Friday, 16 January 2009

We land on the Antarctic Continent 11/01/2009

Remember - if you want to see a larger version of any picture - just double click on it

Day 15 January 11th 2009

The Travel Teddies land on their seventh continent

Travel Teddies make their seventh continent

Neko and Paradise Harbour

Neko Harbour lies on the eastern shore of Andvord Bay, approximately 11km south of the Errera Channel. It was discovered by de Gerlache during his Belgian Antarctic Expedition of 1897-9. It is named for the floating whale factory ship Neko, which often used this bay. Neko operated between 1911-12 and 1923-4 in the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula. This site is on the Antarctic continent and home to approximately 250 breeding pairs of Gentoo penguins, some of which nest around the Argentinean refuge hut.

Paradise Harbour was named by whalers for its protected anchorage and beautiful views. The plan is to zodiac cruise this spectacular waterway, exploring the ice and shoreline to where the Petzval Glacier meets Antarctic waters in Skontorp Cove, a picturesque little  bay almost completely composed of ice and ocean. A landing will be made on the Antarctic continent at Almirante Brown (an unoccupied Argentine research station). If conditions allow, we will hike up the steep hill behind Almirante Brown for the stunning views of the surrounding area and the opportunity to slide down the hill. Wildlife found on the steep cliffs of Paradise Harbour includes nesting blue eyed shags, pintados and Antarctic terns. Marine mammals are often spotted in the ice filled waters.

Eating in the Antarctic has become something of a challenge – the challenge being coping with the quantity of food offered during the day. The ship has been chartered by an American company and therefore the food available during the day has been measured to match American views of portion sizes and meal frequency. A typical day’s menu is as follows:


Cakes, tea, coffee


Seven Types of cereal, fruit, numerous juices, porridge, full cooked breakfast plus the chef's special (today it was French Toast, yesterday apple pancakes and the day before, three cheese omelette), toast


Freshly baked cakes, tea, coffee etc


Salad, soup, one of Pizza or Smoked Salmon with accompaniments, gateau or cheese and biscuits


Freshly baked biscuits; tea, coffee

Happy hour:

Hors d’oeuvre (to have with the special drink of the day)


Soup; Salad; Farm-Raised Fillet of Venison or Sole Francaise or Zucchini Cakes; Chocolate Moulton Cake or Cheese and Biscuits.

Portions are massive and even asking for a half portion produces more food than a normal person can eat. Many of the British contingent have given up attending lunch, simply in order to carry on fitting into their clothes.

Never-the-less, because this is such an active holiday and the extreme weather consumes calories very fast, meal time has become a welcome event. Towards the end of each meal, the guides usually insert a briefing on something about to happen, or an educational review of something which has happened and sometimes a gentle anonymous telling off for anyone who has transgressed one of the rules regulating Antarctic behaviour.

Hygiene (and the perils of poor hygiene) are taken very seriously and we are all expected to disinfect our hands before entering the dining room.

The sea is flat calm as we approach Neko Harbour and so a repeat attempt for the quiet contemplative zodiac excursion is planned.

Neko Harbour

The harbour (really a nice looking bay) is magnificent although ice is said to be a big

Glacier which calves

risk because of a large glacier nearby which regularly calves. To us the glacier looks large,

Ioffe dwarfed by glacier

it being 200 metres or so across but apparently they are up to 200 km long on the Ross Ice Shelf. The captain is very nervous of the ice, partly because there is a lot around and also because last year it sunk one ship and this year has damaged another.

The sea is flat calm so we have another go at the quiet zodiac trip and this time it is a total success. We get well out into the bay and then drift in absolute quiet, the only sounds being the sea, the wildlife, avalanches in the mountains and calving glaciers (the sound is a long rumbling like a heavy steam train).

Weddell Seal

There is a Weddell seal on a nearby floe and it is absolutely disinterested in us. We are so close that we can see individual whiskers and

Weddell Seal Head

hear it sigh occasionally as it sleeps. There are the usual spectacular bergs around,

A Berg

mainly coming off the glacier. When we get

Ioffee in Neko Bay

onto land, we are actually on the Antarctic Continent as against being on one of the islands. We promptly set off to march up the hill to have our pictures taken with the Travel Teddies who have now clocked up their seventh continent.

On the way down, we see part of the glacier actually calve and the mini tsunami which it creates, work its way across the bay.

Even though we are in one of the remotest parts of the world, there are still people who are prepared to travel there in the most unlikely of craft.

Small Yacht in Paradise Harbour

This yacht was spotted near Paradise Bay, crossing the Drake Passage in it is a horrible thought.

The guides with us said that they thought Paradise Bay was the loveliest of all of the places they visit in the Antarctic. It was certainly beautiful and spectacular with some of the largest glaciers we have ever seen.

Almirante Brown Station (1)

At the head of Paradise Harbour is Almirante Brown station, usually unoccupied but today the maintenance men have called to make some repairs, so unusually, it is occupied.

Lichen growing on rocks

Even though this is Antarctica, there is still some plant life. Lichen is growing (very very slowly) on these rocks.

Copper Deposits showing

Evidence of copper deposits in the area is shown by the copper oxide streak on the rocks, hence the continuous political interest in Antarctica.

Chinstrap Penguin

We find our first Chinstrap Penguin, looking as comical as they are reputed to do.

Pat and Paul on a zodiac Paradise Harbour

The zodiac takes us to some astonishingly thick glaciers, this glacier is 100m thick at the water's edge.

Ice and snow 100m thick

Calving goes on constantly and these blocks are due to do that any moment.

Glacier about to calve

Glacier blocks 

When they have calved they become icebergs - size can be estimated using the zodiac for scale.

Glacier with zodiac

Generally, the landscape here is as massive and astonishing as usual.

Paradise Harbour Glacier

Paradise Harbour - glacier reflection

Paradise Harbour - the sun comes out

Tonight after supper, we go camping. The guides have been doing the best to dissuade people from doing it by emphasising the hardships, the damp, the toilets, the............ anything they can think of to put people off.

We are still going though !







No comments:

Post a Comment