Dispatch Number Two
Dates: March 1 to March 3, 2012
Place: From Ushuaia, Argentina to Antarctica
Antarctica: Dispatch Number Two
The bow of the M/V Sea Spirit. Image courtesy of 2041 (IAE 2012).
54° 48' South AND 68° 17' West
We embarked aboard the M/V Sea Spirit from Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city on the South American continent. Setting sail in the early evening, we traveled east through the Beagle Channel, a body of water named after the HMS Beagle, the boat that carried Charles Darwin to the Galapagos Islands in 1831.
57° 57' South And 65° 44' West
The seas in the Drake Passage were uncharacteristically calm, and the IAE 2012 Expedition Team renamed the waters the “Drake Lake.” What a relief, as the infamous Drake Passage is often a roiling body of water pinched between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. There were sightings of Royal Albatross, and Black-browed Albatross, and Wandering Albatross, the sea bird with the largest wingspan of around 4 metres. The Wandering Albatross was the inspiration of a tragic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, penned by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
62° 53' South and 63° 37' West
The crossing of the Drake Passage is about 900-kilometres long. The seas remained uncharacteristically calm, and, luckily, the IAE 2012 Expedition members side-stepped the sea sickness that's characteristic of this treacherous piece of water. Our time onboard the M/V Sea Spirit was spent in boot camp, the days chock-a-block full of lectures delivered on issues pertaining to climate change, renewable energy and global sustainability. I delivered a presentation on the 2010 Elysium Visual Epic Expedition to Antarctica and South Georgia which focused on documenting climate and ocean change – above and below the water – I participated in the Elysium Expedition, as the ship’s geophysicist and extreme snorkeler.
March 3, Arrival to Antarctica
64° 19' South and 62° 57' West
We reached landfall around 6:00pm, in the Melchior Islands and Dallman Bay. Anxious to disembark the ship, we set out in the zodiacs to explore the area. Immediately, we were greeted by a spectacular display of breaching humpback whales. The waves grew to two to three metres in height, and it was quite the rock-and-roll zodiac ride. Our zodiac driver, Shane, was the Quark Expedition Team Leader and a Canadian from north of Toronto, Ontario.
In pursuit of humpbacks, we travelled a considerable distance eastwards – into open water – and I was convinced that we were headed back to Ushuaia.
I saw at least six humpback whales breaching, catapulting their cetacean bodies entirely out of the ocean and falling back to the water, with thunderous claps and sprays of waters. Other humpbacks sky-hopped, popping about one-third of their bodies – including their noses and eyes – out of the water, to inspect the zodiacs nearby.
We were cold, wet and exhilarated. What an introduction to Antarctica!
Teams exploring the area in zodiacs. Image courtesy of 2041 (IAE 2012).
M/V Sea Spirit Latitudes and Longitudes
Hover your mouse over the markers to learn more about each location.
Path taken by the M/V Sea Spirit from Ushuaia, Argentina to Antarctica between March 1 and March 3, 2012.
For more information about 2041, visit their blog where you'll find videos, pictures and blog posts from various participants.