Yesterday’s activities in Antarctica

November 8, 2019 • 7:30 am

Good morning from Antarctica! Here’s the sunrise about an hour ago (Friday morning). The weather is perfect, with no clouds, and I’m hoping that there’s not too much ice to cancel our landing in Orne Harbor, which will be our first time to set foot on Antarctica proper. Yesterday we couldn’t land because of ice accumulation, so fingers crossed.

On Orne Harbor, or rather above it on a rather steep hill (which we’ll climb), is a colony of CHINSTRAP PENGUINS. I’m told that the penguins climb up and down the hill (about 300 m high) several times a day.

From the ship’s Panomax webcam: snow-clad mountains all around us, gleaning in the sun.

Here’s where we are this morning, and of course there are other cruise ships going down the Peninsula.

A close-up shot:

As the Hurtigruten site reports (their emphasis):

Yesterday afternoon we stopped for the official christening of the Roald Amundsen—the first ship to be officially named in Antarctica. As the Hurtigruten site reports:

Hurtigruten’s hybrid powered expedition cruise ship MS Roald Amundsen has once again made history – as the first ship ever named in Antarctica.

– We could not think of a better location than Antarctica to name a truly unique ship like MS Roald Amundsen, Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam said.

With crew and guests from more than 20 countries taking part in the world’s first hybrid powered cruise ship’s maiden Antarctica voyage, MS Roald Amundsen was officially named in spectacular surroundings in Chiriguano Bay, Brabant Island, Antarctica, Thursday morning local time.

Spectacular location – spectacular ceremony

Replacing the traditional bottle of champagne with a chunk of ice, godmother and polar pioneer Karin Strand revived a ritual invented by polar hero Roald Amundsen himself.

READ MORE: Meet Karin Strand – polar pioneer and MS Roald Amundsen godmother

As Strand crushed the ice against the hybrid powered ship’s raked bow, she chose Amundsen’s own words, first used when he christened the polar ship Maud in 1917:

“It is not my intention to dishonor the glorious grape, but already now you shall get the taste of your real environment. For the ice you have been built, in the ice you shall stay most of your life, and in the ice, you shall solve your tasks”.

Those were moving words, words that we all heard while floating outside the boat in Zodiacs. The Hurtigruten ship Midnatsol hove to beside us, and the captain grasped a rope hanging from the bow on which there was tied a large chunk of ice. The Zodiac reversed, Karin then held the string, the Zodiac’s motion pulled the ice rope away from the boat, and then she let it go. The ice chunk smashed on the bow, and the ship was officially christened. I managed to photograph the moment when the berglet smashed on the ship (below). It was a much more touching ceremony than I expected:

Here’s an official photo of the christening, probably taken from the Midnatsol (“Midnight Sun”), with all the Zodiacs and VIP boats lined up for the ceremony. I’m on the second Zodiac from the front (to the right). There are apparently a lot of bigwigs aboard, including owners and officials of the company. (PHOTO: Shayne McGuire/Hurtigruten)

And of course the gentoo penguins were there to help celebrate, with a pack of them porpoising and floating behind the Zodiacs to witness the ceremony. Truth be told, I was more interested in watching the penguins than the ceremony, though I did watch the climatic final moments before the ice-breaking.


They porpoised and floated and, for reasons unknown, would dive suddenly for ten seconds or so and then resurface. And they stayed around for 15 minutes or so. I have some videos of them swimming and porpoising, but won’t be able to post them until I return.

Coming aboard after the ceremony, I saw the captain and Karin Strand (the ship’s “godmother”) standing together on the landing deck (below). I introduced myself to Karin (who had helped me make this trip) and to the captain, who is surprisingly young. I’m told he worked his way up to captain after starting with Hurtigruten as a dishwasher at age 16. (Of course one would have to go to “captain’s school” to pilot a ship this size.)

Karin’s biography is in the link (it’s in Norwegian but it translates with a click); she’s the company’s vice-president for its Expedition Teams (I’m on one), and has been to the Antarctic over 140 times!

The waters last night were extraordinarily placid for this area, allowing for some nice pictures with reflections of the snow-clad islands:

Note that most of the iceberg is below water:

Our newly-christened ship framed by an iceberg:

And a panoramic view:

Some self-aggrandizement: all members of the expedition team have their picture and a brief bio broadcast, in sequence, on a screen in the Science Center. Each of us was photographed wearing a parka of the exact type that Amundsen wore on his South Pole dash; this was made for the ship, and you can buy them in the ship’s store. Here’s me wearing my loaned parka (the bios are in three languages: German, French, and English, though English is the ship’s official language):

I should have combed my hair. And I never wear fur (except for this photo).

39 thoughts on “Yesterday’s activities in Antarctica

      1. Yes, and you could say, since the matter in the universe, including us, is made from the debris of exploding stars, that we are all made of nuclear waste.

        1. less than 100% of the mass in our bodies is “starstuff,” as Sagan called it; 7% by mass, [or 60% by quantity] of the atoms in our bodies have never passed through a star. I’m referring mainly to some portion of the hydrogen in us that has formed in the BB & has remained free ever since. We also contain miniscule amounts of non-starstuff heavy hydrogen, lithium & perhaps helium [unsure on the latter as it’s chemically/organically useless].

          I was reading about how inefficient star formation is with the great majority of hydrogen in a star-forming hydrogen cloud never going into star formation, when the stars in the cloud first light up the radiation pressure pushes the rest of the free hydrogen [that’s nearly all of it] away.

          1. Inefficient, you say.
            It’s a good thing there was plenty of stuff to start with. Otherwise we’d still be spread out across the sky like a rainbow waiting for heat death. 😎

  1. Another amazing post!

    But I’m confused – is this trip the maiden voyage?

    And I take it “Zodiacs” means a small boat – so the Amundsen could be photographed from afar?

    1. It’s the maiden voyage to Antarctica, where the ship will do most of its work. It did a shakedown cruise through the Northwest Passage and then sailed down the west coast of the Americas (largely without passengers) to Valparaiso, Chile, where we embarked.

      Yes, google Zodiac boat and you’ll see the small inflatable motorboats made for expeditions.

  2. Great photos all around. Special occasion for this ship as well. Really nice bio on you for the voyage.

    I was present for the inaugural of a container ship on the west coast years ago and it is something you always remember.

  3. Uncombed hair fits the rugged image better than carefully coifed hair, in my opinion.

    What a trip! Thanks for sharing all of this with us.

    1. It’s a pretty cool picture. I’d personally want a copy as a poster for my wall at home.

      Not sure why they tinted the photo ice-blue though – PCC looks like he’s frozen solid in it.

    2. I think his hair is better like that for such a photo too. Nice and rugged. I bet the original venturers to the continent didn’t worry about combing their hair!

  4. I love the photos! I hope you get to land today. I can’t believe in just one month I will be down there on the Midnatsol!

  5. Couple of questions:
    1/ I assume the ship will never actually ‘dock’ anywhere on Antarctica, and that all excursions onto the continent use those Zodiacs? At least you need no armed guards in case of polar bears!
    2/ Is there an upper limit (hard to enforce I guess, by whoever? the U.N.?) on the number of passengers allowed on shore simultaneously at each of the excursions, so you might even need to go in separate time-limited groups? (That seems to be true for the non-docking places on Spitzbergen–‘capital’ Longyearbyen and research place Ny Alesund seem to be the only docks.)
    3/ Are there tracks of the penguins doing the direttissimmo straight up the hill, or do they perhaps do a back-and-forth less steeply?
    4/ I’d guess about 20 hours from sunrise to sunset there near the Antarctic Circle about 6 weeks before equinox, but maybe way off?? A good time to do some sleep deprivation.

    1. Polar bears are Arctic species. They do not occur in the Antarctic. Along with many other dangerous Arctic animals, such as Walrus, brown bears (in some places).

      I am no expert; but I’d guess that the seriously dangerous beast (for humans) down there could be Leopard Seals, though I’ve never hear of and attack, or sharks, both of which would only be relevant in the water.

        1. Let’s not forget the legendary case of the polar bear which stowed aboard a series of cruise ships so as to migrate from the Arctic to the Antarctic. It thus became the world’s first bipolar bear.

          In passing, let me add my thanks to our host for taking us all along, and providing all these marvelous pictures from the voyage of the Roald Amundsen.

    2. Yes, all our excursions ashore, save to Torres del Paine National Park, involves the ship stopping a fair distance from shore and launching Zodiacs. The ship has a sophisticated system incorporating the engine, GPS technology, and stabilizers to remain absolutely in place while “parked.”

      Only 100 people are allowed ashore at once by the Antarctic entity in charge of tourism, so we all go in stages.

      The penguin tracks I saw went straight uphill, but this was a short distance above the rookery. I have no idea how they go down and up.

      Sunset is about 9:30 but I’m always asleep during sunrise, and I get up around 6 a.m. here.

    3. “4/ I’d guess about 20 hours from sunrise to sunset there near the Antarctic Circle about 6 weeks before equinox, but maybe way off??”

      LongLat: -62.5454 -64.63173

      It’s 17h 35m today at PCC[E]’s location [sunrise > sunset], but when you add on the lengthy high latitude ‘civil twilight’ periods at each end it’s 20h 17m

      ** Sunrise/sunset when tip of sun just visible
      ** Civil twilight: the period after sunset or before sunrise when the sun is about 6 degrees below the horizon, during which on clear days there is enough light for ordinary outdoor occupations
      ** The period of twilight gets longer as one moves further from the equator & approaches the Arctic/Antarctic circle


  6. I’m very excited to see these relatively pristine environs. The ice, the penguins, the dauntless explorer in his protective suit. Almost like being on the moon. What a gas!

  7. I imagine this adventure is going to stick with you forever (well, to a point, of course). What a fantastic experience.

    Nice photo btw.

  8. Another fabulous Antarctic post, so loving following Jerry’s adventure. Have to say, if I was on that ship, I would have to buy a parka to take home.

  9. I share the aversion to fur, but except for some very modern synthetics, it really is one of the best (if used Inuit style, particularly) insulating substances for the Arctic (or Antartic, in this case).

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