled into their hanger and strapped down also. The bartender, Debby, has been working for days on securing the storerooms, and today she's even more busy today getting the last of the stocks safely stowed.
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poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 68°52.11' S 77°00.0' E
  • Course 40°; Speed 15.3 kts
  • Air temperature 2°C; Wind 14 kts; Direction 60°
  • Weather: Fine; Visibility 10; Ice Cover: 0
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 186.7 nautical miles

Up at 05:30 this morning to find that the cold breakfast offered include pastries, buns and bread rolls, but no butter or jam or cheese or ham, and the usual corn flakes, no muesli or yogurt. Bletch. It's too early to eat anyway. I had carefully stacked all the clothing needed to visit the penguins before going to bed and put on 4 layers on top (with one extra heavy layer in backpack) and 3 on the bottom (windproof pants are the most important thing one wears here), 2 pair socks, and insulated boots. And a life jacket. And backpack. And two cameras. Spare batteries, memory cards, telephoto lens, tripod. Thus encumbered, down to the helicopter muster station where the dozen people in my group sort ourselves out and board, sequentially, the two helicopters.

Although it's bright out, the sun is still low, so shadows are long and the ice is rose-tinted. The flight is short; again the beautiful patterns of wind-blown snow on the ice enthrall me. The helicopter landing area and the emergency tents, etc., are located discreetly out of the emperor penguins' sight behind a gigantic grounded tabular iceberg.Read more... )
poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 67°15.6' S 76°07.0' E
  • Course 75°; Speed 14 kts
  • Air temperature 4°C; Wind 12 kts; Direction 100°
  • Weather: Fine; Visibility 10
  • Ice Cover: 9/10
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 297.3 nautical miles

Today we haven't done very much except putt along through ice and then through open water, back south-eastward toward the last-chance activities mentioned yesterday. With the small wrinkle that we've arrived within helicoptering distance of Amery Ice Shelf at 20:30 instead of in the afternoon, with the ship making slow progress now in pack ice too far from the ice shelf to allow even a brief landing (very disappointing), which makes for a late night. Here's the schedule for the next few hours:
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poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 65°32.0' S 67°05.6' E
  • Course 90°; Speed 15 kts
  • Air temperature 2°C; Wind 10 kts; Direction 80°
  • Weather: Cloudy; Visibility 3
  • Ice Cover: 6/10
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 179.8 nautical miles

The schedule sheet distributed last night claimed that today would be an "Expedition Day! Please stand by for announcements." But no announcements of activity ensue; we potter through a day of lectures, penguin painting, a bit of standing on the icy and slippery bow deck spotting the odd Adelie penguin fleeing the ship from an ice floe, and the like, the normal round of a day at sea.

At a pre-dinner briefing the Sekrit Plan is expounded: we are on course for Prydz Bay, and if we avoid delays in difficult ice the idea is to arrive tomorrow (28 December) in the early afternoon at the Amery Ice Shelf or 15-20 km from it anyway, do whirlwind helicopter tour and landing on the Amery Ice Shelf, and relocate the ship for a visit to the Amanda Bay emperor penguin colony in the evening, approximately 21:00-02:00. The following day (29 December), visit Davis Station. Having visited Davis Station, head for Perth.
poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 67°15.4' S 65°68.9' E
  • Course 280°; Speed 15 kts
  • Air temperature 4°C; Wind 14 kts; Direction 270°
  • Weather: Sunny, fine; Visibility 10
  • Ice Cover: 8/10
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 201.6 nautical miles

I have meant to mention that we left the Cosmonaut Sea sometime on 24 December. Now we're in the Cooperation Sea. Among its features are Pingivin Island (ED)(Existence Doubtful), which is noted in fine purple ink on the chart. The handwriting seems to be that of the mapmaker who did the 2005 revision (footnote at bottom). The Antarctic map is sprinkled with (ED) notations, and historically the region has been a haven for land of dubious authenticity.

This morning the ship has reversed direction. Heavy ice pack was encountered at 01:00 last night on the way to Amanda Bay and the expedition staff and captain decided to try again for Auster Rookery. The distance is not great and on this pass no time is wasted on difficult passages, and also the pack ice has shifted a bit. The helicopters begin carrying passengers over at 13:00 (the staff have already gone to set up landing area, walking paths, etc.). The passengers are organized into five helicopter landing groups, which rotate in order of going; as luck would have it my group is last today. This is a good thing because the last flight back will be at 21:30, and we'll have long shadows and evening light for photography.
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poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 66°40.9' S 69°47.7' E
  • Course In drift; Speed -- (0.5 kt W drift speed in current/ice pack)
  • Air temperature 0°C; Wind 36 kts; Direction 100°
  • Weather: Wind, snow; Visibility 0.5
  • Ice Cover: 10/10
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 163.1 nautical miles

Late last night, we were in a field of exceptional and interesting ice. The open water was streaked with narrow white-grey ribbons of thickening ice, like cream sitting on top of a thinner liquid. These open areas were interspersed with large zones of slush had set and frozen between lumps of ice and roundish floes, and the effect of that was like lace — of the white ice suspended in turquoise-aqua-grey ice.

I woke at 01:40 and again at 06:00 and looked out to find the ship pushing slowly — slowly and arduously — through a white, white field of thick ice. I couldn't see more than twenty meters from the ship's rail — the wind whistled like a jet turbine around the cracks in the porthole and the ice groaned and gave way reluctantly with deep, dark splitting sounds, tilting up as little as possible to make an opening for the ship to press forward. Massive plates of it had to be moved to make the smallest advance. This was the heaviest ice seen on the trip yet, I believe, but as satellite images received from Mawson Station show open water on the other side of this band of difficult ice, there is reason to persist instead of backing out and going around.
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poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 67°22.7' S 66°22.5' E
  • Course 104°; Speed 15 kts
  • Air temperature 1°C; Wind 20 kts; Direction 60°
  • Weather: Snow; Visibility 3
  • Ice Cover: 0/10
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 125.1 nautical miles

We are out of the ice at the moment, but still at the whim of the weather!

This grey-white morning hardly seems the same planet we were on yesterday: the ship's in the fast ice some miles from the Auster Rookery of emperor (and I think Adelie also) penguins. Thick clouds muffle the sky and deaden color. At 05:30 a wake-up call alerts us to the chance for an "ice walk" in other words a chance to walk on the solid ice. The "Polar Plunge" planned for the morning was canceled, as there was no (reliably) safe access to the water. A scant handful of Adelie penguins were hunkered down; one or two padded around, looking for other penguins and settling next to them when they found them. I was told that there'd been emperor penguins around earlier — later I learned this meant at 4:30 in the morning!

I walked across the snow-covered ice, breaking the wind-sculpted snow crust just a couple of times. Under the crust, the snow is soft and dry. Two very narrow ice-blue, deep-blue cracks crossed the flagged path, not wide enough to be dangerous. The clouds were thick and low and when I turned to look back at the ship the band of sky above the water (and glaciers) and below the clouds was copper colored.
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poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 67°03.8' S 62°14.7' E
  • Course —; Speed —
  • Air temperature 10°C; Wind 4 kts; Direction 120°
  • Weather: Fine; Visibility 10
  • Ice Cover: In fast ice
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 150.2 nautical miles

The ship is jammed bow-first into the ice this morning and Adelie penguins are swimming about its stern in flocks of several dozen, piling out onto shore in waves, and following one another back into the water like lemmings. There are hundreds, always more coming while some are going out to sea or back to their (unseen, distant) rookery. They travel to and from the open water in groups, forming long trains of tobogganing penuins and usually reusing the same trails, so that the shallow grooves their stomachs make become polished and even smoother and easier to negotiate.Read more... )

Midsummer

Dec. 22nd, 2007 08:00 pm
poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 65°39.2' S 61°03.8' E
  • Course 180°; Speed 13 kts
  • Air temperature 4°C; Wind 24 kts; Direction 110°
  • Weather: Cloudy; Visibility 8
  • Ice Cover: 6/10
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 224.3 nautical miles

Today's travel alternated between leads of open water and heavy, resistant ice that had to be rammed and broken. The ice looked often to have a thick layer of snow on top, adding weight. More birds, seals, and penguins are around; the birds soar around the ship, hoping it's a fishing boat; the seals lift their heads but don't move unless they're immediately threatened by its passage (the jostling of the floes can tip them!); and the penguins, which generally seem to be asleep, are often startled as the ship bears down on their resting place.Read more... )

Snow going

Dec. 21st, 2007 08:00 pm
poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 64°28.5' S 55°06.8' E
  • Course 90°; Speed 6 kts
  • Air temperature 5°C; Wind 14 kts; Direction 150°
  • Weather: Snow; Visibility 2
  • Ice Cover: 10/10
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 145.4 nautical miles

This morning there was enough snow on the bow and decks to support a small snowball battle, which amused everyone but two Australian ladies rooming together who opened their window and told off some people for laughing too lustily. Truly, here we have all the comforts of home!
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poletopole: (Antarctica)
If anyone can find a pattern on the web for crocheting a penguin (Adelie or gentoo best), please forward.

The passengers were called to a briefing at 19:00 this evening, where we were shown an image received today from Mawson Station. It's a satellite photo of the ice cover in the area. The Khlebnikov has backed out of the 9/10 and >9/10 area it couldn't proceed through earlier and is now skirting it in 6/10 to 8/10 ice or near-open water just on the edge of the 6/10 to 8/10 area. Prevailing winds from the east meant that the ice pack will only get denser — it would have taken us 2 days to go about 60 nautical miles to Proclamation Island, and likely 2 days to get out. So the plan now is to continue skirting this ice, to proceed through the heavy ice for about a day to a large open polynya near Mawson on the edge of the fast ice. Fast ice is ice frozen onto land; it's impassable. This polynya is still a long distance from the station and Auster Rookery, the emperor penguin rookery on which all hopes are now fastened. I'm not sure how they plan to handle landings as it looked far for helicopters.

So, two more days ice travel. Arrival at or near Mawson around 23 December.

Mawson Station is VERY EAGER INDEED to have us in ANY TIME THANK YOU because they haven't had visitors in 18 months. The installation of windmills to generate power there means that they no longer get an annual supply ship, as diesel fuel is delivered only every two years. Staff changeovers and minimal incremental supplies can be helicoptered in from the ship that goes to Davis, and have been done for this year. But the longer supply schedule means they have no fresh food. Stringent Australian Antarctic regulations probably forbid us from giving them any, too. The only reason they're not out of beer is that they brew their own.

Conditions around Davis Station are not known now; on the satellite image Mawson sent, there is cloud cover so the surface is not visible.

The staff are hoping to break up the day with helicopter sight-seeing rides tomorrow, weather permitting.
poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 64°40.0' S 51°45.4' E
  • Course 143°; Speed 14.3 kts
  • Air temperature 0°C; Wind 34 kts; Direction 100°
  • Weather: Cloudy, windy; Visibility 7
  • Ice Cover: 2/10
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 309.2 nautical miles

That's not a typo — wind 34 knots, Beaufort 8, "Gale", this morning. Fine dry snow scours sideways moving too fast to settle on the ship, except in a few odd crevices.

And then around 14:00 the ship reaches the pack ice and our progress slowed. Again we are faced with that Antarctic improbability: multi-year ice pack, ridged, compressed, and complicated.

The average speed in the previous 24 hours wasn't as good as hoped — we met more ice in the night — so in an announcement before lunch, our projected arrival at Proclamation Island slipped from 14:00 today to this evening. This is greeted with serious faces all round. We have been in this pattern several times now on this voyage. Our "club's" conversation over the Mexican-themed lunch and a pitcher of strawberry margaritas is a search for something to break the curse, or at least to amuse ourselves, and I find the right thing: we'll commandeer a Zodiac.Read more... )
poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 65°58.8' S 41°09.3' E
  • Course 0°; Speed 11 kts
  • Air temperature 1°C; Wind 14 kts; Direction 40°
  • Weather: Cloudy; Visibility 5
  • Ice Cover: 8/10
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 262.6 nautical miles

Today was a sluggish day for just about everyone. We do have a prospect of activity tomorrow afternoon at Proclamation Island, though, and from the remarks I hear many people are counting on that happening. The highlights were a showing of 90° South, Herbert Ponting's film about the Scott expedition and the installation in the lounge area of Christmas trees, lights, and so on. Some of the elements of decoration are excellent and some are not so good — the windows have been adorned with bows, garland, and other things, so it is not possible to unfasten and open them to get a quick photo off the bow. There is not enough ice and snow outside; fake snow has been sprayed on the windows, too. (I hope whoever had this idea misses a really good whale photo due to the decorations.) The large and small artificial trees are all fastened pretty securely, but the gold glass balls in the window wells do not seem appropriate — for one thing, during the evening meal drinks pitchers are put there — and television in the quiet and cozy library area is 100 percent bad idea. At the moment it is showing something about prehistoric monuments. TV kills sociability; no one will talk or read there now.

I wonder whether I still have a TV-B-Gone in my bag...
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poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 68°20.4' S 34°03.5' E
  • Course --; Speed 0 kts (halted)
  • Air temperature 4°C; Wind 16 kts; Direction 110°
  • Weather: Cloudy, intermittent light snow; Visibility 6
  • Ice Cover: Fast ice
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 145.5 nautical miles

Huge tabular icebergs appeared outside the bar just before 23:00 last night! We thought one might even be land — not the first to be so fooled. It was indeed an iceberg, vast and square and stolid. Land, nonetheless, was there: a couple hours later, after crossing a polynya (an open channel in the ice), the ship crunches its bow into heavy multi-year ice pack which is frozen onto the fast ice and stops, approximately 20 miles from the Riiser-Larsen peninsula.

I wake early in the morning hearing irregular ice-crunching noises and sporadic honking. It seems we're still moving and someone is fooling around on the deck below my window, making penguin noises — but no, the ship isn't under way, the ice sounds are from its being pushed by the current or tide into the sides of its ice-chunk berth, and the penguins are real: emperor penguins in several groups and a collection of Adelie penguins, loafing 20 or 30 meters away on the ice at the stern. The Adelie penguins are mostly lying down, napping, a scattering of tidy black-and-white ovals with tapered ends. One doesn't notice how long their tails are until one sees them lying like this.
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poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 66°26.5' S 31°16.5' E
  • Course 150°; Speed 9 kts
  • Air temperature 2°C; Wind 26 kts; Direction 110°
  • Weather: Cloudy; Visibility 5
  • Ice Cover: 8/10
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 257.8 nautical miles

The Antarctic map is strewn with historical oddities. Today we are in the Cosmonaut Sea.

Brunch on the bow was a chilly event. The ship halted during the hour and a half or so that it took, and had to be repositioned midway through as the wind shifted and drove diners indoors rapidly. Some returned after the ship's change of placement was announced; still, a great deal of corned-beef hash was left over. Light snow swirled as scrambled eggs, sausages, minute steaks, the hash, and cream of wheat were served hot, and cereals, baskets of breads, and fruit were served increasingly cold. It was plainly too early in the day for beer, as the hot chocolate urn was repeatedly emptied while the mini beer keg's tender advertised its readiness to serve but found no takers.
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poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 65°32.2' S 22°48.2' E
  • Course 90°; Speed 11 kts
  • Air temperature 4°C; Wind 20 kts; Direction 110°
  • Weather: Cloudy; Visibility 6
  • Ice Cover: 9-10/10
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 319.4 nautical miles

We are still traveling east as fast as the ship can go, breaking ice with occasional patches of water. The ice is manageable — not the heavy thick multi-year ice — but sometimes a particularly seamy section crossed by many pressure ridges slows the ship down. Of much interest is the presence each day of new ice, ice in the earliest stages of formation and solidifying, over large areas. This should not be happening at this time of year.
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In the ice

Dec. 15th, 2007 08:00 pm
poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 65°39.7' S 11°42.6' E
  • Course 90°; Speed 10-14 kts
  • Air temperature 5°C; Wind 10 kts; Direction 120°
  • Weather: Fine; Visibility 10
  • Ice Cover: 9/10
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 314.1 nautical miles

Last night the cloud cover rearranged itself enough for a colorful sunset to be visible underneath. Clouds too thick for much color above. The sun sets very slowly as we are so far south it is "moving" along a low diagonal. At this season it dips below horizon and rises again about two hours later. I stayed up until 1:30 or so taking pictures, and came in only because it was so cold; it wasn't especially windy (10 kts). I'm told the higher humidity here makes it seem colder at a higher temperature.

2 weeks on the KK this morning. 08:30 to breakfast; full staff occupying bench/table I usually sit at. Informal coffee mtg, looks like. At 09:00 staff go outside for "wildlife/ice watch" on the bow. A few minutes later A looks out and remarks that there are more staff than passengers on the bow: more blue jackets than yellow. I snap a photo...

After breakfast, helicopter rides!Read more... )
poletopole: (Antarctica)
Ship's Position at 12:00:
  • 65°14.2' S 0°20.5' E
  • Course 80°; Speed 8-13 kts
  • Air temperature 2°C; Wind 12 kts; Direction 100°
  • Weather: Cloudy; Visibility 4
  • Ice Cover: 8/10
  • Distance covered past 24 hours: 256.2 nautical miles

On this day in 1912, Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Must go round to the bar after sending this to see if we're having a festivity. No one is giving a 09:00, or even a 10:00, talk tomorrow, so the staff are free to celebrate...

Got up around 02:00 and watched till 03:30 to see whether we'd have a pretty and interesting-to-photograph Antarctic sea-ice sunrise. Cloud cover is too thick and there are some gold-and-bronze-and-brass effects on the horizon, but not the long, low, slanting light hoped for.
Read more... )
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