Antarctica, Falkland Islands & South Georgia, Feb. 5-23, 2007

Day 1: Feb 5, 2007

Location:
Start Ushuaia


Whew! We’re on our way! After a day of adventure getting to the Akademik Ioffe at the busy dock in Ushuaia, we are finally aboard. After Dutch and Sally filled us in on the essentials of life onboard, we had a short explore of the ship’s facilities until castoff, when most hit the decks to watch our passage along the famous Beagle Channel. We enjoyed our first dinner before completing the required lifeboat drill, and then dispersed to other pursuits – seeking birds and other wildlife on the bridge or in the bar…or catching a few zzzs in our cabins.

Day 2: Feb 6, 2007


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: Lat: 54°45’ S Lon: 64°55’ W
Barometric Pressure: 976mbar
Sunrise: 0600 Sunset: 2205
Air Temperature: 10°C
Water Temperature: 10°
Wind speed 13m/s Direction 190°


With winds and seas rising through the day, our sturdy little ship ran ahead of a force 8 to 10 storm. The sea raged around us but with calm aplomb the Ioffe rode the waves with minimal movement.

We spent the day being briefed by Dutch on IAATO, an organization devoted to responsible and sustainable tourism in the Antarctic regions. Flipper talked about the Zodiac and life jacket routines in preparation for our first planned landing tomorrow. Peter talked about the proper use and care of binoculars and Lynnsky told us all we wanted to know about sea birds in the Southern Oceans. Those of us who went up to the bridge were treated to a fantastic aerial display by the albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters that call these waters home. Little storm-petrels, no bigger than a robin (American) ignored the blasts and danced their way across the waves. Two lucky people saw a whale and the Wild Wings group had three Peale’s Dolphins doing a bit of bow wave riding early in the morning. A tale, with a sad ending, unfolded all day as a very small land bird sought refuge around the ship.. Dick tentatively identified it as a White-crested Eleania, a type of South American Flycatcher, far from home. Unfortunately there are no flies to be caught and it will inevitably perish. This is nature in the raw and we will be treated to more such tales on our trip. To properly prepare us for our first dinner at sea, Callum and Jim offered a wine-tasting of some of the ship’s better white wines. After dinner Jim gave us a brief bar story and we went to bed with plans for Stanley ringing in our heads.

Day 3: Feb 7, 2007


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: Lat: 51°44’ S Lon: 57°39’ W
Barometric Pressure: 986mbar
Sunrise: 0605 Sunset: 2200
Air Temperature: 8°C
Water Temperature: 10.5°
Wind speed 16m/s Direction 240°


Those of us who were up on the bridge early this morning were treated to the sun shining on a collage of red and blue roofs of the town of Stanley on the fabled Falkland Islands. The terrific pounding that our hardy ship had endured was behind us but 40 knots of winds made for a tricky and difficult passage between the heads into Stanley Harbour. Our captain, once again, navigated through a difficult channel to bring us close to the jetty.

The Custom Authorities came on board and once we had cleared the formalities, all was set for our excursion ashore where we had a variety of excellent adventures. Some of us went to Gypsy Cove with its pristine beaches unfortunately fringed with minefields left over from the conflict between Great Britain and Argentina in the early eighties. However we did see some interesting birds. Many people were astounded to see the ubiquitous Turkey Vulture gliding over the clumps of Tussac Grass. Some clumps of Magellanic Penguins sheltered from the constant wind and two very sad moulting King Penguins gave us a glimpse of things to come. The bird watchers hiked across the Hard Camp, with its clumps of Tall Fern and Diddle-Dee and had some gripping looks at Ruddy-headed Geese.

Meanwhile the weather threw everything it could at us, hail, horizontal rain, howling wind and brilliant sunshine, a typical summer’s day in the Falklands. In town we experienced the warm hospitality of the islanders and visited the Falkland Islands museum. This excellent little facility gave us a good look at the history of these islands.

On our bumpy ride back to the ship some lucky zodiacs were treated to a bow- riding display of the lovely Commerson’s Dolphins. Our boarding was unusual in that we were hooked up to a bunkering ship called the Baltic Pride that was refueling the good ship Ioffe.

In all a wonderful day, and word has it that the day before our sister ship the Sergei Vavilov could not get her passengers back on board until late in the evening because of high winds -- and tomorrow two large cruise ships are going to disgorge 4000 passengers on that lovely little town. Phew – are we lucky!

Day 4: Feb 8 2007


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: Lat: 52°11’ S Lon: 58°53’ W
Barometric Pressure: 988 mbar
Sunrise: 0607 Sunset: 2200
Air Temperature: 9°C
Water Temperature: 11°
Wind speed 14m/s Direction 210°


Last night we left the friendly confines of Stanley Harbour and arrived off Bleaker Island on the south east corner of the Falkland Islands. Dutch offered an early landing at 6.30 for anyone who thought that they would like to spend longer on the island. Some thirty hardy souls took him up on his offer. The rest of us stayed in bed and had a nice breakfast for our troubles. Although the sun was shining for the late birds, the early birds had rain.

We landed on Bleaker on a benign jetty and it was a somewhat dry landing if not a dry Zodiac ride. We walked through the very small community which in reality was a sheep and cattle farm which supplies beef and mutton to Stanley. We walked up the hill on this bleak looking and windswept island, wondering how on earth anyone could live here. It turns out that Mrs. Elaine Short, wife of the farm manager, loves it but more on that later. We came across the most incredible cormorant colony with all sorts of adults and chicks going about their business with their attendant skuas, Dolphin Gulls and sheathbills. The result appeared to be pandemonium with cormorants coming and going, marauding skuas bent on mayhem and the sheathbills and gulls clearing up the debris. Further on we reached the Rockhopper Penguin colony along the cliffs, almost hidden by the tall stands of Tussac Grass. We marveled at how these plucky little creatures could negotiate the almost sheer cliffs of their colony. We watched in amazement as they plunged metres into the sea and somehow made it back again in thundering surf to appear as if by magic on the rock as the surge receded.

A brief encounter with the realities of the “real” world was provided by a fly past of two RAF Tornadoes on their daily patrol. As we left the Rockhoppers and made our way over to the Magellenic Penguins, a nasty squall swept across the hillside forcing some to walk backwards and some to hitch a ride on a handy Land Rover. This turned out to be an ominous portent of things to come. As we made our way back to the landing, the line of squalls came marching in from the ocean in quick succession blowing up to 50 knots of wind.

Some folks sought shelter in the shearing shed, and some found themselves in the small but very welcoming kitchen of the aforementioned Mrs. Short. She cheerfully provided tea and coffee and chocolate biscuits and cookies for all comers and the blessed relief of indoor plumbing. Turns out that Mrs Short hails from Southampton, England and left there to follow her husband back to the Falklands; and we were glad she did. A remarkable woman.

Meanwhile on the jetty the squalls got meaner, catching three Zodiacs on the water and forcing them to shelter in the lee of a small island. Finally, after some anxious moments and with great cooperation between the captain and Dutch and the professionalism of the Expedition staff, we all got back on board, wet, bruised but undaunted. We passed the test. We are ready for South Georgia!

Day 5: Feb 9, 2007


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: Lat: 51°46’ S Lon: 53°57’ W
Barometric Pressure: 996 mbar
Sunrise: 0520 Sunset: 2200
Air Temperature: 9°C
Water Temperature: 8°
Wind speed 12m/s Direction 230°


Today was a sea day as we steamed towards the legendary island of South Georgia. There was a full schedule of lectures and Sally finally relented and opened the mythical gift shop. Mo was overwhelmed by the rush for retail therapy for those who were suffering from shopping withdrawal.

Peter explained Alfred Wagener’s theory of continental drift and Lynnsky told us neat things about whales and in the afternoon she talked about seals. John began his history of the British Antarctic Survey and Jim conclusively proved that the Irish were the first to discover America.

In the meantime we continued with the big eat while outside the sun burst forth from the confining clouds and lit up a glorious blue sea with minimum swells. An occasional squall line lent drama to an otherwise calm sea. Those of us who were on the bridge and bridge wing were treated to a constant parade of albatrosses, petrels and prions. We had three separate sightings of that beautiful little dolphin, the Hourglass Dolphin. We had several sightings of whales, including a fairly good look at what the experts agreed was a Sei Whale, one of the medium size rorquals or baleen whales.

A quiet day at sea, spectacular in its own way and a welcome change from the adrenal rush of yesterday.

Day 6: Feb 10, 2007


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: Lat: 53°07’ S Lon: 46°22’ W
Barometric Pressure: 995 mbar
Sunrise: 0515 Sunset: 2155
Air Temperature: 5.5°C
Water Temperature: 6°
Wind speed 14m/s Direction 240°


Another sea day, but what a day! The sun came up at 05.15 and sparkled on a brilliant sea. As we rubbed our eyes, once again we marveled at our quiet and very stable ship the R.V. Akademik Ioffe that had gently lulled us to sleep with its gentle rocking. As with any sea day, we had a full program of lectures. Callum did the early history of Antarctic exploration, John explained why Antarctic scientific research is important for the world as a whole. Lynnsky told us all about penguins including some things we were afraid to ask, and Dutch gave us an introduction to South Georgia.

As usual the real action took place above and below the sea or at least close to the surface. Dutch had planned our route to cross the Scotia Ridge, an area of undersea mounts where upwelling of nutrients concentrates the wildlife and sure enough we were not disappointed. We had a regular parade of whales and whale spouts, possibly 25 individual whales in all. We had Fin and Humpback Whales for sure and a couple of very large spouts but did not see the actual whale. The experts conferred and reached the conclusion that they were indeed very large spouts.

The birds were not about to take a back seat either. We had a beautiful but slightly lost Snow Petrel and that most handsome of the albatrosses, the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. King Penguins bobbed hundreds of miles from land and we were joined late in the parade by spectacular Pintado Petrels. All the while falling sea and air temperatures gave evidence that we are entering the area of the Antarctic Convergence, where two great oceans meet but do not mingle! A kind of moving boundary. Perhaps tomorrow our first iceberg? Bring on South Georgia.

Day 7: Feb 11, 2007


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: Lat: 53°49’ S Lon: 38°18’ W
Barometric Pressure: 985 mbar
Sunrise: 0450 Sunset: 2145
Air Temperature: 6°C
Water Temperature: 5°
Wind speed 8m/s Direction 290°


King penguins are the new favourite animal aboard. As each zodiac washed ashore on the big surf, they came to greet us, flapping their flippers with enthusiasm and casting their colourful beaks from side to side, assessing what sort of odd creatures these bright-red things were, emerging from their odd black icebergs. Each of us was greeted upon landing as small committees shuffled forward to inspect us, nervously side-stepping as our leaders hurried back and forth to manage the surf landings. Their beauty astounded us as much as their curiosity amused us – these are truly magnificent animals, with their bright black and white dinner jackets nicely set off by their brilliant yellow neck and chest marks, and pink/purple/orange beaks, according to their breeding status.

Nearly two hundred thousand kings, hundreds of fur seals, and assorted skuas, petrels and albatrosses engaged us for nearly three hours despite a steady rain-almost-snow. Despite the wet and the chill, we were like children as we alternated between standing spellbound as the penguins inspected us, wandered among the tussocks, or clicked away with our digital cameras.

The afternoon brought increasing winds as the katabatics showed their strength, flowing in over the mountains and making our afternoon zodiac cruise at Prion Islet increasingly unlikely. Dutch opted to make a run for Possession Bay, the site of Captain Cook’s first landfall at South Georgia. Here we launched the zodiacs despite gusts of up to 40 knots, and had a thrilling zodiac ride in the wind and the rain over to look at a 1912-31 Norwegian whaling station at King Olaf Bay, now inhabited mainly by fur and elephant seals. The grand day ended with Peter’s rendition of The Cremation of Sam McGee in the bar.

Day 8: Feb 12, 2007


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: Lat: 54°04’ S Lon: 36°44’
Barometric Pressure: 996bar
Sunrise: 0450 Sunset: 2145
Air Temperature: 6°C
Water Temperature: 5°
Wind speed 17m/s Direction 230°


The corridors echoed with excitement at 4:30, as we prepared to follow in Shackleton’s footsteps from Fortuna Bay to Stromness. Alas, the weather gods conspired against us, tossing 50 knot winds, whitecaps and snow squalls at our plans. So Dutch wisely decided to abort the landing and opted instead for a shipboard tour of Leith and Stromness whaling stations. The Captain brought us within two hundred metres of the shoreline so that we had a perfect view of these ghost-ridden ruins. From the ship we could see hundreds of fur seals, elephant seals and reindeer basking in the peace that has surrounded these stations since the mid-1960s.

The afternoon found us ashore at Grytviken, the first whaling station to be established in South Georgia in 1904. A variety of walking activities took us in three directions for views of the harbour, wildlife, the station and Lake Myviken. The wonderful gift shop run by BAS also enjoyed our visit! Back aboard we brought our BBQ indoors and continued to celebrate this great day in one of the world’s best-kept secrets. Fittingly, to wrap up the evening, Ben offered the movie “The Endurance”, tracing Shackleton’s epic journey from the Weddell Sea to Elephant Island to S Georgia.

Day 9: Feb 13, 2007


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: Lat: 54°16’ S Lon: 36°10’
Barometric Pressure: 1004mBar
Sunrise: 0410 Sunset: 2025
Air Temperature: 6°C
Water Temperature: 5°
Wind speed 15m/s Direction 310°


To go or not to go? That was the question. We woke to 30 knot winds and fog, but headed into St Andrews Bay just in case there was a weather window. And what a magic morning we were rewarded with! Welcomed ashore by a solitary Chinstrap penguin, along with three hundred thousand King Penguins as well, and some aromatic Elephant seals, words failed us as we stared across the bay at penguins, seals, fur seals, and in the distance a herd of South Georgia Reindeer. Even the clouds cleared to reveal the jagged peaks surrounding the bay, and the sun appeared to round it all off. Bliss!!

As if the morning did not offer a sufficient feast, the ship repositioned to Royal Bay where another treat awaited. Against the now familiar spectacle of South Georgia, we loaded into the zodiacs to enjoy a cruise past the colonies of Macaroni Penguins which occupy the tussac-covered shores. These doughty and distinctly rakish little penguins climbed apparently impossible pathways to their nest sites amongst the tussac. Others plunged into the seething surf only to bounce apparently unharmed against the rocks before heading to sea. Others, returning, reversed the process appearing as if by magic from the surf, to scramble onto dry land. Above, Shearwater soared against the darkening sky. South Georgia, as if in farewell, launched a weather change that saw the last zodiacs scurry back to the ship under lowering skies and rising seas. Antarctica, here we come.

Day 10: Feb 14, 2007


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: Lat: 56°22’ S Lon: 38°00’
Barometric Pressure: 987mBar
Sunrise: 0410 Sunset: 2040
Air Temperature: 7°C
Water Temperature: 5°
Wind speed 18m/s Direction 340°


After a night of rising winds and seas, we awakened to a dawn in shades of grey. Throughout the morning, the stormy Scotia Sea continued to provide the quintessential southern ocean experience. Observers in the bridge enjoyed the spectacle of albatross and petrel soaring on the winds, and the sight of three Southern Right Whales. Icebergs in ever varying forms slid past the ship. Shortly before lunch the Captain provided a superb close view of a massive iceberg as he circled the ship. The sculpted beauty and remarkable depth and range of blues within the ice kept the camera shutters clicking. Then, as if to complete the image of these sub-Antarctic waters, a Wandering Albatross glided close by adding its distinctive silhouette to the scene. Throughout the afternoon, we continued our way southwest, again maintaining a watch for the creatures of the sea. They did not disappoint, as a mother and calf Southern Right Whale swam briefly off the bow of the ship. A little later two Fin whale made a close pass. It has been another notable day for whales. During the day a full slate of presentations was given. John talked about the “ownership” of Antarctica. Lynn provided a comparison of the polar regions. In the afternoon, Dutch outlined the proposed itinerary for the rest of the voyage, while Callum talked of the Shackleton expeditions. By evening the winds had risen once more, and we were sailing in the grips of a Force 9 gale, again demonstrating the rapidity with which conditions change in these southern latitudes. A slowly sinking sun, however, backlit the steady procession of icebergs, creating a glowing panorama. It was a fitting conclusion for what has been a memorable day on the Scotia Sea.

Day 11: Feb 15, 2007


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: Lat: 59°55’ S Lon: 43°08’
Barometric Pressure: 996mBar
Sunrise: 0405 Sunset: 2050
Air Temperature: 7°C
Water Temperature: 5°
Wind speed 15m/s Direction 295°


As the good ship Ioffe crossed the 60th parallel, we awoke to Antarctica! A noticeable drop in temperature greeted us and we found ourselves in fog threading our way through icebergs to left and right. We had a very special treat after breakfast when Jean gave us a talk on the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition of 1902-1905, led by William Spiers Bruce, on which her grandfather Captain Robertson was skipper of the expedition ship Scotia. Especially poignant, because we were shortly to see Laurie Island, where the expedition overwintered, heave into sight as we entered the iceberg parking lot to the south of the South Orkneys. Here we were dazzled and delighted as the Captain weaved around and circled stunning towers of ice sculpted into fantastical shapes by the sea. All around the sea boiled with penguins, mostly chinstraps, and overhead swooped cape pigeons. And not a traffic cop anywhere in sight to bother us!

If the morning were not excitement enough, the afternoon saw us coasting into Scotia Bay on Laurie Island for a cornucopia of thrills. Some folks headed off to Orcades Station for a visit, so Jean got her heart’s desire by landing there and standing in Bruce’s Omond hut. The Argentinean station personnel ashore welcomed us generously, giving guided tours, offering hot coffee and a shop. Others went hunting chinstrap penguins with great success, finding several colonies with all stages of the lifecycle in play, a beautiful group of 30 posed on an iceberg, hundreds of fur seals and some huge elephant seals on the beach, several pure white giant petrels amongst their scruffy grey comrades, and skuas enjoying an easy feed on a dead seal. The kayakers made a very determined effort to get to sea, but were foiled in the end by the weather. Your time will come, kayakers!!

Day 12: Feb 16, 2007


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: Lat: 60°26’ S Lon: 46°36’
Barometric Pressure: 990mBar
Sunrise: 0500 Sunset: 2040
Air Temperature: 5°C
Water Temperature: 1.5°
Wind speed 6m/s Direction 200°


A light skiff of snow covered the decks this morning as we awakened. The seas were smooth and the grey dawn soon gave way to sunny skies. It was not long before Martin reported a sighting of Orcas, the first of two for the morning. People tumbled onto the outer decks, several still in night attire to see these superb mammals.

Later, the species count of whales would be added to with the close approach of a Southern Bottlenose Whale, still only the beginning of the day’s whale parade. Throughout the day an endless procession of magnificent deep-blue compacted icebergs provided an ongoing display of nature’s artistry. Presentations were given throughout the day. In the morning John spoke on Antarctic governance, Lynn gave an overview of Antarctica’s penguins. During the afternoon Callum spoke of four famous Antarctic expeditions while Peter unraveled some of the mysteries of ice and icebergs.

During dinner more whales appeared, bringing the day’s total beyond sixty sightings of orca, bottlenose, right, fin and minke! - and once more emptying the dining room as folks streamed onto the decks.

Everybody enjoyed this day at sea with its calm waters and abundant wildlife. It was a marked contrast to those sea days which had gone before! The clear skies also made for enjoyment of the wildlife which surrounded the Akademik Ioffe as she forged south toward the Antarctic Peninsula for an anticipated arrival tomorrow morning. The Antarctic continent is at hand!

Day 13: Feb 17, 2007


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: Lat: 63°28’S Lon: 54°19’W
Barometric Pressure: 995mBar
Sunrise: 0420 Sunset: 2140
Air Temperature: 0.5°C
Water Temperature: 0.5°
Wind speed 6m/s Direction 15°


We awoke to our landfall on the Antarctic Peninsula – the Danger Islands! With the weather overcast but calm and visibility extensive, we were delighted by the magnificence of the rank on rank of tabular bergs intermixed with fantastical blocks of ice – even one that looked like a whale! As we approached Paulet Island the sun appeared to welcome us and we were transfixed by the beauty of the mountains of Joinville Island and Dundee Island (so named by Jean’s grandfather Captain Robertson), while the ship weaved her way through a field of bergy bits and floes. Then we were ashore on Paulet Island - named in 1843 by James Clark Ross for Lord George Paulet of the Royal Navy – and what a wonder that was! Although most of the Adelie penguins had departed, their smell had not! But there were cormorants, Weddell seals, fur seals and a few moulting Adelies to admire, along with the remains of Captain Larsen’s hut and the grave of Øle Wennersgaard, the only member of the Swedish Antarctic Expedition to die during their 1902-04 ordeal in the ice. The journey back to the ship was exhilarating as the zodiacs weaved their way through the ice. In the afternoon we set off into Erebus and Terror Gulf, another cornucopia of bergs and floes, including one tabular berg 2.7 miles long, estimated by our mathematical wizards to weigh more than a billion tons (that would be quite a few whiskeys on the rocks!). We headed towards the southwest on a magical wind free voyage through a glassy calm sea until we reached the edge of a large expanse of landfast ice and could go no further. The Captain couldn’t resist nosing the bow into the pack, just a little, and then led us back out past the leviathan tabular bergs towards Antarctic Sound, with the setting sun turning the ice deeper and deeper shades of pink. In celebration of such a marvelous day scones and hot chocolate were served on the bow.

Day 14: Feb 18, 2007


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: Lat: 63°14’S Lon: 56°38’W
Barometric Pressure: 995mBar
Sunrise: 0440 Sunset: 2215
Air Temperature: 1°C
Water Temperature: 1°
Wind speed 12m/s Direction 310°
At anchor


Another sparkling morning finds us in the iceberg dotted Antarctic Passage heading for our morning landing at Brown Bluff. This magnificent volcanic bluff stands 745 metres above the black cobble beach. To either side, glaciers reach the sea slowly transporting snow and ice from the smooth dome of the ice cap above. Bands of ochre, grey and yellow strata tell of past eruptions, while boulders littering the beach bear witness to the intensity of the eruptions. and subsequent frost shattering of the bluff. Here major colonies of Adelie and Gentoo Penguins are located on the scree slopes while above, Pintado and Snow Petrel hide their nests in the cracks and crevices of the bluff above.

The landing takes place soon after breakfast. The waters are glass calm and winds minimal. Today the kayakers will finally get to spend some time exploring the labrynth of sculptured ice which surrounds us. As we line up at the gangway Minke Whales cruise the waters close to land. Nearby a Leopard Seal shares space with two Fur and one Crabeater Seal. It is an auspicious start.

On shore, we are able explore the beach and enjoy the company of many Gentoos and a very few remaining Adelies. Several Leopard seal and an Orca are observed just offshore, attesting to the abundance of penguins which filled these waters until very recently. Most have now headed to sea.

As the ship leaves Antarctic Sound and heads into the Bransfield Strait, the afternoon is spent enjoying the scenery, several close encounters with Humpbacks, or participating in a discussion of issues concerning Antarctica. At 5:30 in the evening a few hardy souls took the challenge of entering Antarctic waters by taking a plunge into the ship’s pool. For spectator and participant alike it adds one more memory to the already overflowing bank of experiences which we have enjoyed on this trip. Another great day enters the books

Day 15: Feb 19, 2007


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: Lat: 63°32’S Lon: 60°40’W
Barometric Pressure: 990mBar
Sunrise: 0455 Sunset: 2240
Air Temperature: 1°C
Water Temperature: 2°C
Wind speed 10m/s Direction 270°
At anchor


A flock of large cape petrels swooping and diving off the stern of the ship greeted us on our arrival off Trinity Island. It was a grey morning, but soon the sun was shining giving us a glorious introduction to the mountains and glaciers of the North West Peninsula. An abundance of whale sightings gave promise for the trip into Mikkelsen Harbour. And that promise was more than fulfilled as we cruised by majestic icefalls in our zodiacs for a close encounter with a humpback whale and her calf who proceeded to give us all a most wonderful experience. Then for some of us there was an even closer encounter of the leopard kind as we became objects of considerable and sustained interest to a leopard seal weaving very close to the zodiacs. Then came the landing on the small island with no name, where we were sobered by the masses of whale bones – a legacy of the early whaling endeavours from the turn of the last century. Gentoos there were too in abundance and several hardy souls took up the challenge of joining the Antarctic swimming club – including a rather overgrown penguin! And so back to the ship for a late but very welcome lunch whilst the ship repositioned to Curtis Bay for yet more fabulous cruising and kayaking!

Day 16: Feb 20, 2007


Fact:

Time: 0700
Position: Lat: 64°09’S Lon: 60°56’W
Barometric Pressure: 974mBar
Sunrise: 0455 Sunset: 2300
Air Temperature: 1°C
Water Temperature: 1°


Five thirty am and Dutch’s voice gave a wake up call for our planned pre-breakfast zodiac cruise in Cierva Bay. As we rose to look out the portholes, snow was gently falling, coating the decks, while the sea was covered with brash ice – a soup of ice bits, varying in size from tiny to significant chunks of up to one metre in width. This would be an exciting run: moving away from the gangway ice crowded the pontoons and crackled as it passed astern. Large icebergs were in shades of blue against a deep dove-grey sky. Several Gentoos stood sentinel on their heights. Leopard Seal made clandestine appearances as they stole through the brash in search of penguins. Several Minke were spotted in open leads, one making passes close to, and under, two zodiacs. The kayakers, not to be outdone by cruising zodiacs, headed out for a unique paddle through this frozen sea. Returning to the ship, everyone dug into a hearty breakfast which soon returned circulation to cooled toes and hands. It was yet another example of Antarctica’s diverse moods. Before lunch, Peter gave a presentation on adaptations of seabirds, as the ship set course for Deception Island across Bransfield Straight.

As the afternoon progressed, the pressure dropped dramatically, the seas kicked up and we were into gale force winds. How quickly conditions change in this southern continent. The planned visit to Deception was called off due to the conditions which did not seem to disturb albatross and petrels which still wheeled around the ship. On board, we explored the unseen depths and recesses of the Ioffe on guided ship tours. Without missing a beat, it was then time for another afternoon tea in the lounge. Whales continued to visit us throughout the day to reward the faithful bridge watch!

Day 17: Feb 21, 2007


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: Lat: 61°36’S Lon: 62°42’W
Barometric Pressure: 978mBar
Sunrise: 0500 Sunset: 2300
Air Temperature: 3°C
Water Temperature: 4°


We left Antarctica behind us as we started to rock and roll our way across Drake’s Passage. Grey skies and strong winds greeted us for breakfast, and along with them a big swell that made breakfast a lively affair. But as the day progressed the pressure rose and the wind eased, leaving the good ship Ioffe riding the swell with aplomb.

In the morning John regaled us with life as a winterer 40 years ago – one shower a week and only five gallons of water for it! Meanwhile Lynn talked about how we are trying to conserve Antarctic Wildlife. After lunch Callum introduced us to the amazing lives of the Indians of Tierra del Fuego, now sadly long passed into history, and Peter weaved us a planetary tapestry, comparing the Amazon with Antarctica. The day wrapped up with a fancy-dress dinner, with some truly creative works of costuming along the wide open themes of Explorers, Film Stars and Favourite Animals, followed by Duncan’s “favourite questions” in the bar, and the final episodes of Life in the Freezer.

Day 18: Feb 22, 2007


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: Lat: 57°20’S Lon: 65°55’W
Barometric Pressure: 984mBar
Sunrise: 0540 Sunset: 2225
Air Temperature: 4°C
Water Temperature: 7°C


As the day dawned, Dick and his band of birders were, as usual, out on the bridge wings watching for whales and flying beasties. By now we were within 60 miles of Cape Horn, rolling along on a big swell from the northwest, with a 30-40 knot wind from the southwest producing a confused sea state and some great waves over the bow. After breakfast, the dreaded day of reckoning arrived with account settlement, but we could ease our pain somewhat by watching Rounding The Horn, a silent movie shot in the 1920s by an amateur photographer/crew member on one of the last of the wooden clipper ships, and narrated by him sixty years later. Around 1 p.m., Cape Horn hove into view between squalls, moving rapidly with 50 knot (Force 10!) winds. After rounding the famous landmark, where thousands of sailors have lost their lives in even worse storms since it was first navigated by Schouten and LeMaire in 1616, we put our back to the wind and sailed more serenely round to the mouth of the Beagle Channel. En route, we were entertained by Dutch, with his trip recap and a showing of the Best Of photos, and Callum showed some images from Peregrine’s Arctic voyages of last year. Some of us dressed up for the last dinner on board, as we lay at anchor off the pilot station. The Captain joined us and made an elegant speech. After dinner we got down to the serious business of packing, trying to stuff all those souvenirs of a wonderful trip into already overflowing bags. So here we leave you, with best wishes for a safe and trouble-free journey home, and with our thanks for being part of such a special expedition.

Day 6: Thursday, 27 July 2006

Location:
Ilulissat


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: 69*14’ N 51*21’ W
Barometric Pressure: 1008.1
Air Temperature: +5
Water Temperature: +3
Wind speed and Direction: 5 m/s from 130*


What a full day we had today. Cruising, hiking, kayaking, shopping – the works. As we ate breakfast the Captain nearly took us right to the dock in Ilulissat. A short zodiac ride through the crowded marina took us into the town dock. We passed dozens of Glaucous Gulls and the smaller Icelandic Gulls, all looking for opportunistic feeding situations with all of the comings and goings of the local fishing vessels. Several of the larger boats had whale harpoons covered in protective tarps, mounted on the bow, reminding us of the strong traditions that are still a part of the local population. About 60 folk joined Graham, Brian, and Monique to hike out to the old settlement at Sermermiut and to look out upon the vastness of the Jakobshaven Icefjord. Along the way Peter identified some of the wonderful flowers along our path. Among those spotted were the saxifrage, arctic campion, arctic fireweed, white and purple heather, and harebells. Also spotted were snow buntings, some feeding newly fledged fluffy and grey youngsters. The bold white and black plumage of the adults flying back to feed their young gave away the youngsters locations as some sat quietly waiting for dinner. Numerous wheatears were also seen, gleaning the tundra for protein-packed invertebrate life.

The mountain goats among us hiked and climbed along the fjord while others returned to town to join the rest for the museum, shopping and the grisly sights at the fish market. Some even bought some seal meat and smoked fish to try back on the ship. Despite a searching breeze and drizzly rain we BBQ’d on the back deck as the Captain showed us he could drive the ship like a zodiac, often coming so close to the ice that with a bit of a stretch (and some imagination), we could have chipped some ice for the gin & tonics enjoyed later at happy hour. After lunch we boarded zodiacs for an incredible cruise amongst one of the most amazing ice landscapes on the planet. One of the zodiacs managed to obtain two sizeable chunks of ice for the happy hour drinks, ice that could have been formed thousands of years ago. This made Nat’s job at the bar that much more rewarding, using ancient ice to chill our drinks of choice. We returned chilly but replete to our warm ship and another lovely dinner and great company.

Day 9: Sunday, 30 July 2006

Location:
Baffin Bay


Fact:

Time: 0600
Position: 74*08’ N 74*20’ W
Barometric Pressure: 1011.8 mb
Air Temperature: +6
Water Temperature: +4
Wind speed and Direction: 2 m/s from 260*


This day at sea is enjoyed under cloudless skies. Icebergs, now scarce, still punctuate the glassy stillness of the sea surface. They have possibly floated to their present position from the Jakobshaven glacier which so impressed us a few days ago. We sail steadily northwest, toward an intriguing necklace of snow-capped peaks which rises slowly from below the western horizon. They are the mountains of Bylot Island and are defined by glaciers flowing in sinuous ribbons to the sea. Entering the historic waters of Lancaster Sound, the dramatic glaciated landscapes loom large and present: a classic lesson in the shaping of these northern lands. Moraines, cirques, outwash plains and braided stream are all laid out before our eyes. Everyone enjoys the continuing and exceptional balmy sunshine topside. During the day several presentations are given. In preparation for landings over the next few days, Martin outlines the protocols of group behaviour in the realm of the Polar Bear.

Shortly after the presentation, five bears are spotted along the coastline giving emphasis to what Martin has said. Peter gives an overview of tundra ecology while two members of the Arctic Quest artists’ group, Karole Haycock-Pittman and Kathy Pittman reflect on the experiences of their father in the Arctic and his work as an artist.

The day ends with a memorable zodiac excursion below the towering bird-clad palisades of the Cape Hay Bird Sanctuary. Towering above the water (240m) the vertical limestone cliffs are lined with ledges that are home to approximately 140,000 nesting birds. Thick-billed Murres fly in never-ending squadrons to and from feeding sites offshore, others bathe and rest on the water’s surface close to the bouncing zodiacs. Kittiwakes dance on the updrafts within a wingtip’s distance of the sheer rock. The drama is increased as late evening light etches the primal scene with planes of light and deepening shadow.

Day 13: Thursday, 03 August 2006

Location:
Resolute


Fact:

Time:
Position: 74*36’ N 94*53’ W
Barometric Pressure: 1008.0
Air Temperature: +6*C
Water Temperature: +2*C
Wind speed and Direction: 3.5 m/s from 300*


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