Sun, Jan 22nd, 2017: Lemaire Channel, Peterman Island, & Paradise Bay, Antarctica
What a gorgeous bay we are in, with icebergs everywhere you look. Our intent was to go into Lemaire Channel, but it was mostly blocked with icebergs. In addition, there was another ship (we believe this was the National Geographic ship that was doing the Special on Climate Change we spoke about earlier) already in the channel and it looked like they were having a rough time, turning around in circles, going in further, then trying to back out again. So we abandoned that idea, but stayed in this embayment for some more fun and games...
WE DID IT !!! Today Paradise Bay is absolutely flat calm, sunny skies, and about 2 degrees C air temp. So… why don't we try the "POLAR PLUNGE" today? OK, let’s do that.. We had quite a few takers -- probably about 20-25 people (out of 170 guests) deciding to jump off the ship into the frigid Antarctic water! Its the ONLY way to say you have REALLY experienced the Antarctic! The staff fitted a harness around each person so that after they jumped, they could haul them back in, “dead or alive!”… just in case they froze in place! We jumped right off one of the Zodiac loading stations on the side of the mother ship. Everyone was in a great and funny mood (nervous laughter) and with great frivolity each person jumped into the 2 degree C water. Roger decided he wanted to take his OWN picture, so with his waterproof Nikon around his neck, he PLUNGED in and screamed his way into the DEEP! Not so bad actually, very invigorating…! I highly recommend it! After coming back on board, hot chocolate was provided, with whatever type of alcoholic addition you preferred. All in all, a really fun experience!
After lunch some of us went to visit one of the several Research stations in Paradise Bay, this one (ESTACION BROWN or BASE BROWN) named after Admiral William Brown, the "father" of the Argentine Navy. It is located on the Sanaviron Peninsula along Paradise Harbor on the Antarctic Peninsula. As of 2014 Base Brown is one of 13 research bases in Antarctica operated by Argentina. From 1951 to 1984 it served as a permanent base; since then it is open during the summer season only (are we humans just getting too soft with all our modern technology!?). This stop also included a steep climb up a snow covered slope to the top of a local hill, probably 400-500 ft high behind the station. Then quite a few of us glissaded down on our butts to the bottom, in remembrance of Shackleton's glissade to get down to the whaling station at Stromness Bay on South Georgia Island. Others went kayaking again, and others still took a Zodiac tour around this bay, dodging icebergs the entire time, which as previously mentioned, emitted explosive sounds, as portions of the glaciers and icebergs were breaking off into the sea. The sun provided enough light to penetrate far into the glaciers, which gave us incomparable peeks into the deep blue zones of the deepest, densest reaches of these Antarctic glaciers.
Roger REALLY liked this place.... so much so, that I think he will be applying to stay through next winter season here! He LOVED playing in the snow.... (little kid tendencies) and here he is glissading down the chute on the hillside... We had to DRAG HIM AWAY from this place! Oh, Tom also made it down the CHUTE (in one piece)!
THE DEEP BLUE ZONES OF ANTARCTIC GLACIERS....
As the sun was out, this is by far one of the most spectacular vistas we have visited yet…. Oh yeah, that’s what we said about each of the last few places we visited, wasn’t it.… oh well… That seems to be the M. O. for this cruise, one great experience after another, and more and more interesting and exciting views at every turn. Again, using words or photos, it is truly impossible to describe the breath-taking beauty and vastness of this Other-Worldly place. Just so much to take in… These places will be seared into our memory banks forever.
Our Zodiac and kayak jaunts today led us into some areas where we saw wonderful Leopard seals, and ran across several Orcas and Humpbacks today as well... From our ship, with the water quality being so clear, we could easily see the reflection of the Orcas' pectoral fins through the water (see below). Our Expedition Leader, Dan Olsen, is also working on his Masters Degree on Orca ecology and feeding groups in the Antarctic. He has been contributing to a program of Orca identificaton based on their dorsal fins. Below are some examples of two Orcas that were photographed at different times, in which you can see diagnostic notches in their dorsal fins that pretty clearly identify them as the same individual, no matter where they are observed.
For this last day on the Antarctic continent, the restaurant crew provided a fabulous buffet BBQ out on the back deck. The temperature had dropped significantly and the winds picked up, so it was pretty cold out on the deck, so most people were wearing their expedition parkas for dinner. The spread was enormous, with several choices of meats or vegetarian options.
• The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-17):
Hope. Progress. Crushing setback. Hope. Progress. Crushing setback.
This was Shackleton’s reality for a year and a half. Such a string of endless disappointments might have made a lesser man want to curl up and die. But not Shackleton. Although he had moments where the weight of the situation sat heavily upon his shoulders, he would always shake off the gloom and resiliently move forward once more; his manly spirit could not be defeated.
This was true from his first setback to his last. While the Endurance was trapped in ice, the ship’s captain, Frank Arthur Worsley, said of the man everyone called “The Boss: ”“Shackleton’s spirits were wonderfully irrepressible considering the heartbreaking reverses he has had to put up with and the frustration of all his hopes for this year at least. One would think he had never a care on his mind & he is the life & soul of half the skylarking and fooling in the ship.” No matter what befell him, Shackleton remained of good cheer and always found reasons to laugh. Even on the soul-crushing boat ride to South Georgia, Worsley remembered him laughing. And on the arduous 36 hour hike to the whaling stations, Shackleton could still earnestly say, “laughter was in our hearts.”
And here is the mark of a real leader: the worse things got, the more cool and collected Shackleton became. Worsley remembered that Shackleton could sometimes be irritable when the going was good and he could afford it, “but never when things were going badly and we were up against it. ”How did Shackleton maintain his resilience amidst trials that would have made other men crumble? He concentrated not on the things that couldn’t be altered and weren’t under his control, but on what he could do. After the Endurance sank, Worsley remembered that Shackleton was: “bitterly disappointed, as sorely grieved as I was myself, and he let me get a glimpse of his mind when he said, sadly, one day: “It looks as though we shan’t cross the Antarctic Continent after all.” He paused, and then squaring his shoulders, added cheerfully, 'It’s a pity, but that cannot be helped. It is the men that we have to think about.’” And for the rest of the journey, that is essentially all he focused on, finding his strength in a service and a cause greater than his own ambitions.
“Shackleton’s first thought was for the men under him. He didn’t care if he went without a shirt on his back so long as the men he was leading had sufficient clothing.” – Lionel Greenstreet, First Officer“ How he stood the incessant vigil was marvelous, but he is a wonderful man…He simply never spares himself if, by his individual toil, he can possibly benefit anyone else.” –Thomas Orde-Lees“
"Shackleton had a genius—it was neither more nor less than that—for keeping those about him in high spirits. We loved him. To me, he was a brother. The men felt the cold it is true; but he had inspired the kind of loyalty which prevented them from allowing themselves to get depressed over anything.” –FA Worsley. Equal in importance to Shackleton’s supreme resilience, was his care, almost obsession, for the well-being of his men. Shackleton was ever concerned about his men’s morale. He understood that idleness quickly begets depression, and so he kept the men as active as possible, sending them out for vigorous games of football and hockey while the Endurance was trapped in ice. This is also why he chose to attempt the marches across the ice once the ship sank, wisely observing that: “It would be, I considered, so much better for the men to feel that they were progressing—even if the progress was slow—towards land and safety, than simply to sit down and wait for the tardy north-westerly drift to take us from the cruel waste of ice.”
"On the way to South Georgia, he assured that the men got regular meals and drinks of hot milk every four hours; the routine gave the men stability and something to look forward to. Worsley wrote: “It was due solely to Shackleton’s care of the men in preparing these hot meals and drinks every four hours day and night, and his general watchfulness in everything concerning the men’s comfort, that no one died during the journey. Two of the party at least were very close to death. Indeed, it might be said that he kept a finger on each man’s pulse. Whenever he noticed that a man seemed extra cold and shivered, he would immediately order another hot drink of milk to be prepared and served to all. He never let the man know that it was on his account, lest he became nervous about himself, and while all participated, it was the coldest, naturally, who got the greatest advantage.
”He always thought of the needs of his men above his own, and he was always ready to sacrifice his own comfort for others. As Worsley put it, “It was his rule that any deprivation should be felt by himself before anybody else.”When they sailed to Elephant Island, the expedition’s photographer, Frank Hurley, lost his mittens, so Shackleton gave him his own; when Hurley protested, Shackleton threatened to throw them them overboard. Hurley accepted the mittens, and Shackleton’s fingers became frostbitten. Yet he never complained. When they made land in South Georgia, the men were too exhausted to pull the boat all the way in. Therefore Shackleton decided to let the men eat and rest before finishing the job. But the boat had to be watched to make sure it did not float away. Shackleton took the first watch, and let the men sleep; he then took the second watch as well, which had been assigned to Worsley, because he was so grateful for the “Skipper” having brought them safely ashore. When the men marched over the island, Shackleton was in thin leather ski boots because he had given his warm, specially-made expedition boots to another man.
Shackleton thought of himself as the father of the men, and believed it was his responsibility to get every man out alive. This was a great weight to bear upon his shoulders, but he bore it stoically. When the men landed on Elephant Island, Shackleton said to Worsley, “Thank God I haven’t killed one of my men!” Worsley replied, “We all know you have worked superhumanly to look after us.” To which Shackleton answered gruffly, “Superhuman effort…isn’t worth a damn unless it achieves results.” A leader who serves and loves his men as Shackleton did, makes a sacrifice that is not simply altruistic, for such actions have the effect of forging the deepest loyalty.
When Shackleton prepared to leave on the voyage to South Georgia, he gathered his men, men who had just been through hell, and told them that the journey would be fraught with danger and had only the slimmest chances of succeeding. And then he asked for those who were willing to accompany him to step forward. Worsley recalled the scene: “The moment he ceased speaking every man volunteered… On the island was still safety for some weeks. The boat journey promised even worse hardships than those through which we had but recently passed. Yet so strong was the men’s affection for Shackleton, so great was their loyalty to him, that they responded as though they had not undergone any of the experiences that so often destroy those sentiments. They were as eager to accompany him as they had been on the first of August, 1914, the day upon which we had sailed nearly two years before. It must have been a great moment for Shackleton. There was a long and pregnant pause before he replied, and then he said only three words: “Thank you men.” I remember thinking that this was one of the finest and most impressive utterances I had ever heard.”
THE FINAL EXPEDITION:
Shackleton returned to the lecture circuit and published his own account of the Endurance expedition, South, in December 1919. In 1920, tired of the lecture circuit, Shackleton began to consider the possibility of a last expedition. He thought seriously of going to the Beaufort Sea area of the Arctic, a largely unexplored region, and raised some interest in this idea from the Canadian government. With funds supplied by former schoolfriend John Quiller Rowett, he acquired a 125-ton Norwegian sealer, named Foca I which he renamed Quest. The plan changed; the destination became the Antarctic, and the project was defined by Shackleton as an "oceanographic and sub-antarctic expedition".The goals of the venture were imprecise, but a circumnavigation of the Antarctic continent and investigation of some "lost" sub-Antarctic islands, such as Tuanaki, were mentioned as objectives. Rowett agreed to finance the entire expedition, which became known as the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition. On 16 September 1921, Shackleton recorded a farewell address on a sound-on-film system created by Harry Grindell Matthews, who claimed it was the first "talking picture" ever made.
The expedition left England on 24 September 1921. Although some of his former crew members had not received all their pay from the Endurance expedition, many of them signed on with their former "Boss". When the party arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Shackleton suffered a suspected heart attack. He refused a proper medical examination, so Quest continued south, and on 4 January 1922, arrived at South Georgia. In the early hours of the next morning, Shackleton summoned the expedition's physician, Alexander Macklin, to his cabin, complaining of back pains and other discomfort. According to Macklin's own account, Macklin told him he had been overdoing things and should try to "lead a more regular life", to which Shackleton answered: "You are always wanting me to give up things, what is it I ought to give up?" "Chiefly alcohol, Boss," replied Macklin. A few moments later, at 2:50 a.m. on 5 January 1922, Shackleton suffered a fatal heart attack.
His expeditions had left Shackleton deeply in debt, unable to meet the financial guarantees he had given to backers. Despite his efforts, it required government action, in the form of a grant of £20,000 (2008: £1.5 million) to clear the most pressing obligations. It is likely that many debts were not paid and were written off.
Shackleton's death marked the end of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, a period of discovery characterized by journeys of geographical and scientific exploration in a largely unknown continent without any of the benefits of modern travel methods or radio communication.
As requested by his wife, Sir Ernest Shackleton is buried at Grytviken, South Georgia Island, where he began his ill-fated expedition in 1914.
P.S. - Thanks to my colleague and friend Dave Graber, I was reminded of an important aspect of Shakleton's gravesite. Frank Wild, Shackleton's "Right-Hand-Man", and the leader of the Elephant Island crew, is interred to the right side of Shackleton's grave at Grytviken. After Frank Wild's death at age 66 in August 1939, his wife had him cremated so that his final wish of being buried next to Shackleton on South Georgia might be possible.
JAN 22: ANTARCTICA - Paradise Bay
Sunday, January 22, 2017
ANTARCTICA: Paradise Bay, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica