Antarctica (3): reaching the ice and Neumayer station

These blog posts on my Antarctic trip have encouraged me to read my travel diary from 2006-2007 again. It brings back a lot of nice memories. I indicated that Friday 1st of December 2006 was one of the most wonderful days of the expedition:

I went out at 9 a.m., and what a spectacle: everywhere I looked there were icebergs and smaller pieces of ice floating by. Later this day we passed through larger stretches of ice, although still fragmented. (…) If we hit a big iceberg you can feel and hear it throughout the entire ship. We saw a lot of Antarctic petrels and the beautiful snow petrels, which are completely white.

Slide111bbreaking through the ice

VF_Slide156snow petrels

Slide155snow petrel as seen from below

(…) I took over 1 gigabyte of pictures today. Some of the ice floes have penguins on them. We also saw penguins swimming alongside the ship. I also spotted my first seal: a crab-eater seal!”

VF_Slide137chinstrap penguins

Slide164crab-eater seal

Due to the difficult weather (fog) and ice (too thick) conditions, our original schedule had to be adjusted. The Polarstern struggled through the thick ice. It regularly moved over a piece of ice, slided to one side and leaned over, and then suddenly broke through the ice piece with a large crack and stabilised again. Difficult conditions to sleep and move about on the ship, but nevertheless very spectacular.

On Tuesday 5th of December, we were still one mile from the German Neumayer station, which we HAD to provide with fuel and other resources. The ice, however, had become impossible to break by Polarstern so we had to move to another spot close to the ice shelf, where we could manually refuel the tanks of the station. I was chosen to be one of the first to go on the ice for the job.

The next day, we finally reached the Antarctic ice shelf!



Due to the fog, however, the people from the Neumayer station couldn’t reach our location, so the fueling was postponed. While waiting, we took our first samples from the sea bottom, which turned out to be full of sponges and lots of marine fauna.

Slide194sponges and associated marine life

7th of December was a day of frustration. I was asked twice (!) to get ready for fueling on the ice shelf and had to wait and sweat for hours in a super thick suit, but in the end they told me I wasn’t neaded. My chances to go on the ice shelf were getting lower by the minute and time was running out…

(to be continued)


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