Antarctic reflection

I was sitting last night and catching up on some of the tv that I had recorded while we were away โ€“ yes I know โ€“ not strictly allowed but I hate to miss the nature shows ๐Ÿ™‚

There was a piece that I had recorded about a marine biologistโ€™s trip to Antarctica. His commentary had me recalling many of the moments that we enjoyed on our trip to the southern oceans in Jan 2010. There were, however, a couple of special points that he made that definitely made me think and feel the need to share.

Firstly was an incident where he was crossing the southern ocean in really rough weather and the ship received a mayday call from a smaller vessel. They steamed to intercept but by the time they arrived at the point of the call all that was found was an empty life-raft. The scientist was saddened and touched by the fact that 3 mariners had perished in the same storm that he had ridden out on his ship. This story really struck a chord with me. We were very lucky with our journey in that the weather was very kind to us and we didn’t have to endure the wrath of Drake Passage but it is strictly the luck of the draw.

Albatross cruising the Drake Passage


When we visited Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula there was a small (30ft?) sailing boat that passed us by to moor and visit Palmer. I was shocked! This small boat seemed so insignificant in the bigness that is Antarctica. It is really hard to impart the scale of the place but this little โ€œwoodenโ€ boat definitely did not belong โ€ฆ but then again, neither did Scott, Amundsen or Mawson (having said that their boats (when they had them) were much bigger than this small sloop). I would still question the prudence of a small vessel in such dangerous waters โ€“ but then again, I am not a mariner ๐Ÿ™‚

Our life boats were not that much smaller than the "little wooden boat".


The second chime for me came when the scientist had a chance encounter with a Minke Whale. For the people in the tv doco they were lucky enough to be in zodiacs when the whale passed by and the Minke stopped and played for approx 1-1.5hrs. For me, the whale arrived while I was on deck. Our ship was stationary when a Minke Whale came up to the side of the vessel. It did not simply pass by โ€“ it stopped, rolled onto its side for a better look, then rolled beneath us. There is something quite surreal in meeting a Minke up close and personal as it were. I saw a Minkeโ€™s eye and it saw mine. Unforgettable!

Eye to eye with a Minke - image by fellow traveller Nanja


That experience more than any other makes me question the โ€˜needโ€™ to โ€˜studyโ€™ the Minke whale by Japanese experts (many of whom I believe are found in restaurants??). Such a great sadness.

I am not writing this to start a riot โ€“ only to share a memory stirred and voice an opinion.

For those friends who have noticed that the Minke whale image is not one of mine here’s a little life lesson for you:

When on a ship in the Antarctic never, and I mean never leave the cabin without the camera ๐Ÿ˜‰ I did, and consequently missed the chance to photograph this amazing encounter. That said – without my camera in my hand I did get the opportunity to simply look and enjoy the wonder without worrying about the aperture ๐Ÿ™‚

Deception Island - the ship, the zodiacs and the penguins

Icebergs against a dark and gloomy sky

Can you find the zodiac? The mountains disappeared a long way into the clouds.


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4 Responses to Antarctic reflection

  1. Judi says:

    Amazing Augustine – this trip is on my bucket list:)

  2. Robert says:

    Hi, nice story. Never, NEVER, will leave my cabin without a camera. Promised!!!!!!

  3. Justin says:

    Hey Augustine, Amazing photos, looks like a wonderful trip. Who did you do it through? Was it with a commercial operator or did you go on a special trip?

  4. Augustine says:

    Thanks guys ๐Ÿ™‚
    Justin – we travelled with
    Can’t recommend them highly enough. They did an awesome job of looking after us. I have spoken to other people who have used other companies and one of the things that I really liked about our cruise was that all of the staff and crew (including the scientists) were all South American locals, not international imports.

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