about bloody time

Here are my pics from Argentina from before and after the Antarctica trip. First we spent a few days in Buenos Aires, meandering through the streets, finding Evita’s tomb and such. Took in a fantastic Tango show and then headed to Ushuaia to board our ship. After we came back from Antarctica we spent a few days in Ushuaia and did some hiking. Absolutely fantastic. Some of the best steaks I’ve ever had…

The Argentina Gallery

The Antarctica Journal

I’m back in South America, During the journey I kept a brief journal. Rather than back-fill the posts, here they are all in one post. Pics will come soon…

Sunday, December 31, 2006
Our first day on the boat. It was supposed to be a rough ride, but Poseidon was with us and we had very still waters. Throughout the day albatrosses coasted and followed the Polar Star. I spent the day napping and resting for the days ahead. The night was fun filled with karaoke and beer.

Monday, January 1, 2007
This is our second full day at sea. Tomorrow we will finally get to Antarctica, though I can’t complain about the infamous Drake Passage as it has been the calmest the crew has ever seen. Today I lingered around the Bridge and took pictures of various birds. I got a few lucky shots of some swimming Chin-strap penguins. (I could tell by zooming into the picture). Later in the afternoon while watching a short film about a journey around Cape Horn we got a call for whales of the starboard side. We had two humpback whales right next to the boat and I got some fantastic photos. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007
Our first day in the Antarctic. We woke up in a beautiful bay that was surrounded by glaciers and icebergs. The boat motored across the calm bay under sunny skies to Brown Bluff which is located on the Antarctic peninsula, I HAVE LANDED ON MY 6TH CONTINENT! As I get off the zodiac I hear the cacophony of of Adélie and Gentoo penguins. We all immediately get off of the zodiacs and wander photographing the seals and penguins. There are about 20,000 penguins, most with a chick begging to be fed. One may not realize that these birds do not use bathrooms, so the smell one discovers is quite powerful. Now take this thought and multiply it by five. This is Paulette Island. When one approaches the island, one can immediately recognize the light pinkish areas covering from bottom to top this small island that comprise the rookeries for these penguins. There is a fantastic walk around the island which cannot be missed. The wind picked up during our stay on the island, resulting in some strong waves at our entry point. This made it impossible to board the zodiacs to bring us back to the ship, and there was some excitement to move the group to the new leeward side of the island which would be a much calmer exit..

Wednesday, January 3, 2007
As deserted as Antarctica is, there has been human habitation there in the form of research scientists. One such place is located on Snow Hill. This site is quite remarkable as the original crew at the station was only supposed to stay for about a year, and ended up trapped there for about 3, until an Argentinean ship rescued them. This ship, The Uruguay, is actually at anchor in Buenos Aires and can be visited. There is a nice hike up to the islands hills that are strewn with thousands of fossils. While we were on the island a very unusual low tide occurred making our exit, once again, a challenge. The “beach” is of mud, and several people found themselves trapped in the mud that seems to enjoy gobbling up boots.
Devil Island is named because it has two peaks that resemble horns. Here there is an Adélie penguin colony, which I spent time taking pictures and videos of.
Later that night the ship went through a pretty iceberg packed channel, and we were all amazed at our captain’s ability to navigate through some very tight spots, with maybe less than 20 feet of clearance on either side.
Each night the staff either give a lecture, or show a movie (and sometimes both) about their specialties. We have learned about the history, geology, and wild-life found in this amazing continent.

Thursday, January 4, 2007
Half Moon Island has been one of my favorites so far. This small island is home to a new penguin to me, the Chinstrap. These cute little fellas hang out on the very rocky hills on this island. When we first got to the island there was a bit of fog and snow, but it gradually cleared up within the next hour revealing the spectacular surroundings. Huge mountains covered in snow and ice. Azure hues peak through the glaciers and icebergs that give the region a very mystical feeling. All I could do was sit and visually take in the view. I fear my pictures can never do justice to this place. Every so often I could hear a grumble from a distant glacier calving.
We set sail to Deception Island which is one of only three active calderas (volcanos) that can be entered by boat. The trip over to this place was quite choppy, which took some of our fellow traveler’s by surprise. Even after we entered the protective mountains of this donut of a island, the waves did no cease. From the ship we could see the scout party attempt landing after landing to ensure our safety. Unfortunately a landing was not possible which gave a special meaning to us about the island’s name, Deception Island. Although we could not go to shore the experience of navigating into an active volcano was quite good. That evening we went back into the tortured waters to reach our final destinations in the Southernmost continent.

Friday, January 5, 2007
This is my last day in Antarctica before starting the journey back to Argentina. I had an early breakfast, and then raced up to the bridge to watch as our captain navigated through the Neumayer Channel and see the breathtaking mountains that we sail past. I started to wonder where else can one go in the world to see these snow-capped mountains by boat.
We arrived at Port Lockroy, a British base that was set up in World War II to monitor any Axis movements in Antarctica. It turned out that there wasn’t any activity, and the base turned to scientific endeavors. The base was closed in 1962 and was re-opened in the 90’s as a historical site. It is fully manned and the buildings were accurately reconstructed and stocked as it had been in the 40’s. Except for some more modern clothing and the requisite gift shop (yes, hard to believe but there is a T-Shirt shop in Antarctica!), the base maintains the conditions the original personnel would have endured. (No electricity, gas powered heat, etc.) Next to the small island that houses the scientists is another island that is home to several Adélie penguins. The area has a history of whaling and there are two whale skeletons that are mostly intact on the island.
In the afternoon we were treated with what I would have to call one of the natural wonders of the world… Paradise Bay. This glacier encrusted channel that is chock-a-block with icebergs would be our last time touching the Antarctic continent before heading home. This magical cove is host to an Argentinean science station that has been moth-balled for the moment. We were able to get out and walk around the small base, and some people climbed up a snow covered hill and then slid down it. Afterwards there was a small zodiac trip to explore the area and see some of the glaciers from up close. We reluctantly got back on board the Polar Star, and started our way home.
The captain did have one last treat for us… He took a slight detour and went out through the Gerlache Strait, with its majestic mountains and icebergs looking their best in the perpetual sunset for us.
Antarctica is a land of wonder. It is one of the last pristine places on earth and my sincere hope is that it remains this way for generations to come. I fear that greed will overcome the sensibility of the people and this continent will be damaged. I highly recommend a visit to this continent and experience it. You will come away changed.

Don’t cry for me Argentina…

So it was a long flight from NYC to Buenos Aires, about 11 hours. Fortunately I had an aisle seat and could somewhat stretch. When we first sat in the plane we were somewhat groaning when a family with three very young kids sat directly behind us. The littlest one immediately started to fuss and whimper. Fortunately these kids quickly fell asleep soon after the flight took off at 10pm. It might have been the time of the flight, but we suspected that it was the medicine the mom gave them before take-off. I dozed on and off throughout the night and soon we found ourselves in Argentina. We got to the hotel and rested a while before heading off to do some exploring. We went to the Argentine version of the White House (which is pink, probably for some differentiation). There are several barracades near the building with several police milling about. There were even some riot police present, which made us wonder what could possibly be going on, since the only crowds there were tourists armed with cameras. We visited the cathedral, and did some walking finding our way down Florida Street. This pedestrian street has all sorts of stores and shops. I did find a good deal on a leather jacket there and we had a nice steak dinner to cap off the night.

Today we went to “La Recolecta” where Evita is buried. It took us a while, but we eventually did find her crypt in the necropolis. Afterwards we went over to the Fine Arts museum and then San Telmo which is an old part of the city filled with nifty antique stores and coffee houses. Tonight there is a Tango show, and tomorrow we are off to Ushuaia. Antartica is getting closer and closer!

Going South for the winter

Time to dust off this old blog, and add some new content for my next trip, which starts in a couple of hours! I have just graduated from grad school, and I am on my way South with my family. We have found that the temperatures here in the Northeast are a bit too mild for our liking, and therefore we made the only logical choice and go to Antarctica. We will be going on a Russian Ice Breaker named the Polar Star. First we fly to Buenos Aires, then off to Ushuaia, the Southernmost city in the world. There we board the boat and keep working our way down. The trip will last about 10 days, then we have a few days to chill out (warm up?) in Ushuaia and Buenos Aires. The tricky thing is that Buenos Aires just started its Summer, and the weather predictions show that it will be in the 80’s. So we have had to pack for two very different climates. I’ll try to keep this updated; I don’t know what the internet access situations will be, but I will certainly post pictures as soon as I can.