Early Light Photography - Doylestown, PA

Expedition Summary

Antartica 2014

I am home from my trip to Antarctica and after reflecting on the place, it is at once exciting, remote, remorseless, wild, and unforgiving. In the late 19th and early 20th century men came here in what is termed the heroic Age. All encountered tremendous hardship; more than a few lost their lives in search of their dreams and goals. I was fortunate to be on a strong vessel with modern day conveniences, piloted by a well trained competent crew and with fellow travelers from all parts of the world who were engaging, friendly and adventurous. I was one of the few passengers making my first trip into this foreboding place. It was a fun filled, awe inspiring journey and I am glad to have been there.
The continent was discovered in 1820 when the Russian expedition of Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev first sighted the continental ice shelf. The continent remained largely neglected for the rest of the 19th century because of its hostile environment, lack of resources, and isolation. Positioned asymmetrically around the South Pole, Antarctica is the southern most continent and is surrounded by the southern waters of the World Oceans, also called the Southern Ocean. It is the fifth-largest continent, about 1.3 times as large as Europe. The coastline is mostly characterized by ice formations.

We travelled from Bluff, New Zealand. Our 10 day voyage to Antarctica took us to the Auckland Islands, Macquarie Island and then a long transit to the Antarctic Circle. We first experienced the continent at Cape Hallett about midnight on January 28. It was fascinating to see the sun sort of disappear behind a ridge and then reappear without setting. It was with us 24 hours a day for our 10 days in the Ross Sea. While there, we visited sites where early explorers Shackleton and Scott, established their bases of operations. We were also fortunate enough to be invited for a tour of McMurdo Station, US Base of operation and home of the only ATM in Antarctica as well as Scott Base, the New Zealand Antarctic Station. Scott Base treated us to the best refreshments: scones with jam and clotted cream and, of course, tea. We experienced the elements and wildlife while landing among Adelie Penguin Colonies, riding in open zodiacs among the pack ice in several locations, and observing from the ship. We encountered penguins, orcas, leopard seals and immense icebergs- all up close and personal. In fact during one outing an Adelie penguin popped in for a short ride in our zodiac!

Our voyage started out with a bang as we ran into heavy seas before midnight the evening we left port. Several passengers, including me, had minor scrapes resulting in cuts and bruises. One man dislocated his shoulder when he was tossed out of bed during the storm. A woman and her husband were medically evacuated to New Zealand when she developed a serious medical problem. Fortunately, she recovered in New Zealand and was able to return home without further incident. Other than that we were warm and comfortable on the ship and passengers regularly visited the bridge to watch seals and penguins float by on chunks of ice and petrels and albatrosses fly around the ship as we went along. I took many of my in-flight bird images from the open port side wing just behind the bridge. At times I could only briefly pop out to shoot a couple of frames because of the cold windy conditions we often experienced at sea.

On the nine day return voyage to New Zealand we stopped for two days at Campbell Island. While there we climbed a big hill both days to observe one of the world's largest albatrosses at a nesting site. It was a tough climb for me. The weather changed dramatically from the waters edge to the top. The temperature dropped 20 or so degrees, the wind speed increased significantly and a fog so thick we could only see short distances appeared. My reward for my efforts was to see Albatrosses incubating eggs, a mom feeding a three day old chick, a very big bird walk down a hill and pass among us and have these magnificent birds fly close overhead. While there, we also took a zodiac ride among sea lions, terns, Campbell Island Shags, flightless teals, and gulls.

Our last stop was at Snares Island where we had an exciting zodiac adventure observing the Snares Crested Penguin, Bullard Albatross, fur seals and other bird species. Getting back aboard the ship was also exciting as the seas were freshening a bit and the zodiacs were rocking and rolling around the landing platform at the bottom of the ladder to the main deck of the ship. Everyone got safely aboard and we sailed uneventfully back to port.

From this experience, I have gained a deeper appreciation for the abundance of life that occupies and thrives in this harsh environment. I also believe that we as a global community must work together to maintain Antarctica a pristine wilderness.

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