Discovering The Blue Continent

Jan 19th, 2011, 09:05 AM
  #41  
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Giovanna,

Funny, I lived in LA area for about 15 years and always wanted to do one of those whale watching cruise but never did. Guess I save a few bucks

We did get to see some whales on the trip without any "baiting" from the crew. Will have photos somewhere a long the line as I continue my posting.

Thanks for the feedback and following along.
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Jan 19th, 2011, 09:07 AM
  #42  
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CROSSING THE DRAKE PASSAGE

It seems as if we have found favor with the sea gods as the weather and sea conditions are quite nice for our introduction to the Drake Passage. Nothing more than a little roller coaster rocking and rolling under mostly clear blue skies.

I am content to take it all in and count my blessings.

Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aqz8EwJ2rwU
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Jan 19th, 2011, 09:16 AM
  #43  
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LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE BIRDS

One advantage of taking this trip with Quark Expedition compared to a normal cruise line is that we are actually on a scientific research vessel. On board there are numerous experts on various aspects on life in Antarctica and marine biology. This is a major benefit for us.

As a part of our expedition various lectures are offered on our free days at sea. This afternoon I have the good fortune to attend a presentation on Birds Of The Southern Oceans. It turns out to be an enjoyable learning experience as I become a quasi part of a scientific research team.

Our wildlife sightings become a part of the ship's daily sighting report and may be useful in some of the ongoing research on board the ship.

Offers from National Geographic cannot be too far behind.

Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-aoUHPEHc0
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Jan 25th, 2011, 03:55 PM
  #44  
 
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Following along and enjoying...can't wait for the next installment
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Jan 25th, 2011, 08:37 PM
  #45  
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LeslieS,

Thanks, hope you are patient. A work in progress that may take as long to complete as putting a man on Mars
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Jan 25th, 2011, 08:42 PM
  #46  
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TOURING AROUND THE OUTSIDE OF THE AKADEMIK IOFFE

I awake my first full day at sea and I am surprised how nice the weather conditions are. Wanting or foolishly sensing I am still in the tropics, I put on my flip flops and go for a stroll around the Ioffe. Making my way to the back of the ship I find my balance against six to eight foot waves as the Akademik Ioffe seem to maneuver them with ease.

At the rear of the ship one of the zodiacs we will probably be using later for our landings sits secure in place. Here, I can feel the ship pitching and rolling as we cross the Drake Passage.

Climbing one set of steps after another I get to explore the different deck levels of the ship. Some areas are open spaces while others are used as storage for kayaks and more zodiacs. On the upper decks a brisk wind is blowing and my glove-less hands are beginning to feel a bit numb. So much for the idea of the tropics.

Nonetheless, the weather is refreshing and the seas are relatively calm for what I expected crossing the Drake. I imagine the average temperatures will continue to fall as we head further south.

After living most of my life in the tropics, I am looking forward to experiencing some non tropical weather and saving my flip flops for Margaritaville.


Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnd34PxFqdo
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Jan 30th, 2011, 09:44 PM
  #47  
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A GHOST SHIP

It is just past midnight on Day-2 of my dream adventure and I am roaming the halls of what seems like a runaway ghost ship. All the other passengers are apparently tucked away in their beds, probably with thoughts of sugar plums and penguins dancing in their heads.

Being the “night owl” that I am, I use the opportunity to explore a bit more of the Ioffe. I discover a library on one floor and also the way to access the bridge without having to go outside. Visiting the bridge I find there are at least two other night owls on board the Ioffe. They are doing a fine job navigating across the Drake Passage towards Antarctica.

At the reception desk on the third floor, I enter my guess for the Ice Berg Competition. We are asked to guess what time we think the first iceberg will be spotted. With my purely non scientific “roll the ice”, 5:25pm calculation now recorded, I head over to the posted navigation chart to check our progress southbound. We are in the middle of the Drake Passage.

Near the navigation chart there is also other interesting information about Antarctica and the Akademik Ioffe. Did you know there is no sun for 182 days during the Antarctic winter?

Fortunately for us, winter is over in the southern hemisphere. We are still far enough north that our days and nights are somewhat normal. However, we will soon have the benefit of longer days as we head further south.

Looking through a nearby door port hole, I stare at pitch blackness. I step outside and I am greeted by a brisk bone chilling wind combined with light falling snow. There goes my chance to enjoy a star filled night over the southern oceans. Instead, it's a nice long warm shower and before long sugar plums and penguins are also dancing in my head.

Pictures:
http://dmbtraveler195.blogspot.com/2...host-ship.html
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Feb 3rd, 2011, 04:19 AM
  #48  
 
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Worth the wait! Pictures and video on your blog are interesting too. So funny how you form an image of what a writer looks like and then the reality is way different!
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Feb 3rd, 2011, 04:34 AM
  #49  
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DAY 3, LUNCH AND GLOBAL WARMING


I awake on Day 3 with a sense that the temperature outside is falling which gives rise to my excitement inside. Taking my now customary walk outside, my suspicion is confirmed. This time no flip flops and just a brief visit outside.

After a late night or what some would consider an early morning of going to bed, I miss breakfast but I am up in time for lunch. For me, the dining on board has been decent and if you are not careful you can add on a few pounds just like on a regular cruise ship. Three full meals are served daily with two of them lunch and dinner offering deserts.

There is always soup, a pasta and/or vegetarian selection offered along with what seems to be a limited supply of bread (me like, bread … I'm the Bread Monster). Today for lunch the entree choices are Rainbow Trout, A Chicken Salad or Penne Pasta. I opt for the Chicken Salad which comes with a creamy but flavorful walnut apple dressing.

A part of our dining experience which I look forward to is the brief talks or demonstrations from members of the expedition staff. They are turning out to be a professional and fun group of individuals that genuinely seem concerned that we have a great experience.

Using rolls of toilet paper we get a good visual of the wing span of some of the birds we have seen so far. An albatross can have a wing span greater than six feet and that's just one ply!

After lunch I attend a presentation where I am expecting Al Gore to be present. Even with “Mr. Global Warming” himself absent it turns out to be an enjoyable discussion on global warming and it's effect on Antarctica.

I am impressed enough to think about reducing my own carbon footprint. Besides, I hate having soot on my feet so maybe cleaning up a bit is not so bad an idea.


Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qF7iohg1X-0
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Feb 3rd, 2011, 04:37 AM
  #50  
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LeslieS,

Should I get a pipe and a typewriter?
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Feb 3rd, 2011, 07:47 AM
  #51  
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CROSSING INTO THE ANTARCTIC PENNISULA

Stepping outside on our second full day at sea the weather has now become what I expect for crossing the southern oceans. Gone is the heat of a tropical sun replaced with the chill of a stiff breeze and overcast gray skies.

The seas are still relatively calm and the Ioffe continues to rock gently as it heads southbound. Sometime yesterday afternoon we officially crossed into the Antarctica Peninsula. This is determined by the ship's engineer sensing a difference in the ocean's water temperature.

As we are expecting to make landfall sometime tomorrow morning there are two mandatory briefings that we must attend. The first one a zodiac briefing, the second a bio briefing. The bio briefing covers rules for landing in Antarctica. We must be careful not to introduce any foreign biological substances onto the continent.

Our clothing and anything we expect to take on land should be inspected and vacuumed. This is part of a process to keep the continent, our largest natural wilderness area pristine.

All in favor, say aye!

Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwglQcTIEu4
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Feb 3rd, 2011, 08:37 PM
  #52  
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FINAL PREPARATIONS FOR FIRST LANDING


Our collective expedition excitement is building as we approach the afternoon of Day 3 on board the Ioffe. A Bio and Zodiac briefing completes part of the requirements for us to make our Antarctic landings the first of which should occur in less than 24 hours.

Following the Zodiac briefing, we all take turns heading to the “Mud Room” for our boot fitting. Interestingly, the “Mud Room” contains a huge sonar system and is the point around which the Akademik Ioffe was built.

During the Cold War the Americans believed the ship was used for military purposes as it's sonar system could be used for tracking submarines. The Russians claimed it was used for mapping the ocean floor which in essence could be very helpful in knowing where submarines could or could not navigate.

And all I came here for was to try on a pair of boots. I sure am glad the Cold War is over.

Not sure of all the words of the song but an attempted rendition of “These boots were made for walking” along with a few of the Expedition staff makes my boot fitting exercise a bit of fun.

The “Mud Room” is point where we will make our final preparations before going outside to join the zodiac queue. Part of our preparation is to turn our room tags on a “Tag Board” as we leave the “Mud Room” then to flip them when we get back. This has to be done individually so the crew can be sure that all passengers are accounted for especially after a landing is complete.

The last step before joining the queue is to rinse our booths, tripods or other landing equipment in a chemical solution that will minimize us taking any foreign biological substances onto the continent.

With our prep work done now it is time to be patient and hope we get to make our first landing soon. This will come at the mercy of the weather, the discretion of our Expedition Leader Lynn and with the blessing of the Captain if he thinks it is safe for us to do so.

Either way, my size 12 and a half boots are ready for walking.

Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYMZtdpzvSE
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Feb 3rd, 2011, 09:19 PM
  #53  
 
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Nancy Sinatra would be pleased! lol How exciting. Look forward to hearing about your first landing and the wonderful pictures you no doubt will take.
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Feb 4th, 2011, 10:21 AM
  #54  
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Giovanna,

Slowly getting there. Trying to keep postings in chronological order. Appreciate you hanging in there
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Feb 4th, 2011, 10:28 AM
  #55  
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IAATO BRIEFING

With our Zodiac and “Mud Room” briefings out of the way our final pre-landing briefing is given in the lower Presentation Room. This briefing covers bio-security and IAATO guidelines, the rules by which all tourism activities are governed in Antarctica.

As a part of the guidelines we are not allowed to take any food or biological substances onto the continent.

While it may be cool to see a penguin drinking a Diet Coke or eating a Snickers Bar, it could affect life here in a way that could be disastrous.

Just as important is the prevention of introducing foreign plant life (which has occurred on occasions) or leaving non-biodegradable materials like lens caps or plastic wrappers behind. Even tissues or other items that could easily blow away must be safeguarded.

Our guidance for encounters with wildlife requires that we keep a minimum of 15 feet away from them. In addition, the animals should always be given the right of way.

With all the legalese out of the way it's time to party, although I am afraid this party is going to suck!


Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jsTmCZTNPg
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Feb 4th, 2011, 10:49 AM
  #56  
 
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Haha, yes pipe, typewriter and tweed jacket while you're at it

That's great that they make such an effort to prevent contamination. I hope all ships share that protocol.

Just read about the MV Polar Star hitting a rock and having to turn back. Wow - between that and the massive wave in December I'd say you were lucky to have no problems and hopefully our trip next January won't either. I think these recent mishaps have upped the odds for us that we'll be fine!
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Feb 4th, 2011, 10:49 AM
  #57  
 
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Haha, yes pipe, typewriter and tweed jacket while you're at it

That's great that they make such an effort to prevent contamination. I hope all ships share that protocol.

Just read about the MV Polar Star hitting a rock and having to turn back. Wow - between that and the massive wave in December I'd say you were lucky to have no problems and hopefully our trip next January won't either. I think these recent mishaps have upped the odds for us that we'll be fine!
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Feb 4th, 2011, 08:09 PM
  #58  
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LeslieS,

Then I would be styling! Should I get the jacket with the patches on the elbows?

Which outfit did you chose for your trip? From what I learned on my trip they are not all the same. Navigating in that part of the world can be challenging and experience definitely counts!

Let's hope for great weather next January, no el nino, no la nina, no el wavos grandes
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Feb 4th, 2011, 08:13 PM
  #59  
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FIRST LAND SIGHTING

Around 4:30pm on Day 3 of sailing southbound from Ushuaia, I prove scientifically to myself that it is possible to get goose bumps on top of goose bumps even when the temperature is near freezing and you are wearing a parka.

I have just become my own modern day Christopher Columbus as I have just spotted land on the northern portion of the Antarctic Peninsula. I think I have the same sense of excitement as in1492 although I am nowhere close to dancing on the deck or jumping overboard to celebrate.

The islands in the distance do not seem as hospitable as my birth country was to Columbus but they still bring a feeling of euphoria. Even without the warmth of a tropical sun there is a beauty here that is spectacular.

After days of sailing we are now maybe just hours from setting foot on the continent where the coldest temperatures on the earth have been recorded.

Yes, the continent's welcoming can sometimes be “as cold as ice”, however, I think we have found the right time of the year for a visit.


Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHa5mh5r9YU
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Feb 4th, 2011, 08:34 PM
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Oh wow, I hadn't heard about the Polar Star!

A lot of those areas are incompletely charted. There have been enough ships going to these places for long enough that it's basically quite safe (I think), but there's certainly much more risk than cruising in more routine destinations.

Reading about the Polar Star -- the ship is double-hulled, and the outer hull was breached. No injuries, no leaks. The ship proceeded to a Polish research station (my ship did not go that station, but we visited another, and these are very isolated, desolate, spartan sorts of places), where divers inspected the hull. As an extra safety precaution (I'm guessing insurance reasons...) they've offloaded the passengers, who have been transfered to other ships for the return to Ushuaia, and the Polar Star will do the Drake with only the crew and expedition staff onboard.

Because there's a small number of ships/companies doing these trips, all these stories feel connected to me by some sort of cosmic coincidence. I had been scheduled to be on the Clelia II last year, but it hit a rock, and subsequent sailings for that season were cancelled. The Clelia II is the same ship that got damaged by the massive wave back in December. Because of the Clelia II rock accident, I got moved to the Akademik Ioffe, which is the ship DMBTraveler is on, but with a different operator, OneOcean. (OneOcean had it for that season, I think as a sublease from Quark, who usually operate it, and with whom DMBTraveler is going.) OneOcean is the operator of a different ship (the Marina Svetaeva), which is picking up the bulk of the Polar Star's passengers. I wish the best to the crew, staff, and passengers on that ship. Andrew Prossin (the leader at One Ocean) is a fantastic guy, and it's got to be tough to keep your own clients happy while you "do the right thing" to help out stranded passengers from another ship in trouble. According to their website, the Marina Svetaeva is only built for 89 passengers. I'm sure they weren't completely full, but taking on an extra 42 passengers, and probably modifying their itinerary, can't be fun.
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