Where we are now

November 4, 2019 • 8:00 am

Yesterday was a day at sea among the fjords, and the map of the MS Roald Amundsen’s position shows us somewhere south of the Strait of Magellan. We should be heading toward Antarctica soon, but I have little information about our course.

The only thing I can say for sure is that there were nine ducks at Botany pond for dinner yesterday, with temperatures cool and in the low 50s. I hope they’re fueling up for winter.

The ship’s position, and a zoomed out view:

This is where we were yesterday at this time, so we haven’t traveled that far.

We’re heading to the Antarctic peninsula (along with other boats), and yesterday were issued our thermal rubber boots for landing. Trips to Antarctica follow strict rules to avoid contamination of the continent, even with microbes. Our boots will be disinfected before and after each landing.

I’m lecturing in half an hour on “To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield: Science and the Terra Nova expedition.” (Terra Nova was the name of the ship that Scott and his expedition took to Antarctica in their bid for the South Pole. That bid was successful, but Roald Amundsen beat them by a month and all five of the men on the British trek to the Pole perished, including Scott.)

20 thoughts on “Where we are now

  1. It has been nearly 108 years since Amundsen reached the South Pole. Wondering, how is your hours of daylight/darkness where you are located now? After the time change yesterday I am already screwed up here.

    1. He is about the equivalent latitude south as Yorkshire in the UK or north Poland, & Cape Horn is like southern Scotland…

      1. Yes, I recall being in Alaska in summer time and the hours of darkness were very few, however, in winter daylight was very short. There is nothing you can do with the clock to fix that and I don’t think Alaska participated in any time changes. Same is true for Hawaii, it just made no sense.

      2. There is a big difference between southern Scotland and northern Scotland. And as much difference again to the northern Shetlands. Which isn’t that big a deal in high summer – unless you’re trying to sleep in a tent. In the depths of winter it does make a big difference.
        GMT, BST whatever is only really relevant if you live to a regular schedule in one time zone.

        1. And there is also a big difference between the UK and the equivalent latitudes on the other side of the pond, such as Labrador. We should enjoy the Gulf Stream while we still have it!

          1. That certainly affects the climate (I’ve worked Newfoundland and Scotland ; the Gulf Stream makes a huge difference. The Korean “East Sea” is more similar to Newfoundland than Scotland.) but it doesn’t affect the sunrise/ sunset times.
            I tried calculating it once – I forget why – the setting-time equation includes a factor for cos-squared of (latitude minus [axial tilt with time-of-year factor]), which makes the resultant change even more rapidly than the latitude alone.

    1. So many things went wrong with the Scott expedition. What still amazes me is that Scott continued to haul those heavy rocks even after it became clear their lives were in danger. Most people would have tried to lighten the load as much as possible.

      1. YES! They were Glossopteris fossils, I gather. Would have been some solid (c’est le cas de le dire) evidence for Alfred Wegener’s hypothesis of ‘drifting continents’, Later very convincingly evidenced by Alexander Logis du Toit, that these continennts were once joined, Although he did not really propose a mechanism, his meticulous stratigraphy showed that south America and Africa were once one beyond any reasonable doubt.
        Dating of the Atlantic ocean floor (Tharpe? Hess? Who actually did stis study of magnetic reversals?) gave the mechanism and made it indisputable fact.
        I’d say that, contrary to Amundsen, Scott cs. were scientific martyrs.

    2. I tend to choke up when I read Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s final words of his great book “The Worst Journey in the World”, which are on the last slide of my presentation. It happened today when I read them aloud to the audience. He was a superb write, and this is a great paean to the joys of research:

      And I tell you, if you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore. 

      If you are a brave man you will do nothing:  if you are fearful you may do much, for none but cowards have need to prove their bravery. 

      Some will tell you that you are mad, and nearly all will say, “What is the use?” For we are a nation of shopkeepers, and no shopkeeper will look at research which does not promise him a financial return within a year. 

      And so you will sledge nearly alone, but those with whom you sledge will not be shopkeepers:  that is worth a good deal.  If you march your Winter Journeys you will have your reward, so long as all you want is a penguin’s egg.

    3. My interests in all things Arctic/Antarctic has always been very strong, ever since being a 10-year old, nearly 70 years ago. Scott was undoubtedly an extraordinary person with respect to perseverance, with exceptional aerobic capacity.

      However, as a leader, as a competent planner of difficult explorations, and as a sympathetic kind of person, I would rank him extremely far down the list. In particular, the subsequent British conversion, of Scott into some kind of sacrificial hero of the empire, has been mostly exposed as unfortunate for Brits’ prestige in the long run, and full of pseudo-patriotic, semi-warlike emotional nonsense just preceding WW1.

      There is a famous book, ‘simultaneous’ biographies of Scott and Amundsen, by Roland Hungerford entitled “The Last Place on Earth” (1999). The almost simultaneous voyages, to the Pole from two points diametrically opposite to Jerry’s ship, is the main part of the book. I would not dispute that Hungerford has some bias in favour of the Norwegian and against the British Navy man. However I do not think that any of his factual information is fundamentally incorrect.

      To put it bluntly, the stubborn bungling of Scott was the main reason that he ended up leading four other men to their deaths, as well as himself.

      Arguments about the deterioration of the weather are mostly countered by remarking that, without his mistakes, Scott’s men would not have been where they were later in January (and February, IIRC–note, not patronizingly I hope, that summer there is opposite to ours up here.)

      Arguments (e.g. by Ranulph Fiennes: “Captain Scott” (2003), a great modern explorer but a pathetic British Navy writer/apologist,) that it was no problem that none of Scott’s Englishmen knew how to ski when leaving for the Antarctic, are easily countered: Many of us, well aware that it was essentially trudging on skis, not anything like nordic racing, realize just how much extra energy is expended even just shuffling on, if you do not have some years of training. (I’ve done more than 40 nordic ski ‘events’ longer than 44 kms. and perhaps triple that in ‘old men’s’ races between 5 and 35 km., all with my mediocre abilities, so do have some background here). Furthermore, one of Amundsen’s 3 other men was a champion ski racer who could forge ahead many days and, for example, plant black flags across the point of camping/caching so it was easily found on the return.

      So:
      1/ Scott’s bad planning by missing, on the return, caches stored going out, or wasting energy finding them;
      2/ incompetent trudging on skis, and without skis as well in part;
      3/ Did Scott really think his short-lived Siberian ponies were going to eat seals, like Amundsen’s dogs?? ;
      4/ When being first to traverse the Northwest Passage, Amundsen learned a good deal from the aboriginals of northern Greenland (e.g. the best huskies) and northern Canada (e.g. the right kind of clothing 100 years ago), whereas Scott supposedly knew the British navy to be more expert on everything??
      and so on…

      Arguments, about the Norwegians’ killing the weaker huskies and feeding the carcasses to the rest, will go on forever. However, there are much more miserable animal deaths than having the time of your life as a husky, reaching the 10,000 foot altitude of inner Antarctica, and then instant death by a single shot to the brain. An example is being a horse that plunged through the ice to a freezing drowning death immediately upon incompetent disembarkation after many weeks of seasickness.

  2. The webcam works (partially) since Sunday 05:00, ship’s time. If you select today’s 04:40 view and orientate it southwards, they are two black and white “things” in the water which are (I’m 99.9% sure) Commerson’s dolphins,Cephalorhynchus commersonii. Look in the middle of the water.
    The Roald Amundsen is now approaching the beagle channel west entry.

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