January 2, 2015

ANTARCTICA: Danco Island and Port Lockroy

Expedition leader update:
Overnight our little company had travelled down the Gerlache Strait and breakfast time found us entering the beautiful Errera Channel, which is a waterway between the Antarctic Peninsula and Ronge Island. Once breakfast was finished it was time for our first landing of the day. This was to be on Danco Island, a small island laying in the Errera Channel. A very low tide made it tricky to land, but once ashore there was a hike up to the summit of the snow and glaciar-clad island. On the way up we passed alongside a very active Gentoo penguin rookery with their well-made “penguin highways” for travelling methodically between their nesting ground and the sea. Also at breaks to catch our breath, the clearing blue sky gave us an opportunity to take in the absolutely stunning scenery that was unveiled around us in every direction.
The steep climb provided quite the workout but it was well worth the effort. From the summit the view was beyond breathtaking! Majestic peaks and a sea of icebergs in every direction with the soft sounds of nesting Gentoo penguins, and distant avalanches. This provided the opportunity for group photographs, a silent period to close our eyes and listen, the amazing atmosphere,and the impact of the journey thus far. An ice drilling station was established and the students are beginning to appreciate how this relatively simple piece of apparatus can reveal so many secrets trapped in the ice below.
We were all back on board shortly after 12:30 to be greeted by an excellent Asadobarbecue prepared by our wonderful crew, a really magnificent way to finish the morning! Over lunch we repositioned for the afternoon’s landing. In superb weather the Ushuaia re-crossed the Gerlache Strait and then entered the spectacular Neumayer Channel and around 16:00 dropped anchor in front of Goudier Island.
On Goudier Island lies the old British Antarctic Survey Station of Port Lockroy, Base A. Long abandoned as a scientific base it has been refurbished in its original style and now acts as a really interesting living-museum to a past way of life in Antarctica. It also contains a gift shop and post office and there was much frantic writing by our students excited about the opportunity to send a postcard home. The Base sits cheek by jowl with a Gentoo penguin rookery, apparently not in the least disturbed by the human presence. While half the group started here the other half landed on neighbouringJougla Point and enjoyed the opportunity to see more Gentoo penguins as well as Cormorants with chicks. Another point of interest was the large quantity of massive whale bones left from an earlier era. After a while the groups swapped landing sites and after a suitable time we all experienced a very wet Zodiac ride back to the ship. Very dramatic how the weather changes so rapidly here.
We were treated to yet another delicious meal for dinner and then enjoyed a very inspiring presentation by our expedition staff Eric McNair-Landry and Dr. Kate Breen about their experience connecting to the land and the people in Canada’s northern region of Nunavut and their 2-month expedition across Baffin Island in their own traditionally hand-made kayaks. This was motivated by a goal of re introducing traditional kayaks back into northern communities to help restore a very important part of Inuit culture. Students were mesmerized by the presentation and inspired by its message of reaching for their goals and finding their own way to make a positive difference in their communities and the World. A wonderful end to another incredible day.
Tomorrow we plan to attempt a passage of the Lemaire Channel in the morning with the goal of reaching Pleneau Island.  In the afternoon, we hope to land on Koerner Island and the Koerner Icecap (this far informally named after our late, great friend Dr. Fritz Koerner) where we will continue our 6-year study of the Pillow Icecap that blankets the island.
Our expedition has been such a huge success.  What a special group of people we have.  How blessed we have been over the past week.  Our hearts and minds our over-flowing…
 
In the expedition spirit,
Geoff
Housekeeping notes: Journals have been added to previous days as far back as the 28th, so if you’re following an expeditioner and didn’t see a post from them, go check back! Also check the video page!
 
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“Quins dos dies de comencament de 2015 mes especials. Els he passat basicament a terra envoltada de pinguins, al pont del vaixell o al llit. L’encostipat per sort esta gairebe superat, dormir ha ajudat i estic meravellada amb aquest continent. Es molt dificil d’explicar el que estem vivint. Una natura durissima, si aixo es l’estiu i ens esta fent bons dies no hem vull ni imaginar com deu ser l’hivern; ha de ser el lloc mes hostil del planeta, pero tambe un dels mes bonics.
“Avui hem fet dos baixades a terra, a dos illes de la peninsula Antartica. La del mati, a l’illa Danco crec que es la meva preferida. Cada baixada es especial pero aquest mati m’he escoltat a mi mateixa dient en veu alta uuuaaauuu!!! un parell de vegades. Les muntanyes de pedra negra, quins pics! els graciars immensos, unes parets de gel i unes esquerdes gegants. Els icebergs flotant a l’aiga, de tots tamanys i de formes inimaginables, d’un blanc pur i blau intens que et perd. El sol, els nuvols i els pinguins, una colonia de Gentoos. Hem pujat al mig de l’illa per la neu, avegades ens enfonssavem fins als genolls o mes amunt i tot. I a dalt, podia la vista encara millorar? He fet centenars de fotos, dec tenir la meva muntanya preferida fotografiada de tots els racons.
“Hem fet fotos de grup i un moment de silenci per apreciar el lloc en tota la seva intensitat, cadascu assegut a un raco, el vent bufava, i el gel es deixava escoltar.L’unica cosa que no es perfecte son els peus gelats, no se com fer-ho per a que no se’m gelin de la manera que ho fan, tot i els dos mitjons de llana.
“Tornada al vaixell amb un sol radiant, ens havien preparat barbacoa a fora, jo he menjat panis refugiada del vent, contemplant la vista! Aixo nomes era l’aperitiu i despres dinar! Menjem moltissim pero el fred ho agraeix ;). He pujat al pont del vaixell per a veure el pas per la fi de l’estret de Gerlache que haviem comencat al mati i el pas pel canal de Neumayor entre dos illes. M’adormia al pont i he hagut de fer migdiada. Es dur, vols veure-ho i viure-ho tot pero al mateix temps estem tant cansats….
“Ens hem llevat per anar a visitar Port Lockroy, una antiga base Anglesa que ara esta convertida en museu, aqui es va identificar el forat d’ozo despres d’analitzar les dades de l’aparell ionospheric (besty). Es un lloc curios, esta a una petita petita illa on no hi ha massa mes espai que per un parell d’edificis i uns quants pinguins. L’edifici principal esta mantingut com quan era als anys 50, molt interessat de veure tot els mateirals que tenien. Tambe hem visitat Jougle Point on hi ha una colonia de Gentoos i osos de balena, son gegants. Ara de tornada al vaixell. Aviat tocara sopar i despres les activitats de la nit mentre continuem el viatge cap al sud.
“Ahir no vaig escriure doncs despres de sopar vaig anar directe al llit saltant-me les activitas, pero les 9 hores de son han ajudat a superar l’encostipat. El dia el vam pasar a l’Illa de la Decepcio. Llevant-nos per a veure l’entrada a traves del Trident de Neptu per entrar a Port Foster, una caldera formada en una erupcio fa mes de 10000 anys. Vam baixar a la baia dels balleners a veure l’antiga estacio ballenera, esta plena d’edificis mig en ruines doncs hi ha hagut erupcions modernes del volca al 1967, 69, 70; destrossant tot el que quedava i fent que fos avandonada. Vam pujar caminant fins a la finestra de Neptu des d’on es va divisar el continent Antartic per primera vegada, vam tambe passejar per la platja on fa olor a sulfur i hi ha evaporacio d’aigua calenta i just abans de marxar, bany antarctic, molt i molt rapid pero ho vaig fer! l’aigua ni recordo si estava freda pero a fora, ui! vent gelant i gens de sol. Tornada al vaixell i dutxa, dinar i llarga migdiada! A la tarde vam fer una altra super visita, aquest cop a la part externa de l’illa a Bailey Head on hi ha una colonia de MIG MILIO de pinguins Barbijos (chinstrap). Vam caminar amunt una de les pendents de neu assegurant-nos de no trepitjar l’autopista que els pinguins formen i un cop a dalt, uuaauu!!! increible, el soroll!!! com crident, l’olor i la visio, n’hi ha per tot arreu. Vaig passar mes d’una hora assegua contemplant el seu comportament, com tenen els petits a sota, com donen voltes al ous, com donen de menjar, com intenten robar roques per a fer el su niu mes gran, com crident, i crident molt! Molt i molt especial. I altre cop amb peus congelats cap avall; al arribar vaig pensar, sere de les primeres a marxar, pero vaig sortir amb l’ultima zodiac, dificil de marxar d’un lloc tant increible! Torna sopar i dormir, el cos ja no podia mes; pero ha valgut la pena, com he dit avui m’he llevat molt millor i fins i tot he giat gairebe una hora de ioga a les 6h30 del mati ;). Ens criden a sopar de nou; menjar menjar, menjar, per a soportar el fred ;)!
“Quan he aixecat la vista de l’ordinador se m’ha escapar un altre uuaauu!! El sol ha reaparegut i les muntanyes que ens envolten son realment increibles, cel blau, neu blanquissima i mar blau fosc intens… ufa, costa fins i tot reternir tanta bellesa…”
~Anna Abella, Baar, Switzerland
 
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“Today was insane. Trying to find words to describe how I feel would be a complete waste of time due to the sheer surealness of this place. Bright and early this morning we left for a hike up a glacier. I can hardley even believe how high we climbed. The top only offered a view that not even pictures could do justice for. The only thing I could say is that you had to be there to appreciate it. I was thinking about how I’d ever explain this place to people at home and one of the students, Emily, came up with the best way that I’ve come across so far; it’s like a dream that haunts you. It feels as though you are on a different planet but there is this certain feeling that you created there is just no way to describe it.
“After taking it all in we all became penguins. After climbing the glacier no one wanted to walk down so, naturally, we slid down. Belly down head first, down we all went. I went so fast that I caught some air by the end of it. Shortly after we went on a zodiac cruise through some the icebergs. The shade of blue that they are it’s so unbelievable that if I were to show you a picture you wouldn’t think it was real. After having an Asado barbeque we had three hours to chill on the boat. As I type this we’re jamming to some totally rad music (Fleetwood Mac included) in the lecture hall and there is distant shouting of those who are playing a really intense games of cards. I’m having an amazing time and everyone is amazing. Among all this we’ve seen rookeries of pengiuns, feeding whales, taken a polar plunge and I helped create the ‘Canadian Oath’ to sign in some rad Americans. I can’t wait to see what else we have in store during this trip. Hope everyone at home is doing well!”
~Rachel Aiello, Toronto, Ontario
 
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“Today was EXHAUSTING! With a 7:30am wake-up call and an 8:00am breakfast buffet, we gear up for our first landing of the day. At 9:00am we boarded the zodiacs and headed towards Danco Island. When we arrived, we hiked up a steep ice cap in soft snow. The hike was extremely difficult. I was ready to give up, but Lee (our expedition photographer) kept on pushing me to keep on. As a result, I didn’t give up. I kept at it even though I was exhausted. I stayed with a group of a total of three people and we pushed each other to keep going. When we neared the end, we got too tired of just falling knee high deep into the snow, so we decided to crawl the rest of the way. Crawling made it surprisingly easier. We finally made it to the top, and oh what a nice feeling it was! I didn’t care if we looked crazy by crawling, all I cared about was making it to the top. It took us about two and a half hours, but we made it. Lee was right there to hug and congratulate me. She even cited a quote that I will never forget; ‘She who conquers others is strong, but she who conquers herself is mighty.’ Shortly after, we took several group pictures on top of the ice cap with different sponser flags. After we finished with pictures, we all walked to the edges of the mountain and had a moment of silence. That was special moment. We listened to the true nature of Antarctica without any human interuptions. During this time, we had the amazing opportunity to hear an avalance on a nearby mountian. The way down was a WHOLE lot easier. We decided to slide down the mountain, and boy did we get some speed near the end! Sliding down the mountain was the best part! Once we arrived back onto the ship, we had an authentic Asado BBQ lunch (only ship in Antarctica with an Asado BBQ grill). After the amazing lunch, we had 45 minutes of resting time before our next briefing at 3:45pm. At 4:15pm, we went to our cabins and geared up. We then loaded the zodiacs at 4:30pm and headed towards Jougle Point. The ride over was really rough and bumpy. Once we arrived, we walked over to the stunning gigantic whale bones. After learning about them, we trudged over to the nesting area of Gentoo Penguins and Antarctic Cormorants. The Gentoos all still had there eggs while the Comorants’ eggs had already hatched. After a while, we loaded the zodiacs to head over to Port Lockroy. Port Lockroy is a British base with a mini history museum. After looking through the museum, we went to the store. Here I bought a few souvenirs to bring back home. A couple of which were postcards for my family to mail to the United States. I spent a total of $94, kind of expensive, but totally worth it. Afterwards, we rode back to the ship and headed for dinner at 7:30pm. At 10:00pm, we had a recap and briefing. This included the story of Kate and Eric’s three month long expedition, photo challenge rules, and another Sira video of our crazy expedition. We were then sent off to bed to rest for our next day.”
~Suzanne Zeid, Longview, Texas
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“I think I have just seen the most beautiful place on this planet. Danco Island. We woke early to Geoff’s daily wake up call over the speakers, “Good morning Students on Ice!” After very little sleep, this morning was more difficult than usual to get moving. After breakfast we loaded one by one into the Zodiacs and today’s incredible journey began. Winding through a maze of icebergs. Each unique. Bright shades of blue shining through cracks in the icebergs and down as far as you can see into the ocean below. Penguins everwhere. We approach a pebbled beach and my eyes wander up to the top of the summit of Danco Island – our destination. Lines of penguins waddle up and down their penguin highways from the peak of the glacier to the sea. We manoever carefully around the penguins and follow and adjacent path all the way to the top. A long hike. I stopped for several breaks along the way to catch my breath and simply taken in the grandeur around me. Finally at the summit I can see 360 degrees around me and there are majestic peaks completely covered in white in every direction for as far as I can see. The ocean below is filled with every possible shape and size of icebergs. Penguins porpoising across the water. Majestic birds flying overhead. This place is magical. We took advantage of the incredible scenery to take our group photo and then everyone broke for quiet time to reflect on our journey as simply absorb the beauty of this place. It almost didn’t feel real. After some time we eventually made our way back down to the beach. We were all reluctant to leave this place but the fun of sliding down the mountain helped! We returned to the ship for lunch and then enjoyed a second landing in the afternoon. This time to a former British Antarctic Survey Base (Base A) called Port Lockroy. So much history here. Dad – I wish you could have seen this place! You would have loved it here! I thought of you and picked up a little something I thought you might like at the gift shop and I mailed a postcard for fun. We also all got our passports stamped so that was a fun memento! One of the old buildings is now a museum and it was fascinating to walk through and see how they lived and worked. The winds were quite strong, though, making our Zodiac ride quite an adventure. We all arrived back at the ship safely, albeit a bit wet, and enjoyed a nice cup of hot chocolate back on the ship. The evening ended with an inspiring presentation to wrap up a perfect day. To Joel, Ava and Katherine I hope you made it home safely and I can’t wait to hear about your adventures as well. I am having an incredible experience here but sure do miss your cuddles. Give each other a hug and kiss for me. I love you very much.”
~Ashley Brasfield, Ottawa, Ontario
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“Today we climbed a mountain and bought stuff at an old research base. Sorry for the terrible writing, but it’s past my curfew.”
~Cullen Burke, Moscow, Idaho
 
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“We woke up at 7:30 to a beautiful morning and we all made our way to breakfast. It was an immediate sprint to get ready and head to the zodiacs. As we approached the landing site we were taken aback by all the beautiful icebergs floating in the water. We hiked up to the glacier and admired the breathtaking view of the mountains and water. After taking pictures we were given around five minutes of ‘silence’ where everyone lay in the snow and looked around or at the clouds. It was a relaxing and pensive moment for everybody and we got time to revel in awe of the beauty of the ice. Post-relaxation we headed back down to the beach. We sat on the glacier and slid down, landing on a pile of snow. Once back on the ship we were welcome by the smell of smoke, and it wasn’t the ship burning. The chefs had prepared a delicious asado for us on the deck. We all got an appetizer and then headed to the dining room where we ate beef and chicken galore. After lunch we were given time to rest and just talk to our friends. Now we will be going to the post office where we will have the chance to buy souvenirs.”
~Amanda Calipo, Baar, Switzerland 
 
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“Happy Birthday Dad! This might reach you very late in India but its 2nd January here in Antarctica! Have a wonderful day! I cannot express how privileged I am to be your daughter.
“It has been a great journey so far. Today, everyone was at breakfast at 8:00AM. Our ship moved steadily at 62 degrees South and 60 degrees west towards Danco Island: a 1.5 km long cobblestone beach. On the deck I was full of awe and excitement to see that our ship was surrounded by the beautiful Antarctic Peninsula on the starboard and port side. As soon as the zodiac boats were ready, the students made their way down in groups to Danco Island. the island was chartered by de Gerlache in 1897 and later named after geophysicist Emile Danco. Gentoo Penguins nest right up to the summit of Danco’s 180m peak. For me it was particularly hard to walk on the snow and ice. Your feet can sink pretty deep and on one occasion my rubber boots were stuck in the snow and I had to pull out my feet out of the boots, which almost froze my feet! The hike taught me a hundred things about myself. Whenever, my feet got stuck in the snow and ice, I felt a greater determination to pull my feet out and push on. I could feel that something within me didn’t want to give up. I went on and finally the group of students reached the top of the ice cap. The view was breathtaking! Ice choked channels flanked by beautiful icecap mountains. As the unobstructed ultraviolet rays hit against me, the fresh air filled my nostrils. Antarctica had surrounded me by its beauty! I had no words. The day wasn’t over yet. Soon after we returned to our ship from Danco Island, Geoff Green announced that we would be making a second landing at Port Lockroy in Goudier island. Port Lockroy is home to the southernmost post office in the world located in the UK Antarctic Heritage trust, Antarctica.
“In short, this was another excellent day in Antarctica! This continent has so much to offer and so many places still to be discovered!”
~Zareen Cheema, Pune, India
 
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“Today was an awesome day because we went hiking and the weather could not have been better. We hiked up a mountain and it was a bit tiring, but the pain was so worth it. The view at the very top of the mountain was beautiful and I could see everything. After looking around, taking pictures and enjoying the view, we took some group pictures. Then, we did this thing where everyone had to be silent for a while and listen to nature. While we were doing this, I saw an avalanche and it was quite loud. It was interesting seing something like that because I have never seen an avalanche before. After sliding down the mountain on my stomach, I did a short zodiac ride. I saw many icebergs and the color of them in the water was turquoise, which looked very magical. For lunch we ate BBQ and it was very good. Afterwards we took a small break and I wrote in my jorunal, went on the deck and took a small nap. My day so far was great and I am sad that we will be leaving soon and that we will be going through the Drake passage again because I do not want to get seasick. However, I will enjoy the rest of the days as much as I can, but I know that the days will be a lot of fun. Thanks mom and dad!”
~Rose Cideciyan, Baar, Switzerland
“My first blog of the journey so far! I have been writing a journal to my son Benjamin so when I do get a spare moment I tend to write there. But I had a chance to write a blog so I figured I’d share an excerpt from today’s entry! Before I do, I just wanted to send lots of love to my family, their love and support as I sail through the Poles mean the world to me!
“Yesterday our ship sailed to Deception Island which is a collapsed but still active volcano! It is shaped like a horseshoe and there is an old abandoned whaling station there. I dug my hand into the sand and it was HOT! I couldn’t even keep my hand in it. Everywhere you looked the beach was steaming! When my hand was in the sand it was as if I could feel the heat of the Earth; like I could feel the heart beat of the planet. It was really special.”
~Justin Dearing, Chelsea, Quebec
 
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“Today was an awesome day. We started the day by hiking a glacier! It was so cool. The hike started out very challenging, because every other step we took, we sunk into the snow. After we made it to the top, it was so worth it though. The view was incredible! Matthew brought an American flag, and it was so much fun taking pictures with it. As we started down the glacier, we soon realized that trying to hike down was a lost cause. So, we then decided to slide down the glacier like penguins! It was super exciting. After that, we had an asado barbeque, a traditional Argentian style meal. Then we went to a British base, Port Lockroy where we were able to buy souvenirs. We’ll see how many weeks they take to reach home! We’re all having a great time and I hate that the trip is starting to come to an end.”
~Alexis Dibenedetto, Auburn, Alabama
 
“This morning we completed a brilliant landing on Danco Island. Danco Island is home to the first Gentoo penguin rookery that we encountered. The Gentoo’s could be seen hiking up and down their ‘penguin highways’- deep, krill stained pathways in the snow. These highways extended from the shoreline right up to the top of the glacier, which must have been around 200 metres tall.
“However we did not spend too much time with the Gentoos as we took off on a hike to the very top of the glacier iced mountain. At times it seemed as if we hiking straight up the mountain, however, the view grew more impressive at a rate greater than the glacier’s gradient. When we reached the top of the glacier the view was breathtaking. The mountain which we had landed on was surrounded by ocean and from the top of the mountain all sides of the ocean could be seen. It was as if we were surrounded by a moat full of icebergs with deep blue coloration. During the couple of hours we spent atop of the glacier, the sun began to shine brighter and brighter and eventually all cloud coverage had vanished and for the final half of an hour at the peak. Those who remained were treated to a truly perfect sight. The view was priceless. The sun has been persistent for the whole expedition and for the first time in my life, I have a sun burn in January- brilliant.
“We will be doing a second landing at a British Antarctic Survey Station later this afternoon. Sarah Veber, Trevor Taylor and I have just done an interview for The Telegram back home, it should be published within the next couple of days, have an eye.
“My vocabulary simply cannot justify the magnitude of the experiences I have been having so far this expedition. No matter how hard I try to put words to what I am seeing, I am always left speechless.”
~Patrick Hickey, St. John’s, Newfoundland
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“Hey Mom and Dad, I hope your doing alright and keeping as busy as I am. Today was a fun filled day as we traversed a mountain top on Danco Island, it’s south on the Antarctic Peninsula. I was part of the ice coring team today as we took ice samples as soon as we reached the top of this mountian. But the challenge was getting to the top, as we arrived on the beach we were welcomed by a colony of Gentoo penguins many were nesting on eggs and that was very interesting to watch. We were also met by the icebergs as we appraoched the shore. The hike started at the base and we worked our way up this very steep incline is was as if I was walking up a ladder all the way to the top my legs and calves were burning after working muscles I’ve had dormant for a little while. Although the way to the top was a challenge it was 100% worth the climb as we had a 360 degree view of the area several icebergs surrounded the area with their blue colours at the surface of the water its clear enough makes you want to go swimming. We took a moment of silence at the top of mountain to observe Antarctica naturally without the clicks of the cameras or the chatter of the excited voices it was lovely. In the silence we were able to observe snow breaking off the mountain and fall, it sounded like a tree falling in the forest (and yes it does make a noise even if no one is there to notice it).
“After the moment of silence we were able to dig a hole that we took measurements of the layers in the snow. Five different layers were observed we took ice density samples and temperature samples and then we were able to take the ice core and complete a sample it took three times of twisting and turning and getting the corer stuck, but we were able to retrieve a sample that was 11.5 cm in length. The air temperature at the top of the mountain with the wind blowing was -1.3 degrees Celsius. I have become accustomed to the cold weather here, with the right amount of layers of course. After we received the sample we said our good byes to the lovely landscape and our new penguin friends.
“After Danco, we were headed to the southern most part of the Antarctic Peninsula of our trip and made a stop at Port Lockroy Station. This was a small station with a history of being a British base that was turned in to a research station with an Antarctic Postal service. We were also met by Gentoo’s that were also nesting, the other side of the station was home to Cormmerants as well as Gentoos. There was also a Fin Whale skeleton on the beach it was very intersting because it gave an idea of the size of these whales. I could stand in the mouth of the skeleton it was massive. Thats all for now send everyone my love and good wishes I will be filling you in more as we continue to enjoy this wonderful landscape it still seems unreal.”
~Kalyn LeBlanc, Brunswick, Maine
 
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“We’re a little more than halfway through our expedition and it’s such a saddening thing to realize. I have had such an incredible time on this trip thus far, and somehow, things still manage to keep getting better and better! For the third day in a row, we’ve made two landings in one day, both of which turned out to be absolutely amazing. Our first landing of the day was at Danco Island, and while the trek up the mountain was quite the challenge (hiking up a steep mountain while trudging through knee deep snow is not easy), the breathtaking views made all the effort worthwhile. We even got to see and hear an avalanche off in the distance, something that I’ve only ever seen on television, so to be able to witness it here was quite the experience. I spent most of my time on the island with the glaciology team, helping with ice samples and the ice coring. I got to spend most of my time in the hole that we dug out, helping with temperature readings, density measurements, and snow samples! Although we got a little off course on our way back to the zodiacs, we made it through, getting creative via sliding down the hills, army crawling down the hills, and on the rare occasion, actually attempting to walk through the snow.
“After Danco Island, it was back to the ship for some free time that I filled with a much needed nap. Fitting so much into each and every day proves exhausting, but it’s an entirely worthwhile, satisfying exhaustion. After our little break, it was off to another landing site that was technically two landings in one! Being a part of the Adelie group, I went to Port Lockroy first, visiting the base there and getting the chance to do a little bit of souvenir shopping — something I never thought I’d be able to say I did while in Antarctica. There’s also the southernmost post office located there, so I sent out a few postcards, looked around the museum a bit and then it was off to Jougle Point! We got to see a Gentoo penguin rookery while we were there, along with some whale bones, and like so many other places in the Antarctic, it had such a mysterious feel to it, the feeling of being there all but indescribable. The zodiac ride back was a little rough and a little wetter than I was expecting, but it’s all in good fun! After all, it’s just an incredibly exciting, adventurous, and traveling water ride, right?”
~Serenity McKenzie, Abilene, Texas
 
“I feel like time passes differently in Antarctica. It has only been 5 days since we departed Ushuaia, but it feels like we have been here for much longer and that still isn’t enough. This year has had an incredible start, or rather a plunge, into the cold Antarctic waters. I’ve also been spending some of my free time with the oceanographer on board looking at various phytoplankton, zooplankton, echinoderms, krill, molluscs and arthropods brought up from ocean samples. They are so much fun to view under the microscopes and I’m itching to talk invertebrates with anyone around to listen. Also, I can now check off a major bucket list item: sledding down a glacier! Happy 2015!!”
~Emily Moore, Sherwood Park, Alberta
 
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“I tried blogging yesterday, but the network was down. I’ll sum up yesterday for you now.
“We went to Deception Island, which was amazing. I know I’ve said amazing a lot, but it’s the only way to describe it here. We went to an old whaling station and saw some of the remains of all the old buildings. The island itself is very odd and a bit spooky. This is also where we did our Antarctic polar plunge. What a schock my body got in that water. 32 degrees. It sent a shock up your whole body and for a second you just can’t move. Then, you bust your tail to land and get a warm towel. Definitely the coldest plunge I’ve ever done. In the afternoon we moved to a different landing place. This one was home to 500,000 chinstrap penguins. it was honestly hard to walk without stepping on one. They had penguin highways going all over the place, all were nesting their eggs. All of these hills were covered with black and white spots for as far as the eye can see. It really was incredible to see this.
“As for today, the day is only half done. We had a very tiring and exhausting hike up this snow hill. Some people did not even make it to the top but most did. At the summit we had a beautiful view of the bay, icebergs, and just about everything else Antarctica has to offer. Now we are on the boat for lunch. Lunch is an Argentinian BBQ so I’m pretty excited! No complaints at all so far, it has been a great trip. Thank you very much Mom and Dad for making this possible.
“Give a hug to Keiko for me.”
~Matthew Peterson, Glenview, Illinois
 
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“This morning we got up early again and hiked up Danco Island! It wasn’t like the other mountain we hiked up, this one really gave everyone a really good perspective on the lives of penguins. Every step I took my foot sank into the snow, there were spots where it felt like we were going on a 75 degree andgle upwards, and 45 minutes later we were at what felt like the top of the world. Words can’t even describe how perfect and beautiful the landscape from the top was. It made us all feel so small yet so big, and after a buch of pictures and time to reflect, we all lay on our stomachs and slid down! Despite bathing in sunscreen, my face is still pretty sunburnt because believe it or not, the sun does shine here!
“Got some fantastic shots with my Olympus TG-3 thanks to Henrys the camera store, which captures these fantastic, blur-free photos of penguins, ice and panoramas of everything! Can’t wait to share these pictures with everyone!
“Back on the boat, we had an Asado barbeque and lots of free time to spend out on deck. Haven’t seen any whales though! In a few hours we will be stopping at Port Lockroy which is one of the most touristy areas in Antarctica. There are tons of Gentoo penguins there, like there were at Danco Island.”
~Alissa Sallans, Whitby, Ontario
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“Yesterday afternoon, after we swam on the inside of Deception Island we landed on Bailey Head on the outside of Deception Island. Baily Head is home to almost half a million Chinstrap penguins. Once we were on the beach we walked to the main nesting area and looked around. The main nesting area was a giant valley with penguins lining the entire valley and covering the hills in the distance. It was incredible to see all of the penguins and to get the rare look into the reality of penguin life. After Bailey Head, we went back to the ship and had some workshops. I worked with the Ice Cap Newsletter team and we were able to finish it which was good to get finished. This morning we landed at Danco Island. Danco Island was the most beautiful place I have ever seen. I tried to take pictures but it wasn’t close to capturing the magnifigance of the landscape. We took a few group pictures and hiked to the top of the glacier! We then slid all the way down the glacier on our stomaches like penguins! We are now sailing to Port Lockory, which is a scientific station, and also the southern most post office in the world!”
~William Sanderson, Perth Road Village, Ontario
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“Today was another full but spectacular day! Our first landing was on Danco Island where we hiked to the top of the (very tall and steep) glacier. The views from the top were incredible and we even got to witness a mini avalanche on a neighboring island. While atop the glacier, we took a moment of silence; when the wind died down it was eerily blissful as we sat watching the iceburgs float below us. And what better way to travel back down the glacier than to slide on your back head-first like a human sled?! We then took a short zodiac cruise to take a plankton tow and more temperature, depth, and salinity measurements before heading back to the ship for a wonderful, traditional Asada Barbecue lunch! And then we fortunately had time for a nap before our second landing at Port Lockroy. Port Lockroy is home to a British museum and gift shop (that’s right, gift shop). We also explored a nearby shore with a small rookery with many more penguis with eggs and chicks and also some whale bones. Believe it or not, there were sail boats floating offshore! I can’t imagine crossing the Drake Passage in one of those, but whatever floats your boat (pun intended)… I’m till sick and without a voice, so I was a personal fan of the moment of silence! But I made it to the top of the glacier and definitely won’t be missing a landing! So thank goodness for hot water with lemon and honey at every meal; the staff have my order committed to memory! We’ve got another busy day tomorrow, with (hopefully) two more landings, so it’s off to bed for me!”
~Olivia Sayer, Littleton, Colorado
 
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“There have been some incredible journeys undertaken since my last entry. The Arctic swim was conquered. Not only did I run into the ocean and force my head under once, but twice. Slowly my sock-less feet found their way into soaking shoes and snow pants and my puffy jacket kept out the cold. Eventually I was able to get warm again. Today the group hiked up a glacier and enjoyed the blissfulness of nature. I never thought I could appreciate it to the extent that I did today. On the way down I slid like a penguin – so fast!! Time to stop my blog for now – bye!”
~Danielle Guist, San Antonio, Texas
“We continue to be awed by the beauty of everything that is around us. Yesterday we visited the old whaling station which is built on the site of an active volcano. The steam rose from the edges of the beach as we landed our zodiacs. A fine layer of smoke gave the beach an eerie glow across the black rocky beach and the remnants of the old station exist in a rusted state to remind us of its past history. The hills around the station were striped in a most dramatic fashion between dark stone and snowy patches. Finally, those who were brave enough took off all of our protective clothing and ran into the water to qualify for the Antarctic Swim Team. The rush into the water was cold, followed by a feeling of intense cold on the run out. Once out of the water, our enthusiasm and pride made up for the cold and we took our time getting dressed again. Grateful we we were for the hot chocolate back on the boat.
“As if the morning was not amazing enough, we headed out for another landing at Bailey Head. None of us were prepared for the sight that awaited us. Hundreds, thousands, in fact an estimate of 500,000 penguins awaited us. We carefully made our way to the top of a ridge where we could watch the penguin activity without disturbing them. Penguin parents were protecting their new chicks and others were still working on their nest building with small stones. The sounds of their calls and clucking filled the air. All the birds were busily working on their family tasks, but a few curious members of the penguin community checked us out and looked curiously at our gloves and belongings. It was an awesome sight, and we all had respect for the order and athleticism of these small birds as they travel their penguin highways in the snow.
“All were tired and grateful for a good night’s sleep. Morning came early again, as we were greeted by the sight of iceberg alley. We visited Danco Island which is surrounded by an amazing array of the most beautiful icebergs. The hue of blue is beyond comprehension – a surreal electric blue. Penguins frolicked happily in the surf. Most of the kids hiked up the glacier. Of course, what goes up must come down! Most of the young explorers took the fast route down and slid on their bottoms from the glacier’s top peak. An awesome ride to be sure. However, before their descent all were amazed to see the sight of a true avalanche on a distant mountain. Some loud crashing sounds and a sound reminiscent of a jet engine proceeded the flow of ice down a distant mountain. We had definite appreciation for the strength of nature. Of course, we were all safe on the stable area where we waited. It was indeed a glorious morning in a most idyllic destination. Finally, on the way back to the ship we were treated to a wonderful iceberg tour by zodiac. Each iceberg has a unique shape and some resembled dragons, and ships, and other majestic forms. More later, time for the ship’s barbecue….”
~Beth Ann Smith, Augusta, Georgia
 
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“Ah, these summer Antarctic days are endless! Literally!
“Last night, I actually had trouble getting to sleep for the first time, and light still pouring in our porthole window wasn’t very helpful in the matter. Then the room filled with a golden glow at possibly 4:30, but I’m not sure. Time has somewhat lost its meaning on the ship- the sun doesn’t change much, I have no watch or phone, but the schedule is so flexible and reliant on weather that it doesn’t particularly matter. I just wait for shipwide announcements, and keep tabs on where people are congregating- if there aren’t groups hanging out in the conference room, there’s definitely something else going on.
“We spent the morning at a beautiful place called Danco Island. Even though I have sunburnt lips, I couldn’t help but grin as we jetted accross to it. A colony of penguins made pink krill-stained highways up the snow. We weren’t allowed to use them, of course, and so it was quite a struggle to get up there! The snow had a crust on it, but beneath that your leg could sink anywhere between a few inches to your entire thigh. I carried some snow/ice coring equipment up there, and it was well worth the effort. The view was beautiful!
“We all sort of ambled around on top of the island for a bit, and a snow pit was dug. I was surprised! Snow surveying is pretty much just like soil surveying! You dig a hole to the bedrock/ice and then make a nice clean surface to have a look at the different layers. Instead of colour or chemical make-up the snow is tested for temperature,and just like in soil surveying you describe each layer, and look at grain size and shape. I wonder if its the same as soil surveying wherein everyone who looks at it has a different opinion, hahah!
“A few of us used the snow from the snow pit to make a snowman. It was tough going because it was icy, but eventually, with the placement of some sunnies and a beanie, Danny Danco was born (I totally came up with the name, but I’m not sure if anyone got the Donny Darko reference). We took selfies with him, and also about a million pictures of the spectacular background. In fact, the scene was so beautiful that we took a group photo, and then all just simply sat in the snow for a few minutes on our own in silence (Once again, I have no idea how long it was -> see above for my current perception of time!).
“I know it was meant to be contemplative, but my butt was so cold I could hardly sit still! I ended up sitting on my gloves (okay, they’re not mine, they’re borrowed from Alec) but it didn’t seem to help! It turns out there was a hole in my waterproof pants… which is extremely not okay, as they’re ALSO not mine. I don’t know how it happened! At least my vest was good (*singing* it will keep me warm, which is what I need, but we’re so far gone, on this frozen beach, stuck in space and time, making memories~).
“Oh yes, and then possibly the most fun of the day was in the next half hour- I slid down the giant hill on my bum, using a metal pole and a shovel as ski poles. Tobogganning on my butt at maximum speed over the crust of the snow was quite delightful too, until I hit the bumps of peoples footsteps! Owch!
“After lunch we went to Port Lockroy, which had an adorable little museum that was basically an old British station frozen in time. Not ACTUALLY frozen, mind you! It just had all those funny old tin cans in the kitchen, and a gramophone, and lots of funky old scientific instruments. They are also a post office! If my mail actually survives the trip back across the seas, expect some, dearies!
“Across the water from Port Lockroy was more penguin colonies (I’ve become so used to penguins at our landings that now I try to copy their calls for fun) and some really eerie whale bones on the beach. The most spectacular of them was what looked like a whole whale, resting in the snow. It had a skull and long jaw bones and everything! A few of us used it as a barricade for a snowball fight which broke out. Hey, not everything we experience has to be so reverently regarded, right?
“A fun day ending with a fun boat ride across choppy waters, up and down and splishy splashy. Between that and the snow from the morning a lot of my clothes are wet, but its okay because the heater in our room is superpowered and things dry pretty quickly.”
~Jemma Sweeney, Mount Waverley, Australia
 
“The day is only half over at the point I’m writing this, but we’ve already done and seen so much. This morning we printed the first Ice Cap Newsletter of the expedition. A team of four of us put it together. Our landing this morning was incredible. We visited Danco island where there is a small Chinstrap penguin rookery. We landed on a small beach with an amazing view of icebergs, glaciers and mountains. I thought that was good until we started to climb. (Climb is an understatement!) We scrambled up steep inclines of ice and snow in rubber boots with little traction. We got over the first ridge only to see another bigger incline. When we got to the top, I felt like I was on the top of the world. It was like a massive white dome surrounded by the Antarctic ocean and icebergs. We got a group picture up on the top. I just lay on the ground and soaked in the magnificence of the great white continent. We couldn’t have encountered a more beautiful day. As I sat surrounded by a calm wind and silence an intense feeling of peace and satisfaction swept over me. I could have stayed forever. The fun part about the landing was that we got to slide all the way down the glacier to the bottom! It was the longest sliding hill I’ve ever encountered. This afternoon I did an interview with the local newspaper in Newfoundland, the Telegram. We’re getting ready now to make another landing at Port Lockroy, a British base here in Antarctica.”
~Sarah Veber, St. Philip’s, Newfoundland
 
“The most exciting event of my day would probably be one that I would normally consider the most boring; sitting down and doing nothing.
“We were at the top of a mountain on top of a glacier, looking down on the icebergs and sea. There really is no way to describe the feeling you get when you sit down and marvel at the grandeur of the sight before you.
“Truthfully, I’m still trying to digest all that happened in the past couple days. For so many hours I have sat at a computer writing these blogs and could not come up with the words to describe these experiences. I guess all I could do is wait and see after a couple days.
“(Also yesterday a penguin tried to eat my finger!! :D)”
~Eva Wu, Toronto, Ontario
 
“Every morning I wake up in Antarctica and look out my porthole, wiping the condensation off, I am met by the most beautiful and incredible front yard I could possibly ask for. I often feel bothered by the fact that I can not be awake for all hours that we are moving in the ship because I always want to see where we are going and where we came from in this foreign land.
“Today when I looked out of my porthole I was greeted by this beautiful little inlet area where there were countless icebergs of strange and intricate shapes, clear blue waters, rings of mountains bordered by tall glaciers, and a few clouds blanketing mountain peaks. The SOI crew quickly prepared, and out we went on our zodiacs for an early morning landing to stretch our legs on a nice hike. A nice Gentoo rookery met us (it was actually one of the most pungent in smell yet), and we got to see a unique penguin highway up the small mountain we would hike, carved into the snow where all of the penguins make their way up and down, and blanketed in pink and white penguin guano.
“In the pretty Antarctic sun, we walked alongside the Gentoos up to the top of the mountain, pausing here and there to look back and breathe in the view of the sunlit, shining inlet. Once on top of the mountain, we managed to interact with a rookery a bit, watching the penguins as they went about their regular communicating, pecking, and rock-stealing, and upon walking around the edges of the mountain got to see the channels of water shining with countless icebergs surrounding us. We dug an ice pit to learn how to dissect and understand different layers of snow and what they mean about the climate in the area, and then we did something which was incredibly important for all of us in this pristine place. We all found our own places, overlooking some area of the inlet, we lay down, and we went silent.
“Experiencing the silence in Antarctica is something that has to be done to feel connected and at peace in this place, and since the beginning of the Expedition I have been surrounded by people and have not been able to do this. It became incredibly obvious as I looked over a beautiful strip of water to a glacier across the way and only heard the wind, the cawing of a penguin, and my own breath that I was in this incredible place that I could feel totally peaceful and comfortable in. An immediate sense of calm swept over me, and so far I think it is one of the most profound moments I have had on this Expedition to date.
“After a quick lunch, we set sail to leave the inlet, and the staff gave students a couple of hours to enjoy the view, watch for wildlife, and nap if they needed to in order to pay back the sleep debt that has inevitably been building up over the course of this Expedition. And then, once again we were back in the zodiacs, this time heading over choppy seas to a restored British monitoring station, Port Lockroy, used during the Second World War to look for Soviet sea vessels, which also performed important atmospheric science research that lead to the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, and preliminary research that lead to the discovery of climate change. Visiting this small building was incredible, and really did give you a glimpse into these peoples lives, with all of the old aspects of life present, from old wood stoves and vinyl record players, to aged cans of SPAM.
“We then made a quick trip over to Jougla Island where a rookery containing Gentoo Penguins and also Antarctic Cormorants nesting right beside them. A whole fin whale skeleton lay on the shore, a penguin highway running right beside. After visiting the birds, we went back to the boat, and all of a sudden it was time for our evening meal. We wound down with a presentation on an incredible expedition that two of our educators undertook, travelling across Baffin island in traditional Inuit kayaks that they built off of an old reference book and a few pointers from Elders. Now I am sitting in the lounge of the ship, looking outside at tall, glacier covered mountains, surrounded by the scientists and educators also winding down for the evening. The sky will never totally darken tonight, and it’s just another reflection of the truly incredible place that we are in. I feel truly blessed to be here and can’t wait to wake up again tomorrow morning to wipe down my porthole and see the new front yard of tomorrow.
“I want to take this opportunity to give a shout out to some amazing companies that sponsored Sabrina Clarke and I in order to make this trip a possibility. Kaminak Gold, Laberge Environmental Services, Outside the Cube Management, CAP Engineering, and Ecological Logistics and Research Limited are all great companies working in Whitehorse who are really trying to make a difference in our great community. I hope that together we can all help to share with the community the great work these people are doing and that we can all hope to be such good contributors to our community.”
~Patrick Soprovich, Whitehorse, Yukon
 
“We woke up at 7:30 to a beautiful morning and we all made our way to breakfast. It was an immediate sprint to get ready and head to the zodiacs. As we approached the landing site we were taken aback by all the beautiful icebergs floating in the water. We hiked up to the glacier and admired the breathtaking view of the mountains and water. After taking pictures we were given around five minutes of ‘silence’ where everyone lay in the snow and looked around or at the clouds. It was a relaxing and pensive moment for everybody and we got time to revel in awe of the beauty of the ice. Post-relaxation we headed back down to the beach. We sat on the glacier and slid down, landing on a pile of snow. Once back on the ship we were welcome by the smell of smoke, and it wasn’t the ship burning. The chefs had prepared a delicious Asado for us on the deck. We all got an appetizer and then headed to the dining room where we ate beef and chicken galore. After lunch we were given time to rest and just talk to our friends. Now we will be going to the post office where we will have the chance to buy souvenirs.”
~Amanda Calipo, Baar, Switzerland
 
“After the splendors and fascinating sights of yesterday, I’m not sure how my senses can be further stimulated. I feel as though the majestic beauty of Danco Island has desensitized my appraisal of beauty.
“It started out as a hike, which was definitely the most challenging event in which I’ve participated on the trip. Approaching the foot of the glacier, you appear to be facing an insurmountable obstacle. The 500 foot hike upwards. It was treacherous, every step landed you knee deep in snow. By the time we reached only a third of the way up, we were gasping for breath. But the most painful part of the experience was the hurt pride. It is quite embarrassing to painfully trudge along in the snow, only to see a Gentoo penguin waddle past you like it was nothing. But it was worth it – every minute. When we got to the top of the glacier, the view was stunning. Everywhere you looked beautiful stretches of mountain surrounded by dream-like contrasting light. Then to the left, vast ocean inlets filled with icebergs of the most majestic blue. The top of Danco Glacier is easily one of the most beautiful panoramas I’ve seen thus far.
“But the most beautiful part of our visit to Danco Island was the moment of silence. As we were about to descend, we were dispersed to different parts of the glacier and told to say nothing. To do nothing. To put away our beloved cameras. Instead, we were to look out onto the beautiful scenery and absorb it. I tell you, sometimes the most profound and meaningful things can be heard in the silence. Reflecting on the glaciers was a pensive, reflective experience. It allowed me to delve into my own thoughts in a way and depth that I did not think was possible. The mountains spoke, the penguins spoke and my own internal conscience spoke into my heart.”
~Robert Adragna, Toronto, Ontario