29th March: Antarctica (Admiralty Bay, King George Island)

Snow falls overnight

Fog and snow today.

Our last day in Antarctica but low visibility so no zodiac trips, just presentations and processing.

In the late afternoon it lifted for a little while sufficiently for some photographs,

Just before dark we weighed anchor and departed for the Falklands.

Arctowski lighthouse from the ship.

Panaoramic view of Arctowski Station and Admiralty Bay from the ship.

(Click on image above to zoom into a much larger image with much more detail).

28th March: Antarctica (Admiralty Bay, King George Island)

In the afternoon we took off in the zodiacs to explore Admiralty Bay.

A view of the shore shortly after leaving, just round the point from Arctowski Station.

This is later in the afternoon, about four or five kilometres away on the other side of Admiralty Bay.

You can see the huge crack in the ice in the upper right image as bits and pieces fall away into the sea. We waited and eventually saw the whole structure shear off and fall.

That's not just snow in the distance, it's a glacier covered with snow. If you click on the image you should be able to see the ice. Not a safe place to walk if you could even get there.

A massive wall of ice at the water's edge.

Faces in the zodiac. Left to right: Ben (historian), Jim (birdwatcher) and Amanda (expedition leader).

Icicles and overhanging ice.

A jumbled tangle of snow and ice.

Jagged ice against the snow and rocks.

A wild vista of rocks, sea and glaciers.

Click on the image above to zoom round in a much larger view.

Appearing like a face out of the ice. Perhaps a rock sculpture made long ago by humanoid dinosaurs when Antarctica was warm.

Is it an ice mask from tropical Africa?

This is a massive cliff underneath a glacier. From time to time, huge blocks of ice will fall off the top.

Late in the day, we ventured into a small bay with a shoal of broken ice.

When we came to return to the ship across Admiralty Bay, the weather had come up and we experienced a rough and bumpy ride. Then, back at the ship, a rather exiting transfer from the zodiac to the ship in the heaving sea.

28th March: Antarctica (Arctowski Station, King George Island)

We had arrived at the Polish Arctowski Station to offload winter supplies and scientists.  The Poles here have an amphibious vehicle which you see here unloading supplies from the ship.

… and here they are coming out onto the land.

We received a warm welcome at Arctowski and then it was time to wander out and explore around the base.

If you’re going to be spending a winter in Antarctica, you need to find ways to amuse yourself and soccer is very popular when weather conditions allow.  We also observed from afar a soccer game at Vernadsky Station while we were there.

Nothing like relaxing on a white sand beach.  Just one problem, though.  This isn’t actually sand.  That’s a small lighthouse in the distance and some of the photographers from our expedition scattered around it.

Whalers were here as recently as the early twentieth century, especially since the huge Admiralty Bay never gets blocked by ice.  There are many whale bones along the shore.

I saw four seals of three different kinds and a gentoo penguin or two.  This is an elephant seal.

A weddell seal comfortably snuggled in on a mattress of snow and ice.

Another weddell seal taking advantage of its natural layers of insulation.

27th March: Antarctica (Deception Island)

Above, a battleship or aircraft carrier made of ice. It is 10am and we are just leaving the Gerlache Strait.

Today we spent all day sailing from near Vernadsky Station to near Arctowski Station on King George Island.

By the late afternoon we were sailing past Deception Island, the remains of a huge volcano. Here we are off to the south, about 4 kilometres from land.

Click on the image above for a much larger view that you can zoom in and out of and zot around in. It opens in a new screen. First click the bottom right button for full screen. Then use the mouse wheel or the [+] and [-] buttons to zoom and drag with the mouse. These instructions also apply to the five images below that expand to much larger sizes (where indicated). It usually looks better if you don’t zoom quite all the way in.

Following images are also of Deception Island, over a period of about an hour and a half.

Above, a small island off the coast. Click for a much larger view.

I was greatly struck by the moody monochrome landscape as we passed by in somewhat gloomy weather. It was mid-autumn so the snow had been melting all summer. In other seasons, the land may have been entirely covered in snow, obscuring the remarkable black and white patterns.

All these images are in colour and in many cases, only the colour of the sea betrays that.

Subtle and dramatic patterns in abundance.

A sizeable moulded iceberg, starkly differentiated by its colour from the monochrome landscape in the background.

Deception appears at first as a solid substantial island but is the remains of a huge volcano with a massive caldera at its heart. At just one place there is an entrance and this is it, known as Neptune’s Bellows. Inside there is the remains of an old Norwegian whaling station and at one part of the inside shore, the volcanic activity makes it possible to swim in the otherwise frigid Antarctic waters.

Unfortunately, the water at the entrance was too turbulent and there was an iceberg lurking just beyond the mouth so we were unable to go in. That grey shape behind the entrance is the iceberg.

This is just past the entrance. I was intrigued by the sheer rugged cliff and the smooth concave shape, perhaps a natural amphitheatre, beside it.

Is it a photograph of Deception Island or a Japanese landscape print from the eighteenth century? (Click for much larger image).

Deception Island, west coast (click to explore much larger image).

A Southern Right Whale, going down. Very different tail shape to the humpbacks at Vernadskys. They were called right whales because the were the “right” whales to hunt, since they floated after being harpooned and killed. Once they were incredibly numerous, now sightings are rare.

Snow, ice, islands and water.

Panorama of the western coast of Deception Island. Click to explore much larger view.

Turbulent waters in a wild Antarctic seascape.

A vagrant iceberg in a sculptured seascape.

A final glimpse. A last panorama from Deception Island. Click image to explore much larger view.

26th March: Antarctica (Vernadsky Station and away North)

Above left is the Vernadsky cloakroom where you must take off all outside clothing before entering the main building. Skis and showshoes as well as jackets and gumboots. At right, a scientist at work.

Vernadsky used to be Faraday Station until Britain sold it to Ukraine for £1 in 1996. Faraday’s moment of scientific glory came in 1984 when it first reported the formation of the ozone hole, leading to the worldwide banning of CFCs. The instrument that discovered this is called the Dobson meter and this is still visible in the attic of Vernadsky (they use a more modern one now).

GPS location (green arrow).


No GPS references on them, but I’m pretty sure I took the five images above from the ship (rather than from a zodiac) just before we were due to leave Vernadsky.

This is Vernadsky Station, probably our last glimpse. There are quite a few gentoo penguins standing around on some of the rocks and a few birds in the sky, which would be skuas.

If you look very carefully in front of the main building, you may be able to see a small building with a blue roof, rather like an outhouse. This is the prefabricated church we picked up at the Great Wall Station and brought here along with an Eastern Orthodox Archbishop. The station staff erected it while we were here and we attended a brief opening ceremony before we left.

Now we’re underway in the Penola Strait and not far from Vernadsky Station. It’s close to sunset but this of course is a monochrome conversion. I’m not sure exactly where we’re looking but from the angle of the light I’d say it must be mountains on the mainland about 5 kilometres away.

GPS location (green arrow).

The late afterglow of the sunset, about the same time as the previous image but looking west, towards a northern part of the Argentine Islands

Judging from the sequence of other images I’m not showing you, this must be the mainland opposite Peterman Island . This and the next three images might look as though they are monochrome but in fact they’re colour images after sunset.

This must be the mainland opposite Hovgaard Island.

GPS location (green arrow).

The entrance to the Lemaire Channel (from the south).

See those little streaks up at the top left corner? They’re star trails. It’s now 8pm and the sunset was at 6:30pm. Given that this is from a ship and not from a tripod on land, we’re well out of what it was possible to capture in the days of film.

We’re in the Lemaire Channel and looking at the mainland. I don’t have any more specific place names.

GPS location (Green arrow).

26th March: Antarctica (Pleneau Island)

The wind was so wild overnight, the Polar Pioneer had to motor back and forth along the Penola Strait without being able to stop to anchor.  Around 6:30am we were able to anchor near Pleneau Island.  The elephant’s graveyard is one thing; Pleneau Island is known as the iceberg graveyard  – a giant eddy where the icebergs collect.

I felt a little cheated in a way because after struggling with clothing, 15-20kg of equipment and a dry bag, I was amongst the last to front up and so was on the convalescents’ zodiac which stayed out for a much shorter time than the rest and, for example, did not get to see a leopard seal.  Still, the views of icy seascapes were spectacular enough, as you will see.  For the most part they need little explanation.

Natural iceberg sculpture

Giant ice face

Suspended ice sculpture

Island of ice

Is it a dog or a lion or General De Gaulle?

Ice flake detail on an iceberg, looking up

Ice, texture and light

GPS location (green arrow).

Pockmarked ice gleaming in front of an approaching storm

The ship! The scale! Can you see the ship?

GPS location (Green arrow for the location of the zodiac).

Faces in the ice - and the storm is coming

Views through the ice

Iceberg and mountain

Cloud descending

Iceberg, bergy bit and mountains

Sometime around 1pm, we headed back to Vernadsky.

25th March: Antarctica (Argentine Islands and Vernadsky Station)

Two zodiac trips during the day: In the morning we went to visit the nearby Gentoo penguin colony and in the afternoon we visited the historic Faraday Hut. In the evening the ship headed off for Pleneau Island and I photographed some waves in front of the ship as illuminated by the ship’s searchlight.


Here we are enroute to the penguin colony, east of Vernadsky Station, though obviously I’m photographing a different zodiac. This shows well the different colours of the ice.


A gentoo penguin at the colony, limbering up and expressing itself.


While everyone else was photographing the penguins at the colony, I was struck by the background, the stairway to heaven.

GPS Location. . (but note that this is the location of the camera, not the mountains, which I think were to the north. Also note that the GPS map is in winter, with much more ice than we encountered.)


Panorama with ship and iceberg.


The same iceberg closer up, with distant birds.


Ice cave with buttresses. This is now in the afternoon and we are now west of Vernadsky Station.


Weddell seal at rest.





Sea cave under the ice.


The vivid colours in the ice are almost reminiscent of a thermal area.


Ice patterns.


Ice hole.


Wordie House, Port Fitzroy. This is the original British base, preserved as a museum. This is where they might spend a whole winter.


Back at the subtropical paradise of Vernadsky Station.


In the evening we headed off towards Plenau Island, carefully navigating using the ship’s searchlight to avoid icebergs. This is a shot of waves off the bow of the ship, taken at night using the glow of the searchlight as the light source.


24th March: Antarctica (Argentine Islands – Morning)

Having arrived in Vernadsky Station, we had several days to explore the surrounding area while the ship unloaded the supplies for the station for the winter. Here are some of the views from the zodiac:

Seal, variety not recorded

Gentoo Penguins

Blue Eyed Cormorant - but it's a juvenie so the eyes aren't yet blue

Maybe a cannonball fired in an intergalactic war ...

Ice, rocks and snow. The shape of the snow on the rock reminds me of cromagnon cave painting of wild cattle from Southern France some 20,000 or so years old.

A couple of humpback whales, massive enough in themselves though dwarfed by the scale of the landscape

Going down ...

Just a bit of tail

We’d been out for maybe an hour and a half and now came in for lunch. The images from the afternoon will follow in the next post.

24th March: Antarctica (Gerlache Strait and Lemaire Channel)

The weather prediction was for rain and 30-knot wind but fortunately it turned out to be a very rare fine, still and warm Antarctic day. We passed through the southern end of Gerlache Strait in the pink glow of dawn and Lemaire Channel an hour or so afterwards. Around 10am we arrived at the Ukranian Vernadsky Station to disgorge scientists and supplies over several days.

Here we are well before dawn in the Gerlache Strait. I think this is Fridtjof Island with Wienke Island in the background. Both these islands are between Anvers Island and the mainland (the Antarctic peninsula).

GPS location (Green arrow shows position of the ship, where I took the photo from).

The snow wasn’t just on the land. It had been snowing on the ship during the night as well.

It’s now dawn and the sky is a deep delicate pink. Perversely though, I prefer a more monochrome look for this image. The GPS reading tells me where I pressed the shutter but I can’t be completely sure what direction I was facing in. I think this is the Kershaw Peaks at Cape Willems.

GPS Location.

Also, I think, the Kershaw Peaks.

Probably Bob Island, a small Island south of Wienke Island.

GPS location (green arrow).

I think this is near the southern tip of Wienke Island.

We’re probably looking towards the dawn and therefore to the East, so probably on the left the Cape a few kilometres south of Cape Willems and maybe the “islands” are icebergs.

GPS location (Green arrow for camera location)

In the image above, it’s now over an hour later than the previous image. We’ve gone away and had breakfast and come back. We’re now entering the Lemaire Channel and this must be a view of the mainland, near Cape Renard or False Cape Renard.

In this whole wild and austere landscape, man is strictly a visitor, on sufferance by nature.

GPS location (green arrow).

On the right, we can see the moon still high in the sky. This means we are looking to the West and therefore the snowy peak is on Booth Island.

This is a view of the manland, near the previous image except on the opposite side of the strait, probably just before Cape Kloos.

The two images above almost join up with each other, though they are taken a couple of minutes apart so the viewpoint is different. On the left of the top image is the Leay Glacier. The peak in the image below is either Mt Scott or another peak somewhat to the north of it.

Dramatic clouds in the sky. I think we are probably looking at the South end of Hovgaard Island.

GPS location.

We saw a few minke whales in the Penola Strait, between Petermann Island and the mainland, when we were getting close to Vernadsky Station. This is one, against the sun. The vertical “mist” is not flare, it’s spray from a blow and the whale is just about to go down again.

GPS location.

23rd March: Antarctica (Great Wall Station, King George Island)

Great Wall Station

Early in the morning we had reached the Chinese Great Wall station near the southern end of King George Island.

Inside the Great Wall Station

At about 8:30am we jumped into the zodiacs for a cruise around and a visit to the Chinese station.

Gentoo Penguins and mountains near Great Wall Station, King George Island

There were lots of gentoo penguins standing around on the shore, many moulting, the odd cormorant and a few skuas.

The return trip was rather eventful. The engine repeatedly failed on our zodiac. We eventually got back to the ship and one person disembarked before the zodiac was swept away again. They decided to hoist the zodiac on board but we were too heavy for that so we had to transfer to another zodiac at sea. This was not made easier by having to carry my heavy photographic pack inside a water proof bag. I quickly worked out that trying to straddle two zodiacs in the surging sea was not a viable option so I dived from one to the other when they were together. It all worked well enough in the end.