Current Travels & Expeditions

Argentina/Antarctica Expedition:

Monday 12.25.17 (Paulet Island) / Sunrise: 0232 & Sunset: 2304

On Christmas morning I woke up at 5am and peered through my porthole window where I saw the glassy water beginnings of sea ice, aka “Grease Ice.” It is referred to as “grease ice” because it actually looks like an oil slick on the water. The ice defines Antarctica and its magnificent processes define our weather. In those early morning hours with no one on the decks I spotted a leopard seal, adelie penguins, a giant petrel, a brown petrel, and a crabeater seal pirouetting on an iceberg, oh and I spotted silence. Yesterday evening & today we travelled through the Antarctic Sound and into the Weddell Sea to land at Paulet Island. Here was the site of thousands of Adelie Pengins – literally over 40,000 adelie’s reside here. We took a brisk and challenging hike up and over a ridge, battling with the scree; adelie’s marching as well up and down, back and forth along the shoreline, battling the scree and watching out for poaching Skua. When we made it to another side of the island, remains barely standing, Nordenskjold’s historical stone hut lay in ruins in the distance. Now a home to adelie nests and skua perching, this site served a s a base for survival during the winter of 1903.

The day didn’t’ end there, we hiked back to the landing to catch a zodiac to the ship to head right out again, but in a kayak this time. Richard, my double kayak partner, and I battled a fierce wind to make it over to, what seemed to be nearby, icebergs. A few adelie’s were hanging out on each of the 2 icebergs we made it to. We set ourselves on a course to let the wind take us back to the ship so we wouldn’t have to work as heard as we did initially. After arriving back on the ship we prepared our minds and bodies for the Polar Plunge. The air temperature was 2° C or 35.6°F, so the water was a brisk 29°F, icy! As I walked back to the mud-room, flip-flops, swimsuit, and “Zulu Woman” shirt on (thanks momma), I began to get the feeling that the choice I made to commit to this was quite crazy, but necessary. I watched Patrick as he brought a tray of shot glasses and birthday cake absolute vodka out and set it on the counter, “this is the defibrillator,” he said. I just laughed, again, quite necessary. Standing in line with my group, anticipation became anxiety for a moment and then quickly returned to anticipation. I removed my flip-flops to stand barefoot on the corrugated metal floor (this ship was once a ferry for cars/people in Finland). Walking out of the mudroom to the launch zone was icy to say the least. I gathered up my courage stepped out on the zodiac and up to my launch pad. There was no looking back, only leaping forward. Splash I did! Into the crisp, icy, again there are no good adjectives that can describe the feeling of the water except for the fact that it is the Antarctic waters of the Southern Ocean. I reached out as I made my way to the launch and they grabbed both of my arms to assist in my extraction from the frigid, cold water and I got back in line to do it again! Twice blessed and more pins and needles the second go-round, but so worth it. On a side note, the salt did taste better in this ocean, LoL, and I here it’s good for the skin. There was just something about it, so clear. A warm/hot shower didn’t’ cut the cold, so I sat in the dry sauna till the warm leached into my bones once more.

Paulet Island Album: Link

Sunday 12.24.17 (Brown Bluff) / Sunrise: 0231 & Sunset: 2319

Hey Folks, check out the Daily Expedition Reports by clicking the link. Once their you need to select the correct destination: Antarctica, the correct date: December 2017, and the correct ship: The National Geographic Explorer. You can check out our post for today probably tomorrow, but here is what I wrote for my part:

Daily Expedition Report – Sunday, December 24, 2017 (Meade)

Large chunks of sea ice scratched against the hull of the ship as we made our way into the Brown Bluff area today. A massive glaciovolcano structure that stretches roughly 9 miles in diameter exalted out of the Earth to greet us. The first thing I noticed as we headed to the shore was that Brown Bluff was definitely brown, hence the name.

Structures (crevasses) in the ice that once sheeted this area 1 MYA allowed water to enter the glacial system thereby creating large pools or lakes to form within. It can be assumed that volcanic activity was responsible for this water pooling process. On the shoreline we observed gigantic boulders that clearly came from the top of the volcano’s distinctive flattop structure. How do we know? If you take a look at the striations or lines within the rocks on top verses those on the shoreline and compare their direction they provide evidence that can assist in drawing that conclusion. Of course weathering and erosion can also cause striations, but it is the layering (and classification) that helps us identify the original location of the rocks and the rock types.

The rocks we saw were igneous, both intrusive and extrusive. Intrusive rock cools very slowly allowing crystal formation to be large, but much of what we saw on the shoreline was extrusive meaning it cooled pretty quickly forming smaller crystals. Since this volcano was sub-glacial (meaning it formed under a glacier) we know it was quite cold, assisting in quick cooling of magma. Pumice could also be spotted today on the rocky beach as well as obsidian.The massive boulders on the shoreline are known as tuff (a type of extrusive igneous rock). They came from the top of the volcano usually ejected by very explosive eruptions or the wind blowing them; the farther out they are the more likely they were ejected out by an enormous volcanic eruption.

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On another note, I saw a leopard seal eat a penguin, sad face.

Brown Bluff & Tabular Album: Link

Daily Expedition Report for 12.24.17

Saturday 12.23.17 (Neko Harbor & Wilhelmina Bay) / Sunrise: 0214 & Sunset: 2352

As I sit in my cabin to write this you can hear an occasional small ice chunk tap on the side of the ship and water flowing down the port side where I am located. [Thank you LBJC, I know my boat sides J]. We had some exciting news this morning from Eric Guth (Our Onboard Nat Geo Handler, lol); we were heading out in the zodiac with him this morning in Neko Harbour and there was an opportunity for Peg to head out with the ROV (w/Rory and Amy the divers) today. When I say “we” I am referring to Sarah Harris and Peg Keiner, my two National Geographic & Lindblad Expeditions GTF (Grosvenor Teacher Fellow) Homies. Peg rocks the beat (she is an awesome sound/tech guru), Sarah gets the shot down (photo-say-what! Trackin' that history!) and I like to think of myself as the wordsmith science nerd.

Anyway, we went out this morning and recorded some amazing natural sounds because our main intended focus was to go outside to find the noise not created by man, but by nature in its most pristine form. Today there was so much to capture, ice-scatter-chatter, iceberg-speak, farting ice, birds – mainly Wilson’s Storm Petrels at first, then some Antarctic Terns. There was algae that painted the base of the icebergs in this beautiful green color; algae is a regular summertime thing, but was in abundance early in the season. I spotted some kelp gull among the Gentoo penguin rookery later in the day while walking on the shore. As I was sitting in the snow on the shore, watching the kelp gulls, the glacier across the way cleaved a small but mighty piece of ice into the ocean below (small compared to the massive glacier it came from. That created this amazing bubble-gurgling sound as it settled into its new home and then you could hear this river-rapids sounding gush of water from that point on, but you couldn’t see anything falling. The flow of water that echoed was hidden behind the remaining glacier.

On another note, I had the pleasure of going on Instagram Live with Mike Libecki today while hanging out on the Neko Harbour shoreline. Mike is an amazing climber and Nat Geo Explorer who tackles yet respects the rock, his story is phenomenal.

We headed to Wilhelmina Bay this afternoon to observe whales and other wildlife. Upon our arrival to the Bay the humpbacks in their family pods welcomed us with open fins and mouths. The groups were bubble-netting which means the whales communicate with each other to circulate around the krill to draw them up, an amazing site to observe, creating a vortex of sorts. After their bubble-netting process whales repeatedly fluked us off! (Whale, I had to throw in some comedy there). When they show their fluke that indicates they are taking a deep or shallow dive to gather what it is that they gathered, krill.

P.S. If you'd like to see more pics you'll have to visit Instagram or Facebook because posting on the site only allows me one pic per login for internet. The album will be available later on and I will connect photos with posts when I return to a more stable internet connection.

Neko Harbor Album: Link

Wilhelmina Bay Album: Link

Fri 12.22.17 (Orne Harbor, Port Lockroy, Jougla Point, Lemaire Channel) / Sunrise: 0213 & Sunset: 0007

Antarctica is a wild and untamed part of the world intent on telling you that humans are not welcome for long periods of time (short visits, ok). While hiking up the ridge to Spigot Peak erecting out of Orne Harbour like a cormorant slices through the waters to feed I started thinking of words that someone might ask me to describe this place as. Majestic, transformational, awe-inspiring, pure, cold, ridged, mysterious, crisp, none can do it justice. I made my way up the side of the mountain and at the top it opened up to a spectacular view in the direction of the South Pole; this was our first step onto the mainland of Antarctica, not an island off the peninsula, but the whole of the massive icy desert continent. It was snowing, Gentoo penguins were announcing our arrival; skua were on the hunt for penguin eggs – a 1000ft elevation gain-type of hike. I stayed up there for awhile until people ventured back down so I could hear the silence in all its grandeur, independent of people noises, Gentoo penguins making their wookie-donkey sounds, the wind mixed with ice and snow slapping me in the face, the water below on both sides now. It was time for me to head back down, but not before one last photo of sunlight shining on the adjacent ridge. Next we were in the zodiacs taking a cruise around the base of Spigot Peak and we spotted two humpback whales who both gave us the fluke (showing us their back "fin") to announce a deep dive was taking place; the orcas weren’t too far off from us either, so we got a nice close look at them swimming in a large pod. The day did not end there; we boarded the ship to head to Port Lockroy on Goudier Island known as Base A. The Base A (now Bransfield House) site was where the British set up shop to spy/”monitor” German whereabouts during WWII. On this little island there is a museum and a gift shop that is maintained by a group of women who live there from November to March. Their only hot showers are taken when different ships come in with visitor. They still partake in data collection but just for the environment these days.

Afterward we loaded a zodiac to Jougla Point right in the same vicinity and saw/heard a male Weddell seal committing some interesting vocalization that sounded like stormtrooper radar guns from Star Wars. I can’t wait for y’all to hear it! He also was producing some deep vocalizations as well.

We ended the evening sailing through the Lemaire Channel where I hope many of you joined me on Instagram Live – Again there are no words to describe the majesty of this untamed creation we call Antarctica; It is like stepping back in time.

Orne Harbor Album: Link

Port Lockroy Album: Link

Jougla Point Album: Link

Lemaire Channel Album: Link

Thursday 12.21.17 (Paradise Harbor & Danco Island) / Sunrise: 0213 & Sunset: 0004

Today I decided to sleep in but as many of you know I love to bring my own light/breakfast-typefood on trips with me. I awoke to the announcement of breakfast and doze again hoping to catch some more z’s until we arrived at Paradise Bay. I then heard the announcement that we arrived and that groups 1, 2, and 3 were heading out at 9:05am for the first zodiac cruise-around; I was on # 3 and it was 8:30am, so I made a mad dash to get myself layered up - 3 layers on the legs, 4 layers on the top, and the icing on the cake, our Nat Geo/Lindblad Parka, pants, beanie, and face-mask. We saw glaciers, a Weddell seal, Cormorants, Sheathbill, Skua, Pintado Petrels and Gentoo Penguins. There was also an Argentinian Station called Almirante Brown, that is where the pengins were hanging out. There was one minor detour in our journey as a boat of Hot-Chocolate Swedish Viking Pirates tried to take us over by seducing us with their hot tasty – libation included (if you wanted it) chocolate beverage and ginger-snap cookies. I, of course, was captured, there was nothing I could do. It was VERY tasty! Mmm!

Later in the day Danco Island (located at the southern end of the Errara Channel) for a hike that helped me reach my 10,000 steps on my FitBit. It was about a 400ft elevation gain to the top giving me chills while walking up, not because it was cold, but from observing all the cleaves and fractures in the massive glacier run-off, yes glaciers move similar to a river system but at a “glacial pace.” Not only were there cleaves in the surrounding glaciers, but also on the rock structures that protruded through the snow; fractured patches of rock caused by daily weathering and erosion. Loads of serpentinite!

In addition to having these great outdoor experiences I have been meeting some great people that have given me additional ideas for projects that I’d like to incorporate for my 10th graders and AIMS in general. There are so many fascinating people aboard the ship.

Paradise Harbor Album: Link

Danco Island Album: Link

Monday 12.18.17 (Ushuaia/Tierra Del Fuego, Beagle Channel, Drake)

Tuesday 12.19.17 (Drakes Passage) Sunrise: 0439 & Sunset: 2222

Wednesday 12.20.17 (Aitcho/Barrientos, Whalers Bay/Deception Island) Sunrise: 0315 & Sunset: 2310

Get with the program!

I should have been writing prior to this because it has been an exciting 3 days prior to. From visiting Ushuaia and Tierra Del Fuego {Notes below in brackets on that}...

{The day ended up being very interesting and insightful. We got up super early - 4am - because a protest was going to start in Buenos Aires and the whole city accommodates the occurrence. Later on we had a wild and bumpy plane ride into Ushuaia, which is at the end of the Andes Mountains, the longest mountain chain on Earth above the ocean. Ushuaia means, "bay that penetrates into the west," and it is the southern-most city in the world, the last part of Patagonia. There are 18,000 residents who live tax-free in Ushuaia. We visited the National Park Tierra del Fuego and experienced some of the nature prior to boarding the catamaran that took us to the ship. One of my favorite occurrences was my interaction with what the local native Indians called "Indian Bread." A parasitic fungus that grows on the bark and branches of Lenga trees, but a delicacy of the native culture. They called it "Shaw-Shaw" meaning tasty-tasty! The last full-blood native is 82 years old and she lives in Chile. I hope the video of the Indian Bread posts.}

...to sailing the Beagle Channel and experiencing 5-7 meter swells coming out of the Beagle Channel, getting to know the ship, staying up till 2:30am because I forgot to take the suggested Meclizine (sea-sickness meds) and chose the wrong time to attempt to go to bed (just as we were leaving the calmer waters of the channel). As a result I hung out on the Bridge w/the 2nd/Safety Officer Finn while he maintained our headings and other crew members. I decided to take a lap around the ship late-late in the evening (1am) and while walking around I ran into Jamie (the Bartender) who then recommended I take the meds, which I did. We headed back to the Bridge because I was not going to suffer down in my bunk. It was a bit surreal because this was the last night we'd see complete darkness since the solstice is near. I was able to see the sun set around 11:30pm and light crack through the clouds around 1:30am. As I was chatting w/Randy (crew member) in the darkness of the Bridge, I started to fall asleep so I went down to my room and actually fell asleep! Unfortunately my sleep did not last very long because I forgot to shut the 4am alarm on my phone off from the night before! Long story short, I got back up around 5am and headed back to the Bridge - in FULL Daylight now. A Wandering Albatross, we ended up naming Billy-Bob, hung out with us till other people on the ship began to emerge from their rooms to start the day. We were joined by other birds eventually, Skua and Black-Browed Albatross. The full list of sightings are available on the Bridge daily to inform you of the wildlife that was possible for you to observe throughout the course of the day.

I got a good-nights sleep last night to bring us into Wednesday where we were able to yell Land-Ho! Antarctica was in our sights! Birds flew aside us and whales and penguins welcomed us as they breached the waters repeatedly. We landed on Barrientos and stepped foot on our first piece Antarctic land!

More pics to come as I get them loaded, they take the longest.

Tierra Del Fuego Album: Link

Beagle Channel & Drakes Passage Album: Link

Aitcho/Barrientos Album: Link

Whalers Bay/Deception Island Album: Link


Sunday 12.17.17

Hey Folks, the journey has begun! After a 13 hour flight I arrived in Argentina this morning and had a full day of exploring the Puerto Madero area. We got a whole-lot of history in a short amount of time, which I will investigate more when I return. First we walked around the La Boca Caminito Historical District. Then we drove down the largest Avenue in the world, called "9th of July Avenue" that represents Argentina's independence. We saw the obelisk and made a visit to the Regoleta Cemetery that has some of the most beautiful crypts that are owned by some pretty prominent people in Argentina; Eva Peron's remains are in one of those crypts as well. These properties go for BIG BUCKS! Hundreds of thousands of dollars! When you purchase a plot in this cemetery you are signing a 100 year contract which means that the cemetery, if they can find your family after 100 years you have to sign up for another 100 years. If you no longer have living descendants, the cemetery will take your plot to court to be able to vacate the property inside and sell it to a new family and it's descendants. Family's pay property taxes on their plots and there are prime locations in here as well; you want a spot on the main thoroughfare. More to come from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Tomorrow we're headed down to Ushuaia to begin our voyage down the Beagle Channel, across Drakes Passage, and on to Antarctica!