My name is Henry Stanislaw and I am from the USA. Together with Maria Puig Ribas from Spain, Nora Hasselbach and Vincent Butty from Switzerland, Alexandra Le Dily from France and Carlien Wolmarans from South Africa, I joined the Young Explorer Program within Mike Horn’s PANGAEA Expedition.
This program is created to introduce young adults to exploration, but also to scientific working and learning about the environmental conditions and threats. The first trip in this program took us to Antarctica. Mike is starting his expedition here, where he will walk alone from the Peninsula to the South Pole and back.
For all of us this is the first contact with a polar environment. We started in Ushuaia / Tierra del Fuego, South Argentina. Ushuaia is the most southerly city in the world and known as the “world’s end”. It is located at the famous Beagle Channel which stretches east-west across the southern tip of South America and is separating Tierra del Fuego from the continent. The PANGAEA yacht (a 100ft ketch) had already arrived when we got to Ushuaia. She came the long way from New York down to Ushuaia.
After storing all provisions and technical checks, we started our trip and left Ushuaia at about 8 pm, sailing down the Beagle Channel in perfect conditions. In the early morning we passed Cape Horn in the distance, we had reached the well known Drake Passage. The wind gods stayed with us and we sailed with a north westerly wind of 20 – 30kt southward. During the second night at sea we had snowfall. The deck was covered in snow and we got a new crew member:
After two and a half days we could see Trinity Island, our first destination (63°55’S, 60°58’W; Mikkelson Harbour, southern end of Trinity Island). The sea became oily and patches of grease ice developed. Everybody kept watch for the first iceberg. When we had Trinity Island in our vicinity, we had a look at our first big one. Sailing into Mikkelson Harbour was spectacular, we were surrounded by big Icebergs, glaciers and in the middle a small island with an old Argentine shelter and a large colony of Gentoo Penguins.
Mikkelson Harbour is a sheltered place, only exposed to the south. But as many of the Antarctic bays, it is deep and the ground is shingle, so finding a good spot to anchor is not easy. While looking for a good anchorage, something unpredictable and scary happened: We ran aground! The ocean floor showed a sudden rise from more than 50m to below 2m. We tried hard to get the boat off the bank, unfortunately the tide was going out! The only possibility we had was to lighten the boat and wait for the next high tide the next day.
While the crew was exploring for a deep channel, we went ashore to the penguin colony, well briefed about proper behaviour around wildlife. It was fascinating how close we could come to the penguins without threatening them. We also took the time to explore the abandoned building.
The old Argentinean shelter is a mess. Parts of the roof have collapsed, the door is broken and the penguins just walk in and out.
However, there is still some food in and of course the Argentinean flag. Originally it was planned to clean up the place and to do some repairs. But this would take weeks. The old antenna, old barrels and other garbage are still buried under snow and ice, for it is too early in the year. The next day, we planned to embark on a two-day crossing of the island including a night on the ice. Unfortunately, an incoming storm with gusts up to 45kt and intense snowfall stopped our plans. So we just had another visit to the “penguin island”. During the night the storm diminished and the next day was just gorgeous.
We set sail and went to Orleans Strait. Here we conducted our first Plankton sampling. (Position: 63°55.3’ S, 60°36.8’ W). We also took a temperature and salinity profile down to 100 m, tested the visibility using a Secchi-disc and took Plankton samples from 10m, 30m, 50m and 100m depth, storing them in the fridge to have later a look.
After some hours, we reached Lancaster Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula – the real continent! The scenery was breathtaking, all that we could see were calving glaciers, high mountains, deep blue and turquoise ice bergs. However, the ice closed in and we had to leave.
Turning north, we found a safe anchorage at the southern end of Charcot Bay and here we finally could go on the ice. We hurried to get out crampons, ice axes and the other gear ready and went ashore. We climbed a small, but quite steep mountain at position 63°46.35' S and 59°47.44' W. Since it has no charted name and probably has not been climbed before, we named it Pangaea Horn.
The view was fantastic: we could see along the coast, over to Trinity Island and below the giant yacht PANGAEA looked very small tucked about the mighty icebergs. At an area sheltered from the wind on the summit, we conducted our first snow measurement.
At a suitable place near the summit of “Pangaea Horn”, Roswitha Stolz showed us how to conduct snow measurements. She is from the Geographical Department of Munich University and was the scientific and educational advisor during our trip.
We dug a 170 cm deep snow pit, down to the last summer's snow layer, which was indicated by a very hard ice layer. We checked for different layers, the snow structure of each layer and the snow-water equivalent.
Heading down the mountain we had a short break aboard and turned around to spend a night on the Peninsula at the northern end of Charcot Bay. We climbed up in the evening on to a ridge and set up a tent. It was amazing.
Most impressive is that there is now human created sound, no airplanes, traffic, nothing. Only crashing ice echoed through the quiet. The only lights were our headlamps and PANGAEA’s mooring lights, far below us. Mike and Erwan prepared us some food on a stove, it is amazing how good 2-minute noodles can taste. The night was cold, but in our sleeping bags surrounded by people, it was quite comfortable.
The next morning we headed down. More strong winds were predicted and it was time to find more protected anchorage. The next destination was Deception Island (63°00' S, 61°20’ W). We could not figure out why it is called Deception. Does anybody know? It was a rough passage with wind from the N-NW. About 10 miles ahead of the island we saw a whale! We are not sure what kind it was. Some said they spotted a big fin – so it would have been an Orca, some said that it looked more like a Minke Whale. In the rough sea it was hard to get a good look and decide.
The entrance to Deception is like none other, huge black and red cliffs, which drop to the sea, leaving only a narrow entrance.
We anchored in Whaler’s Bay and had a first stroll over the permafrost beach. It was quite misty and cloudy, which set an eldritch tone over the abandoned whaling station and British meteorological station. The whaling station was abandoned in the 1930s but the British stayed on until after two volcanic eruptions at the end of the 1960s sent a colossal mudslide down and destroyed many of the remaining buildings.
As we continued down the shore, we were told that there was still volcanic activity on the island. Testing what we were told, Erwan, one of our mountain guides, dug a hole and had a bath in the up to 48°C warm water. The air temperature was around 0°C!
During the night the storm with strong westerly winds caught up with us, and we sailed over to Fumerole Bay to find more shelter. It was a rough night. The anchor dragged and the crew was up all night while we slept. The next day, the storm burned off and left us with beautiful blue skies. In the morning we took more plankton samples and analysed them under the microscope. The phytoplankton, which is in bloom, proved the most prominent. The foam rimming the beach also showed this.
Afterward we went back over to Whaler’s Bay. Where we dug two big holes so everybody could enjoy the thermal baths.
As we took turns, some strolled along the beach and observed Skuas having a bath in a pond (just as we had), Cape Petrels, Giant Petrels feasting on a seal carcass, Gentoo Penguins, a lonely Chinstrap Penguin, and a Weddell Seal with a newborn.
With all this life, we also experienced the other side of nature. We came across an abandoned, half dead baby seal, which was lying in shallow water and being attacked by two Giant Petrels.
In the afternoon we set sails again and sailed towards King George Island, our last destination. We left the cliffs of Deception Island behind us and headed along Livingston Island and the other islands of the South Shetlands. As we sailed we experienced our last sun set in Antarctica, and it was undoubtedly the most beautiful one any of us had ever seen.
During the night we arrived in Maxwell Bay on King George.
The next day, before we went to the small airstrip, scientists from the Chilean Station Eduardo Frei invited us for a trip to the penguin colonies on Ardley Island. Large colonies of Gentoo and Adelie penguins are breeding on the ice free areas of the island and the scientists are expecting chicks in a couple of weeks. We went slowly along the beach, keeping a good distance to the nests, to avoid any disturbance and got some incredible looks at the nesting birds.
In the afternoon we had to say goodbye to Antarctica. A small twin-engined plane brought us from King George back to Ushuaia. Now we are all home, re-entering into our day-to-day lives, after one of the most incredible trips any of us has ever had. However, this is not the end of our connection with Antarctica. It is now our turn to go out and tell all our communities, friends, and families what we have seen and what we all can do. Our relationship with Antarctica is only beginning.
What is IPY
Sunday, 28 December 2008 19:10
Report from the YEP expedition to AntarcticaWritten by Roswitha Stolz
- Add to Delicious
- Digg this
- Add to Reddit
- Add to StumbleUpon
- Add to Facebook
- Add to MySpace
- Add to Technorati
Login to post comments
Calendar of Events
Friends of IPY
Fri, 02 Dec 2011Importància quiropterològica del delta del...
Fri, 02 Dec 2011Jornada «El 2012, de què...
Fri, 02 Dec 2011Missatge 12: Com era el...
Thu, 01 Dec 2011HAPPY ANTARCTICA DAY!
Wed, 30 Nov 2011L'estat del malestar