Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Into the Ice: 26/1/2012

Out on deck: the M/S Expedition

Our passage towards the Antarctic Peninsula becomes increasingly ice-filled with every passing moment. Dispersed cubes have changed to broken-up brash ice and bobbing growlers, which have now begun to fuse, turning the horizon from a swelling ice-blue sea to a disjointed view of bobbing white pancakes.

The sea becomes choked with ice as we near the Antarctic Peninsular
Mesmerised by the sea-ice, it's become impossible to stay inside the ship, just in case you miss a particularly large berg, the parting of a perfect sheet, a reclining crab-eater seal or a sun-bathing leopard seal.

Nothing but ice...and penguins
Zodiac Ice-Cruise
So far, Zodiac cruises from the ship have been an opportunity to feel the thrill of speed, as we've opened the throttle and planed across the waters, bouncing over white-caps and clutching onto the safety rope with the wind whipping at our faces. But today's Zodiac ride administered a silent  and more concentrated dose of adrenaline.
The journey to the Antarctic Peninsular

We had to wait for the ice to be cleared before we boarded the Zodiacs - a ceaseless job breaking up the ice-pancakes and propelling the floes away with a continually running Zodiac engine. With a pool just large enough for us to gain a little momentum, our boat began pushing through the porridge-like slush, pausing every now and then to lever the larger pieces of ice aside with an oar or to shove the bow, when it became wedged on the ice.

Zodiacs wedged on ice

Pushing through the ice
As we forced our way through the choked waters, transfixed by the endless landscape of sculpted ice and bobbing plates, we cruised within metres of lazy Weddell seals, whose soft-looking flanks bore the red scars of whale attacks and whose pale fur made a halo of light around their cat-like faces as they twitched their black-whiskered noses and blinked back at us with ice-frosted lashes.

Seal City

Sea kayaks venture out

For the first time on our expedition, we cruised on the Zodiac without our usual whoops and cheers, listening instead as the icy breezes carried the gentle chorus of  gentoo penguins, the slosh of the reflective waters between and beneath the ice-plates and the murmur of our engine or splutter of the propeller as it became choked in ice.
Zodiacs make a slow journey through the ice

The ice-clad M/S Expedition

This blog-post forms part of a series of adventures experienced on-board the M/S Expedition in January 2012, whilst on an Antarctic Cruise - The Spirit of Shackleton - courtesy of Gadventures

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