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Log of an Antarctic Cruise


Antarctica, the frozen continent, is one of the last frontiers. Snow and ice millions of years old create an inhospitable environment which early explorers sought to conquer. Few people ever experience Antarctica, visiting the huts and gravesites of those early explorers and witnessing the antics of local wildlife. Visiting Antarctica is something incredibly special. So many visitors have told of how their time on the frozen continent has touched their soul and created a lasting impression of untamed, raw and magnificent beauty – nature at her best. Shokalskiy voyage 1695 gave 46 passengers from around the world the opportunity to experience Antarctica first-hand. All came home moved and inspired by their travels. This is their story – excerpts from the Shokalskiy log, in which each passenger recorded their innermost thoughts as they traversed the Southern Ocean bound for Antarctica. Voyage 1695 : South Antarctica, departed Dunedin (South Island, New Zealand) January 5, 2000; returned to Bluff (South Island, New Zealand), February 4, 2000. Staff on board: Expedition leader : Rodney Russ, a veteran of 25 years work in the Southern Ocean Cruise director: Sally Millns, second season aboard Shokalskiy Lecturer/zodiac driver: Jim Perry, biologist and commercial yacht master NZ Government representative: Brian Ahern, Antarctica explorer and conservation officer Medical officer: Dr Stephen Vallance Executive chef: Bill James Sous chef: Tina George On board were 46 passengers, from New Zealand, Australia, England, Scotland, New Caledonia, the USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Malaysia and the Netherlands. Wednesday, January 5 Depart Dunedin Left dock at 1700 after completing customs formalities, had great calm trip down the harbour, dropping the pilot as we watched northern royal albatross soaring over Taiaroa Head. Set course for Bounty Islands in beautiful conditions. Albatross across the bows riding southern lift demonstrate aviator prowess much superior to ours Thursday, January 6 At sea En route to the Bounty Islands with a slight following sea. Pleasant conditions for birdwatching and shipboard life. Very few people affected by motion sickness (a happy situation). Rodney¹s Birding Lecture ³Birding 101² was a timely introduction to seabird watching, and the entire company now has more confidence in identifying royal and wandering albatross. sailing downhill near a Penguin Colony Friday, January 7 Bounty Islands Arrived at Bounty Islands. Good weather, fantastic trips in the Naiads (semi rigid inflatable boats). Penguins all over the place. Also enormous number of other birds nesting, flying and swimming. Good smell of guano. Lots of fur seals and pups about too. The islands were indeed beautiful to us today – sparkling sunshine, undulating seas, fluffy nesting albatross, soft plumaged prions and humorous, sometimes hilarious, penguins. All this before breakfast! Saturday, January 8 Antipodes Island As I look up I see Antipodes receding as we head for Campbell Island. There is a bit of cloud over the island now, but elsewhere the sky is a beautiful blue picked up by the sea. The key for this trip must be to take each moment as it comes, make the most of it, and enjoy it to the full before storing it in the treasure trove of memory being created. Nothing has prepared me for the wonder of this trip, and I am overwhelmed by the fact that I am here at all. Sunday, January 9 At sea 7.45am – I woke up to find that another one of my dreams had come true. I wanted to know and feel the swell of big seas with waves crashing over the bow of the ship, and there I was at 7am on the bridge watching the power and majesty of the ocean. Monday, January 10 Campbell Island Albatross look so large, but it¹s not until you hear the rush of air in their wings and look up to see them really closely that you realise just how huge they are. The sight of beautiful sooty albatross sitting on their nests with squeaking youngsters is completely unforgettable. Thursday, January 11 At sea Oh Shokalskiy, you carefree girl, wading through the troughs, climbing and pivoting on the crests and shrugging off the hissing, side-slapping curls. A quite Russian princess, dressed in egalitarian finish but showing such regal finesse. Wednesday, January 12 At sea We ride in relative comfort, supported by diesel technology. Oh how different from Sir James Clark Ross and all others in their tiny wooden boats. No salt in our faces, encrusting on our skin, seas washing at our bodies as helmsmen and sailors fight for supremacy over the relentless swell. Thursday, January 13 At sea Morale is high despite the grumpy weather and a real sense of camaraderie has developed within, including the staff who have been unfailingly cheerful and helpful. The galley team have been continuing to turn out excellent food under trying circumstances. There is no ³them² and ³us² between staff and passengers – we are all one big team. Yes, it is very special. Friday, January 14 At sea We crossed the Antarctic Circle. We are at the doors of the great white continent, the last one. The dream will soon become reality, and we celebrated with a ceremony comprising mulled wine and promise to advocate and press for protection and preservation of the continent and surrounding seas. A light occasion, but with a serious purpose. Saturday, January 15 Approaching Antarctica If seeing and experiencing beauty makes each of us more aware and compassionate, shouldn¹t we do it more often? One of the most impressive things is the lack of wind. The sea is dead calm, and it seems a shame to disturb the water as we cruise past at 10 knots. Amazing to watch the ice smash and disintegrate as the bow cuts through the floes.

Sunday, January 16 Cape Adare and Possession Islands – Antarctica Landing on Ridley Beach (Cape Adare) alongside the thousands of adelie penguins was a magic moment. The walk to Hanson¹s grave was very special in many ways; special in that so few people get up there, and we had near ideal conditions. The view was stunning. Hansen – a biologist on Borchgrevinks expedition, the first to winter over in Antarctica – became the first person to be buried in Antarctica when he died 100 years and three months ago, so this really was an anniversary pilgrimage. The very striking comparison between Adare and Possession Islands was the difference between the development of the adelie chicks. Possession chicks are several days to a week advanced, and appear to be very large and healthy. While we were at Possession Island, the peak of Mt. Herschel appeared above the illuminated clouds – another magic moment. We continue to be blessed. Monday, January 17 Cruising the Antarctic coast Great cruise up past Coulman, with minke whales and snow petrels. At iceberg where pack ice relented, and we set course for Terra Nova with 50 or 60 snow petrels and several skuas circling. Snow petrels continue along pack ice edge, and some seals appear (mostly crabeater, but one medium sized leopard seal). Peter gave a lecture on population dynamics of adelie penguins today (most interesting). Tuesday, January 18 Terra Nova Bay & Inexpressible Island We salute the Northern Party. On Scott¹s first expedition to Antarctica, he sent a group, commanded by Campbell, to explore the coastline. Ending up at Terra Nova Bay with supplies for their anticipated one winter stay, the Northern Party was there for at least two winters in horrific conditions – a little-known Antarctic story. A fantastic day for anything on Inexpressible Island, but to visit the site of the snow cave once inhabited by these men was incredibly special. These men, though already crippled by the pointless class system that virtually sank Scott, nevertheless overcame these handicaps to survive and achieve immortality because of the way it was done. We salute all six of you. Wednesday, January 19 Cruising Antarctic coast Sitting on the upper deck saying goodbye to Inexpressible Island, bathed in sunlight with memories of fat adelie penguins wandering over the snow drifts, the sunlight illuminating the sheen of their feathers in gleaming yellow and orange. Still stunned by the immense variety of colours, form and texture of the ancient granite rocks we walked over. Left wondering what experiences could possibly surpass this and the others we have enjoyed so far. Shokalskiy in Ice Thursday, January 20 Scott¹s Hut, Cape Evans, Ross Island I¹ve travelled half the world for this I¹ve read the journals through and through The memoirs and the diaries of all Scott¹s legendary crew And now at last I¹m really here I feel I know this icy ground Unchanging through each frozen year This landscape of McMurdo Sound Here stands the hut upon the shore The skis and sledge wait without Yet silence reigns behind the door No eager sled dogs leap about Where sad eyed ponies ate their fill As Titus lingered by each stall The stables are now deathly still So snug against the northern wall The hut is open But images and memories Will ever in my heart remain I¹ve travelled half the world for this I shall not come this way again Friday, January 21 McMurdo Sound We awoke to a reasonable day – the wind had dropped, fresh snow had fallen on the ship and the hills surrounding Shackleton¹s hut. Soon we were landing on the ice platform surrounding Back Door Bay, and Baden and Richard led a party to the hut where the long-held dreams and hopes of many were realised. It was amazing how a calm, thoughtful pose overcame people as they stood in the same place as the courageous explorers of the early 1900s. A time to reflect, ponder, imagine, realise and start to feel the Antarctic chill. Saturday, January 22 McMurdo Sound Great hike to the top of Observation Hill. McMurdo and Scott bases remind me of home. Staff and workers at both are friendly and easy to chat with. Scott Base wins the tidiness competition. One Kiwi traveller quite happy and cheerful, glowing with content about visiting Scott Base. In defence of McMurdo, it must be said that the site is no pretty. It is a pioneering work site; a construction site. The work of building and survival is difficult, which may mask the purpose of the base – science and knowledge. McMurdo is dynamic, but not pristine. We must forgive it for having some wants.

Sunday, January 23 Departing Antarctica It is Sunday afternoon And, oh so very soon We¹ll leave this southern land far behind I¹m sitting on the deck And, as I turn my neck I see icebergs – and the weather¹s being kind Coulman¹s Island on my left Which makes me feel ?? For this means we¹re heading north and far away For as long as I have known Since the first seed was sown I¹ve held a passion for this distant southern land What I thought I¹d never do has now at last come true And was better than I could have planned I¹ve stood there – me – myself I¹ve seen the Ross Ice Shelf I¹ve seen the huts of heroes whom I have read I¹ve seen penguins by the score I¹ve seen whales and seals – but more I¹ve seen scenery whose wonder fills my head For those who think this trip On this sturdy, happy ship Will satisfy the longing I have had They¹ll have to think again For it¹s really very plain The Antarctic Disease – I¹ve got it bad. Monday, January 24 At sea Snow petrel, both greater and lesser, followed the ship for hours and left us spellbound with their graceful performance. Tuesday, January 25 Balleny Islands We trooped up to the bridge and outside decks to try and catch a sight of the Balleny Islands. We were greeted by a strange and eerie scene, as, surrounded by mist, snow falls on our ship. The sea is unnaturally calm and sprinkled with ice (so much smaller than the icebergs and pack ice we left behind). It is almost surreal, individual birds – snow petrel, fulmars, cape petrels, storm petrels – appear for only moments before disappearing again into the mist. Wednesday, January 26 At sea By 1.10am we were extricated from pack ice and heading through gloom and low cloud towards Macquarie Island. Weather still calm with little swell. Let¹s hope it lasts. The ice polished hull now does 12 knots plus, so we are going fast northbound than when we came south. Thursday, January 27 At sea A reflection on Scott and his men: At Cape Evans were experienced a temperature of -5 C, and a constant wind of about 35 knots, which we unacclimatised visitors found hard enough. Scott and his men endured far lower temperatures and much stronger winds, exceeding anything they had ever known, which must have sorely taxed their strength and energy (no doubt their minds too). Notwithstanding the use of ponies for some of the distance, the polar party WALKED all the way to the South Pole, and damned near all the way back, towing great weights behind them on sledges. Mistakes may have been made, and errors of judgements. Nevertheless, all these men – including the support parties – show they had grit, determination, courage and character. In a word, guts. Friday, January 28 Macquarie Island Expedition members were visibly heartened to see Macquarie Island, and then to experience the tranquillity of Lusitania Bay, with the king penguin welcoming committee late afternoon. All looking forward to naiad cruising tomorrow. Saturday, January 29 Lusitania Bay & Buckles Bay, Macquarie Island Set off early. Visibility less than ideal, but the sight of nearly a million king penguins was incredible. Two light-mantled sooty albatross had a domestic discussion (bills clattering) within a metre of the zodiac. Unbelievable view of these beautiful birds on the way back to Shokalskiy. Anare Base, Buckles Bay The swell made boarding the zodiacs a bit of an adventure, but eventually most of us got ashore, where we were the recipients of station staff hospitality – fresh coffee and muffins! Sunday, January 30 Sandy Bay, Macquarie Island Once ashore we were free to wander. To the south, we could see royal penguins and to the north a king penguin colony. Scattered along the beach were numerous elephant seals, sub adults and pups. The king penguins had fledglings, and were sitting on eggs. The nearby skua had got at least three eggs, and was caught on video catching a chick. I have never been so immersed in nature as I was today. Monday, January 31 At sea Sunbathing on the upper deck as we left Macquarie Island while eating ice-cream, is a memory I never thought I¹d be taking away with me, but it¹s a good one! Tuesday, February 1 Enderby Island Everybody would have their own story to tell of today, of time spent looking at yellow eyed penguins, photographing and looking for teal and parakeets. Without exception, everyone enjoyed their day. Enderby Island is a jewel in the ocean. Everybody took photos of the magnificent mega herbs and the wonderful birds. The paired flying of the albatross was a real treat. Wednesday, February 2 Carnley Harbour, Auckland Islands Shokalskiy cruised to Carnley Harbour overnight on flat, calm seas. When we awoke, we were sailing for the western end of the harbour, with strong NNW winds. A good number went walking; landing on the wave platform was excellent. Great view of shy albatross, but no sign yet of Gibson¹s albatross. Thursday, February 3 Snares Island It is hard to imagine that anybody could have been disappointed. Flat, calm conditions – we cruised into calm waters through an amazing cave and then almost immediately there was the Snares tomtit. Cruised around further, with great views of the penguins. Able to get up close and personal with the penguins on the rocks of HoHo Bay. Spent time watching them diving and bathing. Friday, February 4 Bluff, New Zealand Sitting on the top deck, watching New Zealand come into view. Lovely as New Zealand is, it¹s hard to say goodbye to the Southern Ocean, Antarctica and everybody aboard Shokalskiy. I¹ll be back sometime, I hope.

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