JAN 15: En Route in the Scotia Sea

Sunday, January 15, 2017
Scotia Sea, Antarctica

Jan 15th, 2017: Altered Schedule - Extreme Weather In the Scotia Sea --

En Route to Elephant Island and the Antarctic Peninsula

• Conrad Field Lecture: Spineless Wonders

SEAS ARE UP! this morning with tons of rain, so we will not do any Zodiac trips, at least not in the first half of the day. Instead, we departed Drygalski Fjord and tried to make our way to the northern part of South Georgia because the winds are blowing 45-50 knots (51-57 mph) with gusts to 60+ knots (68+ mph) and with accompanying snow and freezing rain showers. Again we tried to travel up the eastern side because the winds are coming directly from the west and we can use the island itself as some level of protection from the wind. The fierce winds caused the ship to list about 5-10 degrees to starboard with everyone walking around at a slant., and sometimes lurching from one side to the other. Other than that... everything is quite comfortable inside the ship, especially because Roger and Tom are using Scopolamine transdermal patches to avoid sea sickness. The only ones struggling a bit are the dining room staff as they have to stand by and they were all lined up holding onto the racks of plates so that they wouldn't all come crashing down during breakfast.

So, with this change in plans, we are now headed southwest to Elephant Island, where Shackleton's men spent 4 months holed up in an insanely exposed environment...(you'll have to wait for that story till a bit later!). Our passage through the Scotia Sea was exciting and although the ship's hallways are straight, no one passes down them without crashing into the walls from one side to the other every few seconds, and it makes for interesting and funny encounters with shipmates (especially with the opposite sex) who are coming from the other direction! I'll leave the rest to your imagination!

The Cruise Director’s goal WAS to have people pile in Zodiacs to cruise along shore examining the geology and critters on the beach. Unfortunately, the winds have refused to cooperate and it is still gusting nearly 70 mph. Disappointing. Instead, as with other non-shore days, we had several presentations/lectures by the experienced staff about a wide variety of biological, geological and historical topics. In addition, many of us attempted, and some were successful, to go up on deck to watch for sea birds and whales. After just a half hour on deck, it got a bit sloppy, wet and cold, so most of those who tried, eventually came inside relatively soon...


• Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-17):

January 19th, 1915: UGH...after little more than a month into the expedition (see the map), Endurance was having a very difficult time moving through the pack ice. Try as they may to cut a path through the ice floes on several consecutive days, this turned out to be a fruitless exercise. Clearly, the Endurance was already beset in pack ice within sight of Shackleton’s goal to reach the Antarctic mainland (Vahsel Bay) and begin his trek across the Antarctic continent. At this point, the Endurance was transformed from a sailing ship into winter living quarters. Shackleton had hoped that once the pack ice broke up, it would release the ship from its grip. BUT, no such luck.... Below are a few outtakes of what Shackleton was experiencing as his ship became beset for 8 months in pack ice... being carried along by the currents...


A series of commemorative stamps were issued by the British government to honor Shackleton's heroic accomplishments with the Endurance expedition. Here is one of several that were minted for various stages of the Expedition. Look back to the beginning of their cruise to see the stamp produced at the launch of their Expedition at Grytviken, South Georgia Island. The one above documents the time when the Endurance became beset in pack ice.

Stay tuned...

OR.... if you are DYING to know the WHOLE story, you might just start now on either of a couple of the best books about Shackleton's ENDURANCE Expedition:

• ENDURANCE: SHACKLETON'S INCREDIBLE VOYAGE, by Alfred Lansing. Avon Press, 1959 or any subsequent Edition.

• SOUTH: THE ENDURANCE EXPEDITION by Ernest Shackleton. Any version

Or, there's a nice illustrated version:
• SOUTH: THE ILLUSTRATED STORY OF SHACKLETON"S LAST EXPEDITION 1914-1927 by Ernest Henry Shackleton and Frank Hurley

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McClanahan, Pamela

A grand adventure and history lesson to boot! Thanks.

Pete Weiler

those guys had incredible grit!