Chasing Whales in Antarctica with the New York YC

The NYYC explores ice and wildlife in the southern latitudes. From Gary Jobson's blog for March 3, 2008

Gary Jobson 368

Antarctica. The word conjures up images of vast ice, cold and treacherous seas. For 105 members of the New York Yacht Club, the frozen continent did not disappoint.

On February 10, after a taking a four-hour charter flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, Argentina, club members boarded the 290-foot Corinthian II for a 10-day trip to the frozen continent. To reach Antarctica, it is about a 700-mile journey across the Drake Passage. Thankfully, for the trip across the wind was out of the north. About 50 miles from the first landfall, Clark Murphy was the first to sight an iceberg on the bow. Everyone was instantly on deck; the German captain steered the ship within 50 feet of the mass that was at least 200 feet high and a half a mile long. Embedded in the iceberg was deep, blue ice indicating that it had been under extreme pressure under the Antarctic ice shelf. Over the course of the next seven days the expedition made 16 stops at a variety of locations along the Antarctic peninsula.

The most scenic area was sailing through the Gerlache Strait. The ice-covered mountains rose 3,000 feet right up out of the sea bed while the ship motored by at a constant 12 knots. To paraphrase the old Yogi Berra saying, "It was even better-looking than it looked."

Another highlight of the trip was the wildlife--whales, seals, penguins, and giant birds. The albatrosses were my favorite. These bird have 11-foot wing spans and they seem to glide effortlessly on the powerful winds in the Drake, flying hundreds of miles every day. One afternoon off the Melchior Islands, about 70 of us aboard six Zodiacs followed a pod of whales. We could smell their fishy breath. The whales were unperturbed by our presence. Award-winning videographer Mike Audick traveled with us and shot 18 hours of high definition footage throughout the expedition.

This was my fourth polar trip; it's been 12 years since I last visited the Antarctic peninsula. I anticipated seeing evidence of global warming, but to my eye nothing had changed.