We’re pretty far south now, and Internet is quite poor, so I can’t post a picture of what it looks like outside the ship. You can see our live view by going to the Panomax Camera site for the ship, but the “rolling” waves are very distorted! At least you can see that it’s gray and overcast today, with a bit of rain. If there are no posts from me tomorrow, it will be because Internet isn’t available off Antarctica. (Note: I’ve found a way to post some of my own photos, but have to reduce the quality. See below.)
The rain will presumably abate since it’s below freezing at our destination: Yankee Bay on Greenwich Islands, one of the South Shetland Islands that are considered “maritime Antarctica”. Here’s our position; we should reach the islands by noon:
South of the islands you can see the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula itself, where we’ll be landing tomorrow morning. But today we’re going ashore for a few hours on Greenwich and are promised (well, sort of, as nothing is guaranteed here) sights of gentoo penguins, seals, and all manner of sea birds. PENGUINS AT LAST!
Below is a fuller map of the South Shetlands. They’re claimed by the UK, Chile, and Argentina, so nobody’s officially in charge. There are sixteen research stations on the archipelago.
Elephant Island, to the northwest, is famous as the site where the men of Ernest Shackleton’s 1916 Endurance expedition were marooned after the breakup of their eponymous ship (see below).
Elephant Island in the South Shetlands (upper right):
After their shipped was trapped in and then crushed by ice, the Endurance’s 28 men drifted to Elephant island on ice floes and set up camp; Shackleton then took off with five of them in an open lifeboat, hoping to reach South Georgia Island 1300 km away, where there was a whaling station that might facilitate a rescue. That journey, wonderfully recounted in the book Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, was dicey and rough, but it succeeded: Shackleton made it to the whaling station, and procured a tugboat from Punta Arenas, Chile, that rescued all the men. They had waited on Elephant Island for 3½ months, and all survived.
Photos exist of Shackleton’s team leaving Elephant Island in a lifeboat, the James Caird, and also of the crew waiting on the island. Subsisting on seal and penguin meat, they never gave up hope.
Here’s Shackleton leaving in the lifeboat, cheered on by his men—an amazing photo. They rowed for 800 miles!
The Elephant Island crew. An hour after the rescue tugboat landed on the island, the men were on their way to South America.
This afternoon we’re headed for “Yankee Harbor” (also called “Hospital Cove”) on Greenwich Island, the island marked in red below. The Harbor (named after the American sealers who plied their trade there in the 19th century) is a quiet place in which landing is easy, and harbors the flightless birds and seals that are our “target animals” for today.
According to Wikipedia, Greenwich Island is:
. . . an island 24 km (15 mi) long and from 0.80 to 9.66 km (0.5 to 6 mi) (average 5.23 km or 3.25 mi) wide, lying between Robert Island and Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands. Surface area 142.7 square kilometres (55.1 sq mi). The name Greenwich Island dates back to at least 1821 and is now established in international usage.
Update: We just saw our first iceberg, and riding on its southern side was a bunch of penguins!
I’ll try to post it here.
It worked! But I had to severely reduce the quality of the photos. Still, you can see some stuff, and thus I will be able to post a few pictures when we’re actually in Antarctica.
My first iceberg! Note the black dots at lower left.
Penguins (species unknown, probably gentoo penguins, Pygoscelis papua) hitching a ride: