Archive for the ‘ice’ Category

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: Polar Plunge #77

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

 Anyone for a swim? Brash Ice is very refreshing…..

 Yes, there were some of us that dared to defy reason and sanity, donning bathing suits and safety harness, to “close encounter” the Southern Ocean. Just to say we had done it, I suppose. Wrapped in thick dressing gowns before the plunge, candidates lined up on the marina deck of the ship in preparation for being buckled in to the snatch straps, and to face the deep COLD COLD ocean.

 Cries of “Yeaaahh” resounded on the deck as each person launched from the platform. Cries of “Eeeeeww” echoed back from the upper deck as the rest of us wore their splashes.

Once fished out, the icicles broken off bodies and back into the dressing gowns, the Hot Chocolate was very welcome, as were the warm showers before dinner.

 Back in the warm, in the Lounge, those of us who recorded the event were busy swapping photos and angles ….Smart of me to take photos….

Spinning Yarn: Where the whale was #76

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Brash Ice is, apparently, a good place to find whales doing their hunting. They travel parallel to the trail of breaking ice looking for stray penguins, fish, unsuspecting tourists…. They did not find us, however. (Heheheh)

 All of us had our cameras at the ready, to make a photographic connection with the huge and graceful creatures, but all we found was an old wooden mallet floating, mysteriously, close to the edge of the Brash, which we rescued. We also found a huge piece of Styrofoam – where did that come from?  — which we auctioned off for the Mawson’s Huts Foundation that evening after dinner.

 Some of us were able to spot a whale tail as it followed its owner back into the deep, but, Gee, you had to be quick with the camera….

 PS: Our after-dinner cocktails sported ancient (Black) ice cubes…taken from the Southern Ocean and digested happily in this Century.

Spinning Yarn: Who can see the B9B? #74

Monday, March 28th, 2011

 I asked Harry, from the NZ Department of Conservation who was with us on board, if the quality of the ice is ever tested, and does it indicate any impurities, or age, or anything else. His reply was that the ice is tested, most of it to be found quite pure.

He also explained that Antarctica is divided into quarters (A, B, C, D) and the icebergs are named for their quarter of origin, tracked in their movements and recorded for size and distance traveled.

 There are 2 currents around Antarctica – they flow in opposition to each other, and the icebergs travel according to which current catches them. The B9B has originated in B quadrant, the 9th piece to break off and “B” because it split from “A”. What size must “A” have been?


Spinning Yarn: Ice Blocked! #73

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

 The summer ice Antarctica may well be at the lowest annual level and distance from land, but it is still present and it pays to be ever watchful, not only with eye but also with satellite and radar and all the modern navigation and positioning equipment. Originally planning to visit French Antarctica at Dumont D’urville (about an inch around the coast to the right of Cape Denison) the plan was abandoned due to inaccessibility – they were iced in!

 So was Cap Jules.

 Plan C was the B9B Iceberg, second largest in the world at 100kms long and 6 stories high. Not only can you not miss seeing it, you cannot see all of it all at once…..

 Its form is large and cold and dramatic. The wind was blowing the soft snow off the top, giving the impression of smoke. The colours were amazing – blues, greens, turquoises, jades, gunmetal grey at water level –  and its lines of growth quite visible even from our parking spot in the distance.

Spinning Yarn: The Sun Comes Out #72

Monday, March 21st, 2011

 For our visit, God had blessed us with TWO days of mild weather and no wind. We saw and experienced the Cape in its most welcoming behaviour, loving every minute. As we were preparing to leave on the next part of the trip, the sun broke through the overcast cloud cover and painted with light some of the icebergs in the bay.  All of a sudden, the Bay became the focus of our attention, the playful penguins and somnolent seals were spotlit on Nature’s icy stage, in full view of the 100 passengers and their cameras.

 The Orion weighed anchor and began to move around to the edge of the Bay, making progress towards the next point of interest, the B9B iceberg, one day away, while we the passengers took our evening meal out on the back deck, in the full Midnight Sun.

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: 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….

Spinning Yarn: The Hike Around the Rocks #62

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

  Mawson’s Hut is about 40m from the harbour, on the flatter part of the slope that comes down to the water. It is quite small, even though the two buildings are spliced together. A  verandah around 3 sides allows for extra storage space and a dog area and also provides additional buffering from the 200km winds that are the rule rather than the exception.

 Walking further up the hill to the moraine line, we pass clumps of large rock, salute parades of Adelie penguins and dodge patches of hidden ice and sink holes. (Carefully does it! Why did I leave my boot chains back on the ship?) and wait for the other hikers to join us. (This picture is looking back at the Huts from the moraine line  – See the Pyramid roof?)

 As one group with 2 leaders, we began to CAREFULLY cross to the left, over the sheeted ice and delicately decorated blue patches of solid ice, away from the Hut and off towards the rookeries at the next cliff. We progressed to the sound of swishing boots, penguin toenails on ice, and the small yelps of surprise as we slipped and glided (sometimes on our bottoms) across the guano-stained surface of the  treacherous expanse.  We paused at John O’Groats.