Elephant Island, Antarctica

Location: Elephant Island, Antarctica

“It looks like the entire ship started drinking early this morning” – Hand Sanitizer Guy at the Oceanview Cafe, 9:00 AM Feb 25

That pretty much sums up our day at sea today. With 35-55 knot winds (and even stronger gusts) and 12+ ft waves the ship was really rocking and listing today. The crew, of course, seemed unphased. On the way to our main destination today we passed by many icebergs and the forgettable and otherwise unphotogenic Gibbs Island and Bridgeman Island.

But the main event today was the scenic cruise past Elephant Island. We arrived an hour early to try to beat the deterioring weather and enjoy what we could. We started at the southwest corner of the island and stayed there while the weather improved and the sun sorta came out. From this corner we could see where the Shakelton expedition survived for months and the Endurance Glacier. Endurance is one of the most dynamic glaciers in the southern hermisphere and even the world. It is 5km long, 4km and 70m tall. The terminus extends well into the ocean. Sadly the picture below can’t capture its sheer magnitude. The winds here were rather extreme. Despite try to stay in one spot, the ship was constantly being turned and pushed out to sea by the winds. The crew was content to let nature “win” so long as we weren’t put into a hazardous conditions. This worked out in favor, because it allowed us to view the island from our stateroom. The original itenerary had the viewing on the other side of the ship.

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Endurance Glacier

After about an hour the ship resumed its sail around the southern end of the island. By now, the island was offering some shelter from the winds and the sun was peaking though the clouds enough to illuminate certain features of the island. Our stateroom was no longer facing toward the island so we went to the top deck to watch. As we neared the southeast corner of Elephant Island we saw a couple sperm whales. Unfortunatly, they were pretty shy and we were’t fast enough to get any useful pictures. Eventually we turned a corner and started north. We sailed between Elephant Island and Clarence Island. As this point the winds picked up again and we sought shelter inside.

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Ryan went out about 20 min later to get a few more pictures and one last look at Antartica. When he stepped out onto the top deck, he was immediatly thrown into a wall on the side of the ship by the strong winds. After shouting a sailor worthy repose, he snapped a few last pictures and pulled his way back into the ship.

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At some point in the evening we crossed 60S and reentered the Atlantic Ocean and the Drake Passage. Tomorrow is another day at sea, and rumor has it that this weather will continue another day. So tomorrow is Drake Passage Vol II: The Drake Quake.

Today’s Weather: Mostly Cloudy, 35-55 knot winds, evening snow, High 37F (wind chill was much lower), Low 24F
Sea Temperature: 32F
Sunrise 5:50 AM, Sunset 8:03PM
Oceans Sailed Upon: Southern, South Atlantic

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