The Last Continent: Endurance tested at Elephant Island

Postmedia columnist Daphne Bramham crosses the notoriously rough Drake Passage from the Falkland Islands to South Georgia — known as the Serengeti of the Southern Ocean — to Antarctica. Her daily reports from the 18-day expedition cover issues from climate change and micro plastics in the ocean to Japan’s continuing whale hunt, the antics of penguins and the world’s wild race to tour, and exploit, this last frontier.

ELEPHANT ISLAND, Scotia Sea — South of 60, we passed through the Convergence, where the sub-antarctic water gives way to the colder Antarctic Ocean.

But for hours and hours, there is nothing to see. Fog hangs low over the water and clings close to the ship. Because of that, for the first time, the bridge is closed to everyone but the sailors.

There are almost certainly whales, penguins and seabirds out there, but we can’t see them. But, close to noon, comes the call over the loudspeaker: “Land ho!”

The fog has lifted and suddenly, there is Elephant Island, with its magnificent glaciers and Point Wild.

Dozens of chinstrap penguins porpoise out of the water alone or in groups of up to a dozen. Fin whales blow, their backs and fins break the surface of the grey sea.

It is cold and damp out on the deck, even though it’s summer here. Colder still when we take to the Zodiacs to look for colonies of Gentoo, chinstrap and macaroni penguins, as well as fur seals and elephant seals.

Imagine what it must be like in the winter when there is only darkness and no ship to come back to.

ELEPHANT ISLAND – Chinstrap penguins jump in the air as they swim through the Scotia Sea near to Elephant Island, where 22 of Ernest Shackleton’s crew spent four months waiting to be rescued. (Daphne Bramham/PNG) [PNG Merlin Archive]

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Chinstrap penguins jump as they swim through the Scotia Sea near Elephant Island, where 22 of Ernest Shackleton’s crew spent four months waiting to be rescued.

For four months, that was the fate of 22 men from Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance expedition camped on an isthmus connecting Point Wild to the island. It was the only place on the island large enough for all of them. There is no real shoreline. The rock rises straight up to spiky peaks.

The point is named after Frank Wild, Shackleton’s …read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun – World

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