A cold and windy day at sea

Here’s the view from my cabin window this morning. I was up early, at 5 a.m., but it was fully light. And it was also light when I went to bed at 10 p.m.

And here’s our position according to the real-time map, as well as a zoomed-out view, showing us fairly well south on the Antarctic peninsula. We are in fact slightly south of Petermann Island, where we’re scheduled to land today. Wikipedia describes it as a “popular tourist destination” and adds this:

The island has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife Internationalbecause it supports a breeding colony of about 3000 pairs of gentoo penguins. Other birds nesting at the site in smaller numbers include Adélie penguins, imperial shags, Wilson’s storm petrels and south polar skuas.

It’s time I saw an Adélie penguin!

Here are two shots from the ship’s almost-live Panomax webcam, showing the sunrise and surroundings about an hour ago:

Yesterday we were scheduled to have a Zodiac cruise around Andvord Bay and Neko Harbor, and, in the afternoon, to have a real landing on the Peninsula at Damoy Point on Wiencke Island. Well, those plans were scotched (is that word pejorative?) because there were high winds, up to 60 mpg, snow, and freezing cold. We literally cooled our heels aboard all day, as there was simply too much wind and ice to land us safely. Although some people groused, the ship knows it’s more important to keep us safe than to get us ashore in risky and potentially fatal conditions.

Besides, we were treated last night to a passage through a very narrow channel that was completely frozen over, so the ship cut its way through a thin layer of ice, occasionally hitting a lump of ice with a bump. That passage was absolutely stunning, and, after I find out its name today, I’ll post pictures of it tomorrow morning.

It’s sunny and cloudless now, so with luck I’ll see a lot of birds today, including penguins, imperial shags (no jokes, please), and perhaps an Adélie (I was told a stray one was present at our landing at Yankee Harbor on the last trip, but I missed it).

Here are some photos from yesterday and the day before that.

On Sunday afternoon we left Orne Harbor, on the Peninsula, after climbing to the chinstrap rookery. Here’s a shot of our departure, showing the local glacier and Spigot Peak:

A panorama shot of Orne Harbor, to the left, with Spigot Peak center right. According to Wikipedia, “the name, given by the United Kingdom Antarctic Place-Names Committee (UK-APC) in 1956, is descriptive of the appearance of the feature; a spigot is a wooden peg. It doesn’t look very peglike to me!

I just discovered the panorama feature of my camera (I don’t read manuals much), but it’s hard to take shots like this as it makes the features of the landscape, so impressive to the eye, very small:

Icebergs in Orne Harbor:

The berg above contained a puddle of water:

The view from my cabin window yesterday morning:

The highlight of the day was our evening docking at Errera Channel, where some passengers went ashore to spend the night on the Peninsula. It’s mostly for bragging rights, I think, though an Expedition Team member who accompanied the passengers said that it was clear in the middle of the night and the stars were awesome. Some night I must arouse myself to see them!

Errera Channel, as I said in yesterday’s post, now counts as one of the four most beautiful places I’ve been on the planet, though I’m far from having seen all its wonders.  Here’s a panorama, which is a very, very poor indication of what this amazing site is like:

More photos from where we spent the night aboard:


Yesterday morning we navigated out of the channel, but the weather was dire and the sea full of floating bits of ice as well as a few icebergs.

The icebergs are endlessly fascinating because of the variety of their shapes and colors, especially that turquoise blue. Here are a few of the bergs that the ship had to navigate around in the channel:


The captain was steering the ship, not with a wheel (there isn’t one on the bridge), but with a mouse and, sometimes, a joystick. Here he is on the job, and it was a tough job that morning because the channels between the big bergs were narrow. But our intrepid pilot threaded the course deftly.

Look at those huge windshield wipers!

At midday we passed Port Lockroy, an unusual place because it’s inhabited during part of the year by a few people and has the world’s southernmost post office—and a souvenir shop!. As Wikipedia describes it:

The bay was discovered in 1904 and named after Edouard Lockroy, a French politician and Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies, who assisted Jean-Baptiste Charcot in obtaining government funding for his French Antarctic Expedition. The harbour was used for whaling between 1911 and 1931. During World War II, the British military Operation Tabarin established the Port Lockroy Station A on tiny Goudier Island in the bay, which continued to operate as a British research station until January 16, 1962.

In 1996, the Port Lockroy base was renovated and is now a museum and post office operated by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust.

It is one of the most popular tourist destinations for cruise-ship passengers in Antarctica. Proceeds from the small souvenir shop fund the maintenance of the site and other historic sites and monuments in Antarctica. The Trust collects data for the British Antarctic Survey to observe the effect of tourism on penguins. Half the island is open to tourists, while the other half is reserved for penguins. A staff of four typically process 70,000 pieces of mail sent by 18,000 visitors that arrive during the five month Antarctic cruise season. A souvenir passport stamp is also offered to visitors.

The ship was going to bring a few residents aboard to bring postcards for us to mail, but the base was iced in and there was no access. The highlight of the day, given that we didn’t land, was when the ship radioed the base and asked them to come out and wave to us at a given time, which they obligingly did.

Here’s the museum, repurposed from the base (photo from Wikipedia):

A view of the surroundings. You can just make out the facilities on the shore near the right side of the photo, where you can see the buildings:

A closer view of the facilities:

And here, from the longest zoom on my point-and-shoot camera lens, are the guys coming out to wave at us. I didn’t really see them waving, but at least you see residents on the continent. You can also see why they couldn’t motor out to our ship:

The landscape near Port Lockroy:

More tomorrow, showing our breaking our way through ice in the narrow channel as well as, I hope, showing the wonders of Petermann Island.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 19, 2019 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    On the far-away views of land/ ice – what exactly is the black stuff? Carved-out rock, à la Grand Canyon? Or dirt? I see this all the time but never considered what exactly it is that is hiding under the snow/ice/glacier.

    • Dominic
      Posted November 19, 2019 at 8:12 am | Permalink


      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted November 19, 2019 at 8:22 am | Permalink

        Cliffs of carved-out rock? Cliffs can be composed of different minerals, like Cliffs of Dover… pretty sure there’s none of that near Antarctica…?

    • Posted November 19, 2019 at 8:35 am | Permalink


  2. Dominic
    Posted November 19, 2019 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Very nice indeed! 🙂

  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 19, 2019 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Dumb question:

    Can icebergs have chunks of rock in them?

    … also a fun fact : when the ice in a glass of ice water melts, the level of water stays the same as when the ice was 100% frozen.

    • Jacques Hausser
      Posted November 19, 2019 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      ‘Can icebergs have chunks of rock in them?’

      Yes. Most of the rockws fall on the glacier on the top part of them during thawns (water infiltrate the cracks in the rock, then freezes and increases its volume, what enlarges the cracks. With the uccession of frost and thawns rocks end falling on – and later in – the glacier. Due to these stones and rocks the glacier is very abrasive and digs deep valleys like the fjords of southern Chile.

      ‘The level of water stays the same’

      because some of it evaporates in the process!

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted November 19, 2019 at 9:06 am | Permalink


        But I don’t think it’s evaporation in the ice water – it’s the same mass if you weigh it in s reasonable amount of time.

        • Jacques Hausser
          Posted November 19, 2019 at 9:36 am | Permalink

          Oops! Mea culpa. You are quite right for the volume question! When the ice floats in the glass, only 90% of its volume is IN the water, the remaining 10% are ABOVE the water level. When the ice melts, its entire volume is 10% smaller, thus replacing exactly the immersed volume of the defunct ice.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted November 19, 2019 at 9:48 am | Permalink

            Nice explanation

            I’ll have you know, I just started some purified water freezing to try this later.

            Please note. : I have not used the adjective “cool” yet.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted November 19, 2019 at 9:32 am | Permalink

        … some interesting things on the internet about this, but I only found things people did with a 99% full vessel to demonstrate, but no scale. Also interesting to consider salinity, or – relevant to Earth – ice suspended on mountains high above sea level. Also if the ice is enormous but still floats in the water, I think at some point, it’ll overflow.

        So the original question is based a conventional glass of ice water.

  4. Posted November 19, 2019 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Thank you for taking us on your adventure. I enjoy following your escapades…it’s been an education.

  5. darrelle
    Posted November 19, 2019 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    I am at a loss of words that don’t come off sounding cliche to express the awesomeness and beauty you are showing us with these pictures Jerry. Or to express how envious I am! This cruise is now on my bucket list.

    Any anti-Claus sightings down there?

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted November 19, 2019 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      I see what you did there

      • darrelle
        Posted November 19, 2019 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        It’s that time of year!

  6. Jenny Haniver
    Posted November 19, 2019 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    I get chills when looking at your photos of the vistas of land, sea and ice — chills not just from imagining the cold but chills of awe.

  7. rickflick
    Posted November 19, 2019 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    The cloudy, misty atmosphere gives these images great drama.

  8. Nell Whiteside
    Posted November 19, 2019 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    WOW! Thank you for sharing your adventure.

  9. Nobody Special
    Posted November 19, 2019 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    PCC(E), re high winds, up to 60 mpg, : that’s some serious fuel economy 🙂

    • phoffman56
      Posted November 19, 2019 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      My Chev Volt will do that sometimes when the battery gets low and turns it into a hybrid. But that’s Imperial gallons.

  10. jhs
    Posted November 19, 2019 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Awesome. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  11. Posted November 19, 2019 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for another fantastic post and set of photos, Jerry.

  12. Posted November 20, 2019 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I guess the same principle of the Arctic I was told applies down south, too: don’t expect to leave or arrive on time for anything – the ice and sometimes the snow might not let you.

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