B & W Challenge: Cold

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Here’s my entry for Cee’s B&W Photo Challenge: Hot or Cold Things. I was very lucky this year to have gone on a trip to Antarctica. I’ve been dreaming of a trip like this for decades. Had a fantastic cruise on the MS Roald Amundsen with Hurtigruten cruises. Here are a few photos. It was definitely COLD! 😉

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Glacier at Orne Harbor
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Penguin colony- Cuverville Island, Antarctica
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We were very lucky with the weather so far. It was very changeable, but most of the time so far was pretty nice. Sunny without much wind. This was our first real meeting with “authentic Antarctic weather” according to our captain.

The weather eventually got better and it was more enjoyable to hang around and watch these funny little guys. More on that later…

 

Orne Harbor to Lemaire Channel

After a beautiful day at Orne Harbor, we woke up to a more ‘typical’ day for Antarctica. So far, we’d been lucky finding nice weather most of the time. It changed quickly tho. We picked up our hearty campers who’d spent the night ashore, then headed on to our next planned stop at Neko Harbor (Andvord Bay).

Campers got to spend the night at Orne Harbor
we can just barely see the campers from the ship (far right in the photo)
The end of the red line is Orne Harbor. Around the corner to the South is Neko Harbor at the bottom of Andvord Bay. At the bottom left corner is Port Lockroy.

On arrival, we were met with high winds, rough seas, snow and freezing cold. There was a lot of ice in the water and it kept moving around. The zodiacs would have a hard time shuttling us back and forth to shore. After checking it out, the captain decided that the weather was not going to allow us to go ashore as planned.

too much ice for the zodiacs!

Expedition cruising, even more than normal cruising, is dependent on weather and other local conditions. You need to be flexible. It’s best to have the attitude of looking forward to whatever the day may bring and forget about being upset about what you might’ve missed.

We sailed on towards Damoy Point and Port Lockroy where we were scheduled to go ashore to the historic site run by the British. It has a museum and the only post office on the continent of Antarctica.

you can just barely see Port Lockroy middle left of the photo, we could just barely see their people waving with the binoculars
seals on the ice, taken from my cabin- I’m not sure if they’re weddel or crabeater seals

Sadly, the weather was still too bad for us to go ashore. I would’ve liked to send some postcards home with an Antarctica stamp. We did drive by and we all waved at each other. Brave people, to stand around outside in that kind of weather to wave at our ship.

On we went, to cruise through the Lemaire Channel. The weather was still pretty nasty for a little while. Howling winds, snow and cold! It felt like about 20 below, but I don’t think it was actually below 0 F. It was the wind that really made it feel cold.

The scenery was spectacular. We made our way through the channel filled with pancake ice, the sharp tips of the mountains peaking out of their coats of snow, glaciers calving off large chunks of ice into the passage alongside our ship.

The passage narrowed as the day went on. The wind died down, the snow stopped and the sun came out. I sat in the lounge with it’s wrap around floor to ceiling windows and just watched the world go by. Towards sunset (around 9 pm- it didn’t get dark until about 11), we passed through the narrows- only 1600 meters wide. The sound of the ice scraping along the hull of the ship was loud enough to be heard everywhere onboard.

In my room, I fell asleep to the low pitched background sound of the sea slushing along the side of the ship and occasional bang of a berg as we came out the South end of the Lemaire Channel to find our next adventure in the morning.

the mark on the Google map shows Lemaire Channel

 

 

Drake Shake or Drake Lake for the MS Roald Amundsen?

Anticipation was high, people were concerned. We were crossing the Drake Passage- the area where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet- between Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands. It’s notorious for bad weather. 

Winds and currents circle the entire globe, swells have thousands of miles of open ocean to build so they can grow to enormous heights. The Roaring Forties, Furious Fifties, and Screaming Sixties refer to these latitudes. Dozens of ships have been lost in the area. How would we fare onboard the MS Roald Amundsen?

Turns out we had nothing to worry about. We enjoyed crossing the Drake Lake. The winds were only about 20-25 knots and the seas 2-3 meters. It was lovely for this area and the season. I was actually hoping to see something of the famous nasty weather, but a few people were complaining of mal de mer so I guess we were lucky. I wouldn’t want to spend a couple of days with a shipload of seasick passengers.

view from my cabin

The ship’s crew had plenty of things prepared to keep us occupied for the time we would be at sea with no landings to look forward to. They always had interesting lectures and workshops for us to choose from. There was a nice stock of games and puzzles to play with. Or you could always choose to visit the sauna, the spa, the pool and jacuzzi, or chill out in a comfortable chair with a drink while watching the scenery pass by.

Some of the members of the expedition team were also scientists and encouraged us to participate in their studies. There was one that collected information about the clouds and weather, to compare with what was picked up by the satellites (observer.globe.gov). Another was gathering data on the birds we saw (www.ebird.org). 

They had presentations in the ships science center where we could look through the microscopes (one was projected onto a large screen) to see the details of different kinds of ice, plants, krill, feathers, etc.

Krill

I enjoyed a couple of arts & crafts workshops. Watercolor painting one day and clay modeling another time.

My emperor penguin model

I joined a rotating group of ladies working on jigsaw puzzles in the Explorer lounge on the 10th deck where we always had a wonderful view out the starboard side. We had snacks and piano music there in the afternoons.

Our crossing was altogether uneventful. We had a couple of relaxing days to look forward to arriving in Antarctica and our first landing at Half Moon Island. 

Michael Missed Us

I was a little concerned about joining the ship last week. Hurricane Michael had just gone ashore while I was on the way to the heliport to fly out to work. I had been checking in with Marine Traffic on the internet to see where the ship was and how close it would be to the hurricane.

From what I saw when I checked Monday night after I got a call to go back to work, it looked like the hurricane would pass right over the top of the ship. I checked again Tuesday and it looked the same.

I find it hard to believe any ship would choose to sit still and let a hurricane pass right over the top of them but that was what it was telling me on the internet (and I knew they were supposed to be drilling a well).

So, I was wondering what I would be dealing with when I was flying out to work. It wasn’t until the pilots mentioned right before landing that the ship was underway, that I knew for sure that the ship had moved out of the way of the storm and was on the way back to her work location.

Turns out they ran about 100 miles to the West and only had about 50-60 mph winds and 20-25 foot seas. No worse than a bad Norther we usually get a few times every winter.

We’ve been back on location for a couple of days now and have just this morning moved back over the well head. We should be back on track in a couple of days. I’m hoping to be out here for another 2 weeks. I should know something for sure by tomorrow morning. 🙂

In the Wake of Michael

I’m interested to see what will happen in the morning. I (finally) got a call to go back to work on Monday. I flew out this afternoon after rushing around yesterday and this morning to get everything done I needed to do before leaving town. I’ve pretty much been on call for the last couple of years, so stay as ready as I can. Half way packed all the time, but  I can never seem to get the groceries right and always wind up having to throw out a bunch of good food. I hate that!

Right now I’m at the hotel in New Orleans, waiting for the crew change van which will pick us up at 0400. The alarm is set for 0300. We’re supposed to be at the heliport at 0500 to fly out to the rig at 0600.

I can never sleep the night before crew change. It doesn’t matter how tired I am. I try to get some sleep and just toss and turn until about 1/2 hour before I have to get up.  It doesn’t help that my usual bedtime when I’m home is midnight or later. It’s the same when I’m coming home from the ship. Can’t sleep until I get home and then I don’t want to do anything but sleep for 2-3 days!

I checked the location of the rig out of curiosity on Monday. While I was doing that, I checked the weather, just to see. Looks like the rig was pretty much directly in the path of hurricane Michael.

I’ve been checking up on both since then. Position of rig. Position of hurricane. Looks to me like the eye passed pretty damn close to the rig. I bet the DPOs had some pretty stressful watches for the last couple of days.

I’m really curious to hear how the ship rode it out. What kind of winds and seas were there on their location? What kind of footprint did they have? I’m assuming they were latched up since last time I was on there, they were going to start a new contract the first part of September. Normally, we don’t like to move more than a couple of meters. I’m wondering how much they moved around in the storm.

I was a little surprised they didn’t move out of the way of the storm’s predicted track. Then again, I think Michael came up fairly quickly. Might not have been enough time for them to shut everything down, unlatch from the well and move far enough away to make a difference. It looked to me like the worst of the storm passed a little to the East of them, good thing the storm followed along the expected track.

Michael has moved inland now, so weather offshore should be calming down. I drove up the beach to Galveston today (for a job fair at Texas A&M). Tide was very high and the waves were decent sized. All the surfers were out having a blast. That’s about the only time we get ‘decent’ surf- when there’s a hurricane in the Gulf.

I’ll be out for at least a week. Maybe longer (I hope so). I may or may not have enough internet access to blog, so if you don’t hear from me for a while that’s why.