Sunday, December 27, 2009

Trinity Island

Saturday 5 December, Trinity Island
  • 04h00: 63°15.8 South / 060°40.1 West
  • 08h00: 63°36.3 South / 060°58.1 West
  • Anchor: 12h00: 63°51.4 South / 060°54.1 West
A break in our run of island landings as today was spent entirely at sea, either on board Europa on in the zodiacs iceberg spotting! But first things first. After escaping the ice at Deception we set a south westerly course in the direction of Trinity Island, crossing the Bransfield Straits. This was one of the last rougher crossings before our return trip across the Drake Passage. Fortunately, the crossing was overnight so anyone prone to seasickness could hopefully wile away the hours sleeping in their bunk – as long as they weren’t tipped out of it!

We spent a pleasant morning cruising towards Trinity Island, enjoying the landscape as it slowly slipped by and marvelling at icebergs of all types and sizes. In preparation for our iceberg spotting, Dan gave us a presentation on how glaciers are formed, the different type of icebergs as well as the formation of sea ice. I was interested in his views on the impact of climate change on this region.

In his view, and in contrast to the Arctic, it is impossible to draw conclusions on any impact climate change may be having on the Antarctic ice cap and the annual growth and subsequent retreat of the ice sheets. We watched a series of slides showing the retreat and growth of the ice sheet from February this year through to mid November. By mid and late winter the ice has extended far out in the ocean on two sides of the continent, and just past where we are visiting now on the far tip of the Peninsula. In the depths of winter the extension of ice doubles the size of the continent. Incredible.

Following another hearty lunch on deck – although no hotdogs this time – we prepared ourselves for our iceberg spotting. We took the zodiacs out for a 90 minute cruise around “iceberg alley” (the crew called it iceberg graveyard but I preferred alley...), a small channel between Trinity and Spit Islands. The prevailing winds blow icebergs into this small channel from where there is no escape and they remained trapped, caught in the shallows, held firm like ghostly shipwrecks silhouetted against the dark and imposing cliffs.

Exploring the channel everywhere we looked seemed to offer up a new vista, a new ice shape, a different colour tone of the ice, some amazing dark blues buried deep in cracks in iceberg. And there was also some wildlife in this desolate landscape. Seals had pulled themselves up on some of the marooned bergs. Including some leopard seals, the first time we had seen these awesome and feared creatures up close.

With an angular neck and rows of sharp, incisor teeth glinting in the watery sun, they certainly lived up to the impression I had formed of them. Watch out little penguins!

Back on board, it was time to celebrate Sinterklaas day – Dutch Christmas, celebrated in the evening of December 5. As part of our celebrations, we all did secret santa gifts for our crew mates. I drew Karen out of the hat and went on the practical side with my gift, including a pair of my hand heat patches since she had earlier told me how cold she had been feeling. Time will tell if this will encourage her to participate in more landings. In return, I got a “Dutch for Dummies” guide. My Dutch, already at a high level of competence, has been refined on this trip. New words such as “lekke” have been added to my burgeoning repertoire. In fact, Dutch seems to revolve around this all-purpose word, generally taken to mean “nice/good”. Lekke moi indeed.

Continuing our festive theme, we were also visted by Sinterklaas and Black Peter, arriving on a detour from Spain on their way to the Low Countries. One of our crew, Lisa from Australia, was honoured as the best behaved of our group, while Sanne from the Low Countries, for misdeamours undetermined, was given the sack literally – trussed up in a bag for transport...but not to Spain, rather back to the deck house bar where we promptly retired for dinner. Late evening entertainment saw a group of us take in the Shackleton movie. I must admit I didn’t think it was that good since it had, understandably, to condense a lot of the story into film size proportions. However, a short scene of 3 minutes does not really convey the magnitude of, say, the crossing from Elephant Island to South Georgia in a small adapted life raft. Epic doesn’t come close to describing that feat. Neither should it be used in connection with the film. As ever, the book is clearly superior to the film.

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