21 July 2016

Antarctic season on the Ocean Nova

From November to March there is a pilgrimage of roughly 30,000 tourists all heading down to Antarctica one way or another to see what it's like at the end of the world. For me, this was my third season down there at the real bottom of the world.

Originally I went down to kayak and to be honest I had no idea what I was going to find. That season I flew down to meet the ship and then flew back when my time was done without ever having to sail across the Drake Passage. Lucky for me because I'm terrible at sea and am one of those people who are useless for two days as I try to do as much horizontal time as possible to avoid the spew as soon as the going gets rough.

Since then I have experienced multiple Drakes, flights and lots of time hanging out down on the Antarctic Peninsula where all of the action happens. I have also diversified. No longer just a sea kayak guide but also ripping people around in Zodiacs and most recently as the photographer. After spending the majority of the season refusing to take my camera off the ship I was just rocking the cell phone in the pocket for those extra ordinary moments that it's a crime to not try to capture the moment. This was pretty fun because for my first trip I could just focus on getting some nice pictures for the passengers to take home at the end of the trip. 

One of those moments that words can't describe.. Just warming up the zodiacs when out of the blue a Humback came to say hi to us.

So the Southern Ocean - or more specifically, the Drake Passage. This is the stretch of water that separates Cape Horn (South America) and the Antarctic Peninsula. Many people dread this stretch of water. Notorious for huge swell, gnarly storms, and BIRRRDS! If you can hold it together then the Drake will show you some amazing birds. Of these, my favorites are the albatross. Huge huge birds that just ride the wind that very rarely ever stops.

Black-Browed Albatross in the Drake Passage.

 Once down on the Peninsula the seas calm down and this is where most of the action is. Ice, penguins, whales etc - all of the things that again, are very hard to describe. All in all it was another amazing season with lots of incredible moments that are impossible to forget! I'll let some photos say the rest and try to give the place some perspective.

Once we arrive at our location Zodiacs are dropped from Deck 5 - Gerlache Strait

One of the greatest challenges down there is access. This is a common scene as the glacier reaches the ocean you get these huge terminal faces that could calve at any moment.

 Kayaking gets it's own 'safety' zodiac. As you can see I'm being super safe! 

 Bombs from Deck! It's OK, the Dr is on my right and a tough Danish girl on my left.. safety first.

 A Skua trying to steal my eyes.

Anvers Island

 It's not all beauty - This is an old whaling station on an active volcano - Deception Island.

Ruslan showing his folks some ICE with a Leopard Seal just hanging out on a floe in behind at Neko Harbor.

A couple of South Polar Skuas fighting.

Daniel supervising the penguins at Dorian Bay. Scenic as always!

A chinstrap Penguin with an itch!

A Humpback in the Gerlache Strait.

 A southern Giant Petral on Useful Island. believe it or not that wingspan is about 3m.

Snow fights floating around on some old sea ice

From the left: Daniel (Chile), Ruslan (Russia), Pernille (Denmark), Chica (Chile), Agustina (Argentina), Olle (Sweeden), Karen (Chile), Me (NZ), Mariano (Argentina) Loli (Argentina), Ben (NZ), Bob (USA), Nico (Chile). - Halfmoon Island.
Tthe Expedition Team at the end of the season. It wouldn't be the same without this bunch of beauties! Sad to be leaving but happy to be going home.

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