December 31, 2014

Antarctica: Brown Bluff and Esperanza Station

Expedition leader update:
We enter the last day of 2014, and what a day it turned out to be! Overnight the Ushuaia had crossed the northern end of the Bransfield Strait and around 0600 hours turned into the Antarctic Sound. Here we had islands to the north of us but to our immediate south was the Antarctic Continent. Over an early breakfast we passed some beautiful tabular icebergs and small pieces of sea ice. But none of these impediments prevented the ship reaching her anchorage of our intended landing site of Brown Bluff on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The dramatic cliffs of the Bluff are home to countless Petrels while the beach at its base accommodates vast numbers of Gentoo and Adelie penguins. Approaching the beach jagged rocks reared their ugly heads above the sea but our skillful Zodiac drivers navigated them safely and once on the gravel beach the students went off on a series of workshops including climate research through ice core drilling, art work, penguin watching, sea water analysis and plankton tows. All the groups circulated so everyone could marvel at the stunning beauty of the place and absorb the feeling of walking on the continent.
Come 1300 hours it was time to leave the Adelie and Gentoo penguins behind and return to the ship. It was now time for our good deed of the day. Another ship came into view and one of its passengers had not received his luggage. We had picked it up in Ushuaia and now delivered it to the elderly gentleman on board. Over lunch the Ushuaia sailed the relatively short distance to the area of our proposed afternoon activity, the Argentine Station of Esperanza. The station members had invited us to visit them, a really kind gesture. We arrived at the station and the boats were in the water by 1500 hours. There was a stiff breeze and choppy sea, everyone got pretty wet going to the landing but our brave hearts were not deterred. Ashore the Base members greeted us, guided everyone around and with great hospitality provided hot drinks and nibbles in the main Base Hut. The Base sits in a glorious setting on the edge of Hope Bay with Mount Flora towering behind and the pristine white of Depot Glacier leading into the distance. Around 1715hrs we started to be ferried back to the ship, the Zodiac drivers doing an excellent job leaving our friends at the Station behind to enjoy their New Year’s Eve, hopefully we had helped that by supplying fruit and wine. The ship circumnavigated a huge Tabular Iceberg before setting our nose into the Bransfield Strait. Just before dinner Olle presented the magnificent story of the Swedish Explorer, Otto Nordenskjold, much of the amazing story of this man’s expedition took place in the area where we have been today.
New Year’s eve was a night to remember! Our talented group of students and staff treated us to folk singing, guitar playing, debates, poetry, dancing, comedy and more! We wrapped up the evening with a New Year’s toast and wonderful memories of yet another spectacular day!
 
Tomorrow promises more adventure as we explore Deception Island, an active volcanic island where we will experience a Polar dip in Antarctic waters and explore the former whaling station at Whaler’s Bay before continuing down the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula.
 
More discovery and adventures ahead! Happy New Year’s to all our friends, family, partners and supporters.
 
In the expedition spirit,
Geoff Green
 
Housekeeping notes: A new video has been added to the “videos” page and some late journals were added to the December 30th page.
 
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“Wow. In our second zodiac tour today, we managed to land on Brown’s Bluff. The significance of this little inlet is that it is located on the Antarctic Penninsula. Which means that today was the first time that any of us have set foot on the Antarctic continent!! From the moment my foot crunched into the grey, smooth rocks on the beach, I knew that this landing would remain in my heart forever. Soaring above my head was the most beautiful mountain I have ever seen. It was peculiar in composition, similar to the Grand Canyon, with lines of sedimentry rock streaking across its sides. But it’s real beauty came when it’s brown, warm hue came into contrast with the stark whiteness of the mountains in the distance. Earth and ice- in this peculiar landscape the two worlds collide.
“I witnessed the close proximity of this contrast when I volunteered to go with Derek and Eric to take ice core samples on a nearby glaciers. Walking to this destination, it gently sloped out from the distance in rolling, almost lush kind of way. But shortly down the line was its polar opposite – stark, high ice cliffs. It was a momentous occasion taking the first step onto the glacier – I could now literally say I was a Student on Ice (get it? Aha). In all seriousness though climbing the glacier was a peculiar expierience. It was fasicinating to see nothing but stark white surrounding my entire field of vision. Moreover, we encountered a variety of curiosities along the way. For example, a meltwater stream poured down along the glacier. We got to drink fresh, 1500 year old ice water that had not seen the light of day in millenia. Then, we happened to stop for a snowball fight. On New Year’s Eve, I was having a snowball fight in Antarctica. I’m still laughing in its crazy ridiuclousness and awe.
“The next moment of utter awe occurred as I stood by the side of the massive penguin rookery. There I was, standing in the midst of thousands of penguins who were squaking, building nests, and living life to the fullest. By watching them go about their daily buisness in such an energetic and cute manner, I could feel my own energy and spirits beggining to soar. Pure awe is all I can say to descirbe standing at the base of this massive civilization. There were rhythms here – patterns, intracticies and complexities that were at the same time too minute and to overwhelming for me to ever understand. The complex behaviours of penguins, the rock the ice – it was just too much to manage. So I stood in awe watching – watching. As Rush once said, ‘Mystic rhythms. Capture my thoughts. Carry me away.'”
~Robert Adragna, Toronto, Ontario
 
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“First off, I would like to wish everyone a happy new year. I cannot believe that I am spending it in Antarctica. When we first laid eyes on Antarctica, it completely surpassed my expectations. The variation of snow, rock, and ice was wonderfully overwhelming. We went out in little rafts and got incredibly close to the penguins. The smell was a bit unpleasant, but I didn’t notice it over my awe of the penguins’ home. When we spotted the seal, the squaks and barks from the penguins became louder and more frantic.
“This is probably going to be one of the most memorable new year’s eve. Yesterday we saw two types of penguins: Chinstrap and Macoroni. We were also able to witness two seals patroling the coast. As we pushed on, we watched three whales feed on krill. I’m sure that everyone wanted to get a fluke photo.”
~Grace Broderick, Chicago, Illinois
 
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“Bon any a tots!!! Vosaltres ja fa unes quatre hores que heu entrat al 2015, nosaltres a l’Antartica (no puc creure que estic escribint aixo) ho acabem de fer. I a fora encara es de dia!!! Desitjo que tingueu un fantastic 2015! I espero veure a tots aquells a qui no he pogut veure durant el 2014!
“Aqui la fi del 2014 ha sigut molt especial. Avui hem trepitjat finalment el continent sota un sol increible. Primer a Brown Bluff per veure una super colonia de pinguins Adelie i Gentoo. Despres a la base de recerca Argentina Esperanza.
Mil petons des del sud cap per vall.
“Happy New Year!!! in Europe it was about 4 hours ago, here in Antarctic just now, and outside it is still daylight!!!
I wish you all a wonderful 2015! I hope to be able to see all those I have not seen in 2014!
“Here the end on 2014 has been really special. Today we finally steped on the continent under ever shinning sun. First at Brown Bluff to see an Adelie and Gentoo Penguin rookery. Then to the research Argentinian base Esperanza.
“Upsidedown kisses from the south.”
~Anna Abella, Baar, Switzerland
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“Today was our first day on the Antarctic continent! We took a Zodiac ride to Brown Bluff on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula where we separated into workshop groups. I joined the climate research, ice coring group. We climbed up a glacier and enjoyed a magnificent view over the glacier, dramatic peaks in the distance and the ocean filled with icebergs. In the afternoon we visited an Argentinian Research Station. A wonderful day that ended with a fun talent show involving students and staff and a toast as we rang in the New Year. To all my family and friends, Happy New Year! As I gaze out the ship’s window at massive tabular icebergs in the distance, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to experience this place. To Joel, Ava and Katherine, I hope today has been a special one for you, too. I love you and miss you very much.”
~Ashley Brasfield, Ottawa, Ontario  
 
“Today I woke up, threw on my clothing, went outside my room, and was met by a beautiful Antarctic sun and the site of glaciers and mountains floating past. The ocean was the bluest of blues, and I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to start the day. The crew hopped into the zodiacs, and off we went to make our first landing on the Antarctic continent.

“The zodiac scraped up against the rocky shore, and out I hopped, wading up to the shore to touch ground for the first time in two days. A couple of gentoo and adelie penguins met me on the shore of the beautiful cliffed shore they call Brown Bluff. The stretch of shore was situated between a massive glacier on the left, and a noisy and rather pungent penguin rookery on the right side. I strolled my way up and down the shore, enjoying myself and waiting for the rest of the SOI group to join us, taking a peek at a pair of nesting gulls on the top of a sand carved boulder.

“When the whole gang was present, we made our way up the glacier, following the tracks of penguins that had toboggoned up and down the slope, learning about the glacial features as we went with our glaciologist, Derek. At the top, we drilled out an ice core and took the temperature of various layers, as he explained how scientists would rigorously date and classify the different chemistries of the air in different depths of the core. Once we were finished there, much like a penguin I slid on my stomach down the slope and back to the beautiful beach.

“I made my way across the shore, stopping here and there to enjoy the curiousity or silly behavior of one or a group of penguins jumping into the water or scratching itself. Once at the far right end of the beach, I came across the hundreds of nesting Adelies with their rock nests, and fluffy brown chicks at their feet, or tucked underneath their fat pouches, staying warm and safe with their parent. Every now and then a parent would chase off an intruder who was trying to steal a pebble from their nest.

“When our time was up, we left this beautiful respite, and headed back north a little ways on the tip of the Antarctic peninsula to the Esparanza Research station. Here the orange buildings, more militaristic in function that scientific were in stark contrast to the white snow background. A penguin rookery bordered the small town, and visiting the locals and their museum, schoolyard, and small homes was a pleasant experience.

“The two landings of today were extremely beautiful and once again we were very fortunate to have had a peaceful day in Antarctic waters. The day finished off with SOI student and staff festivities to celebrate the New Year, and feeling the community aboard our vessel was a very nice thing to have when so far away from friends and family during the holidays. Just as the New Years countdown finished, the most beautiful thing drifted past our ship. There, in the low light Antarctic evening, floated a windcarved iceberg, a dome in shape, with a small shelf at the back, where around fifteen penguins floated in the middle of the ocean. The sight caught my breath. This was something that was so unexpected and so fragile in such a harsh place that it presented a beauty that is still printed out on my mind.

“If I had only seen this one sight today, it would be more than I could possibly expect for New Years. I am truly blessed to be in this place, and I hope that in the New Year Antarctica is as kind to me as it has been these last couple of days.”

~Patrick Soporovich, Whitehorse, Yukon
 
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“Dag 5: 
“Hej!
“Ledsen att jag inte har skrivit innan. Idag satte vi fot pa kontinenten. Forst var vi vid en pingvinkoloni vilket var ashaftigt. Sedan efter lunch var vi vid en Argentinsk station called Ezparansa. Det var ocksa haftigt men under pingvinerna men blev intressantare efter jag hort pappas historia darifran fran farfar. Annars mar jag bra och har traffat manga nya vanner som tycker Sverige verkar intressant. Speciellt en kille som heter Matthew som ar jattetrevlig trots att han ar en Republikan.
“Jag blev bara lite aksjuk genom Drakpassagen men vi har haft det valdigt lugnt och skont. Jag har bara somnat till lite pa nagra aav forelasningarna p.g.a av sjosjukan och medicinerna (for de mesta). Annars har allt varit valdigt intressant speciellt Farfars historier.
“Hoppas ni har det bra dar hemma.”
~Samuel Carlsson, Sweden
 
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“We have now been onboard the ship Ushuaia for 4 days, and despite the rough seas, and the many people who were seasick (I wasn’t!) everyone has been super positive and we have all become best friends. Yesterday we stopped at Elephant Island, and had a zodiac boat tour. We saw the places that the old Antarctic explorer had stopped. We saw Chinstrap Penguins, Adelie Penguins, one Macaroni Penguin, a Leapord seal, some small Elephant seals, and TONS of birds. Right after that we went out on deck and watched whales feeding in the distance for about an hour. It was super COLD. Today we got up at about 7:00am and had our first landing at Browns Bluff, where I hiked a glacier and took an ice core. It sat out in the sun too long so we weren’t able to make any accurate readings on the air quality years ago. After sliding down, we saw hundreds of penguins (Gentoo and Adelie), and had some time just to sit with them and watch them in their rookeries, stealing stones from other nests, doing their mating dances, and feeding their chicks which were TINY. They don’t seem to be scared of humans whatsoever. I think I have fallen in love with penguins, it was hard to leave! In a bit we are going to Esperanza Station, an Argentinian reaserch base, which is unique because it allows families of the reaserchers to live with them. Families in the winter go home, so we wont be able to see them, but we have a whie to tour the facility! I am super excited. Waters have calmed down and this ship feels like home. HAPPY NEW YEAR!.”
~Alissa Sallans, Whitby, Ontario
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“Our first complete day in Antarctica with 24 hours of daylight! After completing off my assignment on geoprocessing on ARCGIC (Remote sensing course), I went to bed and the excitement of being in Antarctica woke me up at 6:30 AM in the morning! We were sailing past Esperanza station in the Antarctica peninsula and heading towards Brown Bluff. Our first landing on the Antarctic Peninsula on a dormant volcanic region was excellent! Brown Bluff had species of Adelie and Gentoo pengunis.  Since I choose to work on the Glaciology group, we hiked up a nearby glacier on Brown Bluff and studied the glacier by drilling the ice using the ice core machine. On our way back we saw penguin rookery and small chicks roaming in their natural enviornment oblivious to our presence and carrying on with their work. It was fascinating to learn that due to good whether conditions we were able to have a second landing the same day in Esperanza station. The Argentinian station is home to many families who are permanent residents of Antarctica. It is a place of historical signifance since Otto Norgenfjord’s stone hut is near the station a place called ‘Hope Bay’. A sumptuous new year dinner, tabular glaciers and the tale of Otto Norjernfjord told by Olle topped the entire day! The last day of the year at one of the most beautiful places on Earth is spectacular! Happy new year to my dear family, friends and every person out there who dreams of stepping foot on Antarctica: Keep believing in your dreams!”
~Zareen Cheema, Pune, India
 
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“Today was an awesome day. We went for the first time on the Antarctic continent and it was so beautiful. There were mountains everywhere and a rookery of penguins. It was very interesting seeing penguins in the wild and watching them behave towards one another. It is the breeding season and I saw a lot of baby chicks. They were still brown and a bit smaller than their parents. I tried counting the penguins, but there were too many of them. After exploring the continent a bit and taking tons of pictures, I went on a zodiac ride and enjoyed the amazing view.
“After lunch, we went with the zodiacs to an Antarctic station and we visited the people there. We saw a lunch room, a church and a school. It was interesting learning about the peoples’ lifestyle there. After having a small break at the station and eating snacks, we went back to the boat and Olle gave an interesting presentation about Otto Nordenskjold.
Today was equally great as yesterday and I hope the following days will be as exciting as this one, or even better!
“Thanks mom and dad for this opportunity,”
~Rose Cideciyan, Baar, Switzerland
 
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“When I was on the zodiac back to our ship, leaving Brown Bluff, there were tears in my eyes. Everything was so calm and peaceful. The ocean was deep blue, with golden sunrays shining through. Icebergs of different sizes floated on the clear water. The bottoms of the icebergs underwater had the purest light blue I had ever seen. Adelie penguins stood on the icebergs, looking confused at us and our black balloon-like thing swimming fast past them. I could see huge white icesheets hundreds of meters away with the light blue sky and smokish clouds in the background. Everything was so white and blue with the decorations of black and white from the penguins. Everything seemed endless and could last forever.
“There were only two places that made me want to cry. The first was the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. I still remembered the day I visited the crater in the summer, I stood in the safari car and let the wind blow into my face till I couldn’t open my eyes. Zebras and Wilderbeests grazed on the grassland that I could not tell how far away the boarder was. Huge mountains at the far end turned out to be the wall of the crater. This was a magical place where everything was confined in a huge hole, but everything seemed to be free.
“I guess Brown Bluff made me want to cry in a similar way. The massive wilderness often reminded me of how small I was and how I was not belong to this land. The beauty of it convinced me of the power of the nature. I always believed that the nature was the best artist and it loves everything in this world. Organisms shaped in a way that they could live in the most comfortable way. Environments were designed to welcome settled residents. The movements of the landscape told stories of a long time and created the fascinating sceneries which we could only admire.
“Today I appreciated the wilderness by sitting among the penguin colony in Brown Bluff. With two cameras in hand, I wish I could bring one more camera to record this breathtaking moment. Adelie penguins, approximately 30 centimeters tall, swayed their bodies and stretched their wings to maintain the balance as they walk closer to me. What was really special about Adelie was that there were white circles around their black eyes, which made their eyes especially big and reminded me of the cartoon characters. When I wish all these amazing views of penguins nesting and chasing each other could be framed in my brain, a penguin walked toward me and stopped when it was half a meter away from me. Wings stretched, it stared at me with their black eyes and blinked. It had beautiful oily black feathers on its wings and head. Under the antarctic sunlight, its belly was as white and bright as a pearl. Without touching it, I could feel the smoothiness of its body. It stretch its long neck, attempting to have a closer of me. I guess I looked too weird to it, with huge puffy jackets and sunglasses. It came to a conclusion that I was a penguin from another part of the universe and was no harm to it, and walked slowly away from me.
“I can’t believe I’m going to see much more tomorrow and ongoing days. What a great start of the new year.”
~Joanne Li, Beijing, China  
 
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“Holy cow, it’s New Year’s Eve. The last day of December and I’m spending it in Antarctica! Not many people can say that one. We are going to have a talent show tonight to celebrate and we got Eclairs for dessert tonight as well. It’s a little weird not spending this holiday at home, but it’s also really awesome.
“Today was amazing. We visited Brown Bluff and experienced a penguin rookery up close and personal. Let me tell you, when they say penguins smell, they aren’t lying. Even though the rule states that we have to stay 15 feet away from the animals, the penguins didn’t really follow that rule. I had an Adelie penguin come within a foot of me and it was an experience I’ll never forget. It’s hard to describe how cool being so close to these amazing creatures. There were also baby Adelie and Gentoo penguins, which were just little brown tufts of adorableness. Standing there, watching the colony was just too cool.
“We also had the opportunity to visit the Argentine research station, which was pretty cool. The zodiac ride from the boat to the station was a bit bumpy and wet. Even though my phone was in my pocket, it still managed to get quite soaked, so now it’s kind of dead. But luckily I still have my camera, so I can still get great pictures. Even though the selfie with a penguin might be a bit difficult. But back to the reseach station. The cool thing about this station was that it is one of the few stations where entire families live together at the station. We got the chance to see the school where the kids learn, as well as the church and the dining room. I’m a little bummed that we weren’t able to visit the actual labs and see what type of research they’re doing there, because that’s mostly what I’m interested in. But, you take what you can get down here, and what I saw was truly amazing.
“That’s all for now. I hope everyone’s New Year is spectacular and fun and I’ll see you all next year!”
~Kelly Esenther, Madison, Wisconsin
 
“Yesterday we oficially arrived to Antartica and we saw penguins onIEelephant island. It was the first time I saw penguins so it was a whole new experience. I really enjoyed it. I took many pictures of course but I also just stopped for a while to appreciate the beautiful moment. Today we went to Brown Bluff . We had four options of what we wanted to do such as watch the penguins, walk up the glaciear or do art. I decided to watch the penguins. It was a good choice but in the future I would like to do the other activities as well. We saw them really close and we sat down waiting foa penguin to get close to us. They got pretty close which was amazing. I am looking forward to watching whales. The view is just magical and very unique. It feels like a dream being out here and experiencing the beauty of nature.”
~Sofia Dionisio, Baar, Switzerland
 
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“This morning we did our first landing at Brown Bluff. It was great to finally set foot on the Antarctic Continent! The landing was amazing as well. Brown Bluff is a rocky beach full of boulders larger than cars. Gulls nest on the top of these boulders and Adelie and Gentoo Penguins nest around their bottoms. We were greeted on the beach by hundreds of penguins amidst a breath-taking mountain backdrop. The landing lasted for roughly three hours and I had a cheeky smile on my face the whole time. The penguins were fascinating to watch. It was just like something out of a documentary. Predatory birds could be seen keeping penguins alert while the whole rookery of penguins participated in various penguin activites such as: leaving the beach to fish for food, returning to the beach to feed their chicks, building nests, fighting, loving, sleeping, and regurgitating their food for their young. Delicious. It truly was thrilling to watch the penguins at work. On both sides of the penguin-filled shore were enormous glaciers. Their magnitude could be appreciated by the fact that clouds decorated their peaks. On the zodiac cruise back to the ship, dozens of penguins could be seen grazing on the countless icebergs which filled the bay in front on Brown Bluff. The weather was just incredible today and when I returned to the ship I spent half an hour or so sitting on the bow of the ship admiring the crisp scenery all around me.
“We have just returned from our second landing of the day at an Argentinian Research Station in Hope Bay. The station first became a research station in 1978 after having been a military base since the 1950’s. Seven children have been born at the station, which is one of few stations that is open all year. All of the families that live at the station had returned home for Christmas, however we received a brief tour of the camp before heading back to the ship.
“We will dine tonight and then enjoy celebrations as we welcome in the new year.”
~Patrick Hickey, St. John’s, Newfoundland
 
“All our people on the ship celebrated as we rang in the New Year. For all of you out there following our expedition Happy New Year! Welcome to 2015! Today was our first day on the Antarctic continent, previously we had been to the islands off the coast of the continent but today we made land fall as we washed our boots before and entering the boat to make sure that no foreign species made it on board or was left in Antarctica. We made landfall at Brown Bluff where we observed a rookery of penguins, more specifically Gentoo and Adelie penguins. There were many opportunities to observe their behaviours from building nests to feeding their chicks. As I first approached the rookery I was able to see hundreds spanning the length of the beach as they made calls to one another. They are able to differentiate between each others calls, but to me they all sounded pretty similar. The day was beautiful as it was sunny there were sparkling waters and blue ice flows as we looked out from the shore. Calm, sunny days are unusual so I suppose its that good karma we’ve been experiencing. We were able to observe the penguins coming in and out of the water and proposing to catch a breath. I sat down on the beach to just watch, camera placed in the sand, I watched as an Adelie penguin approached the camera to make his own observations all you can see in the video is the feet of the penguin but what occurred above the camera was interesting the penguin hesitated closer to my jacket and just before he was going to peck at my arm he retreated as the pressure of the new visitor was too much for today. I enjoyed the interaction with the penguins it was the closest I have come to a wild animal and it was a positive experience.
“I was also able to to try my hand at sampling the Southern Ocean in the oceanography workshop we were using plankton tows to sample the phytoplankton and zooplankton, unfortunately we were only able to catch copepods, but we did learn some interesting facts about the southern ocean. I enjoyed the zodiac ride around the ice as it was turquoise at the surface of the water where the ice floats. The penguins surrounded the area on the larger ice flows as well peaking their heads just enough to look over the side and observe us visitors.
“After Brown Bluff we made our was to our first Antarctic Station, Esperanza also known as Hope Bay, there is an Argentina Base there; they allowed us to tour the base and told us about the school and church at the station this base houses families during the year which I thought was very interesting. Today was a long day with many new experiences and as we count down the New Year here I wish everyone reading a Happy New Year!”
~Kalyn LeBlanc, Brunswick, Maine
“Instead of feeling seasick today, I felt a bit landsick. What this means, however, is that we landed on the Antarctic continent today! Brown Bluff seems like it truly is out of this world, with the line between the sea and the sky fading into a gentle morning pink. I managed to take quite a few photos of Gentoo and Adelie penguins going about their daily lives, which I’m really happy about because my cousin is learning about them in school right now (I hope I can help her out). I didn’t want to take too much time with my camera, though, because I really enjoyed the time I had to just sit by the water and take in the moment. I was really excited to tour around the Esperanza research base, and I thought the colour scheme of the buildings was quite nice!! Realizing that people live here, classroom, church, and all, made me think about how incredible this world is–along with the beings that inhabit it. I hope to process it all tonight, but for now, I’ll settle with taking in a view of a tabular iceberg!”
~Tiffany Quon, Vancouver, British Columbia
 
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“It’s New Year’s Eve, and I cannot think of a better way to end 2014 than how today happened to unfold. We were given the absolutely wonderful opportunity to make not just one, but TWO landings today, and the both of them turned out to be incredible experiences. After an earlier wake up call than the past few days, we made our way out into the zodiacs again. We headed for Brown Bluff and at long last, I can say that I have officially set foot on the Antarctic continent! I chose to go out for the Oceanography education session today, and it was such an amazing experience to be out in the water and learn so much about oceanography. Although we might not have found anything, apart from an unidentified “giant worm” that we aptly dubbed a “thingy,” I’m still thankful for the experience. I ended the landing by looking around the rookeries of the area, seeing both Gentoo and Adelie penguins. It rendered me absolutely speechless to be able to sit amongst these animals and watch them come up to me and treat me as though I was just another penguin, albeit a rather gigantic one. Before I even knew how much time had passed, it was time to say goodbye to Brown Bluff and its penguins.
“But, before we even really had time to process what we had just experienced, we were off to the next landing station. This time it was a military base called Esperanza! Coming from a military family, it was definitely interesting to get to see a military community stationed this far out. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to grow up in an environment like that, but the people who are stationed there certainly seem to make the best of it! Although the zodiac rides there and back were a little wetter than I would have expected, I was thankful to find that my waterproof gear was indeed waterproof. The station was beautiful as well, and the lecture that followed about the Swedish expedition that had at one point crossed through where Esperanza is located just became the icing on the cake of an absolutely fantastic New Year’s Eve. Today has definitely set the bar for the New Year’s Eves of years to come, but somehow, I don’t think much of anything is ever going to compare to this.”
~Serenity McKenzie, Abilene, Texas
 
“Words can’t describe how wonderful today has been! We first took zodiacs from the ship and finally set foot on Antarctica at Brown Bluff and hiked a glacier. While on the glacier, we drank from a glacial stream, made snow angels, took samples of watermelon snow, and took an ice core! We also got a chance to sit on the shore and have up-close interactions with gentoo and adelie penguins! I was even able to strip off two of the 6 layers I was wearing on top because the weather was sunny, nice, and warm! After taking the zodiacs back to the boat for lunch, we were fortunate enough to make a landing at Esperanza, an Argentenian research station! I couldn’t believe it was actually happening! We got a tour of the various buildings of this unique station; it’s unique because it has a k-12 school with 14 students that attend during the Argentenian school year. The wind picked up a bit later in the day, so the zodiac rides to and from Esperanza were a bit rougher and wetter than the earlier Brown Bluff rides, but it was absolutely worth it! Back on the ship, we had a bit of down time until our New Year’s Eve party, which was definitely one to remember! After all, how many times will you be sailing through Bransfield Strait on New Year’s Eve? Happy 2015!”
~Olivia Sayer, Littleton, Colorado
 
“Ah, I think we all stayed up too late last night, listening to stories and doing activities. I was a lot more tired this morning, anyway. That may be in part to the fact that we woke up an hour earlier, because we were about to take our first steps on the actual continent of Antarctica!
“We scrubbed our boots in a little procession, embarked the zodiacs to get across the bay, then landed on the dark pebbly beach. There were Gentoo penguins and Adelie penguins nesting! I sat near the Adelie penguins nest, watching a penguin soap-opera unfold.
“One of the penguins had twins, and one had just one enormous baby (almost as large as the parent, but pear shaped, and made of grey fluff). I saw a few penguins stealing rocks and putting them in their own nests, and a lot of….er…interesting parenting strategies. The penguins on the edge of the rookery were apparently the newer parents, and it showed.
“Sometimes they forgot about their babies, or were a bit hesitant about feeding them, or didn’t want to swap over and let their mate guard the nest while they went to feed. At one stage I saw two chicks wobble out of the nest, and some got plucked and grabbed at by other parents! One of them wobbled its way behind a penguin which seemed to adopt it? It seems like a tough life for an Adelie penguin chick.
“Later on we parked outside the Argentine base ‘Esperanza’ and disembarked. The water was a little more choppy, and we got splashed while travelling to the pier. It was cold! I didn’t have waterproof pants or gloves! My fingers felt like icicles, man. Also, my glasses got all sea-salted, so I spent a lot of time wiping them down when we were ashore. What do slightly-blind sailors do? Do they wear glasses? Theres got to be a solution to that.
“The base itself was adorable. They took us into the school (for the children of those people who were spending the winter there) and it reminded me of somewhere between homeschooling and my primary school which was 30 people. It was very neat, classroom had three chairs, and books appropriate to the grade stacked on the shelves.
“There was a church, too, and it had four little wooden pews, and a relic sent by the pope. I was lucky enough to be allowed inside one of the residences too, and it was cute! It reminded me of a cross between a cabin and an apartment, because it was neat but simple. The people at Esperansa were such good hosts! I’m greatful to have been allowed on their base.
Tonight is new years eve! How exciting!
“We’re running a talent show, so I made posters to advertise it to the rest of the boat. I’m not sure how well it will go down, but its a pretty good feeling to be celebrating new years in Antarctica regardless (it hasn’t sunk in yet that I’m actually here, I think!).”
~Jemma Sweeney, Mount Waverley, Australia
 
“Mom you must be so proud of me for blogging so much. Another great day here! Stepped foot on Antartica, cross that off my bucket list. It was so cool to see the Penguins. You won’t believe how many were here. It was a small colony of them, there was 50,000 at least. The cutiest little things, yet they are so smelly. After our first landing we moved to go see the Argentian Base not far away. Got a tour of the town, roughly 30 buildings there. I even got a chance to buy some souviniers. I know Dad, Andrew and Pa are in Atlanta right now. Hope everything is going great for them! Get your frogs up.
“I miss everyone and especially my Keiko dog. Make sure to giver her a hug from me! Tomorrow we are going to Deception Island, very excited. So far my roomate, Samuel has taught me some Swedish. He has been a great roomate for dealing with my sloppiness. He is a really nice and chill guy who speaks great English. Not only have I learned some Swedish, I also know some Inuktitut (I had one of the Inuit students type that).
“Clothing wise I have zero problems mom. We (mostly you) did a great job preparing for this. Thank you!!!”
~Matthew Peterson, Glenview, Illinois
 
“Today began with our first landing on the proper of the Atlantic Continent. Our zodiac boats took us across with little difficulty and we landed on a lovely beach covered with small black stones. Large chunks of ice floated around us – one even had the shape of a small dragon. As we walked along the rocky beach, we spied our first large penguin rookery and the sounds of their voices and a whiff of the odor greeted us first. As we neared, we saw the penguins in the midst of refurbishing their nests with small stones and other couples tending their downy grey chicks. Many penguins played and swam in the shallow tidal pools just off shore and other slid and dived off of chunks of ice, clearly a happy and well-adjusted penguin community. Many of us sat quietly watching their antics and habits. We even saw the penguin tradition of picking up small stones to use for improving their nests.
“Later, we made a 2nd landing at the Esperanza Research Station. Many families live there during the winter, and at present, many were on holiday during the summer season. Still, the conditions were snowy and harsh to many of us from more temperate zones. We all wondered at the strength that it would take to raise a family and children in the condition of this place in the winter. Hardy souls only need apply here. After a lovely visit to their cafe, some cups of wonderful coffee, and the purchase of a few items at their small store, we were back on our zodiacs for a bit of a wet return to our lovely Ushuaia. To excite us even more, we then passed a large tabular iceberg that was larger than any municipal building. What amazed us even more is that only 10 percent of any berg is visible above the surface.
“We had a lovely New Years Dinner and all are now rested and ready for what will be our New Years Talent Demonstration for the young explorers on our Expedition. That’s all for now…Happy New Year to all from us in Antarctica…”
~Beth Ann Smith, Augusta, Georgia
 
“Today we finally landed on the continent of Antarctica. We actually made two landings, one of which was at an Argentinian research base. It was much different than I had anticipated. It looked more like a small town than a research station. It also happens to be the only base where families live so it has a school, a church and pretty much everything you need to survive year round. I wish I could wake up every morning on a base with icebergs as my view and penguins waddling around in my backyard. Today was by far the best day of the expedition. Here are a few things I learned along the way:”
1) Penguins do indeed smell bad (their cuteness makes up for it)
2) It is possible to get a sunburn in Antarctica
3) Zodiac rides are fun until you get really wet
4) My rubber boots really aren’t that waterproof anymore
~Sarah Veber, St. Philip’s, Newfoundland
 
“I just got back from our first landing which was on the tip of the Antarctic peninsula at Brown Bluff. I woke up at 6:30 to do yoga with Kate and before breakfast we could see the Antartic mainland. We anchored this morning around 9:00 and embarked on the zodiacs at about 10:00. When we debarked, we had our choice of workshops. I chose to find a nice rock for a backrest next to the penguin rookery and watch them waddle by on their way to the water. It felt a bit like sunbathing because the weather was so nice. Trevor also gave us a great zodiac tour on the way back of the fields of sea ice.
“This afternoon we’re going to visit Esperanza, the Argentinian research station which I suspect will be a highlight of the trip. I also think they have some New Year’s Eve festivities planned for us this evening, but they haven’t unveiled them yet. To everyone back home, cheers to a New Year. (Also, to Leah and Rich: my boots have been perfect.)”
~Paige Ward, Annapolis, Maryland
 
“How to Start a Penguin Mob:”
1. Go to an area where there are penguins in the vicinity
2. Go to the edge of that area of beach
3. Slowly lie down on the beach
4. Do not move or make a sound or else the above process must be repeated in another area of beach
5. Stare at the bright blue cloudless sky for 5 to 10 minutes
6. Slowly turn your head upwards to check for penguin appearances. If there are about 10 to 15 penguins surrounding you, proceed to the next step. If not, repeat steps 5 and 6
7. Slowly move upright into a sitting position
8. Slowly shuffle in a direction of choice until you pass the penguin crowd, then gradually stand up
9. Finally walk towards the penguins and watch them waddle away in a giant swarm/mob
~Eva Wu, Toronto, Ontario
 
“Day 6: Today was absolutely mind changing. After a 7:00am wake-up call and breakfast, we rushed to our rooms with excitement to gear up for our first actual Antarctica continent landing. At 9:00am, we embarked on our journey to Brown Bluff. Aw what an extraordinary experience! As soon as I stepped upon its rocky surface, I felt like a completely changed person. Everything that I have ever thought about Antarctica was completely blown out of proportion. This magnificent continent is so majestic and overwhelms my state of perception. I just stood their and lived in the moment. Later on Brown Bluff, I went on an oceanography zodiac ride. Here we fished for zooplankton, but sadly we only caught a few. But at the last possible second, we found an unusual white, long, and stringy object. It’s so rare to find that nobody aboard the ship knew what it was. After our haul, we took all the specimens and brought them to the boat for further investigation. We then headed back towards the ship, got undressed, and headed for lunch. After lunch, we then went to put back all of our clothing. We then left at 3:00 pm for our next landing at Esperanza Station (Argentinean Science Station). The zodiac ride to the station was extremely windy and bumpy. Lets just say we all got soaked. While we were there, we went to its history museum, school for all ages (14 children total attended here), and the church located here. They then had a store set up so we could buy souveniers before we left, so I bought a hat with an Antarctica patch on it. On the way back in the zodiac, it was just the same as departing the ship; wet and bumpy. When we returned, we were given a presentation about Otto Nordenskjold. Once finished, we headed to our fantastic New Years Eve dinner. After dinner, we were given some time to relax and walk around on deck to see what breath-taking Antarctica has to offer. To end the year of 2014, we had a small party with a talent show. I couldn’t have asked for a better New Years Eve.”
~Suzanne Zeid, Longview, Texas