Tag Archives: antarctica

Snow Hill Island Expedition Postponed

Dear friends and followers,

It is with a very heavy heart that I have to inform you that we will not be departing for Snow Hill Island in the next few days. We’ve been forced to make the difficult (and costly!) decision to postpone the trip by a season or two for safety considerations. This is not an easy call to make, especially with the heavy emotional, financial and time investment we all have made in the expedition, but we believe it is the right course to follow.

As you are no doubt aware, the ice conditions in the Antarctic are at a record high this year, which has made the approach to the Antarctic Peninsula uncertain within our time-frame. This led to the two team members doing penguin research to withdraw or risk losing their research window this year. After a lengthy discussion and much examination of the ice data, the remaining 6 team members decided to continue with the expedition.

It came as a heavy blow when (only 10 days before departure) one of the core team members was also forced to withdraw at the eleventh hour due to a life-threatening illness in his immediate family. Faced with unusually bad ice conditions and a team now dangerously reduced in numbers, we have elected to postpone the expedition. Effectively, this means we will have to try again next October or the year thereafter.

We see this not as a failure, but as a challenge and change in schedule. We are now in a stronger position, having laid the groundwork for all the logistics, gathered vast amounts of data, done endless preparation and provisioning, and ironed out many potential problems with equipment. The knowledge, contacts and systems we have developed will facilitate our next effort.

For our planned physiological research, we see this as an opportunity to expand the conceptual basis. We have already (in the last week) embarked on two projects which were deferred to get the expedition underway, but will actually enhance our fieldwork. Taking a long view, this may be a blessing in disguise. We have already opened some doors (through the Snow Hill preparation) that may accelerate the research far beyond what we envisioned on this expedition…exciting times ahead.

On a personal note, Franelise and I will still be traveling to the Falklands in a few days, where we will sort out, store, and recover some of the expedition gear. We’ll be meeting with role players there and putting the pieces into position for the Snow Hill Island Expedition to come. Thereafter we’re going to disappear into the mountains and fjords of Patagonia for a well-needed break 😉

We are deeply indebted to the individuals and companies that have been so supportive of the expedition, and will be doing our utmost to meet your expectations now and in the future. We take to heart the words of Roald Amundsen: “Obstacles are merely things we overcome”.

PolarView Sea Ice Concentration, 20-27 August 2013

The sea ice is critical to the success of our expedition – too little and we will be unable to cross from the Peninsula to Snow Hill and the other islands safely; too much and we won’t be able to approach the Peninsula at all in the Golden Fleece.  We’re all watching the radar charts like owls on a caffeine high.  The historical average peak ice concentration occurs in mid- to late September, and then rapidly decreases into October, but year-on-year variation is dramatic and conditions early in the season are not much good for predicting the outcome.  Some time in September we will begin to get access to the high-resolution satellite photographs of the region, which give much more detailed information, but it is a stressful time.  Three years of planning hanging in the balance…

I’ll post the images here when they are available.  The last week has shown some promising decreases in the concentration, but a cold spell can reverse the trend in less than a day.  We can expect to see the ice thicken, but hope to see a little less to the west to make us all breathe easier.










Source:  PolarView/Universitat Bremen, http://www.iup.uni-bremen.de:8084/amsr2/

A Dinghy for the Drake

Lots of interest brewing about our October expedition, with most people not quite getting the idea 😉  To dispel  some of the confusion…

  • Yes, it’s a private, self-funded expedition whose primary goal is that we have a holiday…doing some research along the way.  Isn’t that how everybody relaxes?
  • Yes, we really are going to be as close to carbon-neutral as you can get for flying half way around the world – we are pulling sleds with wind and man-power (and woman power).
  • Yes, we will be camping.  Refer to my comments about how everyone relaxes.
  • No, we are not going on a cruise ship – we are using the wind and taking a yacht down to the ice.

For your interest and edification, here is some info about the Golden Fleece, the yacht we will be using.

Golden Fleece at South Georgia. Photo by Ryan Holiday, mountaininterval.org

Random Photo – Welcome to South Georgia

Right Whale Bay on South Georgia - diversity, desolation, life and death

South Georgia is without doubt one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.  I first set foot there in Right Whale Bay, late one summer evening, and was confronted with pandemonium – more seals than I had ever seen before, mixed with more penguins than I could comprehend, surrounded by other birds on the ground and the wing combining to create a cacophony amidst a visually overwhelming background of sheer splendour:  beauty, terrifying austerity, diversity, desolation,death, and life in abundance.

Random Photo – Ice in Cierva Cove

It’s not only the wildlife in Antarctica that is photogenic: the landscapes, sea and ice combine in innumerable ways to create awesome beauty.  While slowly cruising around Cierva Cove on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula, the groups was captivated by a pair of crab-eater seals.  Turning around, I shot the sculpted ‘bergs beneath a brooding sky instead.  I don’t shoot in black-and-white often, but the emotion was unmistakable unavoidable.

Cierva Cove under a brooding sky in black and white

Random Photo – Giant Petrel

For the want of time (ok, let’s face it: self-discipline) to write posts, I thought I’d start trying to regularly post excerpts from my photographic collection.  It is very likely that the photographs will not be contemporaneous, as  I’m seldom ready to post pictures while still travelling, but hopefully they will be interesting.

Today’s image is from my last expedition with Cheeseman’s Ecology Safari’s to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Orkneys, South Shetlands and Antarctic Peninsula.  It was taken at sea, shooting from the stern of the Polar Star, of one of the most ubiquitous Southern Ocean birds, the Giant Petrel (aka ‘Jeep’, from ‘GP’).  Flight photography from the stern of a pitching ship is always entertaining and frustrating at the same time, but I really enjoy the composition of the shot:  I tried for hours to get another bird in the frame in a position that is ‘just right’.  Shot with Canon DSLR and 300mm lens, hand-held.

Giant Petrel on the wing, shot somewhere in the Southern OceanClick on the image for a larger view.