Sparky Travels

February 18, 2011

Antarctic Exploration

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 11:57 pm

After our camping trip that night, we returned to the ship at 5am for a well deserved breakfast.

There was little time to relax as we went on our morning landings on the Wilhelm Archipelago. We began by landing at Charcot Bay on Booth Island. We got our first sight of chinstrap penguins. These were smaller but more sturdy than the Gentoo penguins we’d seen already, with the characteristic black line across their necks.

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Booth Island also had a hill with a steep walk up to a cairn built by French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot’s team during their 1904/1905 expedition to the region. Amazingly it is still in great condition given the environment its survived in. The wind here was pretty strong and the walk up was very exposed.

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We also stopped off at nearby Winter Island, the site of another abandoned British research station named Wordie House where Nigel, another one of our Expedition Team remembered spending a night while wintering in Antarctica many years ago.DSC00902DSC00900 

In the afternoon we landed at another research base on Galindez Island in the Argentine Islands. This one had an added attraction though…
Previously Britain’s Faraday Research Base, it was sold to Ukraine for £1 (cheaper than dismantling it) and is now called Vernadsky Research Base. It’s atmospheric measurements (in cooperation with two other sites) were pivotal in discovering the hole in the ozone layer. It’s most important room is at the other end of the base from the antiquated atmospheric equipment. A remnant of the days when the British ran the station, is the wooden bar situated in the Faraday lounge.

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It is considered the southernmost public bar in the world, where visitors can purchase shots of vodka for $3. The vodka is made on the premises and they made a fair bit from us as we took advantage of the visit. Any woman could exchange her bra for free shots and there was a modest collection hanging behind the bar. Our stereotypical Ukrainian hosts also showed us round the base and it was interesting to see the difference between here and the British bases in terms of funding and the age of the equipment.

Warmed by the vodka and back onboard the Ocean Nova we dined and then headed up to the Panorama Lounge for an “S” party (Dress up as anything beginning with “S”). My Samurai outfit was a real hit with my t-shirt ninja mask, bathroom squeegee as sword, cardboard throwing stars and toilet-roll sheath. Our team - Team Yu – was named after one of our team members. Yu is a 50 year old 6’4” Chinese man who is travelling the world in a romantic - if somewhat misguided – attempt to prove his love for the woman of his dreams back home in China. After the Pictionary and charades round we were trailing in last place. Myself and Trevor, the astoundingly authentic superhero then fought a superhero-samurai duel which impressed the judges so much in terms of grace, enthusiasm and style that Team Yu were crowned the winners! The standard of costume was high overall with surgeons, snowmen, snowflakes, sick-bags and sheiks among the assemble guests.

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At about 4am on the 18th of February, ahead of schedule and while we were all asleep the Ocean Nova crossed the Antarctic Circle. We had left the shelter of the islands and were back in open ocean - West of Adelaide Island - so the sea was pretty choppy. As we headed South that morning we had lectures on Seals and Sea Ice.

We’d made good time so were able to do a landing at Blaiklock Island in the afternoon. There was an historic refuge hut here and a hill to hike up.DSC00990DSC00963DSC00965 

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