Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Last True Wilderness?

Ice like no other...
  I've been traveling to Antarctica for the four years now and it still continues to feed my heart and nourish my soul. When I talk to folks about the frozen continent I usually use the same line... Alaska has my heart, but Antarctica's got me by the balls.

  This season we were adventuring with Marina Sveateva, a Polish built, Russian designed vessel made for servicing and bunkering oil to other ships in the Russian high east. In comparison to other ships I've worked on she certainly had the feel of a working ship. The exterior had ribs all along her body made for protecting her from contact made with other vessels. Her ice-class is higher than many vessels putting her just below "ice breaker" due to how many ponies she had pushing her along, and she was put to the test more than once! Complete with a helicopter hanger, sauna, plunge pool and heaps of deck space we were happy to give her second life, back in her "home away from home."
Antarctic Peninsula

Friendly Humpback Whale

A story of past life told by ice

A few thoughts from mid-season this year -

"The ice has been super thick, more plentiful than I remember in years past, creating an exciting dynamic to our program for our daily operations. Being here early season and seeing Antarctica in all her pristine glory... I'd forgotten how magical it is here. Everything is blanketed in snow now, but won't last long. As the sun continues to shine and the penguins keep to their daily activities much of the white will change to green, orange and red very soon.

  My energy is lofting between the cosmos and the ocean, finding a balance when being the "go to guy" certainly is a welcomed challenge... the to do list is ever growing while my "quiet time" equally dwindling! We've joined together as a solid team with two voyages under our belt and the family is gathering for our third go. Old friends and past romance is here in front of me and I welcome all equally and smilingly... looking to remain equanimous for my days on the water and hoping to remain connected if only by a fraction of a hair to my outside life, the connectivity goes so quickly!"
Chillin' with the homeys

Gorgeous isn't it

Freaky Ice!

Another classic shot
  Highlights are too numerous to list therefore I'll cover simply the tip of the iceberg... hehe. These photos are a compilation of a few of my favorites from this season and last. If you'd like one for your home or a gift to a friend, let me know and I'll be happy to hook-it-up!

  This season the Marina Sveateva showed us what it means to be "ice-strengthened" on the southern ocean!
  While traversing a passage just south of where the "typical 10-day traffic" flows and an area I refer to as the "weekend getaway" we encountered a vast expanse of 1st year sea-ice, only a few metres thick. Most ships guided by their captains would turn, tail between their legs in fear of damaging their vessel... ours eagerly set her at 10 knots steaming straight ahead, barreling for the roadblock head on! The best part of all is that when this was begining one of our passengers came sprinting into the dining rooms and told everybody to get the "F" outside... "you don't wanna miss this! It's amazing!!!"
  So, the dude abides, and all the eager adventurers do as well by running out to the ample deck space with mouths agape, cameras and face united as one. Our ship was entirely surrounded by ice and trudging forward against the heavy mass. About mid-way through we'd reached our limit. Captain reversed about 200 metres and out the pedal to the medal once again and away we went, crushing through sheets of fracturing ice shelf, prevailing on the other side! In my opinion, the captain stopped in the middle for dramatic affect and to get his camera. None the less it was a sight to be seen and one that I'm not sure I'll witness again!

Early morning light

 Kayaking in the polar regions is always a highlight. Serene, tranquil, epic paddling is waiting for any and everybody, so long as they sign up early enough. Camping on the snow and ice happens nearly every voyage but is subject to weather. In early January, just after solstice there is still abundant daylight. One evening in the Argentine Islands we set out with 35 campers, a sunset at 10 past midnight and big ol' Grandmother Moon rising across the placid waters at the same time. To my hearts content I don't think I'd had a more perfect moment in all my years in the south!
Resident Leopard Seal

   Working with One Ocean Expeditions has been a blessing in so many ways. From the Bad-Ass Mutha F'ers that I see everyday down there and now call my family, to the challenges of dynamic conditions. Throw on top the fact that anything and everything you saw the last time you were there has changed and in a gust of a katabatic wind you have an adventure of a lifetime!

Check out OOE at
  I have few stories to share over a beer the next time we meet, just remind me about... a zodiac on the loose, the ships sprinkler system, 3 drifting zodiacs in the Errera Channel, and my favorite of all - the epic saga of a zodiac, a schoolbus and a forklift... what a life!
Black Browed Albatross