Crystal Sound, Detaille Island, Pendleton Strait

Jan 12, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer


The night was spent quietly within the protected waters of Crystal Sound. The early risers were rewarded with quiet seas, icebergs dotted about, and beautiful mountains in the distance. The weather forecast was turning out to be correct for the gentle breeze was now coming from a different direction. Hopes were running high that we would be able to make a landing on Detaille Island.

During breakfast we were delighted to hear confirmation from the scouting party that a landing was now on. The morning was spent on Zodiac cruises and a visit to the historic hut on Detaille Island. The hut enthralled us all as it became immediately apparent to us all that we were caught in a time warp. The base was hastily abandoned in 1959 due to severe sea ice conditions and everything in the base was left as it was. The carpenters’ shed, old sledge runners, underwear hanging over heaters to dry, weather charts on workbenches, old magazines; all there to be enjoyed today. Then there were all the old products, mostly in cans, and seeing them again brought about many a laugh, took us on trips into our own past and surely warm feelings of happy times came bubbling to the surface. The Hoover and Acme washing machine and clothes ringer, HP and Heinz sauces, and so much more. For many, the experience brought home the hardships that the people had to endure when stationed down here and yet the hut must also have been a cozy place, once warmed up, and surely a place where camaraderie was shared with those who worked here.

A walk over part of the island provided lovely views out towards the mainland and Adelie penguins nesting across a gully. The Zodiac cruises were fresh opportunities to enjoy the encountered wildlife at close hand and also to try and portray in our images the incredible beauty found in the myriad forms found in the icebergs. It is an oft-expressed thought, “if only the icebergs could talk, what wondrous tales we would hear.”

During lunch we set sail and began heading north again. Strong winds made a planned afternoon landing impossible but there was much to enjoy from the comfort of the ship as we re-crossed the Antarctic Circle and marveled at the huge icebergs with snow petrels flying around them.

Today teatime was different. The Captain chose an iceberg to sail around and draw close to, thus providing some shelter from the strong winds and this allowed our galley staff to fire up the BBQ machine on the stern deck and provide us with sausages and drinks. It was a splendid idea, and much animated chatter could be heard from all the groups out on deck.

After dinner, we were invited to watch a short film called Dinner for One. It is a hilarious British sketch which is widely shown on mainland Europe every New Year. 

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About the Author

Edward Shaw

Naturalist

Edward Shaw has travelled widely as a naturalist and guide. For the past 18 years, Edward has lived in northwestern Patagonia initially working as a teacher and subsequently working in community projects. This remarkable region of South America is home to many incredible geologic features — fiords, glaciers, volcanos, and lake basins long ago excavated by ice-streams — unique flora and fauna, as well as the archaeological remains of pre-Columbian civilizations dating back to at least the 13th millennium BCE. He is deeply committed to the principles behind sustainable development and currently works for a local foundation.

About the Photographer

Adam Britton

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Adam is a British-born zoologist who has lived and worked in northern Australia since 1997. Before arriving in Darwin, Adam gained a Ph.D. on the flight performance and echolocation of insectivorous bats, but his passion has always been large predators and the relationship that different cultures have toward them.

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