Sunday, January 22, 2012

An Outing on the Southern Ocean

Going to the Antarctic was not something that I had ever really thought about doing. I don't know why. I wasn't so excited before we went but I did know that when we got there I would love it and that is exactly what happened. Sadly we didn't make it to the Antarctic Continent as it was an extremely unusual year with the ice not melting and we just couldn't get through. However we were in the Antarctic and got to within 180miles of Commonwealth Bay.

7th December was the big day when it was finally decided that we would actually get off the ship into the Zodiacs and cruise around the ocean and in amongst the ice. We were in expedition mode (as they affectionately called it). After breakfast we rugged up which is a major exercise in itself. We wore several layers to keep ourselves warm against the cold. First we had on long thermal underwear with a T shirt over the top, next came our warm wind proof pants and jacket, after that went on our waterproof pants and down jacket and then our big outer Red Jacket given to us by Orion Cruises. Underneath our boots we had 2 pair of extremely warm socks, gloves with inner gloves to keep our fingers warm and a hat on our head to keep the heat in. was a lot of clothing to put on. We needed it.

Everyone was excitedly waiting at the stern of the ship for their turn to get onto the water.

Before we were able to get out on the ocean we had to wait while the crew first went out and checked the suitability of the conditions.

We watched patiently while other groups went out. The zodiacs hold about 10 passengers, a driver and one of the expedition leaders.

Getting onto the zodiacs was a very ordered process. You had to wait until told to move forward and then using the zodiac grip (clasping wrists) you were loaded onto the boat. Extreme caution was used as the boat was moving up and down so you had to wait and step on at just the right time.

Finally it was our turn and slowly we moved away from the ship. Nice to get a couple of shots of MV Orion from the water.

It was very cold and I was really appreciative of all the layers that we had on.

Our driver.......

Even though it was cold, the view made it all worthwhile.

All too soon it was over and we headed back to the warmth of MV Orion.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Iceberg Dead Ahead........

Unlike the Titanic and fortunately for us, there was no iceberg dead ahead but on 6th December we saw our first iceberg. Wow what an absolutely amazing sight. So so Beautiful!!!! It looked like the Matterhorn.

It was pretty cold outside but not as cold as I thought that it would be. Just to prove that I was really there here I am looking at the iceberg.

Icebergs look so different from different angles. Each is unique and very beautiful. The word majestic comes to mind.

Icebergs drift around the Southern Ocean carried by the currents and blown by the winds.

Icebergs come in all different shapes and sizes. Like us each one is unique and just as beautiful as the other.

Icebergs are made of freshwater ice and not frozen sea ice. They form from the edge of glaciers when the glacier reaches the sea and either breaks off in pieces to form an iceberg, or in the case of an ice shelf, begin to float on the sea and then breaks off from the rest of the glacier as a large slab. Icebergs are made up of snow that has fallen over hundreds or even thousands of years.

No matter how many icebergs we saw on our trip their beauty never ceased to amaze me.

"The tip of the iceberg" - Everybody knows that most of an iceberg lies under the water, but most don't know that the amount beneath the surface varies from about 50% to 99%. The cause of the variation is largely in the amount of air that is trapped in the ice so affecting its bouyancy. An average iceberg will be about 80-90% beneath the surface.

The grandeur of the Antarctic is something to behold and I don't think that I will ever forget seeing my first iceberg and the many ones after it.

(Thanks to the Cool Antarctica Website for the information on icebergs.)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ice, Ice and more Ice.

At 4am on Tuesday, 6th December, 5 days after we left Hobart, we were woken with an announcement on the PA system. We had finally reached the pack ice. I got out of bed and this is the sight that greeted me. By now we were experiencing only a few hours of night time and even then it didn't really get dark. Can't believe these photos were taken around 4am.

Throughout the day we saw more and more ice. The larger chunks of ice are called bergy bits and there are other small bits of ice floating behind which is called brash ice. Bergy bits are ice that have come away from an iceberg. They look like mini icebergs.

These bergy bits were a taste of things to come and while we admired them overhead these birds were checking out the ship. I think that these are Antarctic Petrels.

It really was so exciting to finally see the ice and I couldn't wait to see our first iceberg. We wouldn't have long to wait.