James Caird drawing

In February / March 2008 I returned to the Antarctic Peninsula for a second time, doing the 20 day "Shackleton Odyssey" trip with Aurora Expeditions. This trip visited the Antarctic Peninsula, Elephant Island, the South Orkney Islands, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, with a special focus on Ernest Shackleton's 1914-16 Endurance expedition. A selection of photographs from this trip is contained below. Click on the thumbnails to see larger images:

to go to my South Georgia photographs page.

Ushuaia. This city of approx 30000 people is situated on the Beagle Channel on the Argentine side of Tierra del Fuego. It is now a major departure point for cruises to the Antarctic Peninsula and in the summer months is full of tourists heading to or just returning from Antarctica. I spent a day exploring this city and the nearby Tierra del Fuego National Park prior to boarding the ship.

Polar Pioneer
Aurora Expeditions uses the ice-strengthened research ship 'Polar Pioneer' for its trips to the Antarctic Peninsula. It is a relatively small ship with just 55 passengers and about 20 crew, and is quite comfortable and well suited to these trips. It is one of the smaller tourist ships to visit Antarctica, however the smaller number of passengers means everyone can go ashore at the same time and visit more places. This is a sister ship to the Professor Molchanov which I went on to Antarctica in 1999.

Peaks at Cape Renard
After leaving Ushuaia we spent two days at sea crossing the Drake Passage. Then early the following day we had our first sight of the Antarctic continent - the dramatic peaks of Cape Renard just north of the Lemaire Channel.

Lemaire Channel Approaching the Lemaire Channel. Passengers were up on deck early to watch the ship sail past Booth Island and into the Lemaire Channel. The dramatic peaks and wild weather were fantastic. On my previous trip to the Antarctic Peninsula the ship was stopped here by pack ice, so it was good to be able to head further south through the channel this time.

Lemaire Channel Pack ice in the Lemaire Channel. This was the only pack ice our ship sailed through on the entire journey. This was the first day of autumn and the summer pack ice had almost disappeared in this area.

Argentine Islands Argentine Islands. Our first trip ashore was on the Argentine Islands, about 20km south of the Lemaire Channel. We did a short zodiac cruise amongst the islands, visited Wordie House, then climbed a small snow-covered hill for great views of the surrounding area.

Wordie House Wordie House. This is an old British hut built during the 1940s as part of Operation Tabarin. The hut has been restored as a museum and shows what life was like here a few decades ago.

Vernadsky Station Vernadsky Station. We spent about one hour visiting Vernadsky Station, a Ukrainian base which was formerly the British 'Faraday' base. The British discovered the ozone hole here during the 1980's and the Ukrainians still continue ozone research here. We were taken on a tour of the research facilities then taken to the bar where some of us sampled their vodka.

Petermann Island Petermann Island. We spent about three hours ashore during the afternoon on Petermann Island. This island has a large gentoo penguin colony, adelie penguins, and great views of Mt Scott and the peaks south of the Lemaire Channel. The island was also where the French explorer, Jean-Baptiste Charcot over-wintered in his ship, the 'Pourquoi Pas', in 1909.

Petermann Island On Petermann Island there is an abandoned Argentine refugio and a cross erected in memory of British Antarctic Survey personnel who perished nearby.

Gentoo Penguin Gentoo penguin. Petermann Island has the southernmost breeding colony of gentoo penguins.

Gentoo Penguins Gentoo penguins standing in a puddle. The gentoo colonies appear messier and dirtier than other penguin colonies. These penguins are very cute and provided great entertainment while we were ashore.

Petermann Island Petermann Island panorama. It was great to just sit and admire the fantastic scenery of the island and the peaks on the Antarctic continent.

Zodiac cruising During the evening we went for a zodiac cruise around an iceberg filled bay near Pleneau and Booth Islands. One highlight was having a leopard seal chase the zodiacs around the bay for a few kilometres. After the zodiac cruise we then boarded the ship and headed north back through the Lemaire Channel.

Port Lockroy Port Lockroy. The following morning was spent at the old British base at Port Lockroy, built as part of Operation Tabarin during the second world war. We visited the museum and shop on Goudier Island and the gentoo penguins, blue-eyed shags and whalebones at Jougla Point on Wiencke island. The weather was foggy and wet snow was falling for most of this day. The ship then left here and sailed along the Neumayer Channel to Paradise Bay.

Paradise Bay We arrived at Almirante Brown Station in Paradise Bay and climbed to the top of the snow covered hill behind the base, before sliding back down the snowslope. On my previous Antarctic trip I had climbed this hill in warm sunshine, in contrast to the snowy, foggy conditions this time. This station is on the mainland and was the only time we stepped ashore on the Antarctic continent.

Almirante Brown Station Almirante Brown is a small Argentine station located in Paradise Bay. This station was abandoned a decade ago after a fire but there are plans to restore it and resume scientific research.

Paradise Bay We went for a zodiac cruise around Skontorp Cove in Paradise Bay. There was alot of ice on the water and many of the surrounding glaciers looked like they were about to collapse into the sea.

Leopard Seal We had a great close-up view of a leopard seal resting on an ice floe in Paradise Bay. After the zodiac cruise, and a polar plunge by some of the passengers, we left Paradise Bay and headed north along the Peninsula towards the South Shetland Islands.

Approaching Deception Island Approaching Deception Island. The following morning we arrived at Deception Island, an active volcano in the South Shetland Islands. We sailed through Neptunes Bellows into the interior of the caldera, which forms a great natural harbour.

At Whalers Bay Whalers Bay. The ship anchored at Whalers bay and we went ashore to spend a few hours exploring the ruins of the old Norwegian whaling station and British Antarctic Survey base.

Whalers Bay A few of us walked along the beach and up to Neptunes Windows, before heading back to explore the ruins of the whaling station, destroyed by a mud flow from a volcanic eruption in the late 1960s. Steam was rising from hot springs along the shoreline and blowing across the beach. This beach was also the site of the first Antarctic flight in 1928 by Sir Hubert Wilkins.

Whalers Bay Biscoe House. This is one of the many ruined buildings at Whalers Bay.

Robert Point Robert Point. From Deception Island we headed north along the South Shetlands and went ashore on Robert Island during the afternoon. A few hours were spent at Robert Point, which had a small chinstrap penguin colony, elephant seals and fur seals. This was our first encounter with fur seals, but definitely not our last!

Chinstrap Penguin Chinstrap penguin at Robert Point.

Elephant Island Elephant Island. The next morning the ship arrived at Elephant Island, in fairly good weather. I considered the good view of this island a bonus, and the weather continued to improve throughout the day.

Cape Valentine Cape Valentine. The ship sailed past Cape Valentine, the easternmost point of the island, before heading along the north coast towards Point Wild. Shackleton's men first landed on Elephant Island at Cape Valentine, however it was too exposed and they only spent a short time here before relocating to Point Wild.

Point Wild Point Wild. Twenty two of Shackleton's men spent four months living in an upturned boat on the small spit (in the centre of the photograph), while Shackleton and five others sailed from here in the James Caird to seek rescue. Point Wild consists of a low gravel and boulder spit 20m long and 6m wide, now occupied by a chinstrap penguin colony. The nearby glacier has receded about 200m since 1916.

Point Wild We did a zodiac cruise at Point Wild and saw the monument erected to Capt Luis Pardo Villalon, the master of the Chilean boat 'Yelcho' that eventually rescued Shackleton's men. The surging swell prevented a visit ashore however a few of us were able to momentarily step onto some rocks to say we had been on Elephant Island. The scenery and history of this location was amazing.

Elephant Island During the afternoon we left Point Wild and headed east along the northern coast of Elephant Island and out into the Scotia Sea towards the South Orkney Islands.

Tabular Iceberg As we left Elephant Island we sailed past a number of large tabular icebergs and sighted around 30 fin whales.

South Orkney Island Approaching the South Orkney Islands. We spent the early morning sailing through fog and mist but as we neared the South Orkney Islands the weather improved, revealing spectacular shaped islands and numerous icebergs.

On Laurie Island During the afternoon we went ashore on Laurie Island to visit the Orcadas Base. A nearby line of graves was occupied by resident fur seals.

Orcadas Base Orcadas Base. This Argentine station is the longest continuously running base in Antarctica, having operated since 1904. It is located on an isthmus on Laurie Island.

At Orcadas Base Our group spent about two hours ashore, visiting the base and the small museum. The island scenery was impressive and luckily we were there on one of the rare days of sunshine per year.

Ormond House Ormond House. At Orcadas are the ruins of Ormond House, a stone hut erected by the Scottish Bruce Expedition in 1903.

Blue Iceberg Blue coloured iceberg near Laurie Island. There were some great icebergs in the vicinity of the South Orkney Islands.

Penguins on Iceberg Iceberg covered with penguins.

Near South Orkney Islands As we left the South Orkneys we passed many large tabular icebergs. From here the ship sailed northeast for the next day across the Scotia Sea towards South Georgia.

King Penguin Click on the photo to go to another page with my photographs from South Georgia. We spent the next five days at South Georgia, first visiting King Haakon Bay on the south coast, before heading around to the more sheltered north coast - site of the old whaling stations and the main penguin and seal colonies. The wildlife experiences over the next few days were very special, and the combination of scenery, wildlife and history make South Georgia one of the most amazing places I have visited.

Approaching Stanley Arrival at Stanley. After South Georgia the ship headed west for three days towards the Falkland Islands. Late on the third day we arrived at Stanley and were able to spend a few hours ashore.

Stanley During our short time in Stanley we visited some tourist shops, wandered the streets to get a feel for the place, and visited a local pub before it was time to depart. Later that evening the ship headed southwest along the coast and the next morning we arrived at Bleaker Island.

On beach at Bleaker Island Group on the beach at Bleaker Island. This was our last shore excursion and we spent the morning on this privately owned island. The island is low lying and does appear bleak at first glance, however it has white sandy beaches, and there is a large amount of wildlife scattered on the island and around the coast, including gentoo, magellanic and rockhopper penguins, cormorants, upland geese and seals, plus the cows and sheep from the local farm.

On Bleaker Island We did a return walk of about 5km across the island to see the magellanic and rockhopper penguin colonies.

Magellanic Penguin Magellanic penguins. These penguins nest in burrows on the island.

Rockhopper Penguin Rockhopper penguin. There was a colony of these small penguins on the coastal cliffs of the island.

Bleaker Island Group visiting the Bleaker Island settlement, which consists of a few houses, shearing shed, small store, wind generator and general farm paraphernalia. We talked with the island owners, then had a long walk back across the island towards the ship. Our ship then left Bleaker Island and spent the next day at sea heading towards South America. We passed Staten Island and then arrived back at the Beagle Channel, where we anchored for the night. Early the following day we arrived at Ushuaia and our trip was suddenly over.

Contact "alanlevy at pcug dot org dot au" for more information.

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