January 11 photos

January 12 photos

January 13 morning photos

January 13 afternoon photos

January 14 morning photos

January 14 afternoon photos

January 15 photos

January 16 photos

Touring Antarctica

January 2015

In January 2015 Brandon went on a National Geographic expedition to Antarctica. A lot of the scenery looked like the picture below.


The group flew to Buenos Aires. We had a tour of the city and then had the evening to ourselves. The next day we flew to Ushuaia, Argentina - the southernmost city in the world. There we boarded a catamaran for lunch and a tour of the Beagle Channel. In the evening we boarded the National Geographic Explorer and headed for Antarctica.

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In the afternoon 2 days later we reached the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Our crossing of the Drake Passage was uneventful. We went ashore to check out the penguins.

Dava in her happy place

Here are some pictures from that day (January 11th).

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During the night we sailed further south. The next morning (January 12th) we went ashore on a rocky coast where there were colonies of both Adelie penguins (black head, somewhat reddish beak) and Gentoo penguins (white patch on head and very red beak). As you can see below the colonies are huge.

Huge penguin colonies

Here are some pictures from that morning.

In the afternoon we made an attempt to reach Paulet Island. The crew thought that this late in the season the ice would be thin enough for us to make it. But the ice was too thick and we had to turn back. Almost exactly 100 years ago, Shackleton’s ship became encased in the ice (on the other side of the Weddell Sea). After his ship sunk, they put their life boats on an ice floe and they drifted for months. They had intended to stop at Paulet for provisions. But they couldn’t reach it. Here is a picture of Paulet Island.

Paulet Islands

Later in the afternoon we passed a pod of orcas (killer whales).

Orcas (killer whales)

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The next morning we awoke to bright sun, blue sky and calm water. We were in Cierva Cove. We could hear loud cracks as the glaciers calved. We went on Zodiak tours around the cove. We saw chinstrap penguins jumping into the water. We got hot chocolate with rum from the bar Zodiac. We examined the icebergs up close. We saw a large leopard seal. And we marveled at the reflection in the glassy water.

Blue Sky, Calm Water

Here are some pictures from that morning, January 13th.

After the morning's explorations, the ship headed for the afternoon's location. We went through a lot of ice to get there.

Ship in Ice

In the afternoon Dava and I explored the bay on an ocean kayak.

Dava in Kayak

Here are some pictures from the afternoon.

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The next morning we were in Orne Harbor. We had a choice of a Zodiak tour of the harbor or a long hike up a steep hill. I took the Zodiak tour; Dava went on the hike. It was snowing lightly as I got into the Zodiak. I saw lots of penguins and icebergs.

Hike up hill

Here are some pictures from the morning of January 14.

In the afternoon we headed south. Quote from the daily expedition report: “we passed into the very picturesque Neumeyer Channel. Patches of lighter thin clouds allowed the sun to brighten the landscape—almost too bright. It was an awe-inspiring passage and many hundreds of images were made. In about an hour from the end of that scenery we then entered another more awesome passage called Lemaire Channel between Booth Island and the mainland. The captain nimbly weaved through some large and small ice patches. We were treated to perfect views of a number of leopard seals sleeping on flat pieces of ice. Then for the rest of the afternoon and evening we continued southward.”

Lemaire Channel

Here are some pictures from the afternoon of January 14.

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When we awoke the next morning, having sailed south all night, we were below the Antarctic Circle. Wow!! We continued south, testing the ship’s ice-breaking capabilities. Sometimes the ship shuddered when we broke through an ice floe. We made it to our farthest point south when we came to a huge ice sheet that we could not penetrate. The captain pushed the bow of the ship against the ice sheet and we all went ashore.

Ice Sheets

Here are some pictures from January 15.

After our fun time on the ice shelf, the captain turned the ship around and we began our return to the north. The following is from the expedition log for that day: To wrap up the afternoon, guests assembled on the sun-deck for a whiskey toast to Shackleton with the blend produced as a replica of the bottles found beneath the floor of his hut by the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust during restoration work. In the words of the legendary Antarctic expedition leader and scientist, Sir Raymond Priestly: “For scientific leadership give me Scott; for swift and efficient travel, Amundsen; but when you are in a hopeless situation, when there seems to be no way out, get on your knees and pray for Sir Earnest Shackleton.”

Blue sky and water

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On our last day in Antarctica, we had an early breakfast in order to hear an 8:00 AM talk by two members of the British Antarctic Trust about their work in this remote place. After the talk we went ashore at Port Lockroy to see the restored British outpost built during World War II. We toured the facility, got our passports stamped, bought souvenirs and mailed post cards (which will arrive any month now). Next we moved to Jogula Point where the thousands of pairs of nesting gentoo penguins were shadowed by the blue skies and the peaks of the Fief Range, sharp and spikey snow-covered mountains that seemed taller than the 4,700 feet of their real height (photo below).

Penguins and Mountains

Here are some pictures from January 16.

C. Brandon Jones
email: Brandon "at" cbjones.info
updated February 27, 2015