Saturday, 28 February 2015


Our morning landing at the Argentinian Station Brown was in clam waters with no wind. The red buildings of the station are at present unoccupied and the area around the station site has a few Gentoo Penguins, Blue-Eyed Shags and Snowy Sheathbills. 

The unique attraction at Brown is the opportunity to climb the hill behind the station and slide down. Many of us did slide down the snow channel, even though we had not been snow sliding for many 10’s of years. Others of us had the opportunity to go cruising in Polarcirkle boats and kayaks and this allowed us to get closer to Humpback Whales and several species of seals including the big leopard Seals.

After lunch we headed south through Lemaire Channel. This location is perhaps the most the photographed site of our journey.

At Pleneau Island the surface rocks have been rounded smooth by over-riding glaciers and on the rock surfaces one can see the glacial striations gouged into the rocks by boulders that were embedded in the bottom of the over-ridding glacier. Many people had a close-up view of the rocks as they climbed to the top of the island. Gentoo Penguins were nesting on the lower slopes and often there were chicks ranging from newly hatched to those that were older and rid of their down coats and now nearly fully feathered and ready for the sea. There was a single Adelie Penguin sighted among the Gentoo colony. During our landing time, the kayakers and Polarcirkle boat cruisers had a wonderful experience and close-up views of the many nearby grounded icebergs.

After dinner our camping group went ashore and set up their tents and snuggled in for a night ashore. All went well and the extra-thick mats and sleeping bags kept everyone toasty warm.       

Friday, 27 February 2015


Thankfully the seas and winds decreased during the night and this morning there were no white-capped waves as enjoyed our breakfast and looked out the dining room windows. Many birds accompanied the FRAM and we saw Albatrosses, Pintado Petrels and a group of Giant Petrels dining on a penguin.

Calmer seas meant many more people up and about. The first event thing this morning was jackets and boots for those people who could not join in yesterday. The mandatory IAATO briefing was held this morning, in English, German and Chinese and everyone attended.  Following the briefing stations where set up on three deck levels to vacuum all the previously worn clothing that will worn in Antarctica. This action is required to keep foreign pests and plants for accidently being carried into and invading the Antarctic environment.

By lunchtime we could see the Shetland Islands and by 2PM we were motoring along the south side of King George Island. On the island we could see the orange buildings of several research stations. Our first Antarctic landing was to be at the crescent-shaped aptly named Half Moon Island.

This landing took place at two locations. First we landed the hikers near the Argentinian Station Camara and from the beach they hiked to several nearby ridge-tops overlooking the three volcanic knobs and connecting cobble beach ridges that make up the island. The other landing was near the old water boat on a steep beach with several fur seals. While walking the island we saw colonies of Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins. Snowy Sheathbills and Skua Gulls are always lurking around the colonies for their next meal.

We closed the day with an Expedition Staff meeting that was also attended by the Captain and the other ships officers. We all gathered in Colin Archer’s room to celebrate and the old boy looked on as we helped Karin Strand celebrate her birthday.

Thursday, 26 February 2015


The FRAM is headed south to Antarctica. The winds and seas are substantial and are coming from the southwest. As a result the FRAM is pitching and rolling a bit. Nevertheless most of the passengers were up for breakfast this morning and afterward they picked up their Hurtigruten wind and waterproof jackets.
Before lunch there were briefings about optional excursions, kayaking, camping and hiking, that will be available, weather permitting, in the course of our 19 day travels to Buenos Aires.

After lunch we were fitted for the high-insulated boots we will need to wear when we do landings in the FRAM’s Polarcirkle boats. Sizes are always a bit confusing as there are European, UK, American and Chinese sizes juggle to get each person the most correct fit.

The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) briefing is mandatory before we are allowed to go ashore in Antarctica. This briefing was scheduled for today but as many people are ‘under the weather’ the briefing has been re-scheduled for tomorrow. Many of us will improve if the seas calm a bit during the night.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015


The FRAM is clearly visible at the pier in Ushuaia and though it is overcast there is almost no wind today. Calm days are rare in Ushuaia.

By mid-afternoon passengers and luggage started arriving at the FRAM. Frieda’s pleasant voice welcomed people onboard and explained the check-in procedures. Before leaving the pier the FRAM held the mandatory safety drill. Everyone was checked off at their muster station and when the drill was complete the dock-lines were cast off and we were on our way to Antarctica.

Beagle Channel was misty with some light rain but we could still see the mountains and ridges bordering the sides if the channel. On the intermediate elevations we could see the clear demarcation of the tree-line. About two hours after leaving Ushuaia we passed Puerto Williams,

Chile, this town on Navarino Island is regarded by Chileans as the southernmost town. Argentinians regard Ushuaia as the southernmost city. To most of us this debate is not a major concern. Our major concern is the weather and sea conditions we will encounter as we head south. Later  this evening we will drop of our Argentinian channel pilot at the eastern end of Beagle Channel and then we will head south in the open sea crossing the infamous Drake Passage to Antarctica.   

Tuesday, 24 February 2015


The morning seas and winds are from the southwest, behind us and the FRAM is rolling along northward toward Cape Horn. On board we have had bridge visit tours where the Captain kindly answered many questions concerning navigation and the operation of the FRAM. During the day our time was occupied with Expedition Staff lectures, in both English and German. Southern topics included the lives of Cormorants, wintering over in Antarctica, the Antarctic Treaty and an overview of Tierra del Fuego.  As we are northbound the lectures covered northern topics such as the original FRAM’s voyages to the Arctic, the geographic contrast between the Antarctic and the Arctic and an introduction to Svalbard.

We plan to have Cape Horn in sight by the late afternoon and hopefully we will be allowed to pass close enough to see the sculpture of the Albatross in flight.

The Captains farewell cocktail will be followed by the MV/FRAM charity auction. Three items are available for bidding: the ships Hurtigruten flag, the nautical chart of our trip and a Keith Shackleton numbered print. Notably the winning bids are tax deductible and all the money from the auctioning of these items goes directly to the Antarctic Heritage Trust to restore and preserve the buildings and equipment at the old research stations.   

After midnight we will pick up the Argentinian pilot for navigation assistance as we head west in Beagle Channel. We expect to be dock-side in Ushuaia by breakfast time on the 25th. Then it is good-by to the FRAM and her staff as we all head home from Antarctica with our brains and our cameras filled with lasting memories.       

Monday, 23 February 2015


Today we have relatively smooth sailing as we cross the Drake Passage. Onboard we had the opportunity to visit the FRAM’s bridge and to hear several lectures. Two lectures were looking backward as Tomasz told us about his time wintering over at Arctowski Station and Bob told us about his work and the clean-up programs that have been initiated since his first assignment to Antarctica.

Two other lectures focused on the FRAM. Ralf told us about the original FRAM’s Arctic expedition in 1893 to 1896 and Frieda told us about her experiences as she travels on the modern FRAM in both Arctic and Antarctic expeditions.

This evening we get to test how much we have learned while on the FRAM. The Expedition staff has put together a quiz that will test us on our ability to answer questions concerning the information we learned in the lectures: penguins, treaties and hippopotamuses are involved.    

Sunday, 22 February 2015


At Vernadsky and Pleneau plus Lemaire Channel and then the Drake Passage.

The staff of Vernadsky welcomed us ashore this morning. The station is operated by the science division of the Government of Ukraine. The history of the station is worth telling. The site was selected and most of the buildings were built by the British in 1954 and it was given the name ‘Faraday’. When this station opened one of its main focuses was exploration of the upper atmosphere. Measurements taken at ‘Faraday’ were the first to measure the extent of the ozone depletion zone or hole above Antarctica. These measurements, now monitoring, continue to the present time and they are now taken by Ukrainian scientists at Vernadsky Station. There is no confusion here for in 1996 the British government transferred Faraday Station to the Ukrainian government and this long term, valuable, series of measurements continues uninterrupted.

In addition to our scientific tour Vernadsky also hosts a port office, a souvenir shop and a friendly pub.

Pleneau Island is at the southern entrance to the Lemaire Channel. The granitic rocks that compose the island had been rounded and smoothed as they were over-ridden by glaciers. Most of the granitic surfaces we saw were are scratched and show linear striations, these were ground into the bedrock by rocks carried along at the glaciers base. This island is a one stop shop to see many of the birds and seals that inhabit the Antarctic Peninsula. For example we saw multiple generations of Gentoo Penguins and Antarctic Terns. Also present were Blue-eyed Shags, Kelp Gulls, Skuas and both Fur and Weddell Seals.

Many of us delayed our Filipino dinner to stay out on deck as we passed between the towering walls of Lemaire Channel. As the day closed we closed on headed to the observation lounge for the Crew’s performance in the Cruise Show while the FRAM headed northward to cross the Drake Passage.  

Saturday, 21 February 2015


Our morning consisted of fog, following winds and slight swells.

During this break in our landings we had two sets of lectures, one on whales and the long-ranging sea birds and a second set on the race to the pole and glaciers, snow and ice.

Our afternoon landing was at Prospect Point. There were many large pieces of floating ice along the shoreline but eventually we found a small landing spot. From the beach we could climb up on the glacier and from there we could walk to the site of the British “Base J”. All that remains of the base are the foundation columns. The summary of the base’s life and purpose is recorded on the small signboard attached to one of the pillars. The base was built in 1957 and closed in 1959, during this time the scientists conducted topographic and geologic surveys. As the result of a 1994 comprehensive evaluation of all the British bases, this base did not make the cut and the buildings were removed in 2004.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Down the Gullet and why not?

Our morning was spent exploring the ice conditions in the area known as the Gullet. If this narrow passage is passable it would allow the FRAM to motor northward along the east side of Anvers Island. However if ice is blocking the channel the FRAM will have to reverse its heading and proceed south then west then north around the western- outside coast of Adelaide Island. The first route is not only shorter, but saves diesel fuel and provided spectacular scenery. 
The weather conditions were not cooperative. At breakfast time the FRAM were headed north into the Gulllet. We were facing strong winds, ground fog and a nearly solid barrier of floating seaice with bergy-bits. The radar showed the ice conditions to the north to be the same. The captain took all these factors into account and at about 9:20am he reached the decision to turn the FRAM’s heading from northward to southward. This means we will have to follow “Plan B” and go around the southern end of Adelaide Island, then pass along the western side of the Island on our northbound transit.    
And why not land? On our southbound transit we pass by Pourquoi Pas Island and ‘why not’ as the name of the island translates from the French - land there. We did land there in a small bay that was well protected from the swells. On shore a significant number of male fur seals were lounging about. Pourquoi Pas Island provided us with different type of landing spot and a close up of the fur seals.
In the late afternoon we had a “swell landing” at Jenny Island. From offshore we spied several Elephant Seals lounging on the rocks and as we had not seen this species of seals before we decided to do a short landing at Jenny Island. The landing beach has significant swells and the surging Polarcirkle boats needed four or more Expedition Staff to steady the boats as we landed. There was a steep climb up the cobble beach face to a relatively level stretch were we could walk and then photograph the Elephant Seals. During our landing adventures the seals did nothing but lounge around and barely opened an eye or two.
Now to round the southern margin of Adelaide Island and head northward.