Friday, March 22, 2013

'Waiting the wind' - Elephant Island.......

January 24, 2013 - Point Wild, Elephant Island, South Shetland Islands
Good visibility, overcast, snow
Wind: NW4-5; Sea: NW swell; Air Temp: 1C (33F)

Our time on South Georgia Island had been graced with calm conditions. Due to extreme weather, earlier landings attempted by other ships had not always been possible in January. We knew we were lucky. Heading south with planned landings at Gold Harbor, once in the open sea the winds picked up to 45 knots with water whipped into a lather making it impossible for the M/S Expedition to hold position and drop anchor. Heading on, conditions worsened with winds gusting to 70 knots thwarting attempts for any landings and 'waiting the wind' was no longer an option. Reluctantly we steamed southwest. The winds never flagged so it was the correct decision to say goodbye to awesome South Georgia. The Antarctic continent was ahead. 

With two rough days crossing the Scotia Sea, many passengers were queasy and sea sickness pills were being swallowed left and right - fortunately I (and Paula) didn't have any problems - perhaps all this sailing is agreeing with me and I have become a sailor of sorts! Patches of fog kept the ship's horn busy to notify any other ships of our presence. Days at sea are far from boring on expedition type cruises. When not on deck watching for wildlife, attending lectures, movies, chatting with interesting people from many countries, even entertainment, make the time pass almost too quickly.......and there's always knitting!!!!

Approaching Elephant Island, Sir Ernest Shackleton's historic campsite, was quite sobering. Recalling that he had to leave 22 of his men on this unprotected island to survive for 4 1/2 months, living under their overturned lifeboats, was almost impossible to imagine. A giant ice-covered, wind-blown outcrop of rock, lashed by freezing storms, it was incomprehensible to think the men could survive here, awaiting the return of the 'Boss' with a rescue ship. 

 Dropping anchor in light snow to ready for exploration 
of historic Elephant Island.

There is nowhere to land on the island, the small beach where Shackleton landed having been eroded over the years.  The Zodiacs were launched in quite significant rolling swells, probably the roughest water I've rode on this form of transport - quite exciting but bitterly cold as it continued to snow lightly.

Chinstrap penguins heading for a swim.

 Paula readying her camera for her always awesome shots 
of this amazing scenery.

Visibility was quite good in the early morning muted light - photos were mostly monochromatic.........

....with our parkas providing the only bright colors.

The Chinstrap colony of about 2000 breeding pairs were 
quite comfortable on their cold island home.

Yes, that is a statue standing atop Point Wild - a marker of that significant place where men who were thought lost forever, were eventually rescued. It is a bust of Pilato Pardo, Captain of the Yelcho, the Chilean steam tug lent to Shackleton to rescue the group in August 1916. 

Capt. Pardo up close.

The steep tidewater glacier - the color is natural, not edited - proving that Antarctica is not just blinding white!

Although Summer here, there was a lot of sea ice in this area..... holding what could have been a very old chunk of ice. 

Sea ice has been growing in Antarctica. Last Winter, northward blowing winds caused record growth. 
The annual growth of sea ice in Antarctica is the largest seasonal event on the planet.

This visit to one of the most unique locations was 
memorable in many ways.

These marvelous words say it all...............

Most people might be oppressed by such surroundings, 
with its silence and inhuman expanses...
But he who seeks peace and quiet in Nature, undisturbed 
by human activity, will find what he seeks....even though, 
beset in the ice, one is a plaything of the forces of Nature.

- Fridjof Nansen, Norwegian Explorer 1861-1930 -

Next time - we'll visit beautiful Half Moon Island at the entrance to Moon Bay, South Shetlands. An exciting landing where I'll take you climbing along the 'penguin highway'......with our waiting host!


  1. It is so starkly beautiful Mary. And it really just looks so cold! What an adventure. Your photos are amazing.

  2. I always love to see if you have a new post. Such amazing photography and all I can say while reading and looking at your posts is 'wow' all the time. Thank you for taking us on your journeys. Chel x

  3. I am amazed that you can take such beautiful pictures when you have to stay so bundled up. You do good work. Thanks for the adventure.

  4. I just wanted to thank you for your beautiful posts and photography of your journeys. I read this to my children, showed them the gorgeous green-blue in the ice, and then we went and read up on Sir Ernest Shackleton, a bit of history we were not aware of. It was a fun educational excursion!
    -Mrs. Humphrey

  5. Good day! This post couldn't be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

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  6. Another post I will share with Alan! As always, amazing. And these pictures are truly breathtaking. Sometimes when I think you are about to express some fear (winds at 70 knots!), you write "Exciting"! Does this come by experience traveling the oceans or are you just naturally brave and adventurous? Well, I know you are adventurous!

    Alan wants to take a European cruise in September when things are back to "normal". He's always wanted to and I am terrified of it, but of course I will do it. I've always wanted to see some of Europe, him not so much, so we'll both be pleased.

    Wishing you a wonderful weekend!


  7. These photos are full of mystery. What unique colours on the glaciers. I'm so glad you share your travels with us - it's unlikely most of us will ever see these sights in real life. Hope your weekend is wonderful.

  8. Amazing photos of an amazing place!

  9. Such an incredible place, with a rugged beauty all its own! How marvelous that you could experience this grand adventure!

  10. Beautiful photos of such an amazing place


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