It is about 4:00 AM and for those of you who know me well, I am not a morning person. I did get up early because of our latitude, – we could get some really interesting light at this time of day. I wasn’t disappointed (but I was tired).
We were sailing to Snow Hill Island and it was snowing quite hard outside. I went on deck and there was ice everywhere – what an amazing sight. And if you look at the above image, you will just barely see Snow Hill Island in the background.
Antarctica, to a photographer, is monochromatic in nature. It is as if Mother Nature painted the entire region black and white. For someone like me who loves black and white photography, I am in heaven here.
This is our first stop in Antarctica and in the Weddell Sea. Our original itinerary never had us coming here, but since the ice had broken up in the area, it had opened up some new opportunities for us.
Here is our map again – we are heading to landing site #18:
Snow Hill Island is quite a famous place. In the early 20th century, several Scandinavian
dudes explorers were stranded here until they were rescued a couple years later. And all of them lived in a tiny hut which you will see later. Yikes, what a harsh place to be stranded.
It is also home to the most northern Emperor Penguin colony in Antarctica. We were arriving too late in the season to see them as they had returned to sea after breeding. But who knows, we might just get lucky and see one 🙂
There were icebergs everywhere. I wasn’t sure how the captain and his crew were able to manoeuvre around so many of them, but I just put my faith in their ability to do so. They were an amazing bunch and we always felt safe on board.
Our expedition leader informed us that in the 80+ voyages he has made to Antarctica, he has never been able to land at Snow Hill Island. The sea is often frozen over and only accessible using the largest icebreakers (and even some of them get stuck in the ice coming here). If we are able to make the landing this morning, we will have accomplished something not many people get to do (and see).
We got the go ahead to land, and as you can see from the above image, we made it ashore – it is bitterly cold here. When you feel the bone chilling winds and see the ice all around, you definitely know that you are in Antarctica.
The hut you see below is where the stranded Scandinavian explorers lived (at least two years) before they were rescued. There is a monument near the hut and the passengers were able to go inside and see the interior. It must have been a miserable time being stranded here for these explorers as this is a really inhospitable environment.
A few passengers decided to hike up one of the hills… and most of us almost got blown off of the side of it. It was that windy. Now I understand why we wear these
butt ugly parkas – it is amazing how warm they are. I also appreciated wearing the extra layers and having warm gloves on too.
Once we reached the top of the hill, the view was worth the climb.
We *slowly* descended the hill and spent some time wandering around on the shore. There was a lot of ice and I am sure the water was equally cold. After we had some time inside the hut looking around, it was time to return to the ship. Just as well as most of us were feeling the effect of the cold weather – we were not used to it. Even the expedition staff were really bundled up:
As I mentioned earlier, Antarctica is really muted in colour and I just love it as I see the world in black and white. Here are a few images taken from the ship before leaving for our next landing site:
As we sailed away, I was amazed by how close to the icebergs we came. I was standing on the observation deck (top deck) and photographed the side of this iceberg, no more than 60m away. It was that big:
There were tabular icebergs everywhere. I knew on an intellectual level that icebergs were big, I just had no idea how large they really were. Some of them were several kilometres in length!
As we sail, I am in awe of our surroundings once again.
I am also in awe of the captain and his crew. There were times I was not sure how we would get around the icebergs or out of the ice floes, but they are extremely experienced and are taking us to some really amazing places – safely. I feel really fortunate to be on this voyage.
Our next stop is Devil Island … and it should be interesting getting there through all of this ice!
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