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Antarctica ~ A Voyage of Discovery

Norwegian Coastal Voyages, Inc.

M/S Nordkapp

January 4 - 22, 2006

This wonderful travel experience started on January 4th with a

flight from Miami to Buenos Aires with a brief stop in Santiago.  

My trip actually began on New Years day when I flew to Miami. 

The plan was to spend four days in warm Miami before setting

out for South America and this trip to Antarctica. 

The four days exploring Miami around was fun.

After our overnight flight to South America, our tour had free time

to explore Buenos Aires.  What an interesting city. 

It is very busy with lots to see.  An overnight stop is way too short a time to sightsee!

Above is the "pink" palace where the head of Argentina rules from. 

You might recognize it as the setting for some of the scenes

from the movie Evita starring Mondona.

Downtown Buenos Aires near main Plaza where daily demonstrations are held.

The next morning we flew to Ushuaia where we boarded our

cruise ship for our 14 day Voyage of Discovery. 

Since we were at Ushuaia before the ship was ready,

we had a bus tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park

The park was created in 1960 and is on the southern tip of the Andes Mountains.

The sign for the end of the road from Alaska down through South America.

I am standing at the spot near where the highway ends.  Beagle Channel in the background.

The cruise ship the M/S Nordkapp. 

The city of Ushuaia was surrounded by the sea and the beautiful Andes Mountains. 

The harbor was busy as two other Antarctic cruise ships were loading passengers. 

Antarctica Bound!  Our destination is the area of the map in the upper left corner.

We sailed at 10 p.m.  The seas were calm in the harbor area

but soon became rough with white caps as we sailed into the Drake Passage. 

For the next 42 hours the ship bounced and rolled along in rough seas. 

I was lucky and did not get sea sick but many people did. 

There was little to see other than waves passing us by.  It was a good time to read and relax. 

The tour's scientific staff conducted lectures about various

topics relating to Antarctica during this time.

The ship passed this iceberg on Sunday morning as we sailed

into the Antarctic Peninsula.  It was huge, 50 meters high and 250 meters long. 

We were told that only one fifth of the iceberg was above the water line. 

A beautiful  sight with many interesting views.

The back side of the iceberg.

The M/S Nordkapp sailed by King George Island which is sometimes

called Antarctica's unofficial capital thanks to the eight national winter stations

crowded onto the island.  Our route also took ship by Robert and Nelson Islands. 

There were many icebergs floating in the ocean.

The ship passed several icebergs as we sailed on to King George Island.

King George Island scenery.  It was cold and windy on deck. 

The sun was starting to peek out.

Our destination on Sunday, January 8th, was our first scheduled

landing in Antarctica at Poland's Henryk Arctowski station on King George Island. 

The station was opened in 1977 and accommodates about 11 personnel

over the winter months.  Located near the station were Adelie and Gentoo Penguin colonies. 

The sun came out as we arrived at the Arctowski Station. 

It was a beautiful day to make our first landing.

In an effort to keep Antarctica in a pristine condition and have minimum

impact on the environment that we visited, the number of passengers

allowed on land at any time was limited to 100.  The tour divided the

passengers up into small groups of 12.  We went ashore in small

power boats.  We had to wear special rubber boots to minimize land

contamination. Our visits to the various landing sites was limited to one hour. 

All landings were subject to weather and ice conditions. 

In preparation for our visits to the various islands, we had to put

on rubber boots supplied by the ship.  This is the room in the

where the boots were stored.  The gangplank door is in the middle on the right.

These little boats shuttled the passengers to the station and back. 

They held about twelve passengers.

 

Off to the island!

The island was very rocky and barren.

The Arctowski Station.

And there were penguins on the island in addition to the Polish scientists. 

Lots of penguins all over the place.

The penguin's were very agile and moved very quickly over the rocky surface.

Being one who never passes up an opportunity to have my picture

taken with a pretty scientist, I am with Cecilia Malstrom, a Lecturer on

Antarctica and the South Pole on the voyage. 

There was an excellent scientific support staff available on the cruise.

On Monday morning, January 9th, we stopped at Yankee Harbor

on Greenwich Island.  This small natural harbor was formed by a cobbled

spit which is the remains of a glacial moraine.  It was the stopping place

for early American sealers.  Today the Gentoo penguins are the sole inhabitants.

The residents of Yankee Harbor. 

A last shot on Yankee Harbor.  It was a beautiful sunny stop. 

The penguins were good hosts.

Beautiful Antarctic scenery!

Our second island visit on Monday was Half Moon Island. 

This is a tiny two-kilometer long crescent shaped island. 

Half Moon Island is a favored stop for its large Chinstrap Penguin rookery.

The remains of a life boat that was left on shore after an

American sealer ship sunk some 90 plus years ago.

Thousands of chinstrap penguins live on the island.

This island was a photographer's dream!  Beautiful scenery

everywhere to be captured for later viewing.

A last look at the Half Moon Island penguin rookeries!

On Tuesday, January 10th, we are scheduled for two more island visits. 

The first stop is at Cuverville Island.  This Island was discovered by de Gerlache's Expedition

and  was named for JMA Cavalier de Cuverville, a vice admiral in he French navy. 

Antarctic scenery on the way to Cuverville Island.

M/S. Nordkapp near the shore at Cuverville Island.  This was a morning landing. 

Cuverville Island has several large Gentoo rookeries,

these comprise one of the largest gatherings of this species

of penguins in Antarctica.

Cuverville Island scenery. 

Gentoo Penguin Ski Center!  They were sliding down on their bellies. 

Great fun to watch.

Nesting Gentoo's, can you see the babies they are protecting?

On our way back to the MS. Nordkapp we were taken around

several icebergs that were near by.  It was terrific to be able to be

so close to these large masses of ice.

A  very large iceberg floating along the way to our next shore landing.

A couple of seals hitching a ride on an iceberg.

Our stop on the afternoon of Tuesday, the 10th, was at Neko Harbor,

which is named for a Norwegian floating factory ship. 

The Neko operated in the area for the seasons between 1911 and 1924. 

Neko lays in the  Antarctic Continent per-se.

One of the greeting party at Neko Harbor.

 A Gentoo rookery around a refuge hut that was built in 1949

and repaired in 2004.  It is named for Capitan Fleiss. 

There was considerable snow at this harbor. 

We are at the southern most point of our trip. 

Standing near the harbor with a very large glacier in the background.

After our one hour visit to the harbor, we sailed to Paradise Bay

where the MS Nordkapp was anchored until 4:00 am when we set sail for our next landing.

The bay was surrounded by beautiful mountains with many glaciers. 

This photo was taken in the early evening.

Another mountain with glaciers all round.  It was very hard to resist not

taking photos of the scenery that was around the ship.

On Wednesday, January 11th we had two more landings. 

First we left Paradise Bay and sailed in the steep-sided Lemaire Channel,

it is just 1600 m wide and runs between the mountains of Booth Island

and the Antarctic Peninsula.  The steep cliffs and glaciers of Booth Island to

one side mirror the opposite shores of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Sailing toward the Lemaire Channel.

We sailed passed many icebergs while in the channel.

Lots of icebergs!

A approximately 10:30 am I landed on Petermann Island.

It was a snow covered spot with the usual resident penguin rookery. 

The island was famous for the fact that a scientist got mad a having to

live there for another winter and burned down all the buildings but the gray structure on the right.

Hiking around the island and avoiding the penguin trail at the same time made for tricky walking.

It was a cold morning!  We all had to wear the red life vest I have on whenever we rode it the small boats.

Blue icebergs were everywhere as we sailed away from Petermann Island. 

I did not stay on the island long as it was difficult to walk on the wet, slushy snow.

The sun came out as we sailed away from our last landing of the day. 

We finally met another vessel on our travels.  It was somewhat eerie

sailing for days without seeing other signs of human life. 

We are sailing back to Paradise Bay for our last landing of the day. 

The sun was out and the scenery was beautiful!

Still more blue icebergs!

Our last landing of the day, the Almirante Brown station located on Paradise Bay.

The station was all locked up and no one is located here. 

The penguins control the station.  It was cold and there was a lot of snow on the ground. 

Some of the group climbed a hill behind the station and slide down on their back sides.

The resident penguin rookery!

The sun came out late in the evening to end of a perfect day of

Antarctic sailing and island visiting.  Since it was summer time down in

Antarctica it never got dark at night.  It was to off to bed with almost full daylight. 

On Thursday, January 12, we finish our island landings at Whalers Bay

at Deception Island.  It was an early landing for my group at 8:30 am.

Heading toward Whalers Bay in the volcanic caldera of Deception Island. 

The entrance opening is named Neptune's Bellows for the

winds that blow through it.  The opening is 200 meters wide.

A group of passengers arriving at the shore in Whalers Bay.

On shore inside the caldera.  The steam is from volcanic vents

that allow steam and hot water to escape to the surface at the shore line. 

In spots the water was very warm from this venting action. 

Several members of our group tried out the water by swimming in the harbor. 

Standing in front of several building that were damaged

by the mud slide and then were abandoned.

Thus ends our last of eight landings on islands in the general area of Antarctic. 

The visits to each island were great experiences.  The number of penguin

sightings was unbelievable.  Above is a view of the ocean as we sail back

through Neptune's Bellows heading for the Drake Passage and on to Chile.

As we sailed northward in the Drake Passage, we passed several large icebergs.

One should remember when looking at an iceberg that only 20% is above the water line. 

That is one thing that makes them so impressive. 

One last iceberg sighting!

We are sailing in the Drake Passage toward Cape Horn. 

In the above picture it was sunny and calm seas.  That change rapidly as we sailed northward. 

Suddenly, we were in heavy seas with 30 foot swells. 

 Walking on ship was very difficult, dishes in the dining room flew

off the tables and the outer decks were closed.  The rough passage

lasted about 40 hours.  Many people were sea sick.  I was lucky and did not get sick. 

About 4 hours out of Cape Horn the seas calmed and the sun came out.

Cape Horn discovered in January 1616 by Dutchman Jakob Le Maire

and Willem Schouten, sailing in the Unity. 

It was a beautiful morning with calm seas.  This allowed the ships passengers to

disembark and visit the nearby monument to sailors who lost their lives rounding the cape.

There was a walkway and stairs that were climbed to access point of the monument and

small settlement on the cliff near the cape.  I elected to stay on

shipboard because my left knee was very sore.

Another visitor to the cape was the schooner that appeared in the

Beck's Beer  commercials.  It is now used for charter trips.

One of the MV Nordkapp small boats ferrying passengers over to the cape landing.

A last look at Cape Horn as we sail up the Beagle Channel.

While sailing in the Beagle Channel, we passed this ship wreck. 

This was a fishing boat that sailed out of the channel and ran a ground.  

It has been abandoned as a warning for other ships passing this point in the channel.

The scenery along the channel was beautiful and it was easy to take lots of photos.

At five pm, we arrived at Porto Williams, the southern most city

in the southern hemisphere.  The city has approximately 2,000

residents and their livelihood is tied to the sea.  We are stopping

here for two hours so that Chilean customs officials

can clear the boat for sailing in Chilean waters.

A couple of passengers were injured during our rough sea

crossing of the Drake Passage.  This shows the transfer of

one passenger to the Porto Williams hospital.  I found out later that the

person was flown to the hospital at Punta Arenas.  That is our next port of call.

The signs at the entrance of the pier at Puerto Williams.

There were very few shopping opportunities at this stop. 

Above is a small souvenir store which was mobbed by the passengers of the M/S Nordkapp. 

After a day of visiting Cape Horn and Puerto Williams we sailed into a beautiful sunset.

Sunday, January 15th, found us sailing to the city of Punta Arenas. 

This is our first big city stop since leaving Ushuaia on the 7th.  Punta Arenas is a

city of 140,000 residents and sits along side of the Straits of Magellan.  

Since it is Sunday, the stores are closed

so the pent up pressure of shopping continues to build for the

passengers of M/S Nordkapp.  Our visit to Punta Arenas lasted for

five and half hours.  There were several excursions offered to

the passengers at this port of call.

The wind was blowing at 30 mph and the surf was hitting the pier very hard. 

There were two small sail boats that were taking a beating in the harbor.

This is a very ornate clock near the harbor entrance. 

Each clock face had a different numerical set.

This is a statue to honor Capitan General Bernardo O'Higgins. 

He was a general who led the effort to liberate the country.

Punta Arenas has a very nice main square in its downtown. 

The center piece of the square is a large statue of Magellan facing south. 

Many people gather in the square and there are vendors selling local craft items.

The high winds continued until evening when they started to ease.

Monday, January 16th, found the M/S Nordkapp sailing through the rugged,

mountainous area called the Magallanes. 

Our route took us along the Smyth Channel and Shoal Passage.

The seas calmed and the sun was trying to shine as we sailed

away from rough seas and cloudy, foggy weather of the morning.

The mountainous terrain along the way were very stark and beautiful at the same time.

At 7:00 pm we arrived at the Skua Glacier.  It is huge in size and is one of the

few tidewater glaciers that are fed by the Andean Ice Field.

The passengers assembled on the fifth and seventh decks

to view the glacier and to take photos.

As we sailed away from the glacier you could see the immense size of the ice mass. 

The ice had the characteristic blue color of fresh water.

Tuesday starts out with a stop at Puerto Eden on Wellington Island. 

This village has 174 inhabitants of which 10 are still pure blooded Kaweskar Indians. 

Much of this small fishing village is built on stilts. 

The residents mainly fish for king crab and are involved in other fishing activities,

like mussels, sea snails and sea urchins.

Puerto Eden

Our next sightseeing event was sailing through the Angostura Inglesa or English Narrows. 

These narrows can only be navigated in the daylight hours.

The Captain Leonidas ship wrecked in the English Narrows. 

The ship was carrying a cargo of sugar when is struck rocks in the narrows.

Sailing out of the English Narrows.

Wednesday, January 18th, finds the M/S Nordkapp heading for

Puerto Chacabuco on the end of a narrow fjord.  In the early

afternoon we had a tour to the nearby Simpson Valley.  The valley was named for

Enrique Simpson who made the most thorough survey of valley up to that time the early 1870's.

On our way we passed a coastal freighter heading toward the ocean. 

The day started out cloudy and rainy and did not improve as went along.

Busses were waiting for the M/S Nordkapp's passengers to take them on the Simpson Valley tour.

We had a tour of the nearby city of Coyhaique and

this a gazebo in the park in the city square.

The city fire department had a fireman statue like the one in Owego's court house square.

By now it is raining and late in the afternoon. 

Our last tour stop was a the Cascade La Virgen waterfall. 

It was a beautiful spot with a shrine nearby.

Tomorrow, the 19th is our last day on the MS Nordkapp before flying to Santiago. 

Our port of call is Castro on the Island of Chiloe.

This afternoon stop gave the passengers a chance to walk about the city of Castro.

This church was just off the city square.  It was

interesting because it was covered with sheet metal.

The city square had several statues to famous Chilean heroes. 

This is another statue to Bernardo O'Higgins.

While walking back to the ship, we met the chef and

some of the dining room staff.  They were terrific!

 

As we sailed to and from Chiloe Island we passed many fish farms like this one. 

They used floating farms to raise salmon.  It is the largest export product for Chile.

This sunset was the perfect way to end the sailing

part of this trip to Antarctica and Chile!

We sailed overnight to Puerto Montt where we had a morning city

tour after disembarking the M/S Nordkapp.  Above is the cathedral of Puerto Montt. 

Puerto Montt is the gateway to Chile's  famous lake district. 

The city is surrounded by mountain with majestic volcanoes.

Late in the morning we were delivered to the airport where we

boarded a Sky Airline flight to Santiago. 

After arriving at Santiago airport, we boarded busses for the traditional city tour. 

Above is the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace of Chile.

A photo opt with one of the palace guards.

We visited a museum and several city squares during our tour of the city. 

This a statue to the indigoes' people of Chile.

A last look at Santiago from Cerro San Cristobal.

Saturday evening at 10 pm, we flew back to Miami. 

Thus ended a trip of a lifetime for me.