King penguins

Farthest south!


Day 7 - Antarctica!


     This journal is constructed as one web page for each day of my journey, including the arrival day in Auckland, and the final two days, which I spent in Hobart.  I have tried to keep the picture images of a reasonable size for easy web page loading.  To see a much larger view of (practically) any image, just left-click on the photo.

     At 2:30 a.m. we crossed the Antarctic Circle.  We got a wake-up call from Jane (there is a P.A. system on the ship, which is used to announce seminars, for daily updates, and meal times) and most of us headed out to the bow for a little celebration.  It was gray and murky - no ice for a few hours and seas are calm.  Rod and the others were serving up hot cocoa spiked with rum.  Soon enough, I was headed back to bed.  David stayed up all night to see the pack ice, but it never showed up!

     In the late afternoon, Art was giving a lecture on geology.  When we were done, at 6:15 p.m., there was Antarctica!  Dark mountains and snow on our horizon had us all excited.  Also, we were near more ice, but just residual stuff that has recently come free from the frozen edge of the continent.  We steamed through the meager pack ice here easily.  Lots of penguins (Adelies) around here on these bits of ice.  As we would near them, they would scurry off into the water, swimming like dolphins in and out of the water.

     We had a quick dinner and a briefing session in the lounge and were headed over to Cape Adare by 9 p.m.  We had good light, with some blue patches showing through the clouds, and very still water.  Very enchanting.

     As we got ready to send the zodiacs over, I was in quite a chaotic state, wondering what to wear, what to take, what to leave.  I ended up leaving my hiking boots, since we wouldn't have the opportunity to walk very far.  I wore my Quark coat over my lighter fleece jacket, but it came off soon after arriving - it was cool, but very still, so quite pleasant.

Blue arch iceberg.  Dennis and Cape Adare. Cape Adare.

Cape Adare.  Adelie penguin. Adelie chick.
     Cape Adare is the largest rookery for these Adelies, with some quarter million breeding pairs of birds.  Generally, they have two chicks each season, and if the feeding is good, both will survive.  Most of the resident population was well-grown chicks - no doubt the parents are busy getting food.  They cover all available space here, going right up the side of the mountain as well.  It does seem a bit paradoxical that these birds congregate in this huge group, but they are not really very social.  The parents and chicks recognize each other, and leave all others alone.  There were some Skuas around, picking at the dead penguins.  Also, we did see a couple of seals - but, not the kind that eat penguins.  Still, the ground is an amalgam of penguin poop and the bits and pieces of dead (and dried up) penguins.

     There are two historic huts here.  The oldest is Borchgrevink's 1899 hut (read more below), with all manner of furnishings left behind.  This hut (actually, it is two, but one has no roof) is in pretty good shape and the Antarctic Heritage Trust has done its best to preserve these special places.  Also here are the remains of a hut used by Captain Scott's Northern Party, in 1911-1912.  [This is the group that got stranded, the next winter, at Inexpressible Island, which we visited late in the trip.]  This hut has not held up well in these conditions.

Adelie penguin colony.  Inside Borchgrevink's hut Dennis and huts.

     Carsten Borchgrevink opened up the "Heroic Age of Exploration" of Antarctica.  Well, at least insofar as landed expeditions go.  His British Antarctic Expedition of 1898-1900 was the first to winter over on land, and his hut is the oldest structure on the continent.  Borchgrevink's party consisted of ten men and seventy-five dogs.  During this expedition, Borchgrevink sledged to 78 degrees, 50 minutes South; the furthest south any human had been to, up to that time.  On our voyage, we brought along a new plaque, to be placed at the hut, to commemorate this site.

Hut plaque.

     I caught a zodiac back to the ship at a bit past midnight.  I was one of the last ones to return, since almost all of the tags were turned over on the board (we flip them when we leave and turn them back over when we arrive back to the ship).  It was "sunset" and the light was just fantastic.  Of course, the sun didn't really set, but by 1:30 we could tell that the light was coming from a different direction and it was . . . sunrise!  Once back on board, I had a bowl of chili that the staff fixed up for us; that and a beer capped off a most enjoyable day.  As much as I would have liked to stay up all night, I was off to bed by 2 a.m., eagerly awaiting the next day and more adventures.

     Follow the "Next" and "Back" links to go from page to page.  Or, return to the "Antarctica Home Page" and link to any day from the "Daily Logs" shown there.  If you have any comments, e-mail me to me at:  dfoster<at>kaibabjournal<dot>com.  Please put “Antarctica” in the subject category.

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