karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Me antarctica)
You might have spotted on the Google homepage that today is Ernest Shackleton's birthday. While I didn't make it to Elephant Island (wasn't far away, though), I saw a few places the Endurance saw, too, albeit from the comforts of a modern cruise ship so his life and work will always be special to me.

An Antarctica related post by [livejournal.com profile] lizzip last night reminded me that there is a mountain named after me one of my many namesakes who was a navigator/ice pilot on the Fram, Amunden's ship. I wish I had his ability to grow a moustache, though.
I've known this since I was at the North Cape in '84 where there are photos of Amundsen's crew in a museum.


6 May 2009 02:13 pm
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Me antarctica)
I want to see Encounters at the End of the World but it's only on at the Arts and only in the afternoon and I'll be away over the weekend. Let's hope for another week.
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Me antarctica)

Having been to some of the places (sadly not Elephant Island where the crew of the Endurance overwintered while he went off to seek help), this is a must.
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Me antarctica)
as long as they don't start digging, they should be fine.
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Me antarctica)
[livejournal.com profile] bateleur pointed out that a huge chunk of shelf ice has broken off. He's also come up with how much ingredients he'd need to make the world's biggest Zombie. ;o)
This is actually not too far away from where I was, relatively speaking (considering how far away Antarctica is from anywhere else). In this map stolen from the BBC, the red X was the southernmost spot of my journey (roughly).
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Me antarctica)
So apparently the cruise ship has now sunk in the Antarctic after hitting an obstacle in the water and suffering a fist-sized hole. How is that even possible? Modern ships are designed in a way that a damaged section can be completely sealed off so the ship won't flood completely. Now this can be tricky if the damage is extensive (like a gash along the side of the ship covering multiple sections) but shouldn't be a problem at all when just one section is affected. Something must have seriously gone wrong there or the ship was completely unfit for travel (a recent inspection had shown that the water-tight doors "weren't as required"). This is very scary indeed. This is about a month earlier than I was there last year so there would have been a lot more ice but these ships are actually equipped for arctic waters so the damage caused must have been due to a serious fault. I wonder if they're going to salavage the ship to carry out a proper investigation. It's been in service for almost 40 years

When the Nordkapp hit a cliff off Deception Island in January, the damage was much bigger and while the passengers were moved to the sister ship, the ship went back to Argentina under its own steam with a skeleton crew. However, the damage to the Nordkapp was just above the waterline which probably made a difference but a high seas, that doesn't matter much.

At least the MS Explorer's evacuation procedures were very efficient, everybody got out safely, there were no injuries but according to the linked article, several people suffered from hypothermia. In a way that's real adventure with having to use lifeboats and spending the night on a base on King George Island but certainly not the sort of adventure the passengers had signed up for.

On my trip, everything went smoothly, at least on the ship, and I felt very safe, even when the terrain was trickier as it was very clear that the crew knew what they were doing. Incidentally, I was on the ship, the Nordnorge, that has come to the rescue twice now, to pick up the people from the Nordkapp in January and again now. At least they didn't have to get the people all the way to Argentina this time.
karohemd: (Photo)

Frozen in Time
by *karohemd on deviantART

Port Lockroy used to be a military base in WWII and then a research station until the mid-sixties and then renovated in the mid-nineties and reopened as a "living museum". My postcards from Antarctica were posted there. The UK Antarctic Heritage Trust took over running of the place from the British Antarctic Survey sometime last year. That reminds me, I wanted to become a "Friend of Antarctica". *goes to fill out the form*
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Me antarctica)
or anybody else who's bored.

I'm currenlty watching the fence of the building site next door being slowly obliterated (three panels are now missing) by the wind and am amazed that the flag poles are still standing and the flags are still attached.
Cambourne seems to be a bit worse off as [livejournal.com profile] redshira's roof is losing tiles.

To cheer you all up a bit, have some new penguin photos:


Bigger and more )
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)

So I've joined YouTube to bring you some moving highlights of my trip.

Note: This was taken with my little Fuji compact which only has a display which I couldn't see at all in the glare. Having no viewfinder sucks. :o(
I'll probably edit this a bit to leave only the more interesting bits in but I don't think it's too bad so far.

More to come.
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)

[livejournal.com profile] emperor has asked about the logistical details and as there might be more of you interested, here's some info.

It's this trip with Hurtigruten with the difference that I started in Santiago and finished in Buenos Aires (it depends on the date of travel which direction you go). I can only recommend this direction as you get a nice buildup of excitement as you cruise through the Chilean fjords, visit the Torres del Paine National Park (optional), go round Cape Horn and then go to Antarctica. Coming from Buenos Aires, you'd go straight to Ushuaia and then the Drake Passage which means Chile at the end will be a bit of a letdown.
The price isn't indicative of my trip as my parents booked and paid for it (take the same numbers to get the Euro price, roughly, Ripoff Britain hits again) and my trip was the last to not charge extra for single occupancy of twin cabins (there are no single cabins).
There are brochures to download from the website.

Included in the price you get (based on my trip):
- International flights to Santiago and back from Buenos Aires as well as transfers to starting airport (I paid for my flight to Frankfurt as this wasn't included from a booking from Germany)
- one night each at a hotel in Santiago and Buenos Aires (b&b)
- Internal flights Santiago-Punta Arenas and Ushuaia-Buenos Aires
- full board on the ship as well as all landings in Antarctica
- a fancy anorak/windbreaker (it's not insulated so you'll need a fleece or something underneath but it's water and wind resistant)

There are a variety of optional excursions (city tours of Santiago and BA, national parks in Chile and Argentina, Otway Sound penguin colony or smaller city tours of Punta Arenas or Ushuaia, tango show in BA etc.) which cost extra (around the £20 mark). The national parks are very much worth it, especially when the weather is nice and you see lots of cool stuff. You book those on arrival in Santiago or on the ship, respectively.

As you board the ship and check in, you receive a dog tag/id card with a magnetic strip you should have on you all the time as it's your ID, cabin key and means of payment for extras (optional excursions, drinks at meals and in the bar etc.). You pay your ship bill on the last morning, either in cash or automatically (credit card).
You need to take your dog tag every time you leave the ship for excursions (they check you in and out) so they know who's out and came back, just in case somebody gets lost in a penguin colony (or, more likely, a bar in Puerto Natales) ;o).

One thing that weirded me out/made me insecure was that they take your passport as you board the plane in Santiago and you'll only get it back on the last morning on the ship. Seeing someone (who, quite frankly could have been anyone posing as a Hurtigruten employee) leave with a pilot case full of passports was a bit disconcerting, especially as our tour guide had specifically warned us to leave our passports in the hotel safe and not take it into Santiago as they are highly sought after on the black market... Still, as far as I know, everybody got their passport back.

During my trip, things went quite smoothly, just the getting there and coming back was tedious and very tiring.
As always with international flights, you have to pray your luggage comes along with you as it's a bit difficult to send after you when you're on the high seas (I know that there was one screw-up) so take a few essentials with you in your hand luggage.
karohemd: (Photo)

Brown Bluff with its huge colony of Adelie penguins was the best of the landings. The penguins' antics were just hilarious to watch.


Bigger and more )
There are still a few photos to come from Argentina before I restart but that won't be before next week as I'll be busy every evening.
karohemd: (Photo)

From "Drake Lake" (it was so calm) to King George Island and Greenwich Island. Some of the photos are linked to a map from the relevant flickr page (click on a big pic). Too bad the resolution isn't very good for Antarctica. Not even Google Earth has decent satellite images.


Bigger and more )
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)

As if you'd have worried anyway but yes, we've just been offline for a couple of days. I guess the East coast of the Antarctic Peninsula was a little too remote...

So, since the last time I updated, we visited Deception Island, the huge caldera of an ancient volcano (13km in diameter) where there was little wildlife except a group of Wedell and Crabeater Seals and pair of Chinstraps but the scenery was cool, too. Reminiscent of various places I've been to in Iceland, it's a barren, almost moon-like landscape, all covered in volcanic ash.

After Deception Island, our course let us back to the Northern tip of the Peninsula and then South through the Antarctic Sound, where huge shelf icebergs drifted. Those icebergs provided a marvellous and almost alien scenery (I was reminded of the alien ships in Independence Day). We even drove alongside one, no further than 30m away (according to my lens). You could very clearly see the layers of ice and snow which made up the huge structure. Just wow...

The next morning we arrived at Snow Hill Island only to find that there was too much sea ice to land (it was a rare occasion for the ship to come down here at all so we were lucky to start with) so again the boats were set out to cruise about between the ice floes near the island.

The afternoon destination even further South, Crystal Hill on the mainland was locked in even more sea ice so no landing there, either but a few Adelie penguins bobsledding along made up for the missed landing.

The ship turned around and headed North again to reach the next morning's destination: Brown Bluff, also on the mainland.
It was already quite bright when we got there and by the time the ship had found a position and the boats had been unloaded, we had bright sunshine and blue skies, so absolutely awesome weather. The landing was quite rough with a few waves that splashed the little boat and I found out how clean the water tasted, just a bit salty.
The Bluff itself hosts a huge rookery of Adelie Penguins, the "clowns of nature" as one of the lecturers called them. And indeed they were funny. Waddling along from their nests to the beach, or pushing themselves along with their feet while lying on their bellies and especially trying to get out from the water over the bits of ice floating at the beach. I have some very cool photos and a few funny video clips, too.
This was definitely the highlight of an awesome voyage, seems like they kept the best for last.

Now we're back in the Drake Passage which is a bit rougher than it was on the way down but still not a problem for me, just balancing the plates of food and cups of coffee to the table is a bit of a challenge. ;o)

We're scheduled to land in Ushuaia tomorrow morning, where we'll disembark and then take a bus tour of the Tierra del Fuego national park. Should be good fun. Then it's on a plane to Buenos Aires in the evening, transfer to the hotel and a dinner with Tango Show at night.
I should be able to update from the hotel at BA again which will also give me opportunity to upload a selection of photos (those of you on [livejournal.com profile] karohemd_pics beware!) and update [livejournal.com profile] ozzyvox, too.
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)
Just before we left Andvord Bay, we spotted a family (mother and calf) of whales coming rather close to the ship. Wonderful. Yet, the wonders weren't supposed to end there.

The destination for the day was Port Lockroy, one of the oldest research stations in Antarctica. It used to be run by the British Antarctic Survey but is now run by an independent fund. The weather continued to be gorgeous and I spent most of the time on deck enjoying the scenery and of course take a few photos. My group was last to land but being as far South as we are, it was still bright daylight. The Gentoo Penguins there are completely used to humans and build their nests almost on the steps of the station. Many of them had chicks and I got a lucky shot of an egg that had just began to hatch, with a little hole and the tiny beak visible in it. The main building had been rebuilt part as a museum displaying old equipment which provided a glimpse into the early scientists' lives. I bought another badge for my jacket and took various photos of Gentoo Penguins and Sheathbills which will grab very small chicks if the parents aren't careful but otherwise live off scraps and guano.

Back on the ship, there was another big buffet, this one meditterannean style so lots of yummy food. While we were eating, we spotted Santa Claus and his elfpenguin on one of the big rocks. He was then picked up by one of our boats and brought on board.

After dinner, I spent more time on deck, walking around a bit to work off the plentiful dinner. I'll be going back after writing this and wait for the sunset which promises to come but not before midnight.

Oh and YAY, White Christmas tomorrow!

What a beautiful day, the best early Christmas present I could think of.
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)
The original plan had been to land at Neko Harbour but the end of Andvord Bay was so clogged with ice that the ship couldn't continue so we cruised the bay and set out the little tender boats on 20 minute trips around the icebergs and ice floes. We spotted penguins playing and hunting in the water, seagulls and a crabeater seal dozing on an ice floe. This made more than up for missing Neko Harbour which might have been in clouds, anyway.
The weather is fine but cloudy, just above freezing but there's hardly any wind so it doesn't feel that cold.

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