Thursday, December 27, 2007

Antarctic Highlights

I had two real highlights on my last trip. One was special on a personal level, the other was just plain spectacular.

The first highlight was my first landing at Point Wild on Elephant Island. Those of you who know your Antarctic history will remember that this is the place where the bulk (22) of Sir Ernest Shackleton's men lived from April through August 1916. They were rescued from Point Wild by Chilean Captain Louis Pardo in the Yelcho after Shackleton and five men, including Tom Crean, sailed to South Georgia to find help.

Point Wild. The location of the shelter the men used is right below the dark triangle of rock in the center of the photo. Lots of Chistrap Penguins breeding there now.

I have been fortunate to visit many important historical locations of Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition over the years. In February 2005 I was very privileged to visit South Georgia and see the first landing site at King Haakon Bay, the eventual starting point for an unbelievable hike across South Georgia. I was also lucky enough be be able to trace a portion of the route that Shackleton, Crean, and Worsley took as they headed from Fortuna Bay into Stromness including a look at the waterfall they climbed down as they headed towards the station and a visit to the periphery of the station itself (it is closed to entry for safety reasons). I have visited Shackleton's grave at Grytviken. Point Wild was the last place I could visit of significance to the expedition* and probably the hardest to get to. I have seen Point Wild a few times but landings were not an option on any of the past trips, primarily because the point is so exposed and the swell usually will not permit a landing. This time there was no swell and even better, the large boulders that form the middle of the point were covered in a nice layer of snow making it easier to walk around. Nothing of the expedition remains on the point and the only reminder of the expedition is a bronze bust of Captian Louis Pardo.

Point Wild with a bronze bust of Louis Pardo and the National Geographic Endeavour in the background.

To top it off I was able to share this experience with Edward Shaw, a naturalist with Lindblad whom I had recently met, who also was enjoying landing at the site for the first time. Eduardo is a great guy and I look forward to more trips with him in the future.

Me, Eduardo, and Stefan Lundgren at our usual breakfast dining area.

Next, the spectacular special part of the trip.

*The South Pole Inn at Annascaul in Co. Kerry Ireland, home of Tom Crean is another place on my list but more because of Tom Crean than the expedition alone. I can't resist posting his photo again.

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