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2022-11-07: Immunity

2022-10-09: TV highlights

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The Antarctic Expeditions 2023

Log book and video clips from the expedition yacht Nansen Explorer in the Antarctica during Spring 2023: 


2022-11-02: Surprise

​​​​​​​​2023-02-15  WELCOME ONBOARD NANSEN EXPLORER
Greetings from Antarctica. Here are some clips from last week. Now heading up via Drake's Passage to Argentina for the next mission. To be continued 😊.



2023-02-18: FIRST MISSION COMPLETED
Our passengers disembarked in Ushuaia earlier today. Mission completed. Received this afternoon's reinforcement with two crew members for the next charter. No pleasure cruise this time. This time a mission to evacuate  a NOAA team at the Cape Shireff base on Livingstone Island. Am at this moment studying the weather forecast for next weed. Looks pretty good to start with. Maybe less cheerful at the end of the week. But...it could have been worse. To be continued 😊


2023-02-19: A GENUIN SWEDISH "SEMLA"-PASTRY...
..on a Sunday. In Antarctica (!). Magic.

By the way - why is it called "Antarctica"? Comes from the ancient Greek word for "not bear". Logical given that they called the northern part of the earth the "Arctic" or just "the bear" (after the constellation above the North Pole). A bit funny, one might think - that they scored so right. They of course didn't have a clue that there wasn't a single bear at the South Pole, which was only discovered in year 1820, or that there were quite a lot of bears at the North Pole. Okay then, agree that we can sort this under the heading "Top 10 of unnecessary knowledge". But still  😊...
 
2023-02-20: TAKING A SWIM
The other day, we made a continental landing at Neko Harbor on the Antarctic mainland. Some of the crew took the opportunity to take a dip. Without cheating (= a sauna behind the camera). Have attached a short video clip that speaks for itself 😊.

Neko Bay is an interesting place for several reasons. Named by the Belgian Adrien de Gerlache during an expedition in 1897 after a Norwegian whaler. That didn't stop a Norwegian sailor from falling overboard and disappear. We carefully try to avoid that here onboard Nansen Explorer. But, not only that. The expedition ship (Belgica) then froze into the ice down here. Just outside the bay. Something which caused the history's first winter/hibernation down in Antarctica. Something we also try to avoid.


In general, life down here is very much about "avoidance". Neko Bay is tricky in more ways than one. It surround a glacier that calves now and then. When that happens, and it can happen quickly, the tsunami wave that follows can throw both zodiacs and people over the edge. Something we also try to avoid 😀. Have attached a clip of how that could be perceived.


2023-02-21: BLUE ICE - WHATS THE BIG DEAL?
Blue ice is hard as rock. Something we want to avoid to hit (unlike the white and "softer" sea ice). Why is that? Sea ice forms when the sea surface freezes. It is full of small air bubbles and so porous that no light is able to penetrate the ice and become absorbed. The blue ice, on the other hand, is formed by snowlayer after snowlayer being packed together. Sometimes for thousands of years (here in Antarctica up to a million (!) years). The pressure from the overlying snow pushes the underlying snowpack into glacier ice. So tightly packed that virtually all air bubbles are squeezed out. And it becomes transparent. So transparent that all light except the blue (=shortest of the light's wavelengths) can penetrate and be absorbed by the ice. Thus, the blue color that we perceive with the eye is as a paradox the only color that ice does NOT have. Also as a curiosity - when we pass through drifting blue ice, it sometimes rattles like gunshots. This as the utterly tiny and very compressed air bubble remains, does expand and blast the ice. It happens that we pick up some ice for the passengers' drink(s) before dinner. Then they have to take care, so that the ice cubes does not crack the glass if the air bubbles escape at that moment. It has happened 😂.

2023-02-22: EVACUATION
Antarctic is a frozen continent surrounded by oceans. Whilst the Arctic is a frozen ocean surrounded by continents. 90% of all ice and 70% of all fresh water on Earth is found in Antarctica. Which is also the coldest, highest, and windiest of all the continents. Also the driest. Yes that's true. Antarctica is by definition considered a desert due to the extremely low humidity (in its turn due to the cold).

In the southern hemisphere, people usually talk about the "Furious Forties", the "Roaring Fifties" and the "Screaming Sixties". We anchored outside NOAA's research station at Cape Shirreff the other day. Located at latitude 62 degrees South. We had the weather gods on our side. The expected "Screaming Sixties" turned fortunately and unexpectedly out as the "Roaring Forties" (and barely that). That didn't stop us from being forced to fight the clock. An intense low pressure was moving in from the North West and we only had some 10 hours at hand to complete the evacuation - to get all the equipment on board as well as the eight remaining staff on the base. No helicopters this time. Instead, the zodiacs shuttled between the ship and the base. Attached are some video clips which shows what took place. In a later post, I will show how the life at a research station in Antarctica can be like. An unique insight into something that very few have access to. For several reasons. So - stay tuned 😊!

2023-02-23: ROLLING ICEBERGS

Not that often, but sometimes you can see a "rolling" iceberg. Here a clip taken by my earlier expedition leader Christian Bruttel. It is often said that you see a tenth of an iceberg and that the rest is below water. It's not true. Depends on the shape of the iceberg and from which direction you see it. In this case = visible part (white) about 20 m and exposed part (blue) about 60 m or, figuratively speaking, like a 6-story building above the surface and a corresponding 20-story building below.

What is perhaps more interesting is that when the glaciers calve, released icebergs often takes on a life of its own. Random erosion creates an imbalance that could cause the iceberg to "roll" over. When that happens, it can start to move in any possible (or impossible) direction. Then you have to "hold on to your hat" (an old Swedish saying) 😊. Please enjoy!

 
2023-02-26: A GUIDED SHIP TOUR
Who is the typical passenger onboard MV Nansen Explorer and what is the ship used for? Originally built in Finland as an ice-class research vessel. A few years ago converted into a megayacht carrying a maximum of 12 passengers and some 16-18 crew members. The passengers are typically a family or a small group that charters the vessel for one or a few weeks in the Arctic or Antarctic. What is on offer? Experiences befitting a megayacht, star chefs and a service level and a ship that can call places that many other ships have difficulties to reach (or simply cannot reach). In addition to the operating crew, there are usually two cooks, a waiter, three stewards, a guide and an expedition leader on board.

The ship is like a small compressed society in itself. Who can live in isolation from the outside world for weeks (or months) if required. We have our own power plant, our own drinking water productionsystem, our own heating and cooling system, our own medical ward, the sea full of fish, a restaurant, our own gym and much more. Everything compressed in to 6 decks/floors. Have attached a video clip which take you on a guided tour on board. Please enjoy 😊!

2023-02-27: PUNTA ARENAS
Punta Arenas is strategically located in legendary waters on the dividing line between the South Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. Reached via the Strait of Magellan with Cape Horn around the corner. Established in the 19th century to consolidate Chile's claim for the lands down here. Today a focal point for the cruise traffic to Antarctica

We have just completed the NOAA mission and the unloading of the equipment from Livingstone Island. The NOAA team we picked up from the base at Cape Shireff has just left the ship. We are bunkered up and ready for departure but the port is currently closed due to strong winds coming in from the West. The moorings are reinforced with all the mooring lines we have. available. The weather is however said to lighten up during the day. We are therefore ready to depart as soon as it is possible with destination Las Palmas. Expect to cross the equator on March 15. To be continued 😊.


2023-02-28: PENGUINS
Penguins are a funny breed. When they were first discovered in the 16th century, they were thought to be fish. Obviously they couldn't fly. And they were undeniably good swimmers. Now we know better 😊. They are opportunistic by nature (trust me). Especially the males. And above all when they are in the "nest building"mood. They look innocent but constantly lurks and brazenly steal when given the opportunity. Stones used for their nests quickly change hands in the fight for being recognised by the females, who do not disregard a well-built nest. Some are monogamous for life. The majority only for one season at a time. Then they are in dating mood again. Many females are drawn to the chubbier variety. Signals that they have the conditions to incubate without meal breaks.

Their tailcoat-like appearance is not for just looking nice or for impressing each other. The black back camouflages them from above when they swim at the sea surface. The white belly camouflages them for leopard seals and other predators that hunt from below. That doesn't stop them from diving. An emperor penguin was measured to be able to dive more than 500 m deep. You might wonder why. Took 22 minutes.

They look cute as they rock around and wave their little arm-like wings. But they are all the more flexible and faster in the water. Many move forward in water at the same speed as an untrimmed moped. They don't topple over or just fall into the water. They take an elegant swan jump. Why? Well, it is that very movement which pressure the air bubbles out of their feathers and which would otherwise have slowed down the speed in the water.

Regardless - they are both cute and charming. Since they have no natural enemies on land, they are not the least afraid. Instead, often curious and sociable. For better or worse. Because they don't smell very good. Have attached some recent videos from the South Shetland Islands and Livingstone Island.


2023-03-01: BRIDGE TALK
WE LEFT from Punta Arenas down on the southern tip of Chile last Monday evening. Now lying out and "stomping" in the South Atlantic. Just passed the Falkland Islands to port and put us in the Falkland Current. So we get a little extra speed when we now set the course up towards the equator and Las Palmas. A distance of 5800 nautical miles (with an unbroken horizon). Slightly longer than the distance from one of the poles to the equator. Takes us about three weeks.
Some time ago I was asked - "why don't you use a uniform on board, like on so many other passenger ships"? The answer is given at the end of this clip. So - stay tuned 😊.


2023-03-02: KILLER WHALES
Are they as dangerous as many say?  In the last twenty years, not a single human has been attacked by a killer whale out in the open sea. On the other hand, a few have been killed by killer whales in captivity. I let you draw any conclusions from that yourself.


      The divers and photographers which I have been sailing with over the years have not hesitated for a second  to take a dive with these giant beasts. Smart mammals that hunt in groups and share the food. The females are generally more brutal than the males. The interaction is as sophisticated as the family bonds are strong. For example, a male (or female for that matter) never leaves his mother during his lifetime. He does deviate from the family temporarily to seek out other groups when it comes to the mating part. But thereafter he always return to his pack. The term "present fathers" has not gained any support in this part of the mammal world 😊.

  They communicate intensively (0.1- 40 khz). There is an eager clicking, squeaking and whistling between them. Hope to pick this up with an underwater microphone at some point. During the actual hunt, females with calves stay at a distance. From what we understand, killer whales are among the most ruthless predators out there. At the same time, within the group, they are among the most compassionate species in existence. The younger ones ensure that the older and injured in the group get their share of food. The older females educate the calves in terms of hunting tactics and general behavior.

They don't always agree. They show their displeasure by flapping their tail fin. But on the whole they act in unison. The family is ruled by a matriarch. Every family has its dialect. Several families, all more or less distantly related, form a clan. Each clan has its own language. They cannot communicate with other clans. it is ike a Russian trying to talk to a Chinese. But they are otherwise smart and learn quickly. A coin with two sides and the reason why some are kept in captivity for displaying various learned tricks in dolphinariums around the world.


2023-03-04: TIMEZONES…
..are a science in itself. This include extremes where you for instance are able to go back in time and experience the same date two days in a row. This is the case when passing the date line Estbound out in the Pacific. Which as an example could happen if you take a flight from New Zeeland to Hawaii. Another curious example refers to Antarctica, where there are no time zones at all. You can just set the time which suits you.  When we were down there, we have for pure convenience used Ushuaia (Argentina) time onboard. Means that right now, when we are on our way to Las Palmas, we have to adjust the clock with 3 hours. The way we do it is to shorten the day with 1hr every Saturday for the three weeks it takes us to come there. So, today at noon, we skipped an hour and all clocks and certain systems on board needed to be calibrated accordingly. No big deal, but still has to be done =).


2023-03-05: STEER WITHOUT A RUDDER
Many safety drills are held on board. Basically it is about not being surprised - when you become surprised. The drills are often hold on repositioning voyages. Like today. The objective is to drill the routines in emergency situations like fire onboard, man overboard, collision, abandon ship, etc. Where everyone onboard are assigned to a special task.

There are many alarms on a ship. The vast majority are false. The worst that can happen is that you after a while don't take these alarms seriously. And then, the unexpected or unlikely occurs. Have experienced two such occasions. One fire onboard. On a fully loaded tanker. And, right you guessed - at first it was thought to be a false alarm. Ultimately we got control over the fire and there was a happy ending. In the second case we lost a man overboard. In the middle of the Atlantic. That didn't lead to a happy ending. So, a useful lesson in the first case and a very painful in the other.

Today, emergency steering was on the agenda. What to do if the steering machinery is knocked out. Can happen in several stages. If only the steering function on the bridge or the control function between the bridge and the steering engine room is disabled, then you can operate the steering engines manually from the steering-engine room. That was practised today.

You might have heard ballads about ”sailing without wind” or ”rowing without oars”. But what about steering without a rudder. Few, if any, ballads about that =). If the rudder is knocked out, you have to take other measures. The classic one is to winch out a couple of hundred meters of mooring lines from each side of the ship. Then winch home on the side you want the ship not to turn. It is heavy and slow, for sure. No good for precision steering but can still make a ship change its main direction. And in such a situation, we are like a singing Baloo in The Jungle Book, humbly satisfied with just that (”Look for the bare neccessities…”) =).



​2023-03-08: WHY GO SLALOM..
..out in the open sea when you can follow a strait line? We are now approaching the Tropic of Capricorn at latitude 23° 26' S. After leaving Punta Arenas we headed up towards the Falkland Islands. Now following the Falkland Current along the Brazil coast in order get an extra push from the back. We are passing Rio de Janeiro on our port side tonight. The weather is getting pleasant. From freezing temperatures down in Antarctica to, at the time of writing, ”Bermudashorts weather" and +28° C this afternoon. But what about  all this with going slalom and our course? Has to do with wave height and wind direction. Our machinery in general and cylinder temperatures in particular do not like it when we are steering head-up the wind when the seas are building up. The sea, swell and the wind direction have varied during the last 24 hours and we are trying to, as far as possible, get the sea a little bit ”skewed” towards the bow. Helps to keep the speed up, lower the bunker consumption and protect the machinery. So it isn't more complicated than that. But it also makes the course line look a little bit funny. But aren’t there many things which are just that - now a days 😊.


2023-03-09: WHAT ABOUT THE FOOD ONBOARD?

"Top notch" if you ask me. We are fairly well supplied with ingredients. When we left Punta Arenas we had 3.2 tons of dry food stuffs, half a ton of chilled meat, cheese and dairy products, fruit, vegetables and juice and 3.8 tons of frozen foods of all kinds. Add to that two star chefs. I leave it to you to imagine the result. I tremble when I think of the moment I am about to read the scale back home. Probably one of those moments when you wish you were Burt in the twisted TV serie ”Soap” broadcasted in the 1980s. He, the retired and demented colonel, who just snapped with his fingers and disappeared (at least that was what he thought). Out into no-where! Think I will try that. A report will follow =).

But that is future.  Now (I heard that an old wise Chinese once said that we should live in the present), now in the meantime, we continue to follow the coast of Brazil and are slowly beginning to approach the Equator. The weather is stable. Clear blue sky, calm winds and a manageable swell. That’s why we earlier today decided to unpack the ship's Weber grill out on the helicopter deck. And arrange for a barberque this evening. Mama Mia (!). Life isn't that bad after all. But, as mentioned earlier, I better start practicing snapping my fingers pretty soon =).



2023-03-14: NOW IT STARTS..
..to get really hot. The air conditioningonboard is working hard. The temp showed +34 C in the shadow today after lunch. Our present position is latitude 3 degrees South and we are crossing the equator tomorrow. It is then 2000 nautical miles left to Las Palmas.


Nautical miles, by the way. Why is the land mile not used or sufficient at sea? And why is it 1,852 km and why such an uneven number? There is an explanation, of course. At the time, when it was understood that the earth was round, a measure of angle (in degrees) was needed for spherical charting and navigation. It was known that the earth needed 360 days to make one revolution around the sun. Therefore, it was not so strange that the angle for a circle should be 360 degrees. The angle between the equator and one of the poles then became 90 degrees. The degrees were however quite rough for position indications. Therefore, each degree was divided into 60 arc minutes (=distance minutes or nautical miles). The number 60 has its own story (also connected to why every hour is 60 minutes). Will come back to that another time. 90 degrees times 60 gives 5600 distance minutes (=nautical miles) between the equator and one of the poles. Eventually it was also possible to measure that distance in km which showed to be precisely 10,000 km. If you then divide 10,000 km by 5,600 nautical miles, you get - voilá (!) - 1,852 km/nautical mile. So, not more complicated than that =).


2023-03-15: EQUATOR CROSSING
What’s the big deal with passing the Equator? Has fascinated mankind throughout the ages. At least since the Chinese in 500 B.C. for the first time drew up the equator as a line on a map. If we then look forward to the time of the big sailing ships, one has to assume that it could get a bit boring onboard right here. Often pleasant weather but light winds. What do you do then? Finding out some fun to do, of course. The first time a line baptism is mentioned is 1611. Those who had not crossed the line before would be immediately bapticed by King Neptune himself. Not without vested interests from the rest of the crew, it turned out. The unbapticed were given two choices - either jump 3 times with a rope under their shoulders from the mainmast or bail themselves out. Drownings occurred.

Today it was our turn to cross the equator. We couldn't just let it pass by like that. Gotta make sure that malicious rumours don't start to spread that we at Nansen Explorer don't take such serious things earnestly. So this option about being able to bail out was deleted immediately (!). Attached are some clips which shows what happened!


​2023-03-18: MAN OVER BOARD DRILL
Man Over Board incidents are practiced regularly. Mostly when we don't have any passengers onboard. Like yesterday. After we stopped the engine and the exercise was over, the others onboard got the chance to take a dip. +29 C in both the air and the water. Then no jump towers were needed. The whole ship became a jumping tower. And just because, we rounded off the day with a Barbeque on the Helideck until the evening twilight 😊.

A sharp Man Overboard incident needs to be dealt with precisely and quickly. In the polar regions, we have some 10 minutes to play with. It's the time it takes for the body in zero-degree water to go numb and you can no longer control your arms and legs. Sometimes the water temperature can go below zero due to the salinity of the water. Then the clock ticks even faster. Likewise - even if it's broad daylight, it's incredible how quickly a human head disappears from view (even in a calm sea).

There are five things that happen almost simultaneously after a "Man overboard" alarm. If we make speed,  we have a special manouver (Williamson turn) to quickly turn the ship and get back to where we were when it happened. In parallel, the machine starts up two extra generators so that we can use the bow and stern propellers to hold the position and give shelter when we are in position. Two crew put on survival suits and prepare themselves to jump overboard and assist the person in distress (who by this point is probably so chilled that he/she may not be able to move). Our rescue boat or one of our zodiacs is being prepared for launching. A medic team gets ready to take care of cold injuries/cooling down. This happens within a few minutes. Preferably synchronously. Therefore, it needs to be trained at regular intervals.


​2023-03-26: DESTINATION REACHED
We have now anchored up outside Las Palmas. It is exactly four weeks since we left Punta Arenas in Chile. We hope to be able to berth tomorrow.


Canary Islands - why that name? Many believe that it is the canaries that gave the name to the islands. It's not true. It is the opposite. It is the islands that gave the name to the birds. Said to come from the Latin word "canaria" which means dog. Okay, so where are they to be found? People still try to figure that out. The name could also come from the word sea-dog, which was the ancient Romans' name for seals. There were plenty of those down here in these days. Today there are more turtles than seals. Five of the world's seven sea turtle species are found in the Canary Islands. It is popular to swim amongst them in the south of Tenerife. In the past they mainly used to end up as an ingredient in soups. Fortunately, that is not the case any more 😊.

2022-11-06: End of game

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