Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica, expedition, Ross Sea

Antarctic Peninsula vs Ross Sea

The difference between the two expeditions goes much deeper than the price. Whenever people say they have been to Antarctica, my first question is: “Which part did you visit?” I gauge my opinion on whether they are true Antarctphiles by their response.

Having waited a lifetime to visit the 7th continent, I was determined that, when my time came, I would dig deep and experience as much of Antarctica as I could. That meant going to higher latitudes, and definitely inside the Antarctic Circle (66° 33′ 39″).

I achieved this on my 2013 Ross Sea Expedition, of which I have already written (see other blogs on this site). During that 32-day expedition I experienced so many wonderful things: stepping inside Scott’s Terra Nova and Discovery huts; Shackleton’s Nimrod hut; taking a helicopter into the Taylor Dry Valley; anchoring for 5 days in McMurdo Sound, spellbound by the magnificence of the Ferrar Glacier sweeping around the Transantarctic Mountains.

After I returned (a different person) I felt the ‘Antarctic tug’ that so many feel. I needed to return. Having blown most of my budget on the big trip, I looked around for any opportunity to return. As usual, I found that Oceanwide Expeditions offered the best options, and I chose Basecamp Plancius for my return.

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This trip was 12 days, and only went to the Peninsula, but I figured I had seen the best, so this trip would be a ‘top-up’ experience.

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And it was fantastic, there is no denying it. I got to go snowshoeing, kayaked around beautiful icebergs, even slept on the ice; although it was not the experience I had anticipated – no tent, but survival-mode camping in a bivvy bag. It was six days of non-stop action squeezed in between three days down and back across the Drake Passage.

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Most of the fellow expeditioners were younger, which was to be expected, given the nature of the activities. I couldn’t keep up, but even so, I was proud of my body’s capabilities thanks to months of preparation.

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I sat back, feeling a wise old Antarctican, watching the joy and amazement as people saw their first iceberg, their first penguin, whale, seal, their first ice-capped mountain from which tumbled blue glaciers. But I felt like screaming out: “This is nothing! You should see the real Antarctica”.

It was then I realised that what I have said all along is true: the Antarctic Peninsula is an adventure playground. A spectacular one, but just a playground. It is no substitute for feeling horizontal ice sting your cheeks in a 35 knot wind at minus 14 Celcius (the Peninsula temperature rarely dropped below zero), or jumping into a Zodiac in a two-metre swell with the hull of your ship, your guide, the rubber boat, all white with frost and the spray from the waves snap freezing as the winds whips it into the air.

I’m now back from my short adventure, and treasure the friendships made and the challenges I faced – and, of course, the photos of stunning scenery – but it was all over so quickly.

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So, guess what? I’m heading back to the Ross Sea in February on my favourite ship, MV Ortelius. I have decided I just can’t live without it.

To see more of my photos, visit http://shutterstock.com/g/dale_jacobsen

And if you, too, can’t live without a true Antarctic experience, there are still a few berths left: Oceanwide Expeditions Ross Sea 2017  Mention gift code “DALE10GIFT” for extra 10% discount.

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Why Antarctica? a Ross Sea odyssey

For those of you who are remotely interested in Antarctica, or my adventures there, here is my latest book: Why Antarctica? a Ross Sea odyssey. It is available from iBooks, which means you need to have an iPad or Mac (or know someone who does).

Price is $14.99 AUD. Within its 89 pages are tales, over 300 beautiful photos,14 video clips and interactive maps.

I hope you enjoy it. It will take around 10 minutes to download, so put the kettle on and watch the Youtube video of the book trailer while you wait.

And, excitingly, Oceanwide Expeditions are promoting this book. So, if you know anyone who wants to take part in the next Ross Sea expedition in early 2017, please use this link to enquire:

Oceanwide Expeditions Ross Sea 2017

I confess I will benefit if you do.

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In Defence of AAE 2013

For the past week, I have followed the unfolding saga as those onboard Akademik Shokalskiy watch the weather, the ice, the approaching icebreakers. Ten months ago we were battling the ice approaching the Ross Sea in MV Ortelius. Greg Mortimer was our leader then, and he is co-leader of the team on the edge of Commonwealth Bay now. I have only briefly met team leader Chris Turney, but I know of his dedication to science and all things Antarctic. Any expedition guided by these two men is in good and safe hands. Both are careful, considerate leaders. Why, then, are there those who criticise and belittle this expedition?

The world is divided into those who ‘get’ Antarctica, and those who don’t. Those who do are people who make the short trip to the wonderland of the Antarctic Peninsular, and ones who take the continent more seriously and venture into East Antarctica. The REAL Antarctica. Of those who don’t ‘get it’, most still appreciate what a special place this is, and understand the need to monitor its changes which affect the whole planet. A very few laugh at serious scientists who take risks to gather this information.

I have followed just about every tweet and post and blog (including some on WordPress) and am disgusted at the minority who call Chris and his gang all sorts of names – like idiot. They accuse him of running away from the ship, of having too much fun (!). These critics obviously do not understand that science is not tied to the ship. In Mawson’s case, the ship left them. For a year. In Chris’s case, his science is complete, and he needs to return to analyse the data and write papers. The Shokalskiy will be left in the very capable hands of its Russian crew who know very well how to look after themselves and their ship. The scientists are merely passengers.

And as for having fun – surely it is the role of the expedition leader to keep morale high? When we were battling the ice last February, there were a few onboard who grumbled. Greg jumped on this very quickly, organising activities to keep everyone content: Zodiac rides among the ice; helicopter flights over the Transantarctic Mountains; trivia quizzes.

This afternoon, according to Chris, a helicopter has come from the Xue Long and they will be flying out within the hour. The plan is to lift all non-crew onto the Xue Long, then transfer to Aurora Australis who will resume resupplying Casey Station. I have to admit, I am envious. I would give anything to be with them; to experience everything that powerful place has thrown at them, and share the camaraderie I know will be strong.

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