We have arrived in Antarctica

18 Feb 2011

Bransfield Strait, Antarctica

We have arrived in Antarctica. The first sighting was this evening, around 6, when King George Island emerged out of the fog. In the evening light we could see the glacier that covers the surface of this, the northernmost island in the South Shetland chain. 
It is also the place where Otto Nordenskjold’s 1901-03 expedition ran into difficulties. Their ship got trapped in the ice and the crew abandoned it and spent a couple of years marooned here. They all survived and there are names in this area – like Bay of Despair – that testify to the emotions Nordenskjold and his crew must have felt.
With winds at 45 knots, it was too choppy tonight to make a zodiac landing at Penguin Island. We changed course and are heading south to Seymour Island where we will see the “K/T boundary” – the line between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods. This line runs for more than 1100 unbroken metres on the island, making it one of the most intact fossil records on the planet. 
There is much debate over what happened in this period when the dinosaurs and many other plants and animals went extinct. One theory is that they were wiped out by a meteor impact about 65 million years ago. Another is that the meteor merely “broke the camel’s back” and sent into oblivion thousands of species that were already in ecological crisis. The geological record shows evidence of many extinctions prior to this event. Afterwards, if we’re lucky and the wind and weather cooperate, we will also visit an island where some of Nordenskjold’s crew built a hut and hunkered down through the vicious Antarctic winter.
Earlier today, we passed over the Antarctic Convergence, the boundary between northern and southern waters. The air temperature dropped noticeably and the wind was bone chilling coming off the continent. We no longer go on deck without our waterproof, windproof gear. Except for the young man who still wears shorts and sandals. He must have antifreeze in his feet, like the penguins in these parts.

The Arctic Convergence through the eyes of one correspondent (Credit: Students on Ice)


J.M. - 23 Feb 2011
John, keep an eye open for the missing Norwegian yacht that recently disappeared in the Antarctic.
Farquharson - 23 Feb 2011
John...I do hope that your mittens are attached securely to your Canada Goose Parka with heavy duty yarn!
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