Jan 20th, 2017: Point Portal and Wilhemina Bay, ANTARCTICA
We're FINALLY HERE: Point Portal
THE STEPPING STONE TO ANTARCTICA
Surrounded by the 2,000 meter-high “Forbidden Plateau”, icefalls and glaciers descend from the plateau to the sea, making for stunning scenery and fascinating ice sculptures. It’s like Alice in Wonderland, without Alice... There are really no words – or pictures -- or videos, that can portray the feelings we have when taking in so much beauty and grandeur, no matter which direction you turn. You want to capture every image and every moment, on film, but as soon as you take one shot of a spectacular ice sculpture or an iceberg or glacier, or ice and snow simply accumulated on land, another amazing one around the next corner forces you to take another picture, better than the last, and another, and another, and another... To me, I can only boil it down to ...... "OTHER-WORLDLY"
Kayaking again today... on the water by 8:00am... this time amongst many, many ENORMOUS icebergs that are not only stunningly beautiful and gigantic, but also very dynamic... While we were paddling around these bergs, many of them are changing their position, melting and calving off pieces above and below water, to become many smaller icebergs and that results in large explosions (like breaking glass, only 1000 times louder) when this happens. The reverberations of these explosive events fills this bay with a surprising jolt, but its sometimes hard to tell how far or close they are because of the echoes that seem to bounce off all the other bergs in the bay. We were also surprised when one large one near us started to roll over, coming our way. Since about 9/10 of the iceberg is underwater, you better be far away when one rolls over, or risk getting swamped, or rolled over yourself! Luckily it rolled back the other way, then swayed back and forth several more times... Here are some feeble attempts to show the raw beauty of this Wonderland... SO SORRY, I couldn't help myself with the number of pictures - there were simply too many to keep all to myself - HAD TO SHARE!
Got out of the kayaks, into the Zodiacs and zoomed back to the mother ship to change out of kayaking gear and into land-based clothes. Quickly... Quickly...Then to shore... for a long-awaited thrill...
WE MADE IT!!! Finally touched the solid ground of the ANTARCTIC CONTINENT! Both Tom and Roger's official 7th Continent to visit! And we remain thrilled that we got a chance to see this magnificent world before it melts away from Climate Change... (see discussion below)...
We hiked a short distance up a hill that gave us a spectacular view of the entire bay with all sizes
of floating ice -- from just a few inches, to towering icebergs the size of houses or warehouses (see below)... And it left us in awe of the vast plateau of the rest of the Continent beyond.... Almost bumped into a Weddell seal sleeping on the ice right next to the trail.... oooppppssss...
CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE ANTARCTIC:
Icebergs can be even larger than the ones we are seeing here..... MONSTROUSLY LARGE, with some as large as 36 km long. They will often last 5-10 years, breaking up into numerous smaller pieces, and melting into the ocean, eventually adding to Sea Level Rise. There are ENORMOUS ice sheets, ice shelves and icebergs that are breaking off of Antarctica and now melting more rapidly. An enormous portion of the Larsen Ice Shelf, "next door" in the Weddell Sea, is about to lose a huge section of its mass.
This year, a growing crack in a portion of the ice shelf called Larsen C is poised to free an iceberg the size of DELAWARE(!) from the continent. Ice shelves are floating mattresses of ice that form from the outflow of the glaciers that creep slowly across the Antarctic continent. The Larsen Ice Shelf is on the northeast coast of the Antarctic Peninsula along the Weddell Sea. It was named for the Norwegian explorer Carl Anton Larsen, who explored parts of it in 1893 by ship and by ski.
Since 1995, the Larsen Ice Shelf has lost 75 percent of its mass, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). In 1995, a 579-square-mile (1,500 square kilometers) chunk of Larsen A broke off from the ice shelf, according to NASA's Earth Observatory. In 2002, an even larger portion of Larsen B — 1,255 square miles (3,250 square km) crumbled away. While calving events are normal, collapses of this magnitude have only been seen in the last 30 years, according to the NSIDC. The collapse of floating ice doesn't raise sea levels, but a 2004 study
by NSIDC researchers found that in the wake of Larsen B's 2002 collapse, the land-based glaciers that feed the ice sheet have accelerated their flow downward toward the sea. This speedy flow of ice DOES have the ability to raise sea levels.
After lunch our mother ship changed location to Wilhemina Bay. On our trip we passed even more incredibly spectacular frozen landscapes, massive glaciers, and floating bergs, some with seals on them or some of them amazing in their own right, with weird shapes, knobs, cracks, and many with deep azure blue color both above and below the water line. After lunch, back to the Zodiacs to cruise this bay, seeing Weddell seals, Crabeater seas, Shags, Wilson’s petrels, and Gentoo penguins ... then our outboard motor gave out, so they had to call for a replacement.. We were dropped on some floating sea ice with a Crabeater seal on one side and a Leopard seal on the other (hmmmm) until we got a different Zodiac and finished cruising the bay. (No animals or humans were harmed during this operation!)
• The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-17):
Refreshing your memory... we last left Shackleton and two of his crew, Crean and Worsley, attempting to climb over the mountain to reach a whaling station on the north side of the island. Here's the map again:
On May 15th Shackleton, Crean and Worsley set out to cross the mountains and reach the whaling station; they crossed glaciers, icy slopes and snow fields. At a height of about 4,500 feet, they looked back and saw the fog closing up behind them. Night was falling and with no tent or sleeping bags, they had to descend to a lower altitude. They slid down a snowy slope in a matter of minutes losing around 900 feet in the process. They had a hot meal with two of them sheltering the cooker from the wind. Darkness fell and they carried on walking, soon a full moon appeared lighting their way. They climbed again and ate another hot meal to renew their energy. They were soon able to make out an island in the distance that they recognized, but realized that they had taken the wrong direction and had to retrace their steps. At 5 a.m. they sat down exhausted in the lee of a large rock wrapping their arms around each other to keep warm. Worsley and Crean fell asleep, but Shackleton realized that if they all did so, they may never wake again. He woke them five minutes later and told them they had been asleep for half an hour, once again they set off. There was now but one ridge of jagged peaks between them and Stromness, they found a gap and went through. At 6.30 a.m. Shackleton was standing on a ridge he had climbed to get a better look at the land below, he thought he heard the sound of a steam whistle calling the men of the whaling station from their beds. He went back to Worsley and Crean and told them to watch for 7 o'clock as this would be when the whalers were called to work. Sure enough, the whistle sounded right on time, the three men must have never heard a more welcome sound.The three walked downwards to 2,000 feet above sea level. They came across a gradient of steep ice, two hours later, they had cut steps and roped down another 500 feet, a slide down a slippery slope placed them at 1500 feet above sea level on a plateau. They still had some distance to go before they reached the whaling station. The going was still less than easy and they had some climbing still to do to negotiate ridges between them and their goal.
"Boys, this snow-slope seems to end in a precipice, but perhaps there is no precipice. If we don't go down we shall have to make a detour of at least five miles before we reach level going. What shall it be?"
"Try the slope" was the response...
At 1:30 p.m. they climbed the final ridge and saw a small whaling boat entering the bay 2,500 feet below. They hurried forward and spotted a sailing ship lying at a wharf. Tiny figures could be seen wandering about and then the whaling factory was sighted. The men paused, shook hands and congratulated each other on accomplishing their heroic journey. The only possible way down seemed to be along a stream flowing to the sea below. They went down through the icy water, wet to their waist, shivering cold and tired. Then they heard the unwelcome sound of a waterfall. The stream went over a 30 foot fall with impassable ice-cliffs on both sides. They were too tired to look for another way down so they agreed the only way down was through the waterfall itself. They fastened their rope around a rock and slowly lowered Crean, the heaviest, into the waterfall. He completely disappeared and came out the bottom gasping for air. Shackleton went next and Worsley, the most nimble member of the party, went last. They had dropped the logbook, adze and cooker before going over the edge and once on solid ground, the items were retrieved, the only items brought out of the Antarctic.The whaling station, was now just a mile and a half away. They tried to smarten themselves up a little bit before entering the station, but their beards were long, their hair was matted, their clothes, tattered and stained as they hadn't been washed in nearly a year. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon of May 20th 1916, they walked into the outskirts of Stromness whaling station, as they approached the station, two small boys met them. Shackleton asked them where the manager's house was and they didn't answer, they just turned and ran from them as fast as they could. They came to the wharf where the man in charge was asked if the manager was in the house.
He came out to the door and said,
"Don't you know me?" I said.
"I know your voice," he replied doubtfully. "You're the mate of the Daisy." (the Daisy was the last
of the American open boat whalers, it had visited South Georgia in 1913)
"My name is Shackleton," I said.
Immediately he put out his hand and said,
"Come in. Come in."
Note: The next successful overland crossing of South Georgia was in October 1955, by the British explorer Duncan Carse, who traveled much of the same route as Shackleton's party. In tribute to their achievement, he wrote: "I do not know how they did it, except that they had to — three men of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration with 50 feet of rope between them — and a carpenter's adze.
"They washed, shaved, ate and slept. Worsley boarded a whaler and went to rescue the three left on the other side of South Georgia at King Haakon Bay sheltering under the upturned James Caird. During this rescue a storm blew up that, had it come the day previously, could have spelled disaster for the three men crossing to Stromness and consequently the whole of the crew, those on the wrong side of South Georgia and all those on Elephant Island. Shackleton remained at Stromness and prepared plans for the rescue of the men on Elephant Island. Shackleton, Worsley and Crean left on the British whale catcher Southern Sky that had been laid up for the winter.
On the 23rd of May they were bound for Elephant Island hoping to rescue the 22 left there.
---> SO..... What happened to the men on Elephant Island ???
---> And what ever happened to the Aurora.... the other ship on this Antarctic Expedition that would meet them on the other side of the continent ???
I think you've heard this before...
JAN 20: ANTARCTIC PENINSULA !
Friday, January 20, 2017
ANTARCTIC PENINSULA: Portal Point, Antarctica