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Antarctic Adventure and the South Shetland Islands Trip Journal

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February 16, Antarctic Adventure and the South Shetland Islands

Today included icebergs, mountains, “bergy bits” and “grinders”, lots of penguins jumping through the water, dolphins, seals and a couple other ships. Another interesting and beautiful day. The sun wasn’t out like it was yesterday, and the mountain peaks were hidden by low clouds. But, the photo-taking opportunities were still just as great as yesterday.

The South Shetland Islands are a group of Antarctic islands, consisting of 11 major islands and several smaller ones. Between 80 and 90 percent of the land area is a glacier. From early April to early in December, the sea around the islands is closed by ice.

The Antarctic Treaty of 1959 states the Shetland Islands are free for use by any signatory for non-military use. The treaty specifically prohibits military operations, nuclear explosions and disposal of radioactive wastes. Then, in 1991, 24 nations signed a protocol to the 1959 Treaty, barring exploration of Antarctica for oil or minerals. There are 30 year-round research stations on the continent, operated by 18 countries. The United States has built a scientific village at McMurdo where people may be housed in summer and winter.

We sailed past Deception Island, which is best known for being an active volcano. It has become a popular tourist destination because it has several colonies of the chinstrap penguins, in fact, the west side of the island is home to one of the world’s largest chinstrap rookeries. The volcano is active enough to heat the waters of the Antarctic to bathwater temperatures.

It’s still way too cold to walk on the deck, so I headed back to the gym again this morning. I went early – around 6:30. Great time to go – not busy at all. John is getting more than enough exercise going from deck to deck with camera equipment.

One minor problem when I got back from the gym. Hopped in the shower to clean up so we could go to breakfast. No hot water. So, I started the morning off with a nice cold shower – that woke me up, for sure! The Captain announced this afternoon that one of the units that heats the water went out during the night. The entire system had to be drained in order to make the necessary repairs. We finally had warm water around 2pm. John was smart – he waited to take his shower until the water was hot again.

We also had no heat today. The heating system was affected by the unit that went out. We were quite cool all day, so just kept adding layers of clothes. By late afternoon, the heating was fixed and everything was back to normal.

The Captain announced that due to the problems encountered with the hot water and then the heat, that he was buying everyone drinks in the various bars. It was divided by early dinner seating and main seating. We went to our regular bar which normally is quiet and not busy. Erwin, our favorite server, had saved seats for us. It was packed. We were amazed at how many people showed up and ordered very expensive drinks. Today, drinks won’t be free, so they won’t be back.

Tomorrow, we will continue our journey in the Antarctica – if weather conditions allows, we will sail to Hope Bay, Paulet Island and then Elephant Island. The Endurance Glacier is at Elephant Island.

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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.