Wednesday, January 2, 2008: Day 9
Antarctic Peninsula - 4:00 am EST
Posted by Geoff Green, Expedition Leader
We are just about to wake up all the students. It is 6:00 am! We are in the spectacular Errera Channel, the seas are flat calm, mountains blanketed by glaciers surround us, and icebergs dot the sea. Our plan is to make a landing on Danco Island before breakfast this morning and hike to the top of the Island to begin our day!
Expedition Leader & Executive Director
Students on Ice
Antarctica - 7:45 pm EST
Posted from SOI World HQ
Our day has been full of excitement and new learning!
Last night we sailed up the Gerlache Straight to the Errera Channel.
Our hike to the top of Danco Island this morning was spectacular. Our group of sleepy students made their way to the peak of the ice cap to witness a breathtaking view of Antarctica. Sharing a long moment of silence, the group reflected on their time together while gazing down upon calving glaciers and tiny penguins in the distance. The wind whistled overhead of this peaceful lookout.
After breakfast on the ship, the group sailed to Neko Harbour for a classic SOI landing consisting of three rotating educational workshops lead by veteran Education Team Members: i) ice coring, ii) geology, and iii) oceanography/plankton tows.
Following the workshops, the team assembled together for a great glacier slide down to the beach where elephant seals and penguins welcomed them below.
During a hearty lunch the group sailed to Paradise Bay where Fritz eventually offered them a lecture on Ice Caps and Ice Coring.
The ship continued along its route demonstrating adept navigation through the ice while students observed out on deck. When they returned inside, David Fletcher described his experiences diving under sea ice and the amazing diversity of life which exist throughout the Ocean surrounding the Antarctic Peninsula.
Students continue to use microscopes onboard the Ushuaia examining plankton samples which they collected earlier in the day and seeing some of the ocean’s smallest life forms.
An extensive recap and briefing was followed by a presentation by Alex Taylor on the technical and safety support he provided for the two ship-based expeditions in 1999 and 2000 to film the IMAX feature “Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure.” The film was shown while the ship continued its way down the Lemaire Channel.
Tomorrow morning the group will visit the Yalour Islands before heading to Port Lockroy in the afternoon.
Posted by Lilith Wyatt, Chaperone
I don’t know how you managed to reach me down here, but a cape petrel delivered a note from you asking me to post news. So! See everyone else’s updates for what we’ve been up to the past week. Let me think of a couple moments that wouldn’t yet have been mentioned…
Today, inside a 50 foot high rusting metal whale oil tank at a former whaling station on an old volcanic crater island, Ian (yes, Tamblyn) played his pennywhistle and Zoë and I and a few others sang. The acoustics were haunting, especially with the Antarctic westerly accompanying. Silent Night, Amazing Grace, Northwest Passage, and Hallelujah all sounded like they were made for that very moment. The harmonies all seemed to swell and fill the space and take on a life of their own as we stood there. You would have loved it.
It’s almost midnight as I type this on one of our journal writing laptops in the library of the ship. The windows along both sides show the calm bay we have just entered for the night. It is beyond spectacular. We are surrounded by glaciers pouring into this bay all in their own time and of their own scale. This is truly a continent of superlatives. We are across from Danco and Couverville Islands secluded from the powerful wind that has surrounded us all day. I have learned so much, formed so many new opinions, and taken so many ginger pills (as a prophylactic for seasickness, which – phewf! – has worked so far). I have fallen in love with penguins, joined the Antarctic Swim Club, and made many new friendships I’m sure will last a long time. Humpback whales, stunning icebergs, and a long-john-themed New Year’s Eve party have been some highlights so far.
The students and all the staff are a really wonderful bunch of people, all very different but with similar enough outlooks on life that the whole group has gelled amazingly well.
Time for bed now before our early pre-breakfast landing to hike up a glacier tomorrow morning! How lucky lucky lucky we are, it fills me to the point of bursting, daily. Hello to everyone, and thank you for the mitts and boots, I would have lost my hands and feet by now without them.
Posted by Felicia Vanacore, student
Good morning everyone! Wow. That is all I am able to say after what we did this morning, but before I go into that story I am going to fill you in with what happened yesterday. Yesterday we went to Whaler’s Bay at Deception Island and after we walked around the beach looking at the beautiful waters and everything around us. Then, along with many others, I joined the Antarctic Swim Team! First, we had to jump into the FREEZING water and then run into the hot tub which was in mire. It was so cold you have no idea but I must say I do not regret doing it and I would do it again because it was a lot of fun and everyone’s expressions were hilarious. We came back to the ship and had some time to catch up on sleep, write in our journals, and just hang out. We had to do everything quietly. It was nice to spend the afternoon on the ship because the weather outside wasn’t good enough to make another landing. Then, we had an amazing lecture on whales, seals, and dolphins by Ingrid. We heard different sounds from different animals and saw pictures. I learned a lot, it was really fun. Then we had a briefing recap and then went back downstairs to see a presentation, which was done by Mikhail. He showed us pictures from outer space, he is a cosmonaut and has been in space twice. Everyone was amazed because these pictures were so amazing. After that it was off to bed because we had to wake up at 6am this morning!
Our wake up call was at 6am and we were all tired but we got up and got dressed and were on the zodiacs by 6:30am. The waters were calm today and all the icebergs surrounding us were beautiful. We landed on Danco Island and climbed a baby mountain. Even though it was a baby it was huge and the higher up we went the more tired we all got. We were climbing next to penguins!! I love the penguins, they are so cute. When we finally reached the top the view was beautiful, from every angle! I took a lot of pictures and videos. We took a group picture and the few of us that were sponsored by Harold Snyder also took a group picture. Then before we knew it, it was time to go back down and come back to the ship for breakfast. As we came down not only did I take a thousand more pictures (because every step down made a different picture), but we also made our own paths and slid down them! They were pretty successful because I went really fast. Unfortunately, I didn’t get pictures of me going down but I took some of other people! We had to stop half way because there was a little visitor, a penguin in our path. Someone said that it seemed the penguins liked our path better than theirs! There were seals in the water and I got good pictures of them. When we first made our landing there was one on land just laying there, it was huge. It was then time to get back into the zodiacs and head back. Just from watching the view I knew that it was my favorite landing, even though we have another one later today. It was simply amazing how everywhere you turned was another beautiful picture. While in the zodiacs we passed a huge iceberg and it was just... WOW. Once we got back into the ship it was straight to breakfast.
Something that I really noticed last night and today is how lucky I really am. All the people I met and that I am still getting to know are so cool and amazing. Everyone has their own story and their own way of doing things but it never ever comes into a conflict. We all get along so well and the best part is that when we were stuck on the base two days ago and started to play hand games and other games, we realized how we all have similar hand games - they are just to a different song for there’s a little twist to it. Just thinking how much I miss my friends and family back home I am going to miss this family and these friends just as much. Who knows the next time I am going to see them because we come from all over world, but it’s good that we all want to keep in touch. Everyday we are all exchanging emails and phone numbers and websites. It’s going to be sad to say goodbye but I am not thinking about that too much because I still have a week with them and I am so happy that I do. Everyone has their own special talent and they do not mind sharing it with everyone else. I have to say that Antarctica really is the best classroom on earth!
Well its time for me to go, going to get some rest before we go out on our second landing, which is in about half an hour. Just heard that there is a whale outside! Got to go take pictures – Bye!
Posted by Yvette Alfara, student
Today I had to wake up at 6 am in the morning, all I can really say is that is probably the earliest time I have ever woken up. The sun was up and the scenery was…wow. It was the beautiful Danco Island and I climbed a baby mountain. It took some time and I almost fell many times. I took a lot of pictures and I slid down. Well, more like dragged myself down. I was really happy to make another landing after breakfast. So I did a total of two - one before breakfast and then one after. It wasn’t really slippery so I had some trouble. Now I’m in Paradise Bay to do a zodiac cruise. However, before that we did some workshops and I learned about ice cores and how they are obtained and the main reasons they are extracted. Since that was done at the top it was time to once again slide down and I definitely learned to tie my jacket and pants really tight since I got really wet and I had ice inside my pants and jacket. On the shore, I studied some rocks and went on to see my very first elephant seal that was just relaxing on the shore. I once again boarded the zodiac but this time I went on to study the ocean’s microscopic sea life. I don’t know the results just yet, but hopefully we caught something with the plankton tows. I also learned the temperature of the ocean and that was 0.4° C. The temperature didn’t leave a lasting impression but when I dipped my hand in . . . well it was another story. We saw some Gentoo penguins and I almost accidentally ran into them, which I should say is highly prohibited. Yesterday I went to Whaler’s Bay at Deception Island and made a landing. It was a pretty interesting place even though it has its dark history because of how many whales were killed in the area for their blubber. I saw some bones there and some skulls that were covered in dirt. Something interesting you should all know is that the island is an active volcano, which usually spits out some ash and rocks, and no, the volcano hasn’t erupted lately. So far I’m having a blast and I realize today I would have been in school if I were at home. But thinking about it I am in the greatest classroom on Earth, Antarctica! I miss my classmates back at ElRo. I can’t wait until I tell you all of the things I have seen and done. Also, I miss my family and best friends but I don’t have much time to think about it since there’s always something going on here. For now take care and best wishes now and always!!
Posted by Kasey Fausak, student
The past few days have gone by way too fast. I’m three days behind in my own journals because I can’t seem to find time to do them! We’ve landed at a bunch of different spots, got stranded in another, and have hiked up glaciers before breakfast! Today we even slid down one, and that was SO much fun. When I went down I started out screaming, and wound up laughing hysterically by the time I got to the bottom. Everyone says I sound like the Wicked Witch of the West when I laugh, so I’ve been trying not to do that too often, but it’s pretty hard!
I’m trying to forget the fact that the trip is more than half over, and we only have about two days left in actual Antarctica. I want to make the most of it, though. So even though I’ve been planning to stay up all night one night to catch up on my journals, I’ve been too exhausted to even think of it by the time I get to bed. I hope that I remember everything by the time I get around to writing it down. The Ice Cap, as stressful as it has been finishing it past curfew every night, is actually a pretty good reference for remembering what we did on which day.
I don’t want the trip to end!
Posted by Brittany Pieters, student
Today we had quite an early wake up so that we could make a landing before breakfast. Everyone was not quite awake when we boarded the zodiacs, entered the bay, and landed on the shore where we saw a Weddell seal lying on the beach. We started to hike up Danco Island, which was very steep. The penguins had small tunnels that they were going up and down- it made it look easy compared to us. Once we reached the top we took a Students on Ice group photo overlooking all the glaciers in the bay. On the way down, (which was 10 times easier) we slid on our stomachs like the penguins. After breakfast, we had an hour of free time when we went in the lounge, played cards, and also went on the bow where Michel filmed us from a zodiac boat. Our next landing was at Neko Harbor where there were glacier walls surrounding us in every direction. Our “orca” group went to have a geology lesson with Fred on how most of the rocks were quartz, which is the base of Antarctica. Next we went out in the zodiacs with Eric and Ingrid where we looked at small organisms in the water with a net that we pulled behind the zodiac to capture them. Shortly after we hiked to the top of a large hill and Fritz explained about ice density and previous snow layers. Right after we slid down the hill on our bottoms but on the way down I flipped over and got snow in my pants. After that we headed back to the ship where we had lunch.
Posted by Ankur Gupta, student
Early morning. Wakeup was at 6:00 AM as we went on an early morning landing on Danco Island. One long hike uphill in deep snow. When you thought you reached the top, there was even more to go. It was all worth it by the end through. The view was spectacular. Unfortunately, the weather in this area isn’t very good so visibility was pretty low. The fog cover, however, added to the mystique. It’s like the fog was a barrier from the world. How do we know if we are still on the earth? Last night Mikhail, the cosmonaut, gave a talk about his time on the International Space Station. I asked him what he felt when he landed on Antarctica the day before. His answer is that everyone asks him how he felt when he reached space but he could never quite explain the feeling. He said that after the first landing he can finally say that reaching space is like landing on Antarctica. So for all we know, we could be on another planet. I love fog. Anyway, the way back down was faster and we ended up sliding down the last 100m (oh no! I used metric units!...do the math yourself). Once we get back to the ship, we left for Neko Harbor where we did another slide down a steeper hill of ice/snow. This was after learning about ice cores and drilling. We also did a plankton tow with the zodiacs to see what kind of plankton lived on the surface. After that we got a short lecture on the beach about geology. The great thing was that I actually understood most of what was said because of the structure of materials class I just took this past semester. The day ended with a small icebreaker cruise through Paradise Bay due to the amount of ice that was staying in the bay. It definitely is something to be surrounded in three directions by glaciers.
Posted by Michal Rosenthal, student
Yesterday morning we went to Deception Island. We landed at a shore, which was pretty calm. We got out of the zodiacs, and strolled along the coast, watching chin strapped penguins, huge skuas that were incubating beside the lake, and other sea birds. Later, everyone got ready to take a dip in the southern ocean’s water. There were a few emotions that came across my mind while doing that. Initially, I was numb, taking my clothes off while the wind gusted through my lungs. After a blatant jump to the water (about 2 seconds after) it was FREEZING!! I was swimming in 2 Celsius degrees, and it lasted about 25 seconds, then we ran to the “hot tub” that Geoff dug for us. It was boiling, and shallow, but I could sense my feet again. After shrieking for a towel, we got dressed, and came back to the ship. The only thing that came across my mind was: “I don’t think that it can get any better”.
However, today slapped my face. Today is the best day so far (and it’s just 10 am!). We landed at Danco Island at 6:30 am. We began hiking, and going up the hill. It wasn’t easy - we were sinking in the snow, and the slope was pretty steep.
When we got up I was staggered by the view. I was surrounded by white mountains, glaciers, and icebergs. The weather was just perfect - blue skies, minor winds, and not too cold. We had a great time at the top of the hill. I did a head stand on the snow, observed the penguins, lay on the snow, and took some group pictures. The way down was crazy - we were sliding back down on the ice! It was an extremely fun/hugely steep slide in the most beautiful place in the world.
Right now we are resting, and later we will have another landing.
Big hug to everyone, I’ll see you in a week.
Posted by Laurissa Coombs, student
Hey everyone at home! Today was an AMAZING day. Although we had to get up early and go on a hike, it was well worth postponing breakfast. The hike was hard work considering your feet with every other step would sink a foot in snow, but also because it was strictly uphill. Upon reaching the top we could see the other shore of the island and the spectacular coves below. The water was so still that only the penguins and glacier ice seemed to make it ripple when they broke the surface or fell off the glacier side. The boat in the water looked like a tiny speck in comparison to the huge mountains surrounding it. The sky was the same color as the snow and it was difficult to tell when the mountains ended and the sky began!!! Coming down the mountain was sooo much easier and a lot of fun to see people slipping and falling and sliding a few feet each time. When close to the bottom Geoff said we could slide along the snow on our stomachs!!!!! We might have looked somewhat like penguins but we were certainly not as graceful and I could imagine the penguins thinking we were idiots to even try. Once back on the boat we began to head towards our next destination of Neko Bay.
Upon arrival the ‘adelie’ group was told to get ready to go on the zodiacs while the ‘orca’ group would wait for the next set of zodiacs. I, being part of the ‘adelie’ group, began to get on the hundreds of layers to prepare for the landing on Antarctica. Today we were going to do something a little different by actually doing workshops on the land. Fritz’s workshop was a workshop about Ice Sampling on the top of a glacier, the last hike of the day, Eric’s workshop was on Phytoplankton and Oceanography, and the last workshop was Fred’s on Geology and granite make-up. All were very interesting and it was cool to see how ice samplings and data from the oceans were taken and to also review lessons I learned in Earth Sciences. After Fritz’s workshop we were told we could again slide down the glacier!!! This time the glacier was much steeper so it was a lot more fun even though we were not allowed on our bellies, but snow got all in my shirt and pants and it was, ummm, I little bit uncomfortable but well worth the trip down. And also during Fred’s lecture we saw a Skua bird eating a dead penguin!!!
After getting on the boat we changed back into dry clothes we settled in and are now waiting to begin more lectures about this amazing ecosystem and continent.
Posted by Atala Bolanos, student
Today is in fact not over but all our nights are completely jam packed and once you blink, it’s already curfew! That is why I have not written lately, but I figure we got off to an early start today, and I can write enough for a journal entry.
Today we got up at 6:00 a.m, you heard me 6. They actually let us “sleep in” since we were going to wake up at 5:30. So much for sleep.
We got ready for our landing with our trillion thousand layers of clothing, and our water proof everything. Then since the ‘orca’ group went first, and I don’t belong to that group, I belong to the ‘adelie’ penguin group. We went on the zodiacs and on we went to Danco Island for a post-breakfast hike. We hiked uphill in the snow for quite a while, and it ended up being a lot more tiring than our first hike, even if it was smaller. It was just so hard to hike uphill in the snow, because your feet would sink and you would have to pull them out, kind of like in the peat bogs.
Once we got to the top, the view was beautiful, and we had a fun time taking pictures and playing around. Down the hill, there was also a Gentoo penguin rookery, and we could see all of it from the top. We got back down by sliding in the snow, and that was fun too.
When we came back to the boat, we had breakfast, and I didn’t feel so well so I had a loooonnnnggg cat nap before our next landing. Apparently people saw whales while I slept though, darn it.
Next, we got ready for our next landing, this time on the continent. We got there, and immediately saw three big seals lying in the beach. They were female elephant seals, and they were so beautiful, especially their eyes.
We had three workshops, one with Fritz at the top (another hike!) about ice, one at the zodiacs with Eric about oceanography, and one at the rocks with Fred. They were really interesting. We had fun sliding down the hill (this time it was steep and fun) after Fritz’s workshop, and I saw a Skua bird eating a penguin at Fred’s workshop, it was cool.
That’s pretty much it!
Greetings too: Francisca and Lauren, whom I dreamt about today.
Posted by Irene Shivaei, student
Today we had 2 zodiac cruises; one of them with a workshop! I loved that one; we were sitting in zodiacs and Eric and Ingrid taught us a few thigs about taking samples (like Plankton) from the ocean and measuring the ocean’s temperature. Then we went to the shore and there we had a geology workshop with Fred. After that we were up on the hill (glacier) a workshop with Fritz about Ice and measuring it! :)
The other zodiac cruise was in the morning, before breakfast!! That was so good! We went to the shore and hiked up a big snowy mountain with a lot of Gentoo Penguins! :) There I took a movie of a penguin chick hatching! I could not believe it!! In the afternoon we had a “big” zodiac cruise with the Ushuaia (our ship!)! We went through icebergs. There were a lot of icebergs everywhere! It was snowing and there was a lot of fog in horizon. The scenes here are so beautiful.
I had seen a lot of movies and pictures about Antarctica before coming here, but it is completely different when you “see” the place yourself. It is awesome, wonderful. I can not imagine being in a place that is better than here. Now I LOVE my Planet, I love the Poles and I am wondering what we are doing with our planet? Are we really protecting it? I don’t think so...
Protect the Poles
Pretect the Plenet ;)
Posted by Serin Remedios, student
Theme Song of the Day: In the Water I am Beautiful - City and Colour
Well, today has been absolutely jam packed with activities. However, curfew is in 20 minutes, so I need to make this a quick journal entry. This morning we woke up at 6:00 am, even before breakfast, to hike up Danko Island. Then we sailed to Neko Harbour. There we broke up into different groups to attend different workshops: a geology lecture with Fred, a plankton tow with Eric, and a glacier lesson with Fritz. After the geology lesson we got to slide down the steep, snow covered slope, which was ridiculous amounts of fun. This afternoon we were supposed to go on a zodiac cruise around Paradise Bay, but the water was too filled with ice. However, it was great just to watch from our ship. As we rammed into the ice, you would see giant cracks suddenly rip through the white, revealing the blue water underneath. Then smaller chunks of broken ice would shoot up to fill the gap.
As well, today two other students and I were interviewed by a reporter from the newspaper, the Ottawa Citizen. It was quite unexpected truthfully. I was just about to look at our plankton catch underneath the microscope when I was suddenly called to the bridge. Reina told me that we were doing an interview, and then we called the reporter in Ottawa. It was relatively quick and painless. However, the majority of the time I was just hoping I wasn’t sounding completely idiotic.
Finally, tonight we had the opportunity to watch an IMAX documentary on Shackleton. There is actually a very interesting and coincidental story behind this. I actually watched that film many years ago at the Calgary Science Centre. It was there that I actually first heard of Students on Ice from Geoff who was giving a promotional talk in conjunction with the film. It was also where Geoff first met with another member of our expedition, Alex, who helped in the filming of the film. It just goes to show what a connected and serendipitous world we live in. Anyways, I am off to write post cards because tomorrow we are going to another base where we can post mail.
Lots of love to everyone at home. I miss you, but Antarctica is still looking quite a bit more appealing than school and homework.
Posted by Shipley Foltz, student
It’s 2008!!! Happy New Year everyone I miss all of you!!!!!!
This is the first time I’ve written, so bear with me if I cover some adventures that you probably have already read about a couple of days ago. For all of you back at home, the day goes by just as always. Wake up, go to school/work, go to your after school sports and activities, then go to bed. Here in Antarctica, one day feels like a week, and it’s not because of the twenty two hours of light outside. There is so much to soak in out here in the open when you aren’t surrounded by noise and garbage. When I step off the zodiacs, or look out over the railing on the MV Ushuaia, everything seems completely untouched by the mistakes that we humans have made that in turn affect everywhere else in the world. The first couple of days on the boat I was intensely sea-sick and miserable, and I told myself that the amazing things I would see in a couple of days weren’t worth the hardships that I had to endure. Everything has changed now; I would go on the same boat ride through the unforgiving Drake Passage for a month straight to see the beauty of Antarctica. I miss everyone and I will see you soon.
Posted by John Quinesso, Chaperone
Another amazing day began at 5:45 AM today with our Zodiac landing on Danco Island on the Antarctic Peninsula! Since it is daylight nearly all night long, it seemed like noon on our early morning ride over to the island.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Gentoo Penguins who were delighted at the prospect of showing us around Danco. We climbed high atop a glacier (some of the penguins led, and some of them followed - I have lots of pictures!) and once there, we enjoyed several minutes of silence to listen to the sounds of Antarctica while the snow was falling around us (and it’s summertime here!). This experience was truly moving. Posing for a group picture captured the moment and will serve as a lasting memento of our visit for all of us. We then headed back to the ship for breakfast!
Our second landing of the morning was Neko Harbor. “Beaching it” on our arrival at Neko were three incredible Elephant Seals! What beautiful creatures! Donna Sacks… if you are reading this, I have some incredible pictures! We also had the amazing opportunity of climbing another glacier (While the walk up the glacier was exhausting, the trip down was exhilarating - as we all slid down using our own man-made path! All of our rears are a little sore now, but it was great fun!) and participating in outdoor educational classes led by various members of the SOI education team.
Throughout our visit we were amazed when right before our very eyes, HUGE pieces of ice from the glaciers plummeted into the water making thunderous noises and waves that eventually made it to our shore – so powerful that we (and the penguins surrounding our feet!) had to step up onto rocks to avoid the quickly rising tide resulting from the avalanche. Fascinating!
Our trip continued onward to Paradise Bay where our ship navigated through tremendous amounts of floating ice and icebergs. It was great to see the MV Ushuaia in action - after all, she is an icebreaker ship!
While I am writing this, there are two humpback whales trailing beside our ship and a leopard seal (Donna… I have pictures!) floating on a nearby iceberg. We continue to be amazed at the incredible sea life that is so evident at any moment!
Tomorrow it’s off to the Yalour Islands in the morning and a British research station in the afternoon.
I hope you are enjoying hearing about my journey as much as I am enjoying every each and every moment of this magical adventure.
Cheers from the bottom of the earth!