Archive for the ‘Penguins’ Category

Spinning Yarn: Majacraft MajaSponsor! #101

Monday, August 15th, 2011

The plan to take my spinning wheel to Antarctica, (fuelled by a dare from my brother), required a bit of research into the most convenient wheel to take. I had been looking at taking a wheel that was compact and very portable, but also one with endurance which was friendly to use, and my research led me to Majacraft, a New Zealand based company in the North Island – at Tauranga. When Glenis and Owen Poad of Majacraft heard about my trip to Antarctica, they wanted to be part of it, and so offered me the Little Gem.

 Made of New Zealand “Rimu” wood, each piece matched for colour and growth ring pattern, it is also modern is size and shape. It is an elegant wheel, by any standards. The polymer drivebands are guaranteed to a temperature of minus 30 for 20 minutes, which was ideal for me at my destination. Add to that the functional and compact carry bag, and it is a wheel for the most discerning Antarctic traveller!

Spinning Yarn: The Heart of the Great Alone. #99

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

It amazed me how much this exhibition meant to me. As I devoured each of the displays of fabulous black and white photographs of Antarctica taken 100 years ago by the famous Frank Hurley, I was transported not only back in time, but also back to the Frozen Continent, to see it through the eyes and heart of this skillful and daring man.

 Frank Hurley shared the huts with Mawson and his team, not only in his specialty as  photographer but also as a sledger. He man-hauled his fair share sleds and did his share of depot-laying, same as the rest of them. His company was valued on several scientific missions.

 His famous prints are the product of his labours in the tiniest of darkrooms in the most trying conditions of cold and cramped workspace. Some of his chemicals are still in his darkroom at the Huts, the labels still readable and corks still in the bottles.

Spinning Yarn: Off to the Resort #85

Sunday, June 5th, 2011


 How many satisfied customers can one resort hold? I remember seeing photos of resorts where there are as many bodies at the beach as there are in the restaurant, as there are at the disco. Some of the holiday makers love to swim, or sunbake on the sand, or travel back to their rooms to get changed for the next activity. The area is fluid with tourists coming and going and relaxing; everyone does their own thing. Macquarie Island is no different —-not really. It is booked out, though.


Where's Wally?

Spinning Yarn: Calling All Rabbit Fur! #83

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

 It’s a pity that rabbits do not have blubber, they could be melted down instead…. You should see what they are doing to the island! It looks like a moonscape! Rabbits were introduced to the island as a way to feed shipwrecked sailors. Left alone for a few years, the rabbits multiplied so much that shipwrecked sailors could not keep up with the numbers – and even the skuas (Antarctic vultures) have trouble. Poison is the answer, and there is pallets of it ready to be distributed – just waiting for the right weather day.

 In the evenings, we had briefings on our progress, what latitude we were, how far we’d come, our speed, etc — all the statistics. We also shared the day’s best photos. Macquarie Island day had this great photo of two flying skuas fighting over a rabbit. Having just seen first hand the devastation these animals cause, a rousing cheer went up for these enterprising skuas. It put me in mind of a soccer game – Skuas 1, Rabbits ½ each!(or should that be Skuas ½ each, Rabbits 0)

Spinning Yarn: Land of Emperors and Kings #81

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

 Thousands of birds make their living fishing at Macquarie. The amazing volcanic sea rocks shelter and protect the colonies, and the food tries to hide under the great green leathery fronds of kelp that waver with the swell of the southern ocean.

 Macquarie Island, Campbell Island, the Auckland group and New Zealand are all on the join of the tectonic plates in this part of the globe. The whole area is volcanic and quite old. When the plates mesh, they quake, of course, and the islands rise a bit further out of the sea.

Spinning Yarn: Landing at Macquarie #79

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

It was a well considered thing, us landing at Macquarie Island – The wind is a problem there. There are times when the waves come right up over the isthmus and the island is effectively cut in two, with meteorological station on one side and all the rest of the island on the other. Not today, however.

 The guides were out on the landing beach ready to make us welcome, and to give us a quick instruction on the wildlife (as opposed to the wild seas!) The 5m rule applies here too, by the way. King penguins on the beach were quite unimpressed with all the “red-coated penguins” marching around their island.

 Starting out on the walk around to the other side of the island, we came across moulting seals very much the colour of the rocks. Careful where you step – It would be pretty embarrassing to have to say you’d been bitten by a rock! The moulting fur is not spinnable, either)

Spinning Yarn: The Yarn of the Penguins…#71

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

 They are adorable, these knee-high little guys in dressy feathers, sooo curious and having sooo much character. Quite cheeky, and totally fearless, you should see the way they careen down the slopes….Singly or in bunches, they streak by in their haste to make it to the next destination.

 The Adelie penguins arrive at Cape Denison about October each year, and they come to mate and increase their population as well as swell the numbers of things living in Antarctica over the summer. Travelling enormous distances to “home”, the penguins make their little nests of plain rocks in and amongst the granite boulders of the shore and the cliffs, making sure to have access to the ocean.

 Weddell seals join them for the season. These are huge flat blubbery masses with big round deep dark brown eyes, lying on the ice pretending to be asleep. The only things missing for them are the sofa and the remote control! You could be forgiven for thinking the seals are part of the boulders, being much the same colour and almost the same size. Take this advice: WATCH YOUR STEP. Seals can move VERY fast when they have to, and they have teeth!   (NO, I saw the teeth, I did not experience them!)

Spinning Yarn: The Past is Present #68

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

I have stood in the spot where Sir Douglas and his team lived and worked for 2 years in the most trying and difficult conditions.

I have seen with my own eyes the workroom where the masses of information and data were collected, where radio messages were sent and received and where their supply of fresh meat (seal and penguin) was prepared and stored.

I have witnessed the living conditions of the main Hut and seen the signatures of the men who inhabited this place.

I have glanced at their novels and reading materials, read the labels on the remaining food containers, and imagined the warming wood stove in operation, heating the inside of the Hut to a milder than outside temperature.

I have been privileged to see the photographer’s work area and wonder anew at his skill with chemical and camera.

I have walked the site where the explorers made their magnetic observations, where life went on in spite of the 200km winds and -40º temperatures.

 I have experienced Antarctic history!

Spinning Yarn: Granite Tapioca #64

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

 Through the rookeries and around to the rocks. Wow! Such great rocks just had to be climbed – it was the only way back to the Hut and to “Civilization”! There were orange sized ones, watermelon sized ones, medicine ball sized ones, and all just begging to have a booted foot placed on them. Not since I was 12 years old had I had such a workout! (that was back at Peggy’s cove in Nova Scotia). Most enjoyable, yet challenging.

 Antarctica is volcanic and most of the rock is granite. We saw all  different colours and patterns, the shapes were amazing. Can you see the face in this round cantaloupe-size boulder?

 None of us were fazed by the calm, the silence and the wilderness. To sit calmly and quietly on top of the rocks at the bottom of the world and hear the silence…..let it seep into your soul….was a magic experience.

Spinning Yarn: Through the Rookeries #63

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

 We reached the end of the cliff face, and paused. The vista before us was breathtaking.

On a mirror sea, the small shore ice floated calmly, watched by the blue-ice cliffs over loaded with the weight of heavy snow. Under a gunmetal grey sky, the picture was one of calm, the palette of colour all in tones of glowing ice blue. The peace broken only by the gurgling of the penguins.

 Beside the cliff and just before the edge, a group of penguins gathered around their dead mate, demanding of me an answer – what I was going to do with him? Nothing, guys- just look and study the feathers – No, they are not spinnable…..

 Taking leave of the multitude of Adelies at that spot, we continued on our way around the cliff, through the rookery to the shore on the other side – a line of red penguins marching single file through the ranks of Adelies in their black and white suits….