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Antarctic Adventure and Palmer Station Trip Journal

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February 15, Antarctic Adventure and Palmer Station

What an incredible day. Stunningly beautiful scenery, whales, penguins, seals, icebergs, mountains.

John and I didn’t have any idea of what we would encounter on this voyage through Antarctica, but it’s way more than either of us would have ever anticipated.

All morning, we cruised through mountains and icebergs – some of the icebergs are huge, some are small and referred to as “grinders”. Then, the little pieces of ice that have broken off and are just floating along in the water are called “bergy bits”. The sun cooperated all day and we were able to take some fabulous photos. The icebergs are so interesting – all different sizes and shapes. But, what’s most unusual is the beautiful turquoise color seen below the surface of the water. It’s impossible to tell how far down the ice goes.

The mountains we sailed past are the Fief Mountains. The tallest peak is Mount Francais which is over 9,000 feet high.

We arrived at the Palmer Station on Anvers Island around 1pm. Two Zodiacs brought personnel from Palmer Station to the ship. They held two sessions, talking about their life on Anvers Island and the research they are conducting. They asked for two things to take back with them to the station: garlic and ice cream.

Anvers Island is a high, mountainous island 38 miles long. The Palmer Station, built in 1968, is Antarctica’s only U. S. station located north of the Antarctic Circle. Palmer Station is the home of the U. S. Biological Research Center. It can accommodate 44 people, but is usually only full during the summer months. The researchers focus on monitoring the marine ecosystem, atmospheric studies and the effects of the increased ultraviolet radiation on both the marine and terrestrial communities. Because of the increasing ozone hole, there’s much more interest in the ultraviolet radiation effects.

The climate changes in sea-ice and snowfall has reduced the population of the Adele Penguins to less than 3,300 pair. That’s a 60% decreased from 1974. The prediction is that they’ll be entirely gone from Anvers Island by 2014.

While in Ushuaia, John bought the book “Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World” by Jennifer Armstrong. It’s about Ernest Shackleton and his expedition to Antarctica. After seeing the conditions that faced them (and right now it’s summertime), it’s hard to believe they all survived.

Okay, it’s official. There are some really crazy people on board this ship. At 2pm, at the Lido Deck pool, which is outside, the Penguin Plunge took place. All the sane people were dressed in winter coats, gloves, hats, scarves while the crazy ones (or maybe brave?) jumped into the pool with only their bathing suits. To make it even colder, the cruise director dumped buckets of ice into the pool before the plunge. Brrrrrr.

Earlier this morning, I was on-line and happened to read a report from a couple who are traveling on this ship and writing for Cruise Critic. After reading a few days worth of their comments, I decided next time I go online, I am going to ask them if they’re sure we’re all on the same cruise. They are obviously not having nearly as great a time as we are.

For dinner, our table of seven enjoyed a second time in the Pinnacle Grill. The service is impeccable and the food is delicious. Well worth the small extra charge.

Tomorrow, we continue our sailing through Antarctica – we’ll spend most of the day in the South Shetland Islands. Our Captain has informed us that due to the ice shelf, the weather can change rapidly, so the route can change at any time. His advice, “if you want to know the weather forecast, look out a window”.

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About the Author

John Moen is a cartographer who along with his wife are the orignal founders of worldatlas.com. He and his wife, Chris Woolwine-Moen, produced thousands of award-winning maps that are used all over the world and content that aids students, teachers, travelers and parents with their geography and map questions. Today, it's one of the most popular educational sites on the web.

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This page was last updated on July 12, 2016.