Antarctica The Frozen Continent

February 21, 2016

Departing from Punta Arenas in the Chilean Patagonia, our two hour flight over Cape Horn and the infamous Drake Passage allowed us to avoid sailing over one of the coldest, deepest, and stormiest oceans in the world.

Upon arrival on King George Island, in the South Shetland Islands, we passed through Frei Station (Chile), and quickly boarded zodiacs to take us to our exhibition ship: the Ocean Nova. We set sail, heading south as the sun gently set.

February 22, 2016

We spent the first day crossing the Bransfield Strait where we encountered our first sightings of the many colossal icebergs and awe-inspiring beauty that would make our next five days in Antarctica some of the most memorable in my lifetime.

After lunch the cloud cover broke as we disembarked the ship and boarded the zodiacs to cruise the waters around Cuverville Island.

The "fertilizer" that the penguins deposits are partially responsible for the coloration of the island (the not-so-blue ice).

We had our first experience viewing icebergs from sea level.The different colors, textures, size, and shapes of the ice provided us with endless inspiration for photography.

When an iceberg flips, the clean, pure, newly exposed underside can be breathtaking.

In addition to the phenomenal blue ice, we saw many Crab Eater and Weddell seals on our excursion.

With a little imagination, it's easy to anthropomorphize the icebergs!

That evening, the ship continued south delicately maneuvering through icebergs and sea ice along the Lemaire Channel. The channel is seven miles long, at its narrowest, less than half a mile wide, and flagged with towering peaks jutting out of the sea and reaching over 2000 feet.

February 23, 2016

Rising before daybreak, we were treated to a most spectacular scene where the calm water exquisitely mirrored the ice.

The green algae visible just below the surface complimented the vibrant blues in the ice.

An endless stream of faces and masks appeared in the near perfect reflections - as if we were all under evaluation during a Rorschach test.

As we continued our journey to the Polar Circle, we saw an endless stream of different shapes and sizes of ice passing by the ship.

To fog kept getting thicker and thicker as we cruised south.

Fortunately the fog lifted just enough to make it safe for us to stop just before noon to cruise in Zodiacs at Black Head. Black Head marks the south side of the entrance to Holtedahl Bay on the west coast of Graham Land. Black Head stands out with its very high cliff faces made of igneous basalt and magnificently steep glaciers making their way down to the ocean.

Then, within minutes, the fog lifted and then disappeared completely!

Once the sun illuminated the icebergs, we were able to capture some of the vibrant blues in the ice and greens from the algae flare.

We spent the rest of the afternoon sailing south - closer and closer to the Polar Circle, watching the ice float by while the clouds put on a beautiful display of color and shapes for us.

At 19:20 we crossed the Antarctic Circle in Crystal Sound which lies 66 ̊33’ south of the Equator. (The Antarctic Circle is the northernmost latitude in the Southern Hemisphere at which the sun can remain continuously above or below the horizon for 24 hours.)

The next morning we awoke before sunrise to a very different sea of flat ice with mammoth glaciers rising out of the sea like giant buildings reaching for the sky.

As the sun began to appear, the sea briefly turned an eerie russet color.

Then, as the cloud cover changed, the water turned into thick slush - like chocolate.

We took zodiacs to Cape Tuxon, disembarking to taking our first steps on the Antarctic continent.

After saying a brief "hello" to the penguins, we quickly returned to the zodiacs in search of the blue ice and came across a number of icebergs with breathtaking arches.

In one of the many inlets, where the waters were calm, we came across some very unique ice. Over many years, the weight of the ice compresses, forcing out the air pockets over many years creating this vibrant aqua-blue color.

I little father out, we found scalloped ice that sparkled like jewels as the water flowed around it.

As we drifted through Pléneau Bay in an area known as the “iceberg graveyard”, we discovered an number of wonderfully shaped icebergs. I was told that many of these icebergs have originated from as far south as the Ross Ice Shelf.

The wind calmed as we traversed the bay while the sun slowly moved towards the horizon.

Then, we happened across this wonderful piece of ice, breathtaking in it's color and form.

Everything seemed to be in constant transition - moving, shifting, flowing, freezing, melting, evaporating...

Although there was a rather intense algae bloom, every once in a while we would find clear water where we could see a glimpse of the immense size of the glacier below the surface.

Although it seemed like we were only on the water for a short while, all too soon, it was time to return to the ship.

February 25th

We spent our last full day exploring Deception island in the South Shetlands. Deception is a ring-shaped, volcanic island, about 8 miles in diameter. It is considered a restless caldera with significant volcanic risk (the most recent activity occurred between 1967-70). We visited Bailey Head (on the outer perimeter of Deception Island) and then went on to explore Whalers' Bay after passing through Neptunes’ Bellows.

The buildings include the remains of the Norwegian Aktiese lskabet Hektor whaling station and a British Antarctic Survey base.

On the final morning, we rose early to watch our final sunrise and to our surprise, swimming near the ship, were a pod of Killer Whales. There were also seals. It was like watching a game of Marco Polo - for your life. Unfortunately, not all of the seals were able to outmaneuvered the whales. Fortunately, the whales had breakfast. I guess it depends on how you look at it.

I am very grateful to the staff of the Ocean Nova and Antarctica XXI for taking such good care of us. And I want to thank John Paul Caponigro and Seth Resnick for leading such an incredible adventure. Their experience and knowledge was a tremendous asset on our journey.

I really don't want the story to end. I am going to try to figure out a way to return to this magical and surreal word. I have never visited a location where I felt so vulnerable and so alive at the same time.

Created By
Julieanne Kost
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Copyright 2016 Julieanne Kost. All Rights Reserved

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