Hope, Admiralty Bay and Farewell

Magellan discovered his famous strait in 1520. For the next 300 years ship after ship followed after him. It was not until 1820 that a Russian ship got down there and the captain said, “Hey, let’s turn left!”, that Antarctica was discovered. For most of the 19th century very few tried to turn left again. It wasn’t till a little over a hundred years ago that Scott, Amundsen, and others attempted to reach the South Pole. So this is new territory. Even today there are only around a thousand year-round residents on the entire continent and most of them are on the peninsula where we were. Why? Well, they say the winters can be a little harsh.

The US has three research stations in Antarctica, Palmer, McMurdo down on the Ross Ice Shelf, and the Amundsen-Scott Station at the South Pole (a fascinating place if you want to look it up.) Today at Amundsen-Scott, even though it is the waning days of summer, the current temp in -63F. I did not see any cruise ships excursions on their web cam.

Our last day in Antarctica began with much larger icebergs.

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Also, the deck upon which we had been slopping our fruity drinks only a few day prior, was now a skating rink. An excellent opportunity for the crew to practice its “Man Overboard” drills.

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We were also beginning to see the first small signs of pack ice. this was at the tip of the peninsula,

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In the mean time the aforementioned crazed electrician had been busy at his work.

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We arrived at Hope Bay (Named after our granddaughter. Thanks, guys!) about 7am.

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Soon the Esperanza. Antarctica Station, operated by Argentina, hove into view.

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This is the nicest looking station we encountered on the whole trip.

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Wait a minute! Just past the station, what’s that moving around out there?

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They’re everywhere!

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These were Adelie Penguins (uh-DELLY). I don’t know if they found our ship to be upsetting in some way, but they certainly had something going on in their crazy penguin brains. They started out by walking back and forth to these two locations although they could have swum there in half the time.

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Then somebody said, “Hey! Let’s go up the hill!” So, up they went!

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No questions asked!

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But even among penguins there will be splinter groups.

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In time we had to leave them and the Peninsula behind, though Antarctica seemed dreamlike on account of this frostin’.

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We turned from here and headed west toward the South Shetland Islands, where, I can assure you, you will not find any ponies. Along the way we encountered the biggest iceberg of the trip:

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What we could see was lager than the ship. And, of course, around 90% of it is under water.

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It does make a nice rest stop, if you’re a penguin.

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About 1pm we hove into Admiralty Bay.

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In Admiralty Bay there are four research stations. This is the Macchu Picchu Station run by, guess who?

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Not a bad place to set up shop!

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Here is a look behind us across Admiralty Bay.

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The captain decided to take us up close to one last glacier, always a crowd pleaser.

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Looking around, it was not hard to find traces of some of the sad history of this place. Whale bones.

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In the old days the ships used to set up their processing stations on these beaches

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On the way out we passed the Commandate Ferraz Station operated by Brazil

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As we left, two humpback whales passed us by. We saw humpbacks frequently in Antarctic waters, but rarely saw much more of them that this. We might see an occasional tail or spout, but we did not see any of them breech as they did in Alaska. The simple truth is, they could care less if we have Met Life Insurance or not. They’re still pissed about all those bones on the beach!

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As we were leaving Admiralty Bay we passed the last station, the Henryk Arctowski research station run by the Polish Academy of Sciences

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Even more whale bones! And, something else:

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This seemed a little odd. It’s understandable to have a work boat on hand, but we saw no indication at any of the other stations that there was too much yachting going on. As I later found out, this yacht sailed out of Poland to commemorate Shackleton’s epic voyage and ended up running aground nearby last December. The crew of four was rescued by the Chilean and Argentine Coast Guards in heavy weather and they were brought here. They stayed for several weeks. They were actually taken off the station by our ship, the Zaandam, on an earlier voyage, and transported to Buenos Aires. I’m sure it will be cheap to come back down here and effect repairs.

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At last it was time to say goodbye to Antarctica

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As we have be fortunate to find on some of our previous trips, there are some places you go that you just don’t quite get over.

For the next two days we would be at sea. Then, we visit the Falkland Islands. Why go there? One reason only: A penguin extravaganza!!!

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

As you’ve seen  many countries operate stations in Antarctica. And, it should come as no surprise that certain nearby neighbors (and some not so nearby) have staked out claims to Antarctic territory, all of which are now ignored. Ignored? How is such a thing possible? It is possible because Antarctica is the only place on planet Earth that ALL the countries of the world actually get along and live in peace and cooperation.

How is such a thing possible? All you kids out there will remember the IGY, or International Geophysical Year of 1957-58. (I actually do, or, I think I do.) It was the height of the cold war. But people, by some miracle, took the IGY seriously. One of the great outcomes of this event was a treaty was drawn up preserving Antarctica for scientific and non-military purposes. There were 12 original signatories, including the US, USSR, and the UK. There are now 51 countries participating, including China. How did they do it? Eleven simple rules:

  • Article 1 – The area is to be used for peaceful purposes only; military activity, such as weapons testing, is prohibited but military personnel and equipment may be used for scientific research or any other peaceful purpose;
  • Article 2 – Freedom of scientific investigations and cooperation shall continue;
  • Article 3 – Free exchange of information and personnel in cooperation with the United Nations and other international agencies;
  • Article 4 – The treaty does not recognize, dispute, nor establish territorial sovereignty claims; no new claims shall be asserted while the treaty is in force;
  • Article 5 – The treaty prohibits nuclear explosions or disposal of radioactive wastes;
  • Article 6 – Includes under the treaty all land and ice shelves but not the surrounding waters south of 60 degrees 00 minutes south;
  • Article 7 – Treaty-state observers have free access, including aerial observation, to any area and may inspect all stations, installations, and equipment; advance notice of all activities and of the introduction of military personnel must be given;
  • Article 8 – Allows for good jurisdiction over observers and scientists by their own states;
  • Article 9 – Frequent consultative meetings take place among member nations;
  • Article 10 – All treaty states will discourage activities by any country in Antarctica that are contrary to the treaty;
  • Article 11 – All disputes to be settled peacefully by the parties concerned or, ultimately, by the International Court of Justice;
  • (Source Wikipedia)

This all came as news to most of us on the cruise and the science guys were repeatedly asked about things like law enforcement, verification, and, like what happens if a country who has not signed on decides to set up camp? (Answer, the other countries would put the squeeze on them. And, as you have seen, this is a place where it helps to have friends.) There is no central government, only a treaty administration office in Buenos Aires. Most countries handle their own law enforcement. The US, for example, keeps a couple US marshals down there in case somebody murders somebody at one of the 3 US stations or there is some other foul play.

Well, enough fun facts! We survived the night and woke up to a somewhat hazy and breezy day. Let’s take a look outside!

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Well, the weather had deteriorated from yesterday, but visibility was still good for a while. We could tell by the spray off the icebergs that the breeze had picked up.

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For the bigger icebergs, though, it was business as usual,

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As you can tell from the last picture, fog was starting to roll in. Soon visibility dropped to very low levels. As a result, the captain decided not to visit some the the bays and traded them for others. Later in the day we arrived at Deception Island. While, perhaps, many of you think you’ve already been there personally, it was probably some other place. You’d remember this one for sure:

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Now, I said I was not going to post any more pictures that were not my own, but they didn’t have a helicopter on board and unless you see this place from the air, you don’t quite get what’s going on here, so, a big thank you to tripscout.net:

Notice anything unusual? Well, no, this is not one of those Caribbean atolls. No, no. This is the caldera of a volcano. And, not just any volcano. This one is quite active, the most recent of many eruptions being in 1970 and with a lot of seismic activity as recent as 1990. But today the green light was on, so in we go!

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It wasn’t long till we noticed movement on the beach!

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Turns out this place is home to the largest population of Chinstrap Penguins in the world! You will also notice quite a few seals and sea lions lounging on the beach. I later learned that some of the smaller cruise ships that come here will let you off at one of the nearby black sand beaches. They say if you dig in the sand just a foot or two the water becomes so warm you can make your own mini-hot tub.

We were happy just to see the penguin-palooza!

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I mean, we are talking penguins everywhere!

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The look even better animated!

What a place!!! Hope she doesn’t blow!!!

But, we had to move on!

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The red comes from lichens, one of the few plants that even grow down here.

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That night, the room stewards had a surprise waiting for us!

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Penguins everywhere!!!

In The Kingdom Of Ice

Following a disappointingly calm night crossing the Drake Passage, we pulled back the curtains the next morning to see this, our first view of Antarctica:

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Well, we didn’t have to go too far into our memory banks to realize we’d never seen any place like this before. Here was some more confirmation:

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One of the ladies in our group, who has been here before, described Antarctica as “Alaska on steroids.” When we were in Alaska some years ago we already thought it WAS on steroids. But….

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For those of you who like to see maps, here is one from the captain that outlines our voyage. I’ll put it up on each of the remaining Antarctica posts.

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If you want the real BIG picture, here that is also:

Antarctic Peninsula

As you can see on the first map, our first stop was Cuverville Island, famous for its rookery of Gentoo Penguins. All we had to do was step outside to know we had arrived.

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Cuverville Island
Cuverville Island

You will notice a sailboat to the right. Apparently it is now somewhat common for yachtsmen and/or women to cross the Drake Passage and come over here for sightseeing. Best wishes to them all!

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There was quite a lot of chattering going on with these guys!

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Some were trying to decide if this was a good time to go for a little dip.

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After a while we had to say goodbye, and good luck! But I will say, and I’m sure I could find plenty of our shipmates who would agree, there was more than one time I imagined myself being that guy. OK, maybe not in Antarctica, but some place. Now I’m just happy to be here under any circumstances.

It was time to head down Andvord Bay and see the sights: I don’t want to tell you your business, but if were me, I’d pour a nice cup of joe and take my time going through the next set.

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Thankfully, it’s the middle of summer!

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It is always good to know that somebody on the bridge is at least looking out the window!
It is always good to know that somebody on the bridge is at least looking out the window!

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Some day I think it will be discovered that some crazed electrician has secretly been wiring icebergs with blue lights. How else can it be explained?

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We’ve seen icebergs before, but not the size of the Doyt Perry stadium!

But they sure make a convenient resting place!

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Now we were entering Paradise Harbor to pass by the Videla Station, operated by our friends from Chile. There could possibly be some sanitation issues:

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Yes, it’s a research station, but it is also a whoppin’ big penguin rookery!

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I hope the dining hall is air tight!

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But now it was time to say goodbye to our Chilean friends!

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It wasn’t even noon yet and we headed for the Neumayer Channel

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We headed for the Channel, but things didn’t go exactly as planned.