Sunday, December 30, 2007: Day 6
Drake Passage - 10:10 am EST
Posted by Geoff Green, Expedition Leader
This morning we are experiencing a foggy Drake Passage with Northeasterly winds. Fritz gave a lecture after breakfast about Sea Ice and Icerbergs, and in 30 minutes David Fletcher will give a talk on Sir Ernest Shackleton. This afternoon we will arrive to Elephant Island at approximately 5:00 pm and depending on the conditions we may attempt a Zodiac cruise at Point Wild. Regardless, it will be an exciting afternoon as the students have their first impressions and glimpses of the Antarctic, first icebergs, first penguins and more!
The expedition is off to a great start. The enthusiasm, spirit, good karma, teamwork, and learning is infectious on board. Some students are a bit seasick, but they are toughing it out and accepting it as part of the experience. By tomorrow, once we are in calmer waters they will all be back to 100%.
Until next time,
Expedition Leader & Executive Director
Student on Ice
Posted by Mohammed Qazzaz, student
Just when you think you’ve experienced a lot; something magical always manages to shatter that feeling and surprise you. Here we are; living on the mighty Ushuaia for a few days now. The “stranger” feeling has left us completely to be replaced by the wonderful brotherhood that has filled most our hearts and souls.
Ok, enough with the poetry it’s making me sick… WE WENT ON THE ZODIACS!!!
I have never in my life felt anything like it. There was much more to it then the physical presence of the students on ice. This place had an incredible sense of peace, a sense that, sadly, we miss in our life on earth. Although it may be one of the coldest places in the world, you would be amazed to see the numbers of species that flourish in this environment, this amazing ecosystem. From clumsy penguins to graceful albatrosses, you can sense them living. Not a single trace of pollution can be found, and being able to experience this practically, to touch the ice, feel the icy breeze, is truly the most valuable gift anyone can ever ask for (and yes dad you still have to get me the car!). You would think that spending fifteen days in the middle of nowhere would make you homesick, but you didn’t know that this “middle of nowhere” would become your home.
This experience is the most unique of its kind. I am truly blessed to be able to experience it, and I am definitely waiting for more surprises from this amazing Antarctica.
Posted by John Quinesso, Chaperone
It’s official! We were welcomed and escorted to Antarctica’s Elephant Island by Chinstrap Penguins and Humpback Whales as we passed our first icebergs around 4:15 PM.
After navigating the waters leading to Point Wild – where Ernest Shackleton’s men wintered for more than 4 months, we then boarded our Zodiacs (8 to a boat) for the first time. We experienced a spectacular cruise around icebergs and glaciers – where we even witnessed an avalanche! Incredible!
Upon the icebergs, thousands of Chinstrap Penguins were nesting in the rookery as well as “porpoising” through the waters beside our ship.
Between the penguins and the humpback whales, Antarctica greeted us with a bang! Karma onboard the MV Ushuaia is GREAT!
Tomorrow promises to be another day of adventure as we continue our journey along the Shetland Islands leading to Brown Bluff at the tip of Antarctica’s peninsula!
This is a magical journey… truly spectacular!
Posted by Ankur Gupta, student
Pepto-Bismol should do an advertisement on the Drake Passage. We reached rougher seas and dense (but very beautiful) fog. I love fog. It puts everyone on an equal plane. No one has an advantage in low visibility over another. Anyway, today I shall dub the Day of Nausea.
Yesterday, the sickness hit most people but today it hit me. I never threw up but I was oh so close many times. I spent lots of time outside in the fog. It was freezing but beautiful. I even had the chance to start on a new poem. Anyway, the thing you probably want to read about is not my nausea but the fact that we have reached Antarctica! We reached Elephant Island at about 5:00 PM. Elephant Island, as we learned in a lecture today was made famous by the epic Shackleton Endurance journey. A long and involved story that I won’t get into right now.
Elephant Island was where 22 of Shackleton’s men had to wait for about 4 months in the Antarctic winter while Shackleton searched for help at South Georgia. Being here right now, I have absolutely no idea how they did it. One day would have been enough for me and it’s only the summer right now (remember Southern hemisphere is opposite of the Northern hemisphere). When we neared Elephant Island from the Point Wild side, icebergs loomed all around us. Three penguins were off starboard side “porpoising” through the water. “Porpoising” is when they jump out of the water and back in like dolphins and porpoises. They seemed like fish, yet they are birds, maybe they’re superman? Bad joke. So many icebergs…completely beats the Greenlandic ones. We neared a glacier as the captain dropped anchor. We pulled out the zodiac boats to go cruising around the area. The fog layer rose a little bit so the top of the mountains were not visible. On the cruise, we were able to see chinstrap penguins galore. What looked like an empty rock was far from empty. Penguins everywhere! Our videographer was let onto the shore so hopefully he got some really good footage of them. We couldn’t do a landing because the water was too choppy. The choppiness, however, did allow for awesome cruising especially at full throttle. Man, I missed those zodiacs. The setting was indescribable. A friend of mine asked me on deck what I thought about when I looked out onto the Antarctic Ocean. I answered: “Beauty.”
Posted by Sara Martin, student
Wow! Literally 5 minutes ago we were out on the Zodiacs drifting between icebergs and around some of the points of Elephant Island. We caught our first glimpse of the Antarctic at around 4 pm. Our skilful captain manoeuvred us in as close as possible. Despite the fog and rain the view left us speechless. Geoff decided the visibility and sea conditions were good enough for a quick Zodiac cruise…so off we went. In addition to seeing thousands of Chinstrap Penguins we also got a good look at a Leopard Seal, it was incredible. And of course other seabirds were seen as well. The size and shapes of some of the bergs is truly unbelievable.
We’re anchored right in front of a massive glacier which periodically makes the most amazing sounds. I keep pinching myself…I can’t believe we are here!!
Posted by Emily Anderson, student
This morning we awoke to a slightly more aggressive Drake’s Passage. We attended our first lecture of the day which was hosted by Fritz. He is an extremely outspoken speaker. He talked about ice bergs and sea ice.
I learned that blue ice bergs are normally harder and have no ice bubbles in them compared to white ice bergs that have ice bubbles and a softer sheet of ice. Our next lecture was hosted by David who talked about the great Shackleton. He was an explorer who dreamed of one day reaching the South Pole. Unfortunately he never reached this goal, but is still known as a wonderful leader. This story made me appreciate the boat we are traveling in. Ingrid lectured about the animal that takes over most of the population of Antarctica. We learned some tips for identifying these birds.
After two days of sailing, we finally reached our desired destination Antarctica! So far it is a beautiful continent with huge glistening ice bergs drifting in the ocean. After a brief lecture about zodiac safety, we were off in the zodiacs. It was wonderful being off the boat. We drove near Elephant Island and saw many beautiful ice bergs. My group even saw an infamous Leopard Seal! We did not land on the island, but I’m looking forward to hopefully landing tomorrow! I miss you all, but I am taking many photos that I will be able to share with you when I return home from this great adventure!
If I’m not able to write tomorrow, have a Happy New Year!
Posted by Kasey Fausak, student
Yesterday we started working on The Daily Ice Cap. It was quite an experience to say the least. I don’t think I’ll ever take English keyboards for granted again! The problem was that none of the computers in English had Publisher, the program we needed to work on the newsletter. But we were able to figure everything out through trial, error, and linguistics. “Where’s insert?” “Try inserto.”
In any case, working on the paper was a nice, familiar feeling, even though the newsletter was essentially riddles, games, and limericks instead of news. I did the layout, finding borders and making the header and such, while the other four or so people on the staff wrote the poetry, made up the riddles, etc. I was worried we weren’t going to have enough time to finish though, since it was supposed to be done by curfew and we only started at 4:00. I left dinner early and was late to a lecture to try to work on it, but we wound up having forty-five minutes of free time before curfew to work on it. I was this close to finishing, just had to resize something, and then –
The screen went black.
I nearly had a heart attack, but everyone else reminded me that I had saved it, and it was no big deal. So I turned the computer back on, but –
It wasn’t on the desktop.
I knew when I didn’t see it where I had saved it that no amount of searching would recover it, but I tried anyway, and a bunch of the staff came over to help, as did the crew, and some computer geeks. But it was lost completely.
Eventually one of the people on the staff realized that often on public computers there’s a setting that erases everything from the desktop when the computer is turned off.
So we were given an extended curfew, and were up until midnight working on the newsletter.
It wasn’t that bad. I ate a lot of my chocolate, and in the end, the second was better than the first. We’re going to start working on tomorrow’s newsletter later today, but now that I have the formatting down it should go much quicker.
Long live the Ice Cap!
Posted by Felicia Vanacore, student
I spent the whole day in bed because my sea sickness has not gotten any better. The doctor gave me a shot yesterday but it didn’t help and he gave me another one this morning and I’m really tired. It is now 5:25 pm and there was an announcement about an iceberg. I got myself out of bed and I went outside. I must say it’s so beautiful!! I even saw penguins!!
They are very far away but I can hear them! This is amazing – I just wish I felt better to enjoy it more. I will be back later to write more because we are going out into the zodiacs.
Posted by Zander Affleck, student
Our first trip in the Zodiacs:
At around 4:30 pm today we finally arrived in Antarctica. Right away we divided into groups and went out to look at the beautiful view and wildlife. We arrived at Point Wild on Elephant Island the exact place where Shackleton’s men stayed while he and five others traveled to South Georgia to seek help. We haven’t gone on land yet but we went around in the zodiacs for an hour. There was a huge glacier and a few mountains.
We also saw thousands of penguins and a leopard seal. Antarctica is an amazing place and it felt great to start to explore it after being seasick for two days.
Posted by Michal Rosenthal, student
It’s Sunday night, 9:15 pm. I’m still not used to the fact that the sun is shining outside.
Today was unreal. We finally arrived at around 5:00 pm in Antarctica (not the continent itself, we arrived at Elephant Island). We started seeing the first icebergs at 4:40 pm exactly (well, the precision is as a result of a contest that took place - every student had to guess when the first iceberg would be observed, when the ship would cross the Antarctic convergence, etc.).
I have been so swamped by information in the last two days. There were so many fascinating lectures about Antarctica, and we had several activities in the afternoon.
But there was something about today that made me literally cry out of joy. We were divided into small groups for the zodiacs. We didn’t step out of the zodiac, but we spent an hour floating with the little rubber boat near the island. We saw so many different glaciers and icebergs, thousands of penguins, skuas, and one leopard seal. It was beautiful.
The weather was foggy, (it reflects the history of the island). After getting off the zodiac, with ice in our hands, we rested in the lounge and got ready for dinner (I skipped dinner, since I was afraid of seeing the burgers in a different shape. Yes, I admit it; I have minor sea sickness). We started sailing in the direction of the continent, and while everyone was eating, I noticed the sun coming out of the clouds. It was so refreshing, so I decided to go out and take some pictures.
Right after supper we could hear Geoff announcing that the captain had noticed whales in the distance! Every single one ran down to the deck in excitement, trying to see those hump-back whales. They were prodigious. Flipping those black tale flukes, slapping it in the water, turning around and showing off their giant flippers. I could hear them so well.
At least 10 whales surrounded the ship, on each side. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, suddenly I was out of control, I was so small in front of nature, I had tears in my eyes. It was overwhelming.
Later we were gathered in the lounge for a brief meeting with Geoff. In the middle someone noticed that there was a group of penguins sitting on an iceberg. Everyone got up hysterically and went outside. Now I’m going to bed.
I can’t believe that today was an introduction to Antarctica. It’s a different world.
Posted by Serin Remedios, student
Theme Song of the Day: Our Retired Explorer - The Weakerthans
Wow, it seems as though every day gets better and better. This morning we had two great lectures—one on icebergs and one on Sir Ernest Shackleton. Our iceberg lecture was given to us by none other than Fritz. While icebergs seem to pale in comparison to the penguins and seals, they are actually really interesting. There are so many different types of icebergs, and they all form in different ways. Especially with Fritz’s crusty sense of humour, the lecture was actually quite enjoyable.
Our next lecture was on the fascinating story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew. I was already familiar with the story before I came from various talks at my local zoo and books I have read. However, hearing the story from David Fletcher was even better. It’s great to hear the story from someone so enthusiastic and knowledgeable. The things he and his men endured were astounding; it was really emphasized by the weather conditions outside today. The boat is enveloped by a thick fog and is accompanied by a cold rain. The swells were bigger today, and were actually big enough for some swell-jumping!
On the ship, people are becoming a lot more comfortable with each other.
Lots of the internal walls people create when among strangers are disappearing. Today we even had a mini song and dance session to The Sound of Music soundtrack. It was so much fun!
After lunch we approached Elephant Island. Coincidentally, Elephant Island is where some members of Shackleton’s team had to live. As we neared the island, we finally saw our first icebergs. They were absolutely amazing! Everyone raced out onto the deck with their cameras while the rain soaked our jackets and unfortunately, our cameras as well. Soon we were able to see land and a bunch of penguins waddling about. The cliffs towered over our ship, their peaks disappearing into the fog. A glacier plunged to the waters edge, and we were lucky enough to see a chunk breaking off. The whole island has a raw, stark beauty which is impossible to describe in words. Luckily, we were even able to get out into the zodiacs to see everything a bit closer up. We even saw a leopard seal on the prowl for an unlucky chinstrap penguin.
I had so much fun today, and I’m glad we’re finally around Antarctica.
Hello to everyone at home. I miss you guys, but I don’t want to go home quite yet.
Posted by Tim Medeiros, student
"Tales From the Crip: Arrival"
In the beginning there was haze and birds. Geoff saw Elephant Island and over the intercom loudly exclaimed “LAND HO!” The captain looking out of his bridge nodded and agreed, “Point Wild is where we’ll anchor, beautiful glaciers and hundreds of penguins for your students to see.” Geoff turned to his education team and zodiac drivers and said, “A cruise around this point is what we’ll do, we’ll see ice bergs, penguins and the site where Shackleton’s men were stranded too.” After the zodiac cruise was completed and the last student on board Geoff went to the captain and said “Let’s try and find that 50 mile long tabular iceberg reported to be off the eastern end of Elephant Island.” So we went around the island to the east and found clear skies, a sunset with some Humpback whales mixed in, but alas, the berg was nowhere to be seen.
All in all, it was a spectacular arrival to our destination, Antarctica.
Posted by Alejandra Cueva, student
Finally off the boat!
Today was our first day off the boat. It was so Amazing! We arrived at Elephant Island. Elephant Island is where Shackleton and his men arrived after their boat, the Endurance sank during their Endurance Expedition in 1915. The island is amazing, it is surrounded by glaciers and loads of ice.
Geoff said that the weather was ok to go out in the zodiacs and see the island. I was in the first zodiac with about 6 other people including one of the zodiac drivers, Geoff. When we started approaching the island we saw millions of penguins all over the island and some in the water.
We also heard and smelled them. The sound is really loud and the smell is disgusting, but it is all worth it. We also saw seabirds, which was no surprise. After about 20 minutes we saw a leopard seal. We couldn’t believe it. We had only been off the boat for about 30 minutes and we had already seen penguins, seals, and seabirds.
Of course we are now in Antarctic territory so we have seen loads of glaciers. It is also really cold and foggy, which makes it difficult to see. But we are students on ice and we don’t give up – fog and cold weather doesn’t stop us, well, unless Geoff and the other staff say it’s too dangerous.
I am really loving it here. The other students are great as well as all the staff. I miss my home but Antarctica is so amazing that I could stay here and forget about everything else. I can’t wait for tomorrow and to step foot on the Antartic Peninsula!
P.S. – Maybe someday I will be able to trade my family for penguins and make Antartica my home :D Okay Okay, I do miss my family. See you in about 10 days!!! I send you loads of hugs and kisses. Los Quiero Mucho (I love you all).
Posted by Brittany Pieters, student
Today has been the best day on the trip so far. We woke up to a very foggy day out at sea. Breakfast was at 8 AM again so we got to sleep in until 7:30 AM. Our first lecture of the day was done by Fritz on icebergs and how they form and their unique shapes. Today we also had a lot of free time where we made up claps (beats), played cards, and just vegged. Everyone on the boat received Student on Ice polar fleeces, which also say International Polar Year. Soon after some of us bundled up and went to the bow of the ship where I was shown how to go very high in the air while the bow of the ship was going down. The wind was also very strong and held us where we could stand in the “Titanic” pose.
After that, we had a lecture on Sir Ernest Shackleton and his epic journey to Elephant Island. Lunch made me feel quite sea sick so I took a quick nap before our next lecture which was on penguins. We also had a briefing on the zodiac boats and the rules of visiting Antarctica which is basically summed up in: “Take only pictures, and leave only footprints.” Shortly following that, Geoff told us over the P.A. system that we had spotted land! I rushed out to the deck where I saw my first iceberg and a HUGE glacier. Seeing Elephant Island took my breath away. Next we got dressed to go on the zodiac boats where we saw chinstrap penguins, a leopard seal, and a piece of glacier falling off into the ocean, which sounded like thunder. Also, just at the end of dinner, humpback whales were spotted. About 5 or 6 of them were flapping their flukes and coming quite close to the ship. Finally being in Antarctica seems so real. The beauty of this continent is almost unimaginable. Miss everyone at home, but everything here is phenomenal! Sending love from the bottom of the world to you :)
Posted by Lori Bostick, Chaperone
Greetings again from the Drake Passage!
This morning and most of the day has been somewhat different sailing, a little rougher but still considered not too bad. The weather has changed to fog, rain, wind, and cold! The Drake Passage is about 2 miles deep, and it is very interesting to visit the bridge. The first iceberg was sited on radar about noon today, but we could not see it because of the fog.
Our ship, The Ushuaia, is quaint. It was a working ship, and renovated into a more comfy passenger ship, but still a bit rustic for many. For those who have seen the ship’s layout online, my room is #420. The food has been very good on board! My roommates have been from Portugal and Canada.
I tend to spend most of my free time either outside or in the library. Although, both yesterday and today have been jam packed with outstanding lectures on icebergs, Ernest Shackleton, penguins, Antarctica songs/music, photography, seabirds, and next will be the zodiac boat briefing. I have been helping out with the daily ship’s newsletter, and it is amazing to see the students so thrilled and enthusiastic creating The Daily Ice Cap.
We are hoping to see Elephant Island at 5 PM today. Perhaps we will do our first landing and see our first penguins! During our Shackleton lecture today the dynamic Dave Fletcher, an expert on Antarctic history, explained what the importance of this island with the Endurance Expedition. This is where Shackleton and 5 others left the other 22 men April, 1916, but finally returned to the entire crew intact after 4 months.
Today is Brendan’s birthday! There is a surprise party planned for him tonight…so shhhhh!
It is now almost 9 PM. Yes indeed we took the zodiac boats out to Elephant Island! We saw our first icebergs and chinstrap penguins which brought a sense of extraordinary joy to all of us! But to top this off we just experienced a pod of humpback whales flashing their tails and blowing their spouts to us to wish us all a grand welcome to Antarctica and happy birthday to Brendan!
Posted by Shannon Kaupp, student
Today was amazing! We saw ice for the first time today before reaching Elephant Island. It was our first iceberg at 4:40 PM today and everyone was running outside after a lecture to go see it. After emerging through more icebergs, Elephant Island appeared! It was so cool to see because this is where Sir Ernest Shackleton’s men lived for four months during Antarctica’s winter in 1916. We also saw from our zodiac boats a statue of the Captain who saved the men. One of the groups saw a leopard seal, which was also really cool. Chinstrap penguins coated the mountain sides of the island and we also saw ice break off and form an iceberg. Another amazing highlight of today was seeing a pod of humpback whales!! We got to see the parents and a baby swim and come up to the top of the water to breathe. We had amazing luck on Brendan’s birthday.
I think altogether my favorite part was being able to get so close to Elephant Island on the zodiac boats. It was so different getting onto a zodiac and going through the sea compared to the huge ship we have been going on for the past few days. I miss everyone!
Posted by Atala Bolanos, student
ICEBERGS, PENGUINS, AND SEALS!!!!!!
So, before I say anything, I shall begin by stating I’ve never seen snow, never really been cold, and have never seen Antarctic animals, not even in a zoo. Today, I did all that, in what seemed like a blur.
So, we woke up to the voice of our leader, Geoff Green at 7:30 in the morning. Joy. After a whole day of seasickness and barfing, I wasn’t really that excited to be up, but reluctantly I almost fell out of my top bunk, and got ready. We had breakfast (tortilla like pancakes) and then we had two lovely lectures on icebergs and Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Then, we went out to the bow (the front part of the ship) and jumped every time there was a swell, so we did a double jump, kind of. Like you would jump, and the ship would tilt down, so it would double the height of your jump. It was foggy out, so we didn’t see any ice, but some albatross and petrels. Then we had a lecture on penguins, and I started to feel really sick. After that, I just fell asleep in the lounge’s couch and I skipped lunch. When I woke up, people had put on The Sound of Music songs on, so I obviously had to get up and sing and dance. Some people danced around the lounge to The Sound of Music, Elvis, ABBA and more. It was sooooo much fun!
After that we had an IAATO briefing, about Antarctic visitor guidelines, and Zodiacs (little boats we go to land on) safety and guidelines. Then what happened next was amazing. We spotted our first icebergs! And along with them, we saw jumping penguins in the water (chinstrap most probably).
We were told to get all dressed up, and went out on the Zodiacs just to sail around the ice. We saw massive flocks of penguins on the ice, oddly shaped icebergs, iceberg bits cracking and falling into the water, and a huge leopard seal! It was amazing, and wet and cold.
Greetings to Paulina Bichara and Sofia Prado, they would have loved to see those penguins and leopard seals.
Love and greetings to you all!
Posted by Ian Tamblyn, Education Team Member
December 2007 - by Ian Tamblyn
Where do you wander
Where do you roam
Over the ocean
Always your home
Black seas rolling
Wild winds wail
Curving the world
Eyes to the sea
Cutting and carving
Hanging the breeze
Where will you wander
Where will you roam
When the sea gets restless
When the white lines form
When the ocean tumbles
And the fog rolls in
Curving and carving
Arcing the wind
Onward and onward
When I am yearning
Your spirit in me
Where do you wander
Where do you roam
Over the ocean
Always your home
Black seas rolling
Wild winds wail
Curving the world