Detaille Island and Returning North

Jan 23, 2018 - National Geographic Orion


After yesterday’s unbelievable experience, the passengers and crew of the National Geographic Orion woke up looking forward to what today would bring. In true Antarctic style, the morning could not have been more different to yesterday in terms of weather. The sky was overcast and a rising wind was pushing ice into Crystal Sound, making the approach to Detaille Island rather more complicated than the Captain had hoped for. However, with the customary skill of the bridge team National Geographic Orion was brought close enough to the island to attempt a landing. Our expedition leader, Lucho, was ferried towards shore by Adam in a Zodiac, to try and find a way through the encroaching pack-ice. Very soon it was obvious that, due to the ice, a landing would not be possible.

So, undaunted Lucho announced a zodiac cruise amongst the ice instead. The zodiacs were quickly lowered and manned and the fearless guests suited up and made their way aft to the Marina deck and climbed aboard the zodiacs, even as the snow fell and the wind rose and the pack-ice surrounded the ship. An exciting cruise, in true Antarctic conditions followed, with the boats picking their way in between the fast moving flows. Snow petrels whirled overhead and a crabeater seal and leopard seal were both just in reach of the cameras of the guests, who eagerly took the opportunity to snap away despite the wind and snow.

These conditions are exactly those that Shackleton and his men faced on their desperate bid to reach Elephant Island. They encountered the same wind driven snow and shifting ice flows as they forced their way north. Wet, cold and hungry, they were confined to these conditions for nearly two weeks. One hour was enough for us, so, as the wind rose and the snow thickened, the zodiacs returned to the comfort and safety of the National Geographic Orion.

As conditions were worsening, it was decide to start our journey north. After lunch there were two presentations, one by John Pailthorpe about his time working as a field guide for the British Antarctic Survey. Then naturalist, Tom Ritchie, gave a fascinating talk about the early explorers of the Antarctic Peninsula, the very area through which this expedition is sailing. This gave a new meaning to the names of the bays and islands we have visited, such as ‘Marguerite Bay’ and ‘Pourquoi Pas Island’.

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About the Author

John Pailthorpe

Naturalist

John spent the early years of his life in London, before an inspirational teacher took him to the highlands of Scotland on a school adventure trip. From then on the natural world has been his passion. After teacher training in Bangor, North Wales, John began a thirty-year career in outdoor education centres and schools, teaching and leading children and adults in such pursuits as mountaineering, rock climbing, kayaking, and sailing throughout the U.K. and Europe.

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