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ANTARCTICA 2008

THE EXPEDITION

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SCOUTING THE ANTARCTIC PENINSULA, NOVEMBER 2007

USHUAIA, ARGENTINA - It's late spring here at the tip of South America, the ever-present winds warming, the skies bluer every day, but I am off for a much colder place - Antarctica. Locals call this bustling city both "the end of the world" and "the beginning of the world" - while South America winds to a stop near here, Ushuaia is arguably the gateway to the seventh continent. Most scientific expeditions, grand adventures and tourist ships headed for Antarctica from the western hemisphere begin here. I will spend two weeks aboard the National Geographic Endeavor scouting for my upcoming sea kayak expedition. We will also be dropping off our big, 21' 10" long fiberglass and Kevlar kayaks on King George Island - to be picked up when I return with my team during the first days of January 2008. I will also be keeping a steady watch on satellite images and weather reports from the Antarctic Peninsula since the word on the docks in Ushuaia is that it's been a very cold and icy winter down south. I hope you'll tune in often during the scouting trip for interviews, video, photographs and more from the ice.
SCOUTING EXPEDITION DISPATCHES - November 2007
  November 20, 2007

USHUAIA, ARGENTINA  We just set off from this beautiful city at the very tip of South America...

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VIDEO: Loading the kayaks

 
 
  November 21, 2007

IN THE MIDST OF THE DRAKE PASSAGE  renowned to be one of the windiest places on earth...

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November 22, 2007

Last night was Thanksgiving night and I found myself doing something I'd never done before on Thanksgiving: zipping through a bay filled with icebergs to deliver kayaks to the Harbor Master on King George Island. We negotiated an arrangement for the National Geographic Endeavor to help me by stopping at King George Island to drop off the kayaks there, where they'll be stored there for a month until we sail down on the sailboat on New Year's Eve. I spent yesterday refitting, reconfiguring the boats, adding brackets so that we can mount cameras on them. There was kind of a rush today to get everything done before packing them back into their packing and then throwing them onto zodiacs and zipping into the bay where we were greeted by a small group of Chileans at the Harbor Master's office who've been here for a full year. They said they could wait for nothing more then to get back to the warm and sunshine. For us we were on our way back to the Endeavor soon. It was another great day. We sailed out of the bay around 10 PM, around sunset. It was very, very, very beautiful.

VIDEO: Unloading the kayaks
  November 23, 2007

DISTRESS SIGNALS  I was awakened at three thirty and told that we were changing course...

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VIDEO: Explorer in distress
 
NEWS LINKS

The historic cruise ship EXPLORER sinks after hitting an iceberg. Jon reports from the scene:

The New York Times, November 24, 2007

ABC News

National Public Radio

news.nationalgeographic.com - read Jon's written account.
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November 26, 2007

We passed through the narrow, seven-mile-long LeMaire Channel just after eight o'clock this morning. Often chocked with ice it was mostly clear as we motored through, the tall mountain peaks of Booth Island to the east, the Antarctic Peninsula just west.

We were headed for the snow-covered dome of Petermann Island, to visit the Oceanites Society's penguin counting operation: Three penguin counters live in tents on the mile long island, for month-long stints during Antarctica's summer months. The Washington, D.C.-based environmental group has been inventorying wildlife along the Peninsula since 1994; at Petermann they monitor Gentoo and Adelie penguins, as well as blue-eyed Shags.

You cannot come to Antarctica and not be both mesmerized and surrounded by penguins. While the Antarctic Treaty asks that visitors stay 15 feet away from the waddling birds, they are relentlessly curious, in the thousands and do not hesitate to walk right up to you.

On Petermann, the numbers of breeding pairs of Adelie are down from a few years ago, from 500 to just over 100, while the Gentoos have increased to nearly 3,000 pair. Climate change - warming seas impacting the krill that are the Adelie's main diet - is part of the reason for the shift.

VIDEO: Penguins on parade
 
  November 28, 2007

SNOW ISLAND  We are slowly moving North, making our way back up towards the Drake Passage...

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VIDEO: Dangerous ice conditions
 
 
 
 
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