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.