We are going to the bottom of the world to explore our planet’s most mysterious and inaccessible continent.
  • Day13

    Last Leg of the Journey

    February 22, 2020 in Argentina ⋅ 🌙 64 °F

    A three-hour Latam Airlines flight has brought us back to Buenos Aires, the starting point for this adventure. An hour-long bus tour of the city initiated the ride to the international airport in the Ezeiza Partido, some 45 minutes away. We cleared security and found the VIP lounge, where we are awaiting the flight that will take us back to Miami. Now we are grateful to be through Argentine security, to be fed and rested, and to be permitted to enjoy this adventure, the journey of a lifetime.Read more

  • Day13

    Homeward Bound

    February 22, 2020 in Argentina ⋅ 🌧 64 °F

    We ate an early breakfast onboard the MS Midnatsol and met Theresa, our Road Scholar guide, on Deck 5 for the bus ride to the airport in Ushuaia. Another guide, Sylvia, gave us an hour-long tour of the town, and Theresa bought us hot chocolate at a cafe designed to resemble an old-timey general store.Read more

  • Day12

    In the Wake of the Golden Hind

    February 21, 2020, South Atlantic Ocean ⋅ 🌬 41 °F

    I am feeling a little better after Glenda's administration of the proper cold medicines. Yesterday we turned in our boots and badges, and then retrieved our passports. After the Captain's Farewell Dinner we continued to pack and to prepare for the re-crossing of Drake's Passage. The navigator gave a presentation suggesting that the trip back to Argentina may be a bit worse than the trip over.

    I was awakened several times during the night by the rocking and pitching of the ship, though motion sickness has never bothered me. The Captain is running fast through the Passage to get us back to Ushuaia before another storm to our west hits us. We should be back in Argentina sometime early tomorrow morning. Everything I won't need for the remainder of the trip has already been packed. Tonight after supper I will stow my toiletries, electronics and chargers and start to live out of my camera bag until we arrive home in North Carolina.
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  • Day10

    In a Smoking Volcano

    February 19, 2020 in Antarctica ⋅ ☀️ 32 °F

    The M/S Midnatsol is anchored in the middle of a volcanic caldera. This is not an inactive or dormant caldera, as one might imagine, but the center of an active volcano. The last big eruption occurred in 1970, but there are still areas around the edges where steamy water condenses as it meets the frigid arctic air. Everything here is barren. A lunar landscape contains as much life. Only a few distant hills wear a modest crown of snow.

    Following our excursion photographer Espin Mills offered a class in Lightroom, but I excused myself after an hour since I already had learned the techniques he presented. I stood on the ship and watched through binoculars the string of shipmates who chose to hike to the crest of the ridge overlooking the caldera. The stark beauty of this place will return in my memories for years to come.

    Like several of the beaches we have visited, Deception Island's lack of snow and ice surprises me. Antarctica has ice and glaciers. We saw plenty of each. Yet those returning here comment on the rapid retreat of many of the tidewater glaciers and the unusually warm temperatures that have met us this week. Global warming is apparently real, yet not even the alarmists of the media have good ideas about how to address the issue. I am grateful for the opportunity to visit here. I am also grateful for the international agreements that limit the number of tourists that can be on this continent. Our ship can only release no more than one hundred at a time. Let us hope that the nations of the world cooperate to solve climatic problems as successfully as they have cooperated to preserve this pristine continent.
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  • Day9

    Danco, the Hapless Hero

    February 18, 2020 in Antarctica ⋅ ⛅ 32 °F

    As a child Emile Danco always wanted to be a soldier or a sailor, but a heart defect prevented him from entering either the Belgian Army or Navy. The sickly young man became a studious pupil, and his studies led him to become one of the world's first geophysicists. In 1897 the Belgian explorer Adrienne de Gerlache proposed a survey of Antarctica, and Danco signed on as the expedition's scientist. At one point Danco fell overboard in the icy waters, but was rescued, barely alive. Yet the accident didn't kill him; his heart defect did, and his shipmates buried him in an unmarked grave here at one of the most beautiful places on the globe. The expedition commander named this place for him, and now Danco Island offers us some of Antarctica's most attractive wonders.

    Before going ashore, I loaded up with ibuprofen to mask the horrible cold shared by half our passengers. The humpback whales spouted, the penguins cavorted and the fur seals lolled in the sun just as they have done for the last twelve million years. They have done this whether anyone was there to see them or not. Indeed, they are doing it right now as you read this. We saw the remains of the British Station "O," an antarctic outpost dismantled in 1959 during the International Geophysical Year. At that time the nations holding claims in Antarctica relinquished them to cooperate in the exploration and preservation of this wonderland. We are allowed to take nothing from Antarctica--no souvenirs whatsoever. Even the junk remaining from the observation station is being studied for its rate of decomposition. Washing our boots before boarding the ship ensures that we carry no soil, seeds, spores or lichens with us. I borrowed Shayne's polarizer to intensify the blue of some icebergs. Caroline, Ray and some others stripped down to their swimsuits to plunge into water right at the point of freezing. All reported relief when re-emerging from the icy ocean into relatively warm 40-degree air. Looking around at the snow-clad mountains, the sapphire sea and the pearlescent palaces floating past us, dwarfing our Zodiac, I remembered Emile Danco. All things considered, he would be pleased.

    We cruised through the LaMaire Strait, a path passenger ships almost never visit. Usually this gloriously beautiful passage is choked with ice, even in summer. Today the ice is melted and we are seeing majestic mountains whose steep sides tumble right down into the sea.
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  • Day8

    Once Upon a Time There Was Snow

    February 17, 2020 in Antarctica ⋅ ☁️ 32 °F

    We woke this morning in Paradise Bay. One group went out in kayaks, but another group planning to camp on the continent overnight had to cancel their plans because of bad weather. I just heard that one of our Zodiacs encountered a humpback whale that simply floated beside their boat for several minutes.The ship has moved a few miles and anchored just off the beach at the Gonzales Videla Research Station. This Chilean outpost is named for the first head of state to set foot on the frozen continent. He visited here in 1940 at the site where two British explorers spent a year and a day in 1921-22 with only an overturned whaleboat for a shelter. Thomas Bagshawe, one of the two explorers, began a study of the Gentoo penguins here which continues to this day. Antarctica is going through a heat wave this summer. Chilly winds make us keep our jackets on, but highs have been in the 40's, and at no time during our trip has the temperature dropped to the freezing point. Though they were cute, the penguins here are filthy. With no snow here they are forced survive in ankle-deep mud. Most of their fellows have already begun their five-month-long feeding swim in the ocean, but these birds are still molting. Until they finish shedding old feathers and growing new ones that will allow them to swim, their young will endure with almost no food. And the molting adults will simply stand in the mud. Itching. Shedding old feathers. And waiting. In the mud.Read more

  • Day7

    Loving the Light

    February 16, 2020 in Antarctica ⋅ ☁️ 34 °F

    South of the antarctic circle the sun never sets. Still, at night, or what passes for night here, the light dims a bit. With the magic of the camera and this spooky light photographers produce some wonderful images. It is difficult to imagine scenes any more beautiful than those to which Espin Mills and Shayne McGuire led us on our evening photographic cruise.Read more

  • Day7

    On the Zodiac

    February 16, 2020 in Antarctica ⋅ ☁️ 34 °F

    Returning to the ship, we only had an hour until we had to board the Zodiac for our cruise of Petermann Island. Because we could not wear our expedition clothes in the dining hall (they had picked up the smell of penguin poo), we decided to enjoy the outdoor buffet served on the sunshine deck. The cook barbecued shredded reindeer meat on the open deck, and folded it into a pita bread taco spiced with pickled onions. It was delicious! Quickly we suited up and headed back for the inflated boat for our cruise around this surreal terrain. First we saw an iceberg that resembled the Sydney Opera House. The successive waves of surfaces come from the iceberg gradually melting and shifting. Next we met a berg shaped like a horseshoe turned on its side. It was about a hundred yards across, and just as deep. We were surprised to see a humpback whale spouting near us. I was even more surprised to see that it was not moving. Does a whale sleep? I wanted to Google that question, but throughout our cruise, Wi-Fi, though advertised, was very spotty, often unuseable, and very expensive. We chose to ditch our cell phones and remain unconnected for the entire trip. Before we returned to the ship, the light changed, and I took the opportunity to work on photographs that displayed the glint of the sunlight off the thousands of facets of each gargantuan gem floating in the ocean. It's suppertime now, but I still have a photographic cruise to enjoy before the sun sets at 2:30 am.Read more

  • Day7

    Petermann Island

    February 16, 2020 in Antarctica ⋅ ☁️ 34 °F

    At 2:45 am I was rolled out of bed by the rocking of the ship, and I decided that today would be another bust. The weather was not cooperating. Nevertheless, by breakfast time, the crew was preparing for another day ashore at a place called Petermann Island. Since we Crab-Eater Seals were the last ones to go ashore on the previous excursion, we were at the top of the list this morning. We hit the beach and walked onto a landscape as foreign as that of another planet. The beach was covered with seals, Gentoo penguins, and birds. There was no snow on the gravelly beach, but the adjacent mountains were covered with pink snow. An expedition leader told me that the pink color came from a red alga that fed on the excrement of the penguins. We also saw in action something that had been described in a lecture. Penguins sit on their eggs for months at a time, not even leaving for a comfort break. Still, the penguins don't want to be covered in their own excrement, so they have developed the ability to shoot their penguin poo out about a meter. It is prodigious to see this action. The unfortunate neighbor who gets splattered by the poo takes it all in stride. In fact, every penguin is neighbor to another who must at some point relieve himself. Birds are splattered with each other's dung, mud, krill, and unassorted mess. The smell of the penguin colonies is horrendous. Imagine the odor of a densely inhabited chicken coop in which all of the birds have eaten nothing but fish for their entire lives. The stench is indescribable. All one can do is to take it all in until the nostrils acclimatize. The smell alone almost tempted Glenda to return to the ship as soon as she hit the beach. We smelled the penguins long before we ever saw one. The penguin is a foul fowl. The stink is deafening. We climed a broad expanse, carefully marked to avoid the sleeping fur seals, to top a ridge overlooking a small bay with a dozen of the most beautiful icebergs imaginable. The arctic blue is the most wonderful shade of azure I've ever seen. The overcast sky accentuated the blue color of the glaciers. Finally we made our way back to the Zodiac, looking forward to an additional cruise this afternoon.Read more

  • Day6


    February 15, 2020, South Pacific Ocean ⋅ ☁️ 28 °F

    Although we did not intend for it to be such, today turned out to be a sea day. Bad weather prevented our anchoring at the beach scheduled for today, and ever since, the crew has been loitering, seeking a site to which we could repair safe from the storm. They have offered lectures on the Antarctic Treaty, the geologic history of Antarctica, and other interesting topics. However, one begins to think that their skills are being taxed when they also offer classes on knot-tying and travelogues of the expedition leaders. I have welcomed the time off, though, since yesterday was so arduous. Some of the icebergs we passed were amazing in their beauty, complexity and variety. At 5:00 pm we had an unexpected surprise. The captain announced that we were shortly to pass an iceberg two kilometers long. Everyone rushed to the bow and took pictures. I remember that there was a photograph of a similar tabular iceberg that sold at Southeby's recently for more than a million dollars. Here's my million dollar shot.Read more