About the Ship
Meet the Skipper
Date and Time:
January - February, 2007
View Photos - ANTARCTICA :
Cairns, Australia to Bluff, New Zealand
19 to 28 January, 2007
Air New Zealand has a great non-stop from Cairns to Auckland. But I'll tell you, it's pretty strange traveling to Latitude 45 South after being mid-summer in the tropics. It's been in the 90's every day in Cairns, and the water temp was up to as much as 87 (F) degrees! SEAWANHAKA spent 2 weeks out sailing the Great Barrier Reef just before I left for the Antarctica adventure. I left her in Marlin Marina in Cairns, under the very competent care of Danish sailor Hans of S\V SEAGOON. I know, it's the cyclone season, but Cairns Harbor has a very good contingency cyclone plan, and there are miles of protected waters up the inlets in the mangroves.
In just a day I didn't see much of Auckland, but did get a chance to get down to America's Cup Harbor where the Kiwis successfully defended the Cup and then lost it to the Swiss boat, sailed by a number of very competent Kiwis of course! They have the original KZ-1 on display at the entrance to the Maritime Museum. The huge sloop caused a major controversy, and a considerable amount of litigation, when she was the Kiwi challenge in San Diego to Dennis Conners after he recaptured the Cup from the Aussies back in the '80's.
The train/ferry/train/bus trip from Auckland to Bluff, at the southern most tip of the south island, was tremendous, through Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, and Invercargill. It must have been about a hundred times that I thought "wow, what a great place this would be to be cycling". The ferry across Cook Strait between the north and south island was a brilliant day. A good stiff wind out of Wellington Harbor, a boiling tide rip in the center of the strait where the currents collide, then a very scenic trip through the narrow Tory Channel into Queen Charlotte Sound, into the friendly little port village of Picton. By afternoon it was a sunny, warm, glorious day for the train from Picton to Christchurch, with the sea on the left and the snow capped southern alps on the right.
The Antarctic exhibit at the Canterbury Museum in Chrstchurch was a great stop for an introduction to the Antarctica trip. Lots of relics from the age of exploration in the Great Southern Continent.
Bluff is an historic seaport, "land's end" at the most southerly point of the south island of New Zealand, and gate-way by ferry to a great day of cycling and hiking on Stewart and Ulva Islands.
28 January - Bluff, New Zealand
I was up at 0330 to see the Bluff pilot boat and tug leave the harbor to escort M/V ORION into port. Bluff is famous for it's "Bluff" oysters, prolific crawfish (lobster) fishery, and historically infamous for the 30-odd shipwrecks littering the nearby coast. Over the years the reef-strewn entrance, large tides and strong currents have been a big challenge to maritime traffic. ORION was finishing a 2 week trip from Hobart to Bluff via Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica and made it safely into dock at the town wharf just before sunrise.
The night before had seen an awesome comet display from the top of the "bluff". The Australian-identified and named NacNaught Comet blazed for 30 degrees in the southwestern sky for several hours around midnight. A half moon in the eastern sky washed out many of the stars leaving the sky to the full glory of the spectacular comet. No light pollution out there over the Tasman Sea!
I'm not much for power boats, but I guess if I'm going to take a ride on one it might as well be ORION.
ORION, at a bit over 300 feet, was built to Arctic and Antarctic ice standards by the Cassens Shipyard in Germany. She was launched in 2003. This is her second season in the Antarctic. She is a stout little expedition ship, with accomodations for only 106 guests. It's pretty comfortable cruising, with 75 crew to look after those 106 guests! She has active stabilizers that keep her fairly stable in a seaway. They are 3 meter protrusions that deploy amidships 2 meters below the waterline. They act as "horizontal rudders" to steer the ship on the level and significantly reduce the roll.
ORION did a quick turn-around in Bluff, and by 1700 she was reprovisioned, new passengers settled into their cabins, and casting off the dock lines headed out to sea, bound south into the Southern Ocean for the Auckland Islands and Antarctica.
30 January - At Sea - Southern Ocean
53 degrees 20 minutes South,
ORION has been at sea for 48 hours, doing a steady 12 knots under-way. Just after noon yesterday we made land fall at the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands. These islands early on were a very serious impediment to the old sailing ships heading from Europe around the Cape of Good Hope, across the Indian Ocean and into the Pacific. The strong prevailing westerlies and typical weather pattern of heavy fog resulted in many a sailing vessel wrecking on the shores of the islands. Early sealers and whalers ravished the marine mammals almost to extinction within less than a decade. Fortunately they became "commercially" extinct and the pursuers moved on before they were finally extinct.
Yesterday afternoon ORION anchored at blustery Sandy Bay on Enderby Island. We were all able to make a Zodiac excursion along the shoreline, with great sightings of sea lions, nesting seabirds, and a look at the rare yellow-eyed penguin.
Having read of the challenges and privations of Cook, Scott, Shackleton and other adventurers in the Antarctic (notice I left out Amundsen, the first to the south pole, who as a consequence of impeccable planning and execution didn't have much trouble at all), I've been feeling a bit guilty with all of the first-class accommodaton on-board, but I have found a treadmill, stair-climber and life-cycle on the upper deck with a great view of the ocean, so I can feel like I am running, cycling and climbing my way to Antarctica!
ORION is constantly accompanied by several species of albatross and petrels. We've seen a few dolphin and whales, with I'm sure many more to come. The sea has been very calm with light winds and a following sea from the northeast, but at the weather briefing last night the meteorologist had a weather map of the Southern Ocean showing a line-up of strong low-pressure systems out to the west marching our way. I think I'm the only one on-board looking forward to seeing a true Southern Ocean storm.
1 February - Southern Ocean, enroute to Cape Adare
64 06 South
The sea is scattered with icebergs!
Yesterday we sailed through a belt of fog and mist which is typical of a change in sea temperature and evidences that we have moved south into the Antarctic Convergence Zone. It is in this zone that warm, more saline currents coming south from the tropics meet cold denser less saline currents moving north from Antarctica. These conflicting currents clash, converge and sink. Due to the dominant west winds, these waters do not mix immediately, marking a sudden and significant change in water temperature. The waters provide an environment for abundant plankton that nourishes huge numbers of sea birds and mammals.
After dinner last evening we crosssed 60 degrees south, the "official" entry into Antarctic waters as designated by the Antarctic Treaty. We had an event on deck marking the occassion, but personally I am more interested in the geographic line of the Antarctic Circle, at 66 degrees 33.6 South, which we should cross tomorrow.
We continue to make excellent progress on our journey deep into the Southern Ocean in incredibly calm conditions. The weather map shows us a huge plateau, with not an isobar in sight for hundreds of miles. I've had much rougher conditions in the Straits of Juan de Fuca for sure. We haven't seen even a whitecap for days, and I woke up a couple of times last night wondering if we were really on a boat! Of course we are all expecting that to change at some point of the trip, as there are a number of powerful lows sitting out to the west that could make things interesting along the Antarctic coast and on the return trip.
We have had some excellent presentations on the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. The ship is loaded with a full array of experts on everything from marine mammals to environmental degradation on the southern continent. There is even a contingent of aussie doctors having an Antarctic medical conference on board.
And from the first sighting this morning at 0900, there have been a steady stream of icebergs floating by ORION.
02 Feb - Southern Ocean
68 23 South
Snow on the deck and icicles hanging from the railings, we know we are in the Antarctic! In fact the big event the past 24 hours was crossing the Antarctic Cirlce, Latitude 66 degrees 33.6 minutes South, which we accomplished at 0230.
Of course this called for a celebration, as well as an event marking the first crossing for those of us "Antarctic virgins". The tradition required that at the time of the crossing, we all strip to our bathers, line up on the aft deck, and be hosed down with the fire hose. At the time the air temp was 20 degrees F, and the water temp was a mere 31! The sea even had ice forming on it. I couldn't pass it up, so I lined up with the 34 other fools on board who showed up for the event. Fortunately there were hot rum drinks all around to warm us up served by the great staff on ORION.
As you will see from the photos, this has been the most incredible and unexpected crossing of the infamously rough Southern Ocean. I woke this morning to an absolutely calm glassy sea. I thought about asking if we could launch a Zodiac and go for a water ski, as the entire ocean was a slick. There weren't even any large birds around. If there's no wind they can't get off the ocean and fly. They say that there are only 2 times when the albatross will sit on the water, when it is dead calm and they can't get aloft, or if there are storm force winds. Neither a good sign for mariners. ORION Captain Sven Gaertner has made 82 trips to the Antarctic. These are the calmest conditions that he has ever seen, or even heard of.
At this far south latitude, sunrise is now at 0318, and sunset at 27 minutes after midnight (ship's time, as we are staying on NZ daylight). Twilight and dawn run together and it never gets dark! Consequently we won't have any opportunity to see the Aurora Australis until we move north on the return trip and find a dark sky once again.
We are preparing for "expedition mode", making landings when the weather permits.
03 February - Landfall Antarctica!
71 21.8 South
I was up at 0215 in anticipation of landfall on the Antarctic Continent. As I came on deck it was 5 degrees F, a biting southerly wind, and pack ice on the horizon. My GPS showed us 40 nautical miles off from Cape Adare. As we approached the pack ice Captain Sven slowed to half speed and pulled in the stabilizers to avoid damage. As we moved into the pack ice there was a regular grinding and banging against the hull. ORION is not an icebreaker, but she is ice rugged, and is capable of pushing through the ice. Which is a good thing, because as we approached the coast the ice grew very thick. Lots of big bergs, and for the first time we were watching Adelie penguins frolicking on the ice and swimming next to the ship.
The overcast skies that we have had with us for the past 3 days lifted a bit this morning, and at 0258, from the upper deck, I was able to call "land ho" as the sloping ridge of Cape Adare appeared on the southern horizon. As we moved closer in, the ice and snow covered massif of the Adare peninsula unfolded off our bows.
Last night we had an extensive briefing on the Cape Adare beach landing and the history of the area. Cape Adare is the site of the Borchgrevinck hut, where the first party to ever winter over in Antarctica spent the winter of 1900. As we approached to within about 20 miles of Cape Adare this morning, the stiff southeast wind and northwest setting current combined to push the ice up along the Cape, and it was quickly evident that the proposed landing there was going to be inaccessible. The good news was that the wind and current were pushing the ice out of the Ross Sea, so we altered course, and are heading further south into the bay, with a new proposed landing sight at Cape Hallett. Our ultimate goal is to get as far south as possible into the Ross Sea, possibly Ross Island, the sight of the famous Scott and Shackleton huts, as far south as it is possible to journey on a ship in the world.
At 1500 this afternoon it is a beautiful sunny day with a brisk southerly whipping across the Ross Sea. The sharp white pinnacle of Mt. Minto just appeared over the rugged coastline, soaring 4168 meters nearly straight up out of the sea. Awesome. More pack ice between ORION and Cape Hallett. We'll see if we find an opening for a landing.
04 February - Ross Sea
75 47 South
The sun that did not set!
We are so far south that the sun never drops below the horizon. I sat in the comfort of the upper foredeck lounge from midnight until 0300 and watched the sun journey from the western sky, through the south, and into the east, without ever dipping below the horizon. Fist time I have ever experienced that.
As with Cape Adare, we were again thwarted in our landing plans at Cape Hallett, as there were several huge tabular ice flows grounded along the coast blocking access. It was a stunning beautiful setting as we negotiated through the ice, reversed course, and continued to steam down south in the Ross Sea.
As of noon today we have crossed 75 degrees south, bound for Ross Island at the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf.
One interesting experience we've had is that we have seen two ships in the past 24 hours. In this most remote, lonely sea on the planet it is very unusual to encounter any maritime traffic. The first vessel we sighted was the Sea Sheperd Society FARLEY MOWAT. They have been in the Southern Ocean the past few seasons chasing and attempting to engage and interrupt the Japanese Whaling fleet that are reported to be operating in the area. I had seen the FARLET MOWAT in Neah Bay, Washington in 1998 when they were there to protest the Macaw tribal exercise of their traditional whaling.
The second ship was a South Korean longliner, which was hauling their line and loading some big fish on deck as we passed. There are reportedly both "legal" and "illegal" longlingers operating. ORION took the details and emailed to both New Zealand and Australian authorities. One of the greatest objections to the longlining methods relates to the great albatross, which are frequently entangled in the line or hooked and drug under when they dive to snatch the bait.We should make landfall at Ross Island and the ice shelf early tomorrow morning. The sea is presently free of ice, and it is a great opportunity to get far to the south.
05 February, 2007 - Ross Island, Ross Sea, Antarctica
Anchored in Backdoor Bay, Cape Royd, Site of Shakleton Hut, at:
77 33.5 South
After steaming far to the south in the Ross Sea over the past 2 days, this morning we dropped the anchor of ORION in this beautiful bay at the entrance to McMurdo Sound. It was time to set foot on the Antarctic continent!
The shore party did a survey of the bay and found a suitable landing on what is called "fast ice" (it is "fast" on the land), a meter or so deep extending several hundred meters out into the bay. It was a good landing site for our first experience on the continent, as it required a 3 kilometer hike across the ice, over several tide cracks, up over the ridge, and down into the shelter of the headland which Ernest Shackleton had chosen as the headquarters of his attempt to reach the South Pole. (This is not his famous ENDURANCE expedition, in which he had planned to transit the Antarctic continent after Amundsen had claimed the pole, but an earlier Shackleton visit when there was still a race on to reach it).
It was a great opportunity to get off the ship, stretch the legs, experience the Antarctic chill, see our first penguins on the ice, and have a look inside Shackleton's hut. A very exciting moment for this sailor.
After several hours on land exploring,in the afternoon we weighed anchor and moved 10 nautical miles farther south to Cape Evans, the site of Scott's hut. This entire west side of Ross Island is on the flank of Mt. Erebus, the 12,000 foot volcano. We experienced steller weather the entire day, with hardly a breath of wind, calm seas, relatively warm temperatures, and generally clear conditions which afforded magnificent views of Mt. Erebus, which periodically emitted a plume of steam from its crater. Erebus is infamous as the site of an Air New Zealand DC-10 flight that gave the tourists on board a look at the mountain that was a bit closer than they had bargained for. All passengers and crew perished in the crash on the mountain, due to a tragic navigational error.
I was keen for a big hike, and was ready for the first Zodiac ashore. I was able to hike up to the ridge above the bay, which afforded great views up to the glaciers of Erebus, and a tremendous panorama to the south stretching down McMurdo Sound, McMurdo Ice shelf, and to the glaciers to the south that were the route to the South Pole for Shackleton's and Scott's attempts. It was wonderful to get out and spend 4 hours hiking and exploring the Antarctic continent. Fine weather the entire afternoon.
The last hour of the landing I spent exploring Scott's hut, from which he left for his polar attempt, which he accomplished but did not return from, perishing with his 4 mates less than a score of miles from his last supply depot. His hut is remarkably well preserved, with all of the equipment still remaining in the hut just as it was the day they walked out of it. There is even a large pile of seal blubber cached for fuel and food in the attached stable where they kept the sledge dogs and ponies. Above the hut on "Windvane Hill" is a cross erected in memory of 3 of Shackelton's men who perished here as well.
Fortunately we all made it back to ORION safely. We were then to push another hour south into McMurdo Sound, where we soon ran into serious ice. Captain Sven gave the command to reverse course, marking our
FAR SOUTH POINT OF THE EXPEDITION:
77 DEGREES 43.051 MINUTES SOUTH
which would place us 1873 nautical miles from Bluff, and just 737 nautical miles from the South Pole!
06 February, 2007 - Franklin Island, Ross Sea, Antarctica
After steaming all night to the northwest in the Ross Sea, at 0500 we dropped anchor in the bay on the west side of Franklin Island, a massive cliff surrounding a beach, with huge ice bergs flanking the bay. Once again it was a glorious clear day with calm conditions.
Franklin Island, for you history buffs, was named by the British explorer James Clark Ross, after John Franklin, Governor of Tasmania, who had hosted a lavish party for Ross and his men as their send off from Hobart. Franklin is more renown for his ill-fated attempt in the Arctic to find the northwest passage, perishing with all of his men, and his ships EREBUS and TERROR, the same ships that had carried Ross on his successful explorations of the southland.
The west coast of Franklin Island is an Adelie penguin rookery, and we had a most spectacular visit. Estimated population of 100,000 birds. Yes, they are birds, even tho they are often described by the characteristics of "not being able to run well, and fly worse". But they are great swimmers.
The entire western side of the island was covered with birds, so we were only permitted 25 people on shore at a time, confined to a very small area. We were literally surrounded by the Adelies. Being late in the summer breeding season, the chicks were nearly full grown, but still molting from fluff to feathers, and had not been in the water yet. The parents would forage the bay for food, then hike up the beach, emit a distinctive call to find their chicks (some pairs had 2), and regurgitate to feed them. Of course some of the parents would not return. There was a very voracious leopard seal patroling the waters close to the beach while we were watching, and would regularly surface thrashing with a penguin who's chick would never be fed by his parent again. There were dead chick carcasses littering the area evidencing that this was not an isolated incident. I was also able to witness orphaned, starving chicks chasing any plump adult, desperate to be fed. They were repeatedly rejected as the adults sought their own.
On the Zodiac ride back to ORION we cruised by the massive bergs, which also had a few penguins on the lower flats.
It couldn't have been a better day; clear, calm, and relatively warm, for a few of the hearty souls of ORION to make the plunge. My first Antarctic swim! Well, couldn't really call it a swim. It was a plunge (and very quick exit) into frigid -1 Degree C (31 Degree F) Antarctic water.
Anything for a free drink, as the ORION crew was again standing by with a very welcome hot rum drink.
We're now underway once again headed northwest toward the Terra Nova area of the mid-west coast of the Ross Sea. Still absolutely calm seas.
07 February, 2007 - Inexpressible Island, Ross Sea, Antarctica
74 56 South
It could be said that ORION is still in New Zealand waters. She has a number of Kiwi passengers and crew, so it seemed only appropriate to celebrate Waitangi Day, Feb 6, the day of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in the Bay of Islands, basically the Maori's ceding (giving away their land) to the Queen in exchange for becoming her subjects. Of course there is still much conflict surrounding the whole issue.
Musician Michelle started things off with a very sweet performance of the "Poukarekareana", the Maori welcoming song. The Kiwi men on board performed a stiring "Haka", the traditional call to war, which we all know mostly as the way the All Blacks start each Rugby match. Then as we all filed into the dining room we were greeted by the "Hongi", the touching of noses and gentle exhale and mixing of breath to show welcome. Of course our Chef Lothar, originally from the Black Forest, but now carrying a Kiwi passport, put on a wonderful dinner of Kiwi origin, including cheeses, shellfish, grouper, lamb, and what turned out to be several bottles of great New Zealand wine. A wonderful finish to a day of frolicking with the penguins and a dip in the Antarctic.
After a night, well, it wasn't dark, but they were the night-time hours, of steaming to the northwest in the Ross Sea, we dropped anchor off of Inexpressible Island. Visibility was poor and a light snow was falling, but there was not much wind, so we had another morning ashore. Inexpressible Island (obviously not named by a lawyer) is the site where part of Scott's party was caught out on an exploratory expedition, the ship couldn't get in to retrieve them, and they spent more than 6 months wintering over in a snow cave, existing on seals and penguins. It was another great opportunity for me to get out and hike the hills, and also to sit and enjoy another Adelie penguin rookery. Also some Weddel Seals loafing on the ice. They are some of the tougest creatures in the world, the only marine mammal to winter in the Antarctic.
In the afternoon we headed north along a spectacular snow-covered coast past Cape Russell, Cape Washington, and the Italian station at Terra Nova Bay. Unfortunately they had shut down the station for the season and we couldn't visit. Professor Pat Quilty reports that they have a very sophisticated science base at the station, and even though they are now all home basking in the sunshine on the shores of the Meditteranean, they can control all of the functions of the base electronically from Italy, even down to changing the oil of the generators.
In sunshine and brisk coolness on the aft deck of ORION I sipped a beer and toasted our departure from the Antarctic continent, as the headland of Cape Washington faded astern. We are now enroute to Macquarie Island, 1200 nautical miles to the north. We just had a brilliant presentation from Dr. John Sparks on the variety of penguin life we are likely to see on Macquarie, including a vast rookery of the majestic King penguin.
10 February, 2007 - Southern Ocean
62 26 South
We continue to make good progress to the north across the Southern Ocean in very mixed weather. Yesterday morning ORION had very bright sunshine and calm seas. By mid-morning a stiff north easterly had blown in and a sea along with it, building to 5-6 meter swells, breaking seas over the bow and lots of passengers taking to their cabins. By afternoon the wind veered to the SE, making conditions much better. By this morning the wind had gone all the way around to the SW, blowing 40 knots, 8 meter swell. As I write this in the afternoon the wind has dropped off, the seas are down to 1 meter, but we are still seeing a few large bergs, even tho we are up to 62 degrees. I think my buddy Dennis has at least half a dozen "last berg" photos.
We had a very interesting scenario develop yesterday afternoon. I mentioned a week ago that we had crossed paths with the Sea Sheperd Foundation ship FARLEY MOWAT. Some of you may have heard news of a confrontation that occured yesterday between the FARLEY MOWAT and the Japanese whaling fleet. ORION's first contact with the incident was a contact from the Rescue Coordination Center in New Zealand. A "MAYDAY" had been issued by FARLEY MOWAT. Two of their crew in a zodiac had failed to return to the ship after having a conflict with a whaler. At the time of the mayday ORION was 80 miles east, and was put on standby as a possible assist vessel if a search was activated. Fortunately within a few hours the zodiac and crew were located tied onto an iceberg in heavy fog. As we heard the story they were actually rescued by the whaling ship that they had just "attacked", apparently with injury to a couple of the Japanese crew. We had an interesting discussion at our evening briefing about what it would have been like to be engaged in a search operation if it had developed. Would have been an unusual event for an ORION expedition.
I received an email from my Mother a few days ago asking about the food on ORION, and why I hadn't mentioned much about it in my log. It's just that I've been trying to avoid thinking about food. Suffice it to say that the fare on board has been spectacular. It is amazing what Chef Lothar and his crew can put out for every meal, especially considering that it has been 2 weeks since a provisioning stop. Last night was a good example. It was a theme night "A Taste of Antarctica" as we were about to leave Antarctic waters. A full 8 course meal:
1. A Morsel for an Albatross: Sushi Roll with Ginger Pickle, Wasabi and Soy, black sesame seed on Japanese slaw
2. A Minke's Delight: Avocado and Crabmeat Salad on Gezpacho
3. A Skua's Droppings: Cream Cucumber Soup with Dill
4. An Elephant Seal's Favourite: Vol au Vent with Prawns & Smoked Chicken in Noilly Prat-Saffron Sauce
5. Snow from Mawson's Hut: Citrus Sorbet with Methode Champenoise
6. A Petrel's Partiality: Loin of Veal with Morel Sauce, Celeriac Puree, Baby Carrot and Broccolini, grilled Nadine Potato (Optional Wild Barramundi wrapped in Prosciutto on Zuccini and Orzo Rissoto, Balsamic and Capsicum Essence)
7. An Emperor's Indulgence: Chocolate Pudding with Two Sauces
8. Smells like Guano: Selected Australian and New Zealand Cheeses with Walnut Bread, dried fruits, pear Chutney
All accompanied with a fine selection of wines.
Hmmmm...wonder what's for dinner tonight.
13 February 2007 - Macquarie Island, Southern Ocean
Buckles Bay and Sandy Bay
ORION spent 6 days at sea on our northbound voyage from the Ross Sea to Macquarie Island. We finally saw some typical Southern Ocean weather, 30-40 knot winds, with 6-8 meter swell, and an occassional 10-12 meter swell. The wind went from NE to S, then steady from the W for 3 days, making our NW course pretty rough. At just after midnight this morning we arrived into the lee of the island and spent the early morning hours cruising up the east coast in calm waters to a 0530 anchorage just off of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition station at the "Isthmus" of Macquarie Island.
Macquarie Island is a real jewel in the Southern Ocean. Early explorers recognized what a spectacular place it was. The Australian Antarctic Expedition explorer Sir Douglas Mawson reported in 1911 that "this little island is one of the wonder spots of the world". Geologically, it is one of only 2 locations in the world of exposed seabed, thrust up 10,000 feet from the ocean depths by collision deep below the sea surface. But for the visitors from ORION the geology was hardly noticed, as we were surrounded by colorful, curious king penguins, watched the quaint crested royal penguins march down from the upland plateau for a swim, and gazed on hundreds of huge elephant seals lazing on the beach and amid the mud and grasses, with the occassional grumble of the large bulls jostling for position and prestige. It was a tremendous opportunity for photography. There is a quote from Mawson's expediton that pretty much says it all. Frank Hurley was the photographer on that expedition. Hurley later claimed great fame for his photography on Shackleton's ENDURANCE expedition: "...down on the beach, Hurley, in a kind of photographer's ecstasy was striving to do justice to his phenomemal surroundings."
Macquarie is home to more that a million pairs of kings, as well as major colonies of royal, gentoo, and rockhopper penguins. We were fortunate to be able to observe all 4 species during our 2 shore landings and zodiac excursions. We had a tour of the ANARE station at the Isthmus, home to 20 resident staff and scientists. They conduct extensive earth magnetic, atmosphere, seismology, and radiation research in addition to the wildlife and habitat work going on. We were able to observe the launch of one of their twice-daily weather balloons. In the "clean air hut" they do research with air that is claimed to be the "cleanest on earth", having no upwind intervening land mass all the way from Terra del Fuego, South America, half way around the world.
We had several of the ANARE station residents on ORION. They have been on the island for 10 months, having had only 3 ships visit. Needless to say they were very happy to have the company, revelled in the fresh produce we still have on board, and provided us with great commentary of the history and flora and fauna of this spectacular island.
Captain Sven ordered the anchor weighed at 1830, we said goodbye to our guests, and headed northwest, bound for Hobart, Tasmania. Much to our surprise the seas had calmed considerably during the day, and as we rounded the nothern most point of the island, it is looking like it might be a pretty smooth run to Hobart.
Speaking of PHOTOS, I know I've been promising to get them onto the Antarctica photo page, but I'm finding that although this satellite email is great for text, it is very slow and expensive for the several hundred photos I have. It's looking like I'll have to wait until Hobart, but I promise that as soon as I get checked in on Saturday morning I'll visit the internet shop and give you all a visual tour of this expedition.
17 February, 2007 - Princes Wharf, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
The run from Macquarie Island continued the theme of the entire voyage: incredibly calm sea conditions. Captain Sven has made 83 trips to Antarctica, and the accumulated trips amongst the rest of the expedition crew must have numbered at least another hundred. Everyone agreed that it was far and away the smoothest crossing of the Southern Ocean to Antarctica and return that has ever been made. It was a tremendous trip all the way around, but if there is one disappointment for me, it is that I never really had a chance to see what the Southern Ocean is like when a stream of low pressure systems comes rolling in from the west, and the swells build to monstrous proportions as they roll around the entire southern world unencumbered. The flip side is that we were able to make 6 landings, 1 zodiac cruise, visit the 2 most historic huts in Antarctica, swim in the Antarctic, had stunning views of Mt. Erebus and the entire Ross Sea and Trans Antarctic Range, and the rest of the passengers and crew were overjoyed with the fine weather and calm seas.
The voyage covered 4,852 nautical miles from Bluff, New Zealand, to McMurdo Sound in the Ross Sea at 77 degrees 43 minutes south, and returning north to Hobart, Tasmania.
We had a lovely approach to the Tasmania coastline. Thursday evening just before dinner we spotted a pod of fin whales feeding just off of the port bow. Due to the fine weather we'd been having we were ahead of schedule, so Captain Sven brought ORION to a stop and we circled with the whales for an hour. Friday morning it was pretty foggy, but by lunch time the fog had burned off and the crew set up a BBQ in the sunshine on the aft deck. Just as we sat down to a fine lunch we called a "Land HO" as South East Cape (southern most point of Tasmania), Mt. LaPerouse and Recherche Bay appeared to the northwest. It was a brilliant afternoon steaming up the eastern shore of Bruny Island, across Storm Bay, and into the River Derwent on our approach to Hobart. We were secure on the dock as Captain Sven gave us a recap of the trip, and his final farewells. We had a fine dinner, cleared Australian Customs, and wandered up the wharf to the "Customs House" to toast the Antarctica adventure with a few rounds of Hobart brewed Cascade Draught.
Today it's 85 degrees (F), shorts and T-shirts! A VERY quick transition back to summer. Tomorrow it's a hike of Mt. Wellington and then Monday back to the tropics in Cairns. I've had a great trip, but I'm really looking forward to being back on SEAWANHAKA, captain of my own vessel once again, and doing some sailing, SOON! Thanks to all for sharing in this Antarctic adventure of mine.
And YES, we have PHOTOS on the Antarctica Photo page!
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