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    Humbling Enormity

    by DSwede Written Mar 21, 2014

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    Favorite thing: Upon glimpse of the first icebergs and the first land, I could consciously feel my brain trying to come to terms with where I was. No matter how many photos I had seen or films I had watched, I don’t think I could have understood, nor can I explain the enormity of Antarctica. I cannot stress enough the humbling size of the ice bergs, the broad expanse of the glaciers, the massive mountains jutting out of the water – endlessly over the horizons as far as you can see. And the other truth that no matter what the weather was like, there was a storm within view – if you were lucky it was not on an intercept course.

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    Go sooner than later, don't wait

    by DSwede Updated Mar 21, 2014

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    Favorite thing: In all of my readings and research, I realized that every year that passes may make the opportunity less likely that I'd get to Antarctica, mostly since costs are escalating rapidly. During our cruise, the specialists and crew gave a number of presentations and discussions on all topics relating to Antarctica. One of them quite concisely put my understandings up on the big screen.

    IAATO policies govern visitation, and according to such, the restrictions are getting tougher. Back in 2011, a new mandate requires ships to burn lighter-grade fuels while in the Antarctic Treaty Area (south of 60°S latitude). The downside is that many older and smaller ships could not convert economically, reducing the supply curve. Additionally, new ice strengthened ships are not being built for less than 200 passengers. So again as the smaller vessels get too antiquated to maintain operability, the supply curve drops again. All the while fuel prices are on the rise. Other restrictions making the smaller boats more desirable is that no more than 100 people (plus crew) can be on land at any time. So larger boats that have to split in groups may lose out due to dynamic changing weather and reduced excursion points. And at the upper scale, ships with 500 passengers or more cannot land any passengers while in Antarctic waters.

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    What camera to take? Will it work in the cold?

    by XenoHumph Updated Jan 13, 2013

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    Favorite thing: Generalities:
    So you are wondering if your camera will work in Antarctica because it is so cold there. First, most likely most of you will go to Antarctica in the summer and the least cold parts of it (Antarctic Peninsula, coast) and therefore, it will not be that cold. In McMurdo station (78º South), the temperature in December and January hovered just below freezing. And I doubt that it is any different in the Antarctic Peninsula where most Antarctic cruises go. That is in part why there are actually tons of animals and plants there, it is not that cold by Antarctica standards! So if I were to take a cruise along coastal areas, I would more worry about sea spray than cold. Plus if you stay in nice warm accommodations (ship, dormitories of McMurdo), any camera will be nice and safe.

    Now if you go in the interior of the continent or in winter, then of course you may start to be careful with your camera choice and equipment. But then again, in the summer in the continent's interior, it was not that bad (see below).If you stay in the cold like I did in the field for long days or leave the batteries in the cold tent then the batteries get drained quicker than usual. We had solar panels to recharge electronic gadgets including camera batteries. But it would be a good idea to take several batteries charged already. The solar panel system was very slow to recharge the batteries.

    Fondest memory: Personal experience:
    The southernmost I went is 83º South at the edge of the polar plateau and we camped. A typical day is -20ºC (-4ºF) and constant wind can make it colder. Snow picked up by the wind can act as a sand blasting device, so protect your lens as best you can when taking pictures. Also, the light can be very bright on the plateau (sun + ice + snow!), so watch for over-exposure if you have a manual camera.
    I took 2 cameras:
    - A Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2 which is a small camera which according to specs can go down to -10ºC, can withstand shock and even be used under water. It is the one I would take every day in the field (i.e. on the bumpy skidoo rides and daylong outdoor work). I would leave it in the exterior pocket of my polar wind breaker ("big red", see pict) and it would work fine. I would insert a hand warmer next to it on particular cold days to make sure it would stay warm. Only once did the liquid crystal monitor start freezing (dead lines in the digital screen) but I warmed it up in the tent and the problem went away in a couple days.
    - A Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28. It is a slightly bigger camera with a nice 18X zoom (the one I hold in pict). In Antarctica I used it in McMurdo where it is not very cold, and in the continent's interior only around camp. I would leave it safely in the tent. Sure, the tent gets cold when we are gone or when we sleep, but as long as it is protected from the wind and gets warmed up every day, I did not encounter any problems. Only slight problem is to try to take pictures inside the tent when you just have been outside with the camera, because the camera lenses would fog up.

    Finally, the hard thing about taking pictures in Antarctica is to do so with big gloves! Countless times did I have to take off my big mitts and freeze my fingers (even with the underliner gloves) just to be able to push the right button! So if you can find a camera with very large buttons to be used with thick gloves, it may be worth a try!!

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    My Logbook : 10 DECEMBER 2008

    by globetrott Updated Jul 31, 2012

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    Favorite thing: Breakfast between 07.00 and 09.00am and after 09.00am there was the official disembarkation-time.It would have been possible to store the luggage onboard and get it later in the day. For the crew it was time for some repairs and for storing new provisions onboard. The next turn of passengers will arrive 2 days after the last disembarkation and sailing will be again 09.00am the next day.

    Fondest memory: On the total it was a great trip and I am sure that we saw a lot more than passengers of most of the other cruiseships, because we were just 34 people onboard and we had most sights just for ourselves. All other ships have to divide their passangers into groups of not more than 100 passangers and it might happen that the 1st group has great weather, but afterwards it is getting worse and the remaining groups get their excursions cancelled by the capitain !
    But next time in the Antarctic, I guess I will choose a ship with more comfort, a cabin for myself or shared with only 1 other person and not 5 of them.

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    My logbook : 9 DECEMBER 2008

    by globetrott Updated Jul 31, 2012

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    Favorite thing: We had the whole day for excursions from Ushuaia or for shopping. Ea. Haberton was one of the day-excursions, but we had been there two times already. Read more about this interesting place in my Haberton-page !Breakfast, lunch and dinner was held at the ordinary times onboard the Bark Europa and there was a farewell-party as well after dinner. Every passenger got a present from the ship: a DVD including all facts, dates and details of our cruise.The extras like barbills, souvenirs etc. could have been payed in the evening, US $, ARG $ and Euros in cash are accepted for these bills. After having payed the bills, our passport had been given back to us.

    Fondest memory: It was certainly a good idea to have some sparetime at the end of the trip, so we were not in a rush to catch a flight. b.t.w. flights will be confermed by the tourguides of the ship, you just have to fill out your flight-details on a list !

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    My logbook : 8 DECEMBER 2008

    by globetrott Updated Jul 31, 2012

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    Favorite thing: This was now the 2nd last-but-one day of our Antarctica-cruise, we arrived east of Haberton in the morning around 09.00am and had to wait there some time for the pilot, who arrived around 11.00am. The cruise through the Beagle-channel was quiet and mostly sunny. After all of the rolling seas of the last 6 days we somehow were happy to be back again. At 07.00pm we arrived in Ushuaia and were able to go ashore.

    Fondest memory: We did not get boardingcards to go ashore, but in case that we were asked at the checkpoint, they had our names on a list. I was also glad that I could still show the original letter that was provided by the cruisecompany for the embarkation-day.

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    My logbook : Dec 1st till Dec. 7th, 2008

    by globetrott Updated Jul 31, 2012

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    Favorite thing: 5 full days and nights of a heavily rolling ship, giant waves smashing a lot of water on deck and an icy wind that makes any minute out on deck a terrible experience. In my berth the condens-water-problem is getting really bad,because of the extremely cold weather OUTside and the warm cabin INside. The water is gathering at some shelf and dropping down into my matress every few minutes. After complaining I was offered another berth, but did not want to move because that other berth would have been an upper berth and steping up and down in heavy seas is also not a lot of fun. Instead I asked for another blanket, that would soak the water and after 2 days the worst time was over.

    Fondest memory: I decided to spend most of these 6 days in my berth, reading several books and leaving from there only to get something to eat or to powder my nose.

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    My logbook : 30 NOVEMBER 2008

    by globetrott Updated Jul 31, 2012

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    Favorite thing: Melchior Island was originally on the schedule for this day, but unfortunately we had to skip it, due to the bad weather-situation again. Almost everybody was seasick and the ship was rolling all day long in the heavy seas, it was hard to stand anywhere and so I stayed most of the time in bed, reading a book.

    Fondest memory: I did not feel very good, but at least I was not really seasick, but instead I was sick of that ship, also because I knew the situation will stay like this for another 5-6 days !

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    My logbook : SATURDAY 29 NOVEMBER 2008

    by globetrott Updated Jul 31, 2012

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    Favorite thing: In our itinerary there should have been a visit of Port Lockroy today, but due to a very bad weather-forecast we had done Port Lockroy already one day before and left there today very early in the morning in order to avoid sailing into the worst area of the bad-weather-front that was scheduled for our part of Antarctica.

    Fondest memory: Not very far from our ship another cruisehip stranded in a storm and more than 100 passengers had to leave the ship, named M/S Ushuaia, I am glad that in our area we did not have severe problems except some seasickness.

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    My logbook : FRIDAY 28 NOVEMBER 2008

    by globetrott Updated Jul 31, 2012

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    Favorite thing: At 04.00am we had left our anchoring-place in Trinity Island and were arriving at the scenic Graham Passage at around 10.00am. A lot of great icebergs we were passing by in a perfect weather with sunshine and only a bit of a wind, so it was nice standing out on deck and enjoying the landscape.
    At 02.00pm we had been at the ship-wreck of the Gouvernren, that was a Norwegian whaler-ship that had stranded here in 1916 after a fire. We were sailing alongside to the wreck and fixed the Bark Europa on the wreck and stayed like that for about 30 minutes. I guess there are not many ships that could do this !
    Cuverville was on the schedule for 07.30pm, but we did not do it in time and so this excursion had to be cancelled !

    Fondest memory: Sailing through a carpet of icebergs in perfect sunshine was the best experience we had today !

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    My logbook : THURSDAY 27 NOVEMBER 2008

    by globetrott Updated Jul 31, 2012

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    Favorite thing: Trinity Island : the main attraction is the so-called cemetery of icebergs : there is alarge bay, where the watercurrants and the steady winds will blow all icebergs and there they will be stuck and are not able to float away again.

    Fondest memory: We made a cruise in our zodiaks through the icebergs of the Iceberg-cemetery and we could get really close to them, touch them and cruise through them, that was really a great adventure.

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    My logbook : WEDNESDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2008

    by globetrott Updated Jul 31, 2012

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    Favorite thing: Our daily program had scheduled 3 different excurions for today on Deception Island :
    1) Telephone bay : walk round some of Deception's newest landscapes
    Unfortuantely it had to be cancelled due to strong winds and rain
    2) Swimming at Pendulum Cove
    Unfortunately we did not even go to this other anchor-place, it was so cold and windy that everybody gave up of thinking of taking a swim at a place, where you cannot change your clothings afterwards and have to do it in an icy rain...
    3) A walk in Whalers Bay and to Neptune's Window
    At least this is what we have done, although it as still very cold and windy and heavily raining

    Fondest memory: It was great to walk between the ruins of Whalers Bay and to step inside of the one of the large tanks. I got home soakingly wet all over, but it was a lot of fun anyway and I am glad that my small new camera, a Panasonic Lumix LX3 was able to withstand the rain, beeing wet all over it was working like in good weatherconditions, except for the lens of course, that I had to clean quite often !

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    My Logbook : TUESDAY 25 NOVEMBER 2008

    by globetrott Updated Jul 31, 2012

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    Favorite thing: 09.30 Landing on Half Moon Island and it is really cold again and raining, but who cares, we payed a lot of money to get here and now we also want to go ashore !!
    The landing by Zodiak is not easy, there is a lot of gravel on the beach and we have to step into high water, when stepping out of the zodiaks.
    On the beach: an old boat, maybe 100 years old, a boat that once was used by whalers and left back here.Climbing uphill through the soft and high snow is not easy because of the Wellies that we are wearing and they are feeling really cold, although I amwearing 3 pairs of socks...
    We are climbing to the other side of the mountain, no good view from there and only some penguins an a seal in the distance.
    Finally we are walking to the former scientific station and our zodiaks will get us back to the ship from there.

    Fondest memory: 02.00 Yankee Harbor :The weather is a lot better now, and the landscape there is easy for walking and taking photos. Lots of penguins and also some seals !

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    My Logbook : Monday 24 November 2008

    by globetrott Updated Jul 31, 2012

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    Favorite thing: 02.00pm :Today we will have our first landing in the South Shetland Islands, a group of islands in Antarctica : Barrientos, an island that is part of the Aitcho Islands, will be, where we start our first excursion to.
    At the arrival it is first foggy and a freezing wind is blowing, but as soon as we get into the Zodiaks it is getting sunny, at least for quite some time, then it is snowing again, followed by sunshine and fog...
    all types of weather within a rather short time, it is like in Europe in April !

    Fondest memory: When cruising in the zodiak you always have to wear a life-west, one of the flat type that you may blow up by a string that you tear in case of an emergency. As soon as you go ashore you give back your lifevest that is taken back to the ships by the zodiaks for the next 6-8 people waiting there for the next chance to go ashore.
    6-8 persons - depending on the waves etc. - will take place inside the zodiak, and there are 2 Zodiaks onboard of the bark Europa plus a seperate life-boat that is used for cruising between the icebergs, but cannot be used for landing on a flat shore.

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    My logbook : SUNDAY 23 NOVEMBER 2008

    by globetrott Updated Jul 31, 2012

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    Favorite thing: We are getting closer and closer to Antarctica and it is also getting colder and colder out on deck with a heavily freezing wind. We are crossing the so-called Antarctical Convergence Zone, where the warmer water-currants of the Atlantic are mixing with the much colder Antarctic waters.
    Out on deck you need extra gloves now and a really warm coat in order to be able to stay on foredeck for the watchout or on the big wheel in the backpart of the ship.

    Fondest memory: For everyone cruising to the Antarctic it is madatory to learn about the right behaviour and about the rules, what to do and what not to do when meeting the wildlife in Antartica. This so-called IAATO-lecture was held today in the lounge in 3 terms, so all of our 3 sailing-watch-teams could attend it easily.
    This lecture was madatory for everyone and on a list we had to sign that we attened and are willing to obey these rules.

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