#AntarcticAlphabet: K is for kelp

Kelp connects everything, from the Orkneys to the South Shetlands. Seafloor to surface, dark to light. Brown, red, ochre, rust within the grey/blue/white of the Antarctic seas. The simplicity of stipe and stem dancing inside the heart-breaking, never-ending complexity of the wave. And of course, almost mundane, the host of lives … Continue reading

Penguin island: supermarket of the South Shetlands

There were several Penguin Islands scattered around the world in the days of sealing and whaling and long distance exploration by sail. The ship would turn up and take away thousands of eggs, and slaughter, salt down and stow hundreds of penguins. Calling a landfall Penguin Island was liking planting … Continue reading

Entering the Weddell Sea: the ice thickens

We had a quiet night at Brown Bluff before heaving anchor at 0600 to head south into the Weddell Sea, where Shackleton became caught in the ice over winter. Europa passed through the narrow Fridtjof Sound: it is not always passable for ice but that morning the bergs were far … Continue reading

#AntarcticAlphabet: J is for Jabberwock

Jabberwock is the beast of change, of many words spat out into the trees, the jib-jab of uncertainty. Spells of shapeshifting are cast on the breeze and scribbled across the mackerel sky. She is slain by an unknown boy, the beamish boy, with his sword of the spoken truth, the … Continue reading

Brown Bluff: geology and gulls

The geology of the Antarctic Peninsula continued to fascinate as we arrived at Brown Bluff. The bluff in question is a line of pancake rocks towering over a huge glacier to the east and a narrow rocky beach. It sits at the entrance to the Weddell Sea on the edge … Continue reading

Fog at Half Moon Island

Half Moon Island is a caldera in the strait between Greenwich Island and Livingstone to the south. When I went on anchor watch at 0600 the ship was shrouded in mist, icebergs just visible drifting past the bay. Snow was falling, bringing that characteristic hush. We made an early start, ashore … Continue reading

Arrival in Antarctica

I finally recovered from seasickness enough to stand my watch our very last night in the Drake. It was bitterly cold and pitch dark at at 1900 when I went on deck. A big swell was still running, so Europa was pitching and bouncing around. It is hard to take … Continue reading

#AntarcticAlphabet: I is for ice

Ice strains, cracks and sometimes breaks, under the burden, slips and slides, does not stay in place, does not stay still.Glaciers, like poems, appear solid, inevitable, perfect at their heart, but are not. Impermanent ice weathers like epigraphs in the graveyard, words written on the changing world. Rivers flow, scouring … Continue reading

Making places in Antarctica: history, science, and territories

I’ve commented before that so many human-made places in the far South are ugly buildings sitting in magnificent landscapes. We called at Esperanza station in Hope Bay, on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula: it’s a busy research base and a stamp of Argentina’s territorial claims, a scatter of red corrugated … Continue reading