Subject: Day 11, March 1 – Antarctica – Devil and Paulet Islands
We awoke to another incredible morning anchored at Devil Island surrounded by floating ice and ice bergs. An ice float right outside our window had two fur seals sleeping on it and an ice float on the port side near the bow had a huge leopard seal.
There are no words to describe Antarctica. It is like you have been transported to another world. On one hand, its beauty is absolutely stunning, and on the other, its bleak starkness leaves one awestruck. When you are on land, the complete lack of human sound is so different than our day to day lives.
I DID IT! I climbed very slowly and carefully to the first high ridge of Devil’s Island. There was more to climb, but I was actually on the top of a ridge so that counts. Wait until you see the photos!
One expedition leader was going to go through the valley and the other guide to the top. The valley looked like the easier route, so I chose that. We were going along fine until we see some molting penguins. Penguins only molt once a year which is called a “catastrophic molt.” I guess they feel horrible during this time and the leaders get really upset if you go too close or make them move in any way. So, no problem, around the penguins we go. Opps! lots of loose rocks and the slipping and sliding was not for me even with my walking stick. Then, I decided that actually the hike to the top of Devil’s Island looked doable and I did it! Now I can cross that off my list. I am now knowledgeable on how to create a trail in snow. Toe in the snow first going up the mountain, and heel first on the way down. I know this is going to be very useful when I return to Florida.
As the Polar Star carefully weaves her way through the ice bergs, you understand why you want an ice breaker and so many ships succumb to this harsh environment. We just passed a tabular (flat) ice berg that is 500 meters long. No ship wants to hit that. The largest tabular ice berg recorded was the size of Jamaica. Four different pieces of it have now broken off and scientists keep track of where each piece is. They give each large ice berg a number.
After lunch we are going to take the Zodiacs to Paulet Island where the remains of a 1903 expedition led by Otto Nordenskjold, a Swedish Scientist, still exist. His team of six remained on the island for a year. The blue-eyed shag on the island were beautiful birds. Yes, of course the hikers trekked to the top of the mountain. I have photos of these diehards. This is the last expedition of the Polar Star in Antarctica this year because winter is setting in. This morning, the water had a film of ice covering it. Joel, our zodiac driver, told us he is off now to get his masters in environmental science to help businesses be eco friendly. Anyone who loves nature, wants to keep it. As our geologists said yesterday, as she was explaining where glaciers should be, “Warming trends happen, but we would have to be pretty stupid to think we were not impacting our world.”
After two to three Zodiac landings a day, today is going to be a relaxing day at sea as the ship repositions itself to the South Orkney Islands. Yesterday three Zodiacs (10 passengers each) couldn’t get back on the ship because ice had formed around the ship while they were away, but that is a story for the next e-mail.
More to follow,
Tom & Holly