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Antarctica 2005 Expedition
Great God, this is a wild and wonderful place!

Antartica Expedition 2005

Search Words: Ice Polar Scuba Diving In Arctic Antarctic Antarctica Expeditions Cruises Travel Guide Southern Ocean Drake

We have returned from our End of the World expedition which took place on February 16, 2005. This time our adventure has taken us through the Antarctic Circle. Our expedition was again hosted by Aurora Expeditions, an efficient and professional operator for this type of demanding trip. The comfortable and sturdy Polar Pioneer was our base of operations for this excursion as well. On this voyage we have the best of both worlds - we sampled the diversity of wildlife encountered only on the Peninsula, again took the plunge into the icy waters of Antarctica to observe her unusual marine life, and traveled far enough south to cross the Antarctic Circle.

The Antarctic Circle - What makes the Antarctic Circle so interesting is that it's one of the five major circles of latitude that circle around our planet. The other circles of latitude include the Arctic Circle, the Equator, the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. So what is a circle of latitude, well quoted from Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia:

"a circle of latitude is an imaginary circle around the Earth made up of all the points that have the same particular value for their latitude. These are based on the rotation of the Earth in relationship to the Sun."

That definition may not really help, but everything south of this circle is known as the Antarctic Zone, and the zone to the north is considered the Southern Temperate Zone (extends from the Tropic of Capricorn at about 23.5 degrees south latitude to the Antarctic Circle).

The Antarctic Circle has a parallel latitude that runs approximately 66 33' south of the Equator. Within this zone, the Sun is above the horizon for at least 24 continuous hours per year in conjunction with the Summer Solstice and at least 24 continuous hours below the horizon in conjunction with the Antarctic Winter Solstice.

The Voyage - On February 16, 2005, we departed the port city of Ushuaia, sometimes referred to as the City at the End of the World. From there, we journey south to the frozen continent of Antarctica. Our 2003 expedition took us across the Drake Passage towards Antarctica in relatively calm waters. On our return trip, we were greeted with stormy, 25-foot seas.

Who knows what awaits us this time?
Only time will tell…

The Goal - Our major reason for returning to Antarctica during this voyage was to sail across the Antarctic Circle and we were fortunate to be able to accomplish this task despite all the pack ice that was present. As we cruised south through the Antarctic Circle we were greeted with spectacular passages to Crystal Sound, which revealed major changes in the continent's land and ice scapes, and also in the distribution and abundance of wildlife. For 12 days we explored the wilderness of the Antarctic Peninsula, photographing the wildlife and spectacular ice formations both above and below these polar waters. By the end of the voyage we have gained a rare understanding of Antarctica's wildlife at these southerly latitudes. 

We are often asked what compels us to want to see Antarctica. The answer is simple, Antarctica is nature in its purest state; her power and beauty are at once humbling, confronting and exhilarating. Indeed Antarctica touches the soul like no other place on earth. The pace can be as fast as an ice wall cracking and tumbling into the sea or as slow as an advancing glacier. Perhaps the following question, posed in 1908 by the French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot captures the essence of the mystery of Antarctica even to this day:

"Where does the strange attraction to the polar regions lie, so powerful, so gripping that on one’s return from them one forgets all weariness of body and soul and dreams only of going back?"

Proposed Itinerary:                                                             February 16 - 27, 2005
Day 1 In the afternoon we will board our expedition ship, the Polar Pioneer located in Ushuaia.  Then sail down the Beagle Channel in the evening.
Day 2 Overnight, weather permitting, we will have traveled into Drake Passage. During the day there will be time to relax and sit in on some lectures, safety briefings and "ocean-gazing" from the bridge or outer decks.
Day 3 Today we should cross the Antarctic Convergence, the biological boundary of Antarctica, and may see our first icebergs. In the evening we approach the Brabant and Anvers islands area.
Day 4-9 For six days we plan to explore the western flanks of the Antarctic Peninsula as far south as the Antarctic Circle, where the waters abound with whales at this time of the season. We hope to enter the magical Crystal Sound and, if ice conditions are favorable, to navigate a passage into Marguerite Bay through a very narrow channel called The Gullet.
Day 10 Possible stop at Deception Island, then head north into the Drake Passage, past the last of the icebergs.
Day 11 At Sea. This is our last day of lectures and the final opportunity to enjoy the Southern Ocean's rich seabird life. A cruise past Cape Horn (weather permitting, of course) and a farewell dinner provide a fitting finale.
Day 12 We travel up the Beagle Channel to disembark in Ushuaia, then transfer to our hotel. The rest of the day will be used to unwind in the "town at the end of the world". We may decide to visit the nearby Lapataia National Park or walk in the mountains behind the town.

Some people ask...What's the time down there? A tricky question - since this is a place where all time zones converge, everyone in Antarctica officially goes by New Zealand time (see below):

Click for Palmer Station, Antarctica Forecast

Ship Life - For the most part the days are routine, filled with lectures, deck-top views of the spectacular Antarctic scenery, and forays ashore to view wildlife or points of scientific or historical interest. Meals were hearty and prepared by European or Australian chefs who are wizards at their craft. Zodiacs where used not only as landing craft but also to take passengers closer to icebergs and wildlife. Expert polar naturalists always company expeditioners on shore as well as sharing their knowledge through lectures, videos and seminars on board the ship.

Cruising life aboard the Polar Pioneer should be a relaxed one, punctuated by exciting views and excursions as long as the Drake Passage behaves. These are expedition-style journeys which benefit from flexibility among staff and passengers alike. In Antarctica you can sometimes end up one hundred miles from where you were expected, due to a last minute change of plan. Aurora Expeditions takes pride in their years of experience in Antarctica so they can guarantee that all expeditioners will gain the best possible value and experience from every day.

So join us as we explore deeper into the Ice Kingdom of Antarctica.

Click here to view GPS position of the Polar Pioneer... Where is the Polar Pioneer?
Click here to view the satellite tracking system that shows you where the Polar Pioneer is at the present moment. You can zoom in or out to get a better perspective of her location.


Expedition Log

Antartica Expedition 2005 - Chris Weaver (top), Mike Salvarezza (bottom)Aurora Expedition Staff - Once again, we would like to thank the Aurora expedition staff and the rest of the Russian crew of the Polar Pioneer for the wonderful memories we shared. We'll cherish and share these experiences with others for years to come.

Because of their high degree of professionalism, their passion for adventure and their hard work and dedication, our voyage to Cross the Antarctic Circle was seamless and a great success.

Day 1 -   The Journey Begins
Day 2 -   Arriving in Ushuaia
Day 3 -   Scuba Diving in the Beagle Channel
Day 4 -   Welcome Aboard the Polar Pioneer
Day 5 -   Crossing the Drake Passage
Day 6 -   Drake Passage & South Shetland Islands
Day 7 -   Cuverville Island
Day 8 -   Crossing the Antarctic Circle!!
Day 9 -   Prospect Point & Fish Island
Day 10 - Penola Strait
Day 11 - Port Lockroy & Neko Harbor
Day 12 - Deception Island
Day 13 - Drake Passage
Day 14 - Cape Horn & Beagle Channel
Day 15 - Final Day in Ushuaia
Day 16 - The Journey Home

Aurora Expedition - Actual 2005 Passenger Trip Log
Aurora & Russian crew of the Polar Pioneer
Russian Phrases (English to Russian)


Day 1: Sunday, 13 February 2005
The Journey Begins

2/13/05 - 09:15 pm (2115 hours)

Today, the journey begins. After a full weekend of preparation and waiting, the trip is finally underway at 6:30pm when the van service arrives to take us to the airport. There is always a sense of anxiety, and even dread, mixed in with the excitement of such expeditions - leaving home, journeying to remote locations, being separated and out of touch. As great as the trip is, the sense of unease before hand is always palpable. The flight leaves JFK airport at 10:10pm - on time.


Day 2: Monday, 14 February 2005
Arriving in Ushuaia

2/14/05 - 08:45 pm (2045 hours)

We finally arrived in Ushuaia at 6:15pm ART after a long, tiring but uneventful trip. The only travel problem we had was being stopped twice in the airport screening process because of ankle weights in one of our carry-on bags. Because we were over weight in one of check-in bags we decided to pack these weights in our carry-on to reduce the weight in the checked bag so we didn't have to pay the excess weight charge. Words of wisdom, if you don't want to be stopped, don't carry ankle weights in carry-on bags.

Ushuaia Airport is as it was two years ago - small, crowded and bustling with excitement. The town is inviting and the Patagonian Mountains are still majestic. It is a short ride to the Hotel Ushuaia, where we eat and crashed for the night. It is warm, in the 60s and clear.

This is the second time we stayed at the Hotel Ushuaia and like the airport, hasn't really changed since the last time we where here back in 2003. One added feature was a new online service right in the hotel. For 1 peso, would be travelers could connect to the internet for 20 minutes using two available desktop computers located in a small room near the front desk.


Day 3: Tuesday, 15 February 2005
Scuba Diving in the Beagle Channel

2/15/05 - 08:35 pm (2035 hours)

Today, we spend our free day Scuba Diving in the Beagle Channel with Carlos and Patricio from Ushuaia Divers, our guides. Carlos the boat captain, a retired Argentine fight pilot was warm and friendly and made us feel very welcome. Their 28 foot twin engine dive boat can comfortably accommodate two crew members and 5-6 guests. We were fortunate to have the entire boat to our selves during our trip. The forward cabin was large enough to store all our clothes and other equipment we wanted to keep dry. The boat is also equipped with a toilet, kitchen, and a room with a shower at the stern. During our stay, we were able to enjoy fresh coffee, tea and biscuits.

Our first dive was in a dense Kelp forest along a drop-off near "East Point" of Bayo Casco. We dove to 49 feet (15m) for 40 minutes. The water was fairly clear, 30 foot (9m) visibility, with lots of invertebrate life: King Crabs, Arrow Crabs, Decorator Crabs, small Crayfish-looking creatures and lots of starfish. There were many small fish in the Kelp, which is quite thick. During our dive we both decided to shoot wide angle using Nikonos V cameras with 15mm lenses. Although we took some great pictures, this would of been a great macro dive as well!!

During our surface interval between dives, the weather turned real nasty in only a few minutes. The wind kicked up tremendously, creating an instant 2 foot (.6m) chop in the channel. The second dive was more or less in the same location as the first, but here we stayed shallower than 40 feet and explored the remains of a small sunken sailboat which sank about 20 years ago. Unfortunately the wreck was totally covered in kelp and encrustations. Because of the thick over growth, it was very hard to distinguish the wreckage from the surrounding rocks.

As we surfaced to conclude our dive at the end of the world, we were greeted with a heavy surface current which made getting back to the boat a little difficult. Because the boat was anchored from shore, it pivoted like a clock pendulum in the fast moving current. After grabbing the draft line we slowly made our way to the stern and was soon onboard sipping hot coffee and eating fresh biscuits.

These were, if nothing else, good shakeout dives before we leave for Antarctica the following afternoon.

Warning: To all divers and underwater photographers, make sure to buy your "C" cell batteries before getting to Ushuaia. We found out that we forget to pack spare batteries for our underwater lights and tried to by them in town. Well, after about 2 hours of walking around town trying to describe to the local store owners of over a dozen stores what are "C" cell batteries, only to be told that they do not carry this type of battery. We finally found one store which had only four packs of batteries. This small store was directly across the street from the taxi service building in front of the main port entrance to the shipping dock.


Day 4: Wednesday, 16 February 2005
Welcome Aboard the Polar Pioneer
Antarctic Circle - Travel Map (click for a larger view)

Russian for the day:


2/16/05 - 07:35 pm (1935 hours)

After a day in Ushuaia, and an emergency run back to the hotel to retrieve our gear which we had mistakenly thought had already been delivered to the boat, we boarded the Polar Pioneer at 4:00 pm. We departed Ushuaia at precisely 5:45 pm, saying goodbye to civilization and traveling down the Beagle Channel (to the East).

After several briefings, a lifeboat drill and unpacking, we are ready for dinner. We anticipate entering the Drake Passage around 3:00 am.

Ship's Position & Weather Conditions
Position: 09:20 pm / 2120 hours (16 February 2005)
Latitude: 54 58' S
Longitude: 67 03' W
Speed: 12.9 knots / 15 mph
Course: 108
Barometer: 997.3 mb / 29.44 inches - steady
Wind Chill: +3C / 39F
Wind: 18 knots / 21 mph from the N
Air Temp: +13C / 55F


Day 5: Thursday, 17 February 2005
Crossing the Drake Passage

Russian for the day:
SPACIBO (Thank You)

2/17/05 - 09:37 am

Latitude: 57.13.328 S
Longitude: 64.35.174 W

We entered the Drake Passage last night around 2:00 am with a noticeable increase in wave action. The boat is now rocking and rolling pretty sharply as we navigate 8-10 foot seas with occasional 12 foot swells. The weather is beautiful however; bright sunshine, little wind and comfortable temperatures. So far, only a brief sighting of a Petral and not much else to see as far as the eye can see.

2/17/05 - 04:05 pm (1605 hours)

Latitude: 58.28.122 S
Longitude: 63.33.488 W

We have just passed over the Antarctic Convergence. It is marked to the senses by a drop in water and air temperature, coupled with clouds obscuring the sun. Our sunny-day journey is now over and the grey-ness of the Drake has taken over. The Drake is still rough, with occasional 12-footers washing over the stern and the ship rolls wildly at times. It is a lonely, forbidding, imposing place. All we see are the sea birds searching among the waves for bits of food - Wandering Albatross, Wilson’s Storm petral, Sooty Petrals, and Cape Petrals are currently all around the boat. According to the ship’s staff, we are approximately half-way to the South Shetland Islands.

Ship's Position & Weather Conditions
Position: 08:45 pm / 2045 hours (17 February 2005)
Latitude: 59 26' S
Longitude: 62 40' W
Speed: 14 knots / 16 mph
Course: 156
Barometer: 985 mb / 29.09 inches - steady
Wind Chill: -11C / 11F
Wind: 35 knots / 40 mph from the NW
Air Temp: +5C / 41F

2/17/05 - 10:21 pm (2215 hours)

Latitude: 59.44.475 S
Longitude: 62.24.491 W

The Drake has reared its ugly head. With sullen clouds overhead, a fierce wind has kicked up. This, in turn, has created a chaotic ocean with 18 foot waves and streaks of windblown foam across the surface. The ship was now pivoting from side-to-side and at times violently dropping down deep into swells that seem to have no bottom. All we could hear was the crashing of the ocean smashing into the hull as if we were being pounded by a world champion prize fighter. Everybody was grabbing the nearest anchored object to steady themselves and wait for a lull before trying to move to a safer location. Fear not, because the Polar Pioneer is well equipped for these type of conditions.

Tonight, a light, but windblown rain has been added to the mix and the Polar Pioneer is proceeding at a brisk 10-knot pace with the spotlights eerily illuminating the way forward. It is a time to crawl into the cocoon of our bunks and await daylight. Early in the morning, storm or no storm, we should see icebergs. The weather will, most likely persist. According to Captain Gena, the pattern has several Antarctic Cyclones locked in place by an anti-cyclone off South Georgia Island. A strong pressure gradient ensures the high wind and high seas will continue.


Day 6: Friday, 18 February 2005
Drake Passage & South Shetland Islands

Russian for the day:
ZDRASTVUTYE (How do you do)

2/18/05 - 09:22 am

Latitude: 61.45.941 S
Longitude: 60.25.476 W

Last night was a rough night. I’m not sure how high the waves were, but the rolling of the ship was intense. Today, dawn has arrived with clear skies. The wind is still strong, and the sea was once again chaotic with occasional 18 foot waves. Still, it’s a beautiful day. There are Cape Petrals and the occasional Giant Petral following the boat, riding updrafts from the waves and giving us occasional fly-bys.

2/18/05 – 10:15 am

The excitement begins as the first iceberg is spotted off the starboard side of the ship at about 10:15 am. It is a huge, tabular iceberg, gleaming white in the sun. Other than a few hastily focused shots, photography is tough due to the wind and the continuous rocking of the boat. It is very exciting to see the iceberg – Antarctica can’t be too far away now!

2/18/05 – 2:06 pm (1406 hours)

We are passing through a narrow channel between Robert Island and Greenwich island in the South Shetlands. It is really great to be in sight of land finally – our destination for our first landing is Half-Moon Island, near Livingstone Island. It is sunny out, temperature in the 30s as we first approach these islands. The very first island we pass in Table Island and as we do so, a light snowfall suddenly begins – enough to welcome us to Antarctica with the appropriate ambiance! There is a general buzz of excitement on the ship as we prepare to venture on land later this afternoon.

Ship's Position & Weather Conditions
Position: 08:34 pm / 2034 hours (18 February 2005)
Latitude: 62 48' S
Longitude: 59 55' W
Speed: 9.8 knots / 11 mph
Course: 208
Barometer: 980 mb / 28.94 inches - steady
Wind Chill: -19C / -3F
Wind: 60 knots / 69 mph from the W
Air Temp: +0C / 32F

2/18/05 – 10:30 pm (2230 hours)

Latitude: 62.35.986 S
Longitude: 59.54.270 W

This afternoon, we arrived at Half-Moon Island and made our first landing. This is a small, rocky island and is home to Chinstrap Penguins, Gentoo Penguins, Antarctic Fur Seals, and Skuas. We wandered the island searching for wildlife and thankful for the opportunity to stretch our legs on dry land. On the backend of the island, we came across two sleeping Weddell Seals and we also spotted some Sheathbills. The island is home to an Argentine research station. After landfall, we fired up the engines again and began making our way down the Bransfield Straight - its another open water stretch and a rocky night of travel.


Day 7: Saturday, 19 February 2005
Cuverville Island

Russian for the day:

2/19/03 – 12:30 pm

Latitude: 64.40.085 S
Longitude: 62.38.018 W

We have just returned from our first dive of the expedition. It was at a place called Cuverville Island. Here, the bottom slopes downward from the shore in a rocky, kelp covered tumble. We motored out to the site in a snowstorm, with temperatures in the low 30s. The channels in and around this island are clogged with icebergs. Just as we neared this island, we spotted a pair of sleeping Humpback Whales, lolling on the surface. Careful not to disturb, we drifted silently, listening to the rhythmic sounds of their breathing. Overhead, Skuas, Gulls and Terns fritter around the bay in search of food.

Soon, the dive started. After some brief regulator problems, we swam down, descending to nearly 50 feet. The bottom is rocky, with lots of invertebrates: Sea Stars, brilliant red and purple in color, along with Limpets dominated the area. We also saw a pair of tiny fish on a rock which we have not yet identified. Adding to this are Nemotode Worms, Giant Antarctic Sea Lice and many small Amphipods. After 28 minutes, our time was up and we surfaced to a blinding white-out due to sudden burst of 70 mile per hour Katabatic winds. As quickly as it started, it ended. We then spotted a Leopard Seal patrolling the area and keeping a wary eye on the divers. This was a good shakeout dive in a beautiful location.

2/19/03 – 4:10 pm (1610 hours)

Latitude: 64.55.659 S
Longitude: 63.19.373 W

We are cruising through the Gerlache Straight headed for the Lemaire Channel. Our expedition goal is to cross the Antarctic Circle and so the crew is moving the boat frequently to accelerate our pace southward.

The sun has emerged in a blaze of brilliance from the clearing clouds, revealing a deep, blue sky. The snowy mountain peaks never looked so majestic as they do now with the sun shining brightly on them. We spend 2 hours photographing these scenes and never grow tired of it!

The wind is howling, creating whitecaps in the slate-gray water. This is the true Antarctic – something that is impossible to describe.

Ship's Position & Weather Conditions
Position: 10:00 pm / 2200 hours (19 February 2005)
Latitude: 65 11' S
Longitude: 64 08' W
Speed: 10.7 knots / 12 mph
Course: 195
Barometer: 741 mb / 21.88 inches - steady
Wind Chill: -4C / 23.7F
Wind: 8 knots / 9 mph from the NW
Air Temp: +2C / 35F

2/19/03 – 10:03 pm (2203 hours)

Latitude: 65.11.820 S
Longitude: 64.08.412 W

This evening was pure magic. We spent close to 2 hours cruising around an absolutely still and beautiful bay at the end of the Lemaire Channel. The water was glass-still with ice and bergy bits and full blown icebergs without even a whisper of wind. Here, we observed in very close proximity, two large Leopard Seals. What beautiful, sinister, serpentine seals these are! We also spotted porpoising Gentoo Penguins. At times, with the zodiac engines off, all we could hear was the tinkling of ice in the serenity of the bay. In addition, the bay was surrounded by tall mountains, with glaciers streaming off the sides. Occasional explosions could be heard as the ice in the glaciers creaks and breaks into the water.

Tonight at dinner, we learned that some of the divers from the U.K. decided, in part, to come on this trip based on reading the feature article on Antarctica that Eco-Photo Explorers wrote for Diver Magazine in the U.K.

Tonight we are steaming south, bound for the circle. We are passing through the Argentine Islands, where the water is choked with ice. If the route becomes impassable, we may duck out into the open ocean again to make our way south. It is snowing and nigh is falling in Antarctica. It s a world removed…


Day 8: Sunday, 20 February 2005
Crossing the Antarctic Circle!!

Russian for the day:

2/20/05 09:34 am 

Latitude: 66.27.513 S
Longitude: 66.56.467 W

We continue to cruise south towards the Antarctic Circle. It is snowing lightly, with a dull gray overcast. Many people are gathered on the bridge anticipating the actual crossing at 66.33.00 S – it is an exciting time.

2/20/05 10:30 am

Latitude: 66.33.853 S
Longitude: 67.10.906 W

                         We've crossed the Antarctic Circle!

Ships Position: We've crossed the Antarctic Circle!

This is the latitude below which the sun never rises in the winter and never sets in the summer. It is an exciting moment and everyone gathered on the front deck for a celebration – complete with a speech from the expedition leader, champagne toasts and an official "christening" of each passenger marked by a circle of ink being imprinted on the forehead. Quite appropriately, the temperature was below freezing, there was a snowfall occurring and, just as the speech was being concluded, a trio of Blue-Eyed Shags flew overhead, reminding us of a military fly-over at a sporting event.

We intend to press further south and dive below the circle this afternoon.

Ship's Position & Weather Conditions
Position: 09:00 pm / 2100 hours (20 February 2005)
Latitude: 66 29' S
Longitude: 67 06' W
Speed: at anchor
Course: at anchor
Barometer: 980 mb / 28.94 inches - steady
Wind Chill: -16C / 1.84F
Wind: 20 knots / 23 mph from the NW
Air Temp: -1C / 30F

2/20/05 10:33 pm (2233 hours)

Latitude: 66.28.741 S
Longitude: 67.06.060 W

This afternoon was filled with adventure and experience. The Captain continued to press further south into Crystal Sound below the circle. The way forward was obscured by a snow squall, low fog and overcast conditions. Eventually, we encountered dense pack ice which halted our progress. Our furthest point south is: 66.42.065 S, 66.55.026 W.

After an exhilarating period of crunching through the ice, we turned to the North again. Along the way, we spotted Fur Seals and Crab-eater Seals resting serenely on the ice flows.

This was the perfect Antarctic atmosphere: cold, isolated, lonely, majestic and mysterious. Above all, incredibly beautiful.

Shortly after turning North and slightly above the circle, we anchored and set out for an exploratory dive. We were at the Barcroft Islands, which is where we are presently anchored.

A lonely stretch of small islands that are part of the Briscoe Archipelago, there was great promise here for good diving. We set out in the zodiacs in choppy seas and into a biting snowstorm. The air temperature was -1c. A cold day for diving.

The water around the islands was very clear, some of the best visibility we have seen in Antarctica between both expeditions (40-50 feet).

The underwater terrain consisted of a sharply sloping contour with rocks tumbling down into untold depths. For the balance of the dive, we photographed small invertebrates (sea stars, sea urchins and limpets). We did find and photograph a species of small fish we had never seen before: An Emerald Notothan (or Rock Cod). This was a small fish, about 2 inches in length, and resembled the grubbies we so often encounter home in Long Island waters.

The highlight of the dive, though, was our encounter with a very inquisitive and playful Fur Seal. After having completed our dive, we were in the zodiac waiting to leave when this Fur Seal approached and began swimming close by, clearly interested in us. The seal even jumped up onto a nearby rock to get an even better view! Before long, we both were in the water, swimming with our new friend and snapping a number of photographs. The seal would approach, almost to within touching distance, would pose of a picture and swim off, only to return shortly for more fun. We soon began a game of imitation – by rolling in the water, we could get the seal to do the same. What an amazing close to the dive! We felt as if we had made a very real connection across the species in this moment and it is a moment we won’t forget. Who knows if this seal has ever seen a human being before and we are happy we made friends, hopefully , in some small way, redeeming our species for all the killing we have inflicted upon these and other species, throughout the years.

It is now 10:30 at night – after a continuing snow storm which has blanketed the Polar Pioneer in a slippery covering of icy snow, the sun is now setting in a clearing sky. It will rise again in a few short hours and we will begin another adventure.

Farthest Point South Before Turning North:
Latitude: 66 42' 065" S
Longitude: 65 24' 503" W


Day 9: Monday, 21 February 2005
Prospect Point & Fish Island

Russian for the day:
DA ZAFTRA (See you tomorrow)

2/21/05 2:40 pm (1440 hours)

Latitude: 66.01.121 S
Longitude: 65.24.503 W

Today has just been spectacular. Clearly the best day of this trip and probably the best of both expeditions.

After traveling North overnight, we entered a magical land of pack ice, glaciers, icebergs and stunning mountains. The scenery is just beyond description. Coupled with the views of ice is a brilliant blue sky and blazing sunshine and no wind.

The Polar Pioneer crashed through the ice and the sound of massive ice-flows crashing and banging under the bow and the hull reverberated throughout the entire ship. The photographic opportunities were limitless – between us we must have burned 10 rolls of film.

Along the way, we spotted Crabeater seals and Adelie Penguins and even a recalcitrant Leopard Seal who tried to stare down the boat as it approached, only to dive into the water at the last minute.

Finally, as we approached Prospect Point in the Fish Island area off the Graham Coast, we suited up to dive in the ice-strewn water. We dove in and around an iceberg, photographing its various nuances. Despite some regulator issues, the gear is holding up. Antarctica is really showing us her best today.

2/21/05 7:55 pm (1955 hours)

Latitude: 65.43.887 S
Longitude: 65.04.369 W

This day keeps getting better. After cruising further North, we anchored and got off the boat for a zodiac tour and brief landing. We saw lots of Antarctic Terns, Kelp Gulls and Blue-Eyed Shags. On the landing, we came across a pair of Antarctic Fur Seals on the snowy beach. By far the highlight was a very close encounter with a trio of Crabeater seals that had been hauled out on an ice flow. We got some amazingly close photos of these three before heading back to the boat for dinner. The sky is cloudless with a brilliant sun – no wind and a temperature around 30 degrees. By the looks of everything, we may be in for an amazing sunset later.  We are presently anchored in the Grandidier Channel, alongside Duchayland Island.

Ship's Position & Weather Conditions
Position: 09:27 pm / 2127 hours (21 February 2005)
Latitude: 65 44' S
Longitude: 65 04' W
Speed: at anchor
Course: at anchor
Barometer: 993 mb / 29.32 inches - steady
Wind Chill: n/a
Wind: nil
Air Temp: +2C / 35.6F

2/21/05 11:03 pm (2303 hours)

Latitude: 65.43.887 S
Longitude: 65.04.369 W

This is not Disneyland! While today was an absolutely spectacular day, it was not without its excitement in terms of physical danger.

Polar Pioneer Rescue - click to view a larger image...During the morning, while we were diving, a landing team became stranded as pack ice closed in around them, preventing zodiac access back to the boat. While not necessarily dangerous, it did take two hours of attempted "rescue" until it actually became necessary for the Polar Pioneer itself to plow through the ice and nudge an iceberg out of the way, thus clearing a path for the zodiacs.

This evening, as the climbing team was descending from a climb of a nearby mountain, a more serious emergency developed. One of the climbers (Ken Joseph) fell into a crevasse and had to be rescued. This was a lengthy operation and, from the Polar Pioneer, we all gathered on the bridge and waited with baited breath and nervous anticipation to hear news from the team. It was a very tense period – until the radio crackled with the reassuring words "No Worries." A cheer went up and a collective sigh of relief was exhaled. The climbing team arrived back on board at 10:45pm, nearly 3 hours overdue.

This was all backdrop to a stunning sunset under a cold, clear sky. Tonight, the Antarctic sky is alive with stars. In an interesting moment, we looked up to see the familiar constellation of Orion in the night sky – but the stars are all upside down!


Day 10: Tuesday, 22 February 2005
Penola Strait

Russian for the day:
IZVINITYE PAZHALSTA (Excuse me please)

2/22/05 1:50 pm (1350 hours)

Latitude: 65.13.757 S
Longitude: 64.15.573 W

We spent the morning anchored near the Vernadsky Research Station, a Ukranian research base near the bottom of the Lemaire Channel among the Argentine Islands. These waters are still choked with ice and the surrounding mountains covered with snow. A very picturesque locale.

We dove in the waters near the station and it was a great dive. The bottom drops off in an almost sheer vertical wall of rocks and boulders. We swam along, reaching a depth of 48 feet and photographed a multitude of creatures here (starfish, sea anemones, Sea Lice, Limpets and Tunicates). This was the best dive yet on this expedition.

Afterwards, we toured the research station. We learned that this was formerly a British station before being turned over to the Ukraine and it was the site where the Ozone Hole was first discovered. Today, it is manned year round and it conducts meteorological and other physical science studies.

As we dove and visited the Vernadsky Research Station, others in the climbing group motored to the shores near Cape Tuxen and successfully climbed Mt. Demaria. Tuxen, Cape 6516'S, 06408'W Waddington Bay (Mt. Demaria)

Ship's Position & Weather Conditions
Position: 08:28 pm / 2028 hours (22 February 2005)
Latitude: 64 60' S
Longitude: 63 47' W
Speed: 7.9 knots / 8 mph
Course: 43 
Barometer: 980 mb / 28.94 inches - falling
Wind Chill: -7C / 18F
Wind: 35 knots / 40 mph from the NE
Air Temp: 1C / 33.8F

2/22/05 8:47 pm (2047 hours)

Latitude: 65.13.962 S
Longitude: 64.08.680 W

This afternoon was spent in the Yalour Islands, visiting an Adelie Penguin rookery. This was a bit of a wildlife bonanza – we photographed the penguins along with Skuas, Terns, Blue-Eyed Shags and Kelp Gulls on the island. In addition, we cruised around the pack ice on the way back to the boat and met with several Crabeater Seals and one very large Leopard Seal. This one looked as if it had just made a kill (there were remains of some kind of prey on the ice flow the seal was reposing on). Also, she was quite odorous – we could smell the animal quite sharply as we approached.

The sky is cloudy today and very cold. After pulling anchor, we traveled up the Lemaire Channel and enjoyed an impromptu barbeque on the stern deck – what a great place to have a meal! And it started to snow; just a perfect ending to a very good, but physically tiring, day.


Day 11: Wednesday, 23 February 2005
Port Lockroy & Neko Harbor

Russian for the day:
DOBRAYE UTRA (Good Morning)

2/23/05 6:53 pm (1853 hours)

Today was another fine day in Antarctica. It started out at Port Lockroy (64.49.389S, 63.31.851 W) with a dive and a visit to the station there. The dive was an excellent dive, with lots of marine life including Brittle Stars, Sea Stars, Nudibranchs, Sea Spiders, Shrimp, Shellfish and even a very large Jellyfish.

The visit to Port Lockroy was interesting – lots of Gentoo Penguins and even opportunities to send postcards home. We took a quick ride to a different island which we believe to be Billis Island to see the skeleton of a Bowhead Whale, the bleached bones a lonely testament to the carnage that occurred here in the past.

The weather is cloudy today – with occasional light snow but little to no wind. It is an extremely tranquil and still day in Antarctica.

Tonight, we visited another Gentoo Penguin rookery at Nekko Harbor. With towering glacier faces surrounding a protected bay, this is a very picturesque place. However, with low overcast and moderate snowfall, the impact on us was reduced. Still, we were treated to a breaching Humpback Whale as we approached the harbor. We also saw several frisky Fur Seals play fighting on the beach – all while surrounded by Gentoo Penguins and chicks. In the hills above, Skuas circled, always on the hunt for a vulnerable chick. Swimming just offshore, back and forth, was a Leopard Seal, also looking for a meal. Indeed, several penguin carcasses littered the beach. It’s a dangerous world for penguin chicks!

The loud “booms” of cracking ice could be heard reverberating from the glaciers across the bay and occasionally, small bits of ice would break off into the water with a splash. Nothing too dramatic, however. The ice is always moving – its as if it is alive. 

There is one full day left in Antarctica on this expedition before we set back across the Drake. Our bodies are tired and full of aches. There is a longing for home and all of its creature comforts. There is a yearing to see loved ones again. But there is also a growing sense of sadness that we will shortly be leaving this place. The winter is approaching and soon the animals of Antarctica will be hunkering down for the violent weather. Only our imagination will take us there.

Ship's Position & Weather Conditions
Position: 08:35 pm / 2035 hours (23 February 2005)
Latitude: 64 38' S
Longitude: 62 36' W
Speed: 12.4 knots / 14 mph
Course: 1 
Barometer: 980 mb / 28.94 inches - steady
Wind Chill: -7C / 22F
Wind: 25 knots / 29 mph from the N
Air Temp: 2C / 35.6F

2/23/05 10:00 pm  (2200 hours)

We are crusing north through the Gerlache Straight. We are headed towards Deception Island. We have left the pack ice finally for open water again and we are escorted by Minke Whales, Humpback Whales and, amazingly, a trio of Orca. We caught a fabulous glimpse of a Minke just off the port side of the ship – we could see the head and the entire body just under the surface of the clear water. The Humpbacks treated us to some bubble blowing and the Orcas were playing behind the ship. We are both physically exhausted but very excited about landing on Deception Island tomorrow.


Day 12: Thursday, 24 February 2005
Deception Island -
Deception Island Information

Russian for the day:
MENYA ZAVOOT (My name is...)

2/24/05 08:10 am

Latitude: 62.55.727 S
Longitude: 60.40.300 W

We have arrived at Deception Island. It is a dormant volcano and we are anchored in the protected bay of the caldera. This is really much like a lunar landscape capped with snow – just barren, dark brown volcanic rock. When this thing blew it must have been quite an explosion!

The plan is to make a landing at a Chinstrap Penguin rookery, which is the largest in the world. Later, we will try to dive inside the caldera.

2/24/05 2:17 pm (1417 hours)

What a terrific morning! We landed on Deception Island and photographed an enormous Chinstrap Penguin rookery, Southern Elephant Seals, Fur Seals and Skuas.

We concluded our visit to Deception with a SCUBA dive into the caldera. Unfortunately, these's not much to say about the dive except to record in your log book that you made a dive inside a restless volcano!! We made the icy plunge at a location called Stancomb Cove in Telefon Bay, a small protected anchorage used by visiting yachts. The cove was formed as the result of volcanic eruptions on the island between December 1967 and August 1970. After being surveyed by the HMS Endurance in January 1988, this feature was named after the boat Stancomb-Wills used in the survey.

Henrik Lovendahl, our dive guide for this expedition carefully maneuvered the zodiac over an area known for having a deep underwater drop off. It was here that we decided to gear up and begin our dive. As we made our way down, the terrain had a sharp slope and was made-up of tiny brownish-tan lava type stones with some unknown algae growth scattered about. The visibility was fair as long as you took care and did not disturb the bottom. Doing so would send a monstrous cloud of slit into the water column. Within seconds, a total white-out condition was created, which could last for hours.

Amphipods in Stancomb Cove (Deception Island)Diving beneath the icy waters of Deception Island was like entering an alien environment almost devoid of large marine life. Indeed, the most dominant species seemed to be millions of tiny Amphipods (pictured-right) and Probiscus worms.

Soon it was time to leave, and like our arrival the departure from Deception Island was no walk in the park. Our zodiac driver had to once again skillfully traverse through rough surf in order to make it safely ashore. Many of the boats leaving the beach were almost swamped, including ours. All I can say is "our departure was an exhilarating way to end our amazing adventure".

Air Temp: 37.4F (3C)
Depth: 49ft (14.9m)
Water Temperature: 28.6F (-1C)
Location: 6256'S, 6041'W

2/24/05 7:16 pm (1916 hours)

The journey home begins. We lifted anchor at Deception Island at 7pm for the crossing back to Ushuaia.

Today was a outstanding final day of the voyage. The morning landing at the Chinstrap rookery was awe-inspiring. The sheer numbers of penguins there was astounding. In addition, the variety of wildlife was stunning. The raw element of nature was evident there as well. As beautiful as the scenery and wildlife was, we also witnessed Skuas mercilessly preying on penguin chicks. This is always so difficult to watch but it is an essential part of nature’s grand plan and one must, despite all instinct, avoid interfering.

The zodiac launch back to the boat was adventurous with a high surf on the beach and our zodiac took a cresting wave full force, submerging all of us briefly in the frigid Antarctic waters!

This afternoon was spent diving and exploring an abandoned whaling station. The dive was in the caldera of the volcano and was not memorable – no visibility to speak of, virtually no marine life save for millions of tiny Amphipods and a few Probiscus worms.

The whaling station is an interesting artifact of the past human presence on Deception Island – and a testament to nature’s awesome power. It is abandoned due to volcanic eruptions that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s.

We have left Deception Island under a dense fog for the journey home. As we left, a pair of Antarctic Fur Seals were cavorting in the water’s of Neptune’s Bellows, along with dozens of Cape Petrals. It is always with a touch of sadness that we close any expedition, especially one so special as this. However, we feel physically spent and we are both looking forward to being home.

Ship's Position & Weather Conditions
Position: 08:45 pm / 2045 hours (24 February 2005)
Latitude: 62 48' S
Longitude: 61 09' W
Speed: 13.4 knots / 15 mph
Course: 294 
Barometer: 981 mb / 28.97 inches - steady
Wind Chill: -1C / 29F
Wind: 10 knots / 12 mph from the NW
Air Temp: 3C / 37.4F

Related Information
Deception Island Information
Deception Island Management Group
Current Management Package (pdf)


Day 13: Friday, 25 February 2005
Drake Passage

Russian for the day:

2/25/05 09:33 am

Overnight, we entered the Drake Passage and this morning finds us cruising in the Southern Ocean. Thankfully, thus far the Drake has been kind to us; the seas are about 6-8 feet with a long swell. The air is cold with a low grey overcast and some rain is falling. A lone Black-Bellied Storm Petral flew by the ship moments ago. There is nothing much else to be seen at the moment.

2/25/05 1:58 pm (1358 hours)

Latitude: 59.41.94 S
Longitude: 64.17.870 W

Well, the relatively smooth time in the Drake is over. The waves have dramatically risen on a stiff wind. Streaks of white foam are racing across the deep blue waters. The waves are beginning to swell to 12 feet or more and the boat is rolling significantly. Earlier, we noticed this change when we seemed to travel through a thick fog. That’s when the wind began to pick up, but we have yet to cross the Antarctic Convergence.

On a different note, we are spotting more sea birds, including an Antarctic Prion, and a very large Wandering Albatross.

2/25/05 6:40 pm (1840 hours)

Well, we are really in it now. Although it is sunny and clear outside, the wind is howling and the boat is being buffeted by 20 foot seas. White caps are everywhere along with foam and foamy streaks across the water. The ship is rolling severely. It is eerily quiet inside as most people have retreated to their bunks to try to cope with the conditions in solitude. Occasional clouds of water spray up over the bow as the boat tears into the waves. There is a Black-Browed Albatross off the port side. We are just now crossing the Antarctic Convergence. Instead of abating, the seas continue to build. Every so often, the ship will shudder as the propellers attempt to bite into the turbulent water. Hopefully, as we get further north, the conditions will improve.

Ship's Position & Weather Conditions
Position: 08:55 pm / 2055 hours (25 February 2005)
Latitude: 58 20' S
Longitude: 65 25' W
Speed: 13.1 knots / 15 mph
Course: 336 
Barometer: 982 mb / 29.00 inches - steady
Wind Chill: -1C / 28F
Wind: 20 knots / 23 mph from the NW
Air Temp: 4C / 39.2F


Day 14: Saturday, 26 February 2005
Cape Horn & Beagle Channel

Russian for the day:
PAKA (See you later)

2/26/05 09:41 am

Latitude: 56.07.994 S
Longitude: 67.03.153 W

We awoke this morning to a chaotic sea as we begin our approach to Cape Horn. Outside, the wind is roaring and the ocean is in a confused state – 20 foot swells coming in one direction and wind driven waves from another. The ship continues to roll mercilessly. A few lone seabirds can be seen – a Wilson’s Storm Petral, a few Wandering Albatross and a few Black-Browed Albatross. It is amazing to see them amongst the waves – they are so at home out here as they glide effortlessly in and out of the huge swells.

At 9:15 am, the first sighting of Cape Horn in the distance was announced - a tiny speck of black land on the distant horizon. It has subsequently disappeared in the mist of yet another oncoming squall.

2/26/05 12:46 pm

We are heading north to the entrance of the Beagle Channel having briefly passed Cape Horn from quite a distance. In an unfortunate development, the government of Chile now strictly controls access to the proximity of Cape Horn and passing vessels are not permitted to get very close without payment. A centuries old tradition of "Rounding the Horn", which we were able to do in 2003, is now controlled by the Chilean authorities and, as a result, we were unable to pass very close on this trip.

The water remains rough but not quite as high as before. This morning we passed through several squalls. Each brought wind and sheets of rain. The wind was clocked at one point at 90 knots – roughly equivalent to 110 MPH (Hurricane Force 3). The sea is nasty today, that’s for sure.

It is a force 12 sea!!

We should be approaching land soon. All told, we will have covered roughly 1900 nautical miles – quite an extraordinary journey.

2/26/05 4:45 pm (1645 hours)

The Polar Pioneer has dropped anchor at the entrance of the Beagle Channel. We have arrived ahead of schedule and must wait here until 2 am for a pilot to board the ship and take us the rest of the way to Ushuaia. It was a ferocious storm at the northern fringes of the passage marked by high seas, terrible winds, biting cold and severe rolling of the ship. Now, however, the sun has come out, the seas are flatter and, to help welcome us back, a pod of Hourglass Dolphin were spotted alongside the starboard side of the ship. The voyage is effectively over. It is with a huge sense of relief to be out of the maelstrom of the Southern Ocean and into calmer water. It is time to go home.


Day 15: Sunday, 27 February 2005
Final Day in Ushuaia

2/27/05 9:21 pm (2121 hours)

We have spent the day on land in Ushuaia, after departing the Polar Pioneer early this morning in a rainstorm. After settling in to the hotel, we wandered the shops of Ushuaia, caught up on email from home at an internet caf, enjoyed lunch and wandered down to the dock to greet the arriving passengers for the next voyage to Antarctica and to bid the ship farewell as it departed around 5:30pm. Our journey is over and, as we get ready for the flights home, our thoughts are with those whose adventure is just beginning.

Antarctica 2005 Group (Hi-Resolution)


Day 16: Monday, 28 February 2005
The Journey Home

2/28/05 11:25 pm (2325 hours)

Aboard our flight from Buenos Aires to Dallas, Texas to then meet our connection to New York, it is time to briefly reflect on the expedition just completed. 

In February, 2003 we journeyed south to Antarctica and fulfilled lifelong dreams to see the most remote of places on earth and to dive in her icy waters. Upon our return then, we published a number of magazine articles on our experiences, put together a presentation on this place and spoke to various audiences, including several prestigious dive conferences, about our experiences. It had seemed that we had accomplished what we had set out to do.

Antarctica, however, had infiltrated our souls and its siren call beckoned us to return, to re-connect with this pristine wilderness and to seek out more adventure. In short order, we had arranged our return.Antarctica 2005 - Crew

This expedition was a great success. We were blessed with several days of brilliant sunshine – which we did not experience in 2003. The Antarctic reveals her true beauty under the golden rays of the sun. Pack ice, much more prevalent this year, added to the ambiance of the polar wilderness. We were able to observe and photograph wildlife unseen in 2003’s expedition. Specifically, the Crabeater and Elephant Seals were among our most prized encounters. We journeyed to mysterious and desolate Deception Island and even managed to dive inside the dormant volcano’s caldera. And, finally, we journeyed south below the Antarctic Circle, an accomplishment few visitors to Antarctica can list.

We remain convinced that the polar regions are best experienced "in the wild", with all the beauty and danger that accompanies this. Our expedition leaders, the Russian crew of the boat, and our new found friends aboard Polar Pioneer all combined to enable a most successful and enjoyable expedition.

Antarctica is the kingdom of ice. A plethora of wildlife survives, and thrives there, superbly suited for the harshest of climates on the planet. Our deepest hope is that it remains so. It is very susceptible to human damage – we hope that tourism will be controlled and managed and that the wildlife always be given priority in any plan for the future. As fearsome as the Drake Passage may be, with its mountainous seas and ferocious storms, it serves as a natural barrier to large scale exploitation. We can only hope that this continues to be the case. In a future day, should our fears come to pass, flights to and from Antarctica, hotels on the peninsula and an ever growing throng of tourists will herald the onset of major destructive changes to this most wonderful place.

There is a sublime beauty in the ice of Antarctica. There is a serene calmness in a sleeping Weddell Seal. There is humor in a marching parade of Chinstrap Penguins. There is terror in the attack of a Skua from above. There is grace in the endless glide of a Wandering Albatross above the waves. There is dread in the Drake Passage. But, above all, there is extreme danger that is brought by Human Beings. We hope that enlightenment will over-rule this danger and forever keep it at bay in Antarctica.

Climbers and Photographers Voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula - February 2005
The following Trip Log is available online, Courtesy of Aurora Expeditions and is a PDF copy of the actual passenger trip log created from the 16 February – 27 February 2005 voyage aboard the Polar Pioneer.

Print Log  Antarctica Log - February 2005 - 2.9 MB ( pdf help )

For more information:


Russian Phrases

Some phrases listed below have audio tracks, click on the "English" phrase to listen to it in Russian. ( English to Russian Phonetic Index Online Talking Dictionary )

Hello Good Morning Good Night Yes No Thank You Ten Nine Eight Seven Three Two One Four Five Six You are Welcome Russian Phases

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