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).

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 – Afternoon – Licensed to Krill)

After lunch we headed off again in the zodiacs.

Fur seal preening

Crabeater seal

GPS Location. (green arrow)

Humpback whale tail and fairy tern

This was to be the day of the Humpback Whale as we continuously tracked humpback whales from our zodiacs. There were evidently large congregations of krill. We would follow the Antarctic Terns circling overhead, then a big patch of bubbles might rise to the surface and shortly after the humpbacks themselves would appear, sometimes quite close to the zodiacs.

GPS Location. (Green arrow)  At least as I write this, the google map is a bit misleading in that the  satellite images were taken in winter and there’s a big iceberg here – so ignore that.  All following images of the whales were taken close by, roughly two kilometres north of Vernadsky Station.

This is the underside of the whale's head and at the right, the lower jaw (the whale is on its side)

Whale tails.  The patterns on the underside of the tail are unique to individuals.

Two whales going down

There are three whales here. One has just come up with a great gulp of krill.

Antarctic tern and humpback whale. This is the head and the blowhole, perhaps looking something like a riveted armour-plated submarine from the American civil war.

As you can see from the light, it is now quite late in the afternoon

Eventually, it was getting late, we turned back and made for the ship.  Had we stayed for just another five minutes, I would have been able to show you a breaching, a whale soaring into the air, full body-length.  Altogether, a most amazing day. Some of the expedition staff who had been on many voyages to Antarctica said they had seen nothing like it.

A small iceberg eroded into a dramatic shape

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.