We left South Georgia and the sea was surprisingly calm. We all needed a good night of sleep and enjoyed the smooth ride during the night.

Now it was time to get ready for Antarctica! We again had a vacuum cleaning session making sure we did not have any seeds or other material attached to our gear which we could introduce to the Antarctic peninsula from South Georgia. And we also had a lecture about what Antarctica actually is. So just a few impressive facts and figures which make it hard to believe that this place is on our continent!

Antarctica has with 2,194m the highest average elevation of all continents. The highest point is – of course one of the Seven Summits – Mt. Vinson with 4,897m and the lowest point though is -2,496m at the Byrd Glacier! This is of course only possible because it is covered by ice. 98% of the continent is covered by ice with a total volume of 26.5 million km³ with an average of 2300m and a maximum thickness of 4776m.
Antarctica is not Antarctica. There are many different definitions which are mostly self-explanatory: the continent, the region, political (south of 60 degrees latitude), biological (convergence zone in the sea, variable between 50-60 degrees south) and geological (the plate).

Antarctica is 1.3 times bigger than Europe or double the size of Aussie.

It is the coldest, driest and windiest continent. Temperatures below -90C have been measured and winds up to 320km/h have been recorded. Because of the ice cap covering the continent the cold air (which is heavier) flows down the glacial tongues and accelerates. These are classical katabatic winds – something I have already studied intensively during my pilot training. On top the land and sea is warmer which makes the warmer air lifting up, creating a suction in these areas which pulls down the cold winds even faster.

Polar Night and Day. Below or above 66.5 degrees you do have at least one full Polar day (24h of sunlight) and night (24h of night). The further south / north you go the more days you have of course.

The Southern Ocean which is surrounding the Antarctic is with only 30 million years the youngest ocean on the planet. It covers 6% of the surface and has an average depth of 3,200m with the deepest point of 7,000m in the South Sandwich Trend. The Arctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) isolates and keeps the continent cold. The temperature lies between -1C and +5C. It’s the largest wind driven current with 24,000km which flows clockwise around the continent based on the westerly winds. It’s also the only current which connects all three oceans.

Even though being on a ship is still not my favourite place to be since I can’t move as much as I would like to I do enjoy the cruise a lot. Also watching the expedition guides, their daily work and especially their “office” gave me a bit food for thought. Why would you (I) go back to an office with a desk if you could work in the Antarctica, the Arctic or Greenland as a guide. Maybe not as a life time job but for a little while? Getting payed for staying in these amazing places? A few people on the ship (I had to learn it the hard way from Casper, one of the guides – it’s not a boat, it’s a ship! Just if you ask yourself the same question what the difference is, to sail a ship you need a captains patent, for a boat you don’t…) also came up to me and said I they could see me as a guide on a ship like this. And yes, I guess they are right. I love the outdoors, getting payed for doing something in the wilderness sounds unreal and also watching myself on the ship there is another aspect I guess I just have to accept – I am a “social butterfly”. Even though I discovered the beauty of solitude on my journey I also like the interaction with people. Well, let’s see. It sounds really tempting to work on an expedition vessel like this one for a season and to get a deeper knowledge of these remote areas. It goes on the bucket list for later 😉

The night was a bit rougher again but I guess we are already all adjusted after the stretch from the Falklands to South Georgia. And then we arrived on the South Orkneys in the morning. They are a small set of islands on the north east of the Antarctic Peninsula.

South Orkney

 

There is an Argentinian research station which we were about to visit. It’s situated at a very flat and tiny beach – maybe a couple of hundred meters wide and long between two hills. The only flat part on this island. Again a very mystical start of the day for us…

The ice is getting more, the temperature is getting lower and the terrain is getting rougher – we are getting closer. Before we landed we did a little cruise through the bay.

We had seen a few icebergs along the way already but this was the first one we did get close to. And we had a few Chinstrap Penguins which called this piece of ice their home. No clue how they got up their but the scenery with the blue ice and the black penguins was just amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived at the station and were greeted by the Argentinian crew. The 16 members all spend one year in the station. And in the winter season they don’t see a single other person. We were the last ship to visit before the next one will probably show up in October. So for them it was a real highlight to host us with coffee and cake. They enjoyed the exchange and showing us around. Made some Argentinian friends right away…

The station is build a bit higher – you can imagine the amount of snow which covers the station in the winter. And as in most of these remote places the wildlife doesn’t really care about any stations and settlements – so the Chinstraps also just nest in the station.

 

 

Ey punk!

 

 

 

A bit of iceberg artwork on the beach. I’ll have to buy a grey-filter for long time exposure photos.

Little wind, a good night of sleep and some time of the ship makes everybody happy. The younger crowd on the ship and the guides have formed a bit of a group on this journey. A lot of fun during the day and in the evenings – a lot of Monopoly, Kniffel and “Who am I?”…

 

Jo, Monique, Heidi, Nacho, Anja & the Bearded- Whaaaazzzzuppp!

 

On our way out we had the next close encounter with two humpback whales which cruised around the ship. Great to see the giants again after having seen so many on Hawaii.

We hit the open sea agin and the wind and swell picked up again. We are sailing on the outskirts of a low pressure system which hits us straight in the face with winds up to 40kts. At least the ship is mainly pitching and not rolling anymore. If you are not seasick it’s actually quite fun I think. When I asked the captain if he enjoys a sea like this he just replied “It’s a pain in the ass!” 😂

 

 

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Of course it was lecture time again today and focus was on the early explorers of the Antarctic. Casper gave a speech on the the race of the Norwegian Amundsen and the Brit Scott to the South Pole. It was a 1,200km race over the Antarctic ice before Amundsen arrived about a month earlier using skies and sled dogs and also made it back safely whereas Scott did the journey on foot and arrived as well – but unfortunately he did not make it back alive. Nevertheless the conditions were extremely tough and the equipment of a hundred years ago of course not comparable at all with todays gear. You can just imagine how tough these guys were when you think about these facts: They made it to the South Pole in 1912 without any high tech gear. Only in 1956 the Americans managed to get the next person to the South Pole – with a specially designed plane for this expedition and the know how of the American Air Force. 13 years later Armstrong landed on the moon.

How did on of guides put it: In these times ships were made of wood and men of iron. Today ships are made of iron and men dressed in GoreTex. 😂

Since we had another sea day ahead of us I just put my shorts on again this morning. Well, I actually don’t think it’s that cold. But one of the extremely humorous Aussie ladies on board just looked at me with a big sign of disbelieve on her face saying “You know that we are in Antarctica? I am getting cold by just looking at you!” I just had to laugh and say that I think it’s the perfect gear for here. All she said was “No brain, no pain! No sense, no feeling!” 😂

Continue reading with part 7