Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

I’ve just spent a long (this is Scotland in December!)...









I’ve just spent a long (this is Scotland in December!) windy and snowy night camped below the mountain Braeriach. The weather was too poor to climb to the summit, but it was a very useful exercise to shake down some new gear in advance of the Homathko traverse in spring, and gave me an opportunity to practise navigation with map and compass.


Thursday, 18 December 2014

dame-de-pique: Fridtjof Nansen - Polar Landscape with Lars...





dame-de-pique:



Fridtjof Nansen - Polar Landscape with Lars Pettersen in the foreground, 1894



Second engineer on the Fram, the only non-Norwegian on the team. These guys were far from home, both literally and figuratively. But more figuratively than literally, which is what makes for a true adventure in a wild place.


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Carlita Bay Cabin












Hut on Carlita Bay, South Georgia.
See more photos from contributor Alex Cowan.
I'm on Cabin Porn!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Newsflash: Antarctica Still Not Disneyland

There have been at least four ships already this Antarctic summer that have cancelled cruises, due to various issues (many of which were unavoidable) but the latest cancellations are, remarkably, due to a plane crash in Antarctica.
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The crash happened at Eduardo Frei Base (belonging to Chile) on King George Island in the South Shetlands, which are separated from the Antarctic mainland by the Bransfield Strait. The aircraft involved was a C-130 Hercules belonging to the Brazilian air force.
The airstrip at Frei is not only used by scientific personnel but also by tourists lacking the time or the motivation to take on the crossing of the notorious Drake Passage. Their ship waits nearby, and as soon as the passengers board they’re off, making landings across the Peninsula
When cancellations happen everyone is understandably very disappointed. Who wouldn’t be, after spending all that money, taking all that time off work, and spending so long dreaming of Antarctica? Some are sad, some are angry and all are surprised. Of course they are.
When accidents occur on a ship then it turns around and heads for home — there’s no rescue out here, except by fellow cruise vessels. The best you can possibly do in case of a medical emergency is go to King George Island, ask for a plane and if the weather is good they will let you wait in the bay until the plane is there and ready to fly your patient out. When this happens the same reactions of disappointment, anger and surprise run through everyone on board.
While the disappointment is natural, sometimes I wonder if the anger and the surprise shouldn’t be. Some people (certainly not all) come to Antarctica expecting a natural Disneyland where they are guaranteed that they will gain entrance, get two landings a day most days and see a lot of wildlife. The reality, when it doesn’t all go to plan, can be crushing. I suspect to some extent this attitude comes from the tour companies running the trips and the travel agents selling them, but that might just be me projecting! Most of all it probably comes from the by now large numbers of people who have made successful trips, cocooned by the strong vessel they are travelling in and by the highly professional teams surrounding them. They go home and tell their friends and their friends expect the same or similar experience.
However at the end of the day surely what many people want to see is the raw, untouched continent, the final icy frontier. And in a truly raw and untouched continent, if something goes wrong we’ll have to turn and run because we’re far from the infrastructure and support we’re used to. Where if you can’t fix it yourself you’re in trouble. That’s the Antarctica I go south to see, and long may it last.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Antarctic Passport Stamps

Believe it or not, you can get your passport stamped in Antarctica. Here’s a small selection — can you guess which countries they represent?

Monday, 15 December 2014

Hardcore Traveller!



In the first four years of owning my current passport I travelled almost exclusively within Europe and so didn’t pick up many stamps. Then I started working in expedition cruising and after only three years it is full!

Argentina is the undisputed winner with 31 individual stamps, followed by Chile and the USA with 10 each.

I’ve upgraded to a 48 page ‘jumbo’ passport so hopefully this one will last a bit longer.

Torres del Paine Timelapse



Timelapse video of clouds scudding over the summits of the Torres del Paine as we drink a sundowner at our campsite.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Boom!!



Falling ice; The Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina calves blocks of ice into Lago Argentino http://flic.kr/p/q6EceU

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Antarctic Sunset



Antarctic Sunset; An early season sunset illuminates clouds in Antarctica http://flic.kr/p/pYdxtV

I’ve just finished a short but action packed contract in...









I’ve just finished a short but action packed contract in Antarctica. Some odd moments and new experiences but a lot of success. I’m looking forward to coming back but for now I have almost two weeks exploring Patagonia to look forward to.






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Friday, 28 November 2014

lauren: We spent yesterday afternoon at the glacier above...









lauren:



We spent yesterday afternoon at the glacier above Ushuaia doing crevasse rescue training. Good fun, but let’s hope we never have to use it!



I’ve been out in the hills of Tierra del Fuego teaching crevasse rescue procedures and techniques to a team of polar professionals. As Lauren says, I hope none of us have to use what we know; our first precaution is to stay away from risky terrain altogether.






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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Birds at Sunset



Birds at Sunset; Seabirds coming in to roost at Prion Island, South Georgia http://flic.kr/p/pVoiSr

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Southern Ocean



Southern Ocean; Towering swell and rolling greybeards chase us east to South Georgia as the countless indomitable seabirds of this ocean wheel around us http://flic.kr/p/q9QoR7

Thursday, 9 October 2014

"The focus of international politics often tends to revolve around energy security within the context..."

“The focus of international politics often tends to revolve around energy security within the context of a global scramble for resources to keep individual countries’ economic growth engines humming. In view of the possibilities of the Arctic as a future abundant natural resources supply base for various pivotal countries, especially in Asia, non-Arctic states such as South Korea, Japan, and China join actual Arctic nations in taking a more active part in contemplating Arctic development and theregion’s future.”



- Why is the Arctic at the Center of World Politics?



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The other side of Cairngorm

Today I was out doing some navigation exercises on Cairngorm, Scotland, with Jonty Mills. Jonty has a huge amount of experience in the mountains and has been my chief climbing and skiing partner for about a decade now. He recently passed his ML (Mountain Leader) assessment - a rigorous exam not to be sniffed at - and I had a very enjoyable day being taught navigational techniques by him. He has always been the main navigator in the team, but nonetheless I was surprised at how good a teacher he was.


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While we were on a slightly lesser visited side of Cairngorm we took the opportunity to seek out the El Alamein Refuge, built in the 1960s to commemorate the 51st Highland Division. It’s not marked on the map and not everyone knows where it is, but we found it surprisingly quickly and easily, so I think the only barrier to finding it is actually bothering to look! It’s not in a very useful spot but it’s still a shame to see it in such a state of disrepair.


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Anyway, if you’re looking for navigational instruction or just a great day out in the hills (especially if you’re looking for some esoterica!) then I can heartily recommend Jonty’s company On High Hills:


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h4ilstorm: Sea of King Penguins (by Alex Cowan) Thanks...





h4ilstorm:



Sea of King Penguins (by Alex Cowan)



Thanks everyone who is enjoying my photo! Back for more in South Georgia in about a week!






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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Polar bear sleeping on an iceberg



Polar bear sleeping on an iceberg; A bear rests on an iceberg in the arctic archipelago of Svalbard. http://flic.kr/p/oZuuVm

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Polar bear travelling on sea ice



Polar bear travelling on sea ice; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/oYzRdv

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Polar bear travelling on sea ice



Polar bear travelling on sea ice; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/oXHCzz

Monday, 15 September 2014

Polar bear hunting on sea ice



Polar bear hunting on sea ice; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/pehNYa

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Polar bear reflection



Polar bear reflection; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/pd3B8C

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Polar bear jumping across a lead in sea ice



Polar bear jumping across a lead in sea ice; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/pai3tw

Polar bear jumping across a lead in sea ice



Polar bear jumping across a lead in sea ice; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/oUQgLx

Polar bear jumping across a lead in sea ice



Polar bear jumping across a lead in sea ice; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/oUP9im

Friday, 12 September 2014

Polar bear hunting on sea ice



Polar bear hunting on sea ice; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/pbaqT6

Thursday, 11 September 2014

9/11 Tribute in Light



9/11 Tribute in Light; The New York skyline lit up http://flic.kr/p/pbi3vA

Polar bear closeup



Polar bear closeup; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/panV3z

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Polar bear drinking closeup



Polar bear drinking closeup; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/p9HU8p

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Polar bear sleeping on sea ice



Polar bear sleeping on sea ice; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/p99BTa

Monday, 8 September 2014

Polar bear hunting on sea ice



Polar bear hunting on sea ice; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/oQJFn9

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Polar bear hunting on sea ice



Polar bear hunting on sea ice; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/oPG51f

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Polar bear hunting on sea ice



Polar bear hunting on sea ice; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/p6fwre

Friday, 5 September 2014

Polar bear hunting on sea ice



Polar bear hunting on sea ice; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/oMXrm4

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Polar bear hunting on sea ice



Polar bear hunting on sea ice; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/p4n4br

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Polar bear hunting on sea ice



Polar bear hunting on sea ice; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/oLfRDv

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Monday, 1 September 2014

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Polar bear hunting on sea ice



Polar bear hunting on sea ice; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/oZFYhZ

Saturday, 30 August 2014

The wandering bear

Called pisugtooq, the great wanderer, by the polar Eskimos of NW Greenland, the polar bear has no territory but instead a vast range through which it wanders tirelessly. This behavior is necessitated by the shifting sea ice and changing ocean productivity on which is depends, but it has developed into an animal with seemingly no limits as to where it is willing to go.



Nobody really knows what drives this seemingly deliberate and intent ceaseless travel, how they know where they are or how they know where they are going. A bear in Svalbard may wonder within a few hundred square kilometres for several months before walking to Franz Josef Land and then halfway to the North Pole, covering thousands of miles. Bears have been seen in such unlikely spots as the summit of Mt Newton in Svalbard (an altitude of 6600ft!) or 30 miles inland on the Greenland ice cap and we have no real idea what they are doing there, though we may speculate. The females of the Alaskan population den on shifting sea ice and emerge from their dens a significant distance from where they dug in months before. Despite this, they converge on their traditional feeding areas with unerring and uncanny accuracy no matter where they start.



The bear pictured here was encountered on sea ice within a mile of the island of Storoya in the east of the Svalbard archipelago. Fearlessly curious as to what we were, it quickly resumed its travel westward when we slowly retreated.



Like every sighting, this bear was full of mystery. Where did it come from? Where is it going with such intent? And with this mystery comes an admiration for an animal so incredibly at home in its environment, able to cover the difficult and shifting terrain with ease and comfort. Its motion is assured, almost leisurely and proprietorial; early whalers apparently nicknamed it ‘the farmer’ because of its easy stride.



This isn’t an animal that’s surviving; it’s a robust and resourceful creature ‘choosing’ to remain, and roam endlessly, in the environment in which it feels most at home.






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Polar bear reflection



Polar bear reflection; A bear travelling and hunting in sea ice just 600 miles from the north pole. http://flic.kr/p/oYJSk8