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Antarctic trip – part two – Antarctica

By John Hargreaves - 28 December 2015 24

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To get to Antarctica, we flew from Santiago in Chile, to Ushuaia, via Buenos Aires in Argentina. Ushuaia in in the Tierra del Fuego at the southernmost tip of Argentina and is, according to the Argentines, the southernmost city in the world.

A lovely embarkation spot for the Antarctic continent. We hopped on the Sea Explorer I as part of an Antarctic “expedition” as part of 109 passengers and 96 crew, heading out for two days across the Drake Passage to land on one of the South Shetland Islands and on to the Antarctic Peninsula itself.

The Drake Passage is where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans merge and is a turbulent piece of water notorious for sea sickness, so if you go, take your pills and eat the glace ginger offered by the ship’s crew. One just has to suck it up for this couple of days to be part of an amazing journey.

There is a line in the ocean called the Antarctic Convergence which is where the Southern Ocean starts and it is where the sea temperature drops dramatically. This is the point at which many ocean creatures turn back north. Not so for some whales, certain seals and some penguins.

It is also the point at which you can begin to spot icebergs. I need to remind you to look at the ice cube in your next drink to see that the ice is one tenth above the surface and nine tenths below it. So when I talk about icebergs later you will see the immensity of it.

The South Shetland Islands are on the northern tip of the peninsula, which is really an extension of the Andes mountain chain bordering Chile and Argentina. Cruising around the islands were a number of “tabular” icebergs, which were utterly amazing. Flat topped and massive.

We were on the edge of the Weddell Sea and spotted an iceberg floating along with a group of Adelie penguins catching a ride. Cute as!

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The iceberg in the photo above was 12 nautical miles long by 2 nautical miles wide. That’s about equal to a trip from Tuggeranong to Woden by three kilometres wide.  It has “calved”, or split off, from a larger on which was 200 nautical miles by two nautical miles long.  It has fallen off an ice shelf in the Ross Sea in 2005 and was making its way via the currents, around the Antarctic continent when we spotted that smaller bit — and remember that nine tenths of it is underwater.

When we set foot on land, we saw a group of penguins doing cute penguin things, but the bonus was that we were able to go within 5 metres of them without stressing them out. Interestingly, we saw Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins waddling along together.  Nearby was a basking Weddell Seal.  All in the one afternoon!

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What happens is that the trip around Antarctica is part tourist activity and part research. There was a program called Citizen Science, where the passengers partnered with the expedition leaders who were scientists of a specific discipline like ornithology, aquatic mammals, oceanography, geology etc. We recorded our observations and these were transmitted to research institutions around the world.

We recorded sea birds, like four types of albatross, two terns, cormorants, fulmars, skuas, sheathbills, and four types of petrels. Not to mention three types of penguins, who “porpoised” along with the boat. These were Gentoo, Chinstrap and Adelie Penguins. We recorded two types of seals – Elephant Seals and Weddell Seals. Interestingly, the natural predator of the penguin is the leopard seal but this animal doesn’t come that far south. We recorded sea temperature showing where the Convergence occurred and how the sea temperature had risen over the recent decades.

We stepped onto the Antarctic Peninsula itself. Amazing! The quiet (except for the penguins) was deafening. The colour of white has never been so stark.

One of the landing spots was Livingstone Island, where we mingled with Elephant Seals and penguins. I couldn’t resist this photo of a group of juveniles lying together whilst moulting.  Note the disdain the guy on the right has for photographers and the photo-bombing young fella at the back.

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The trip included six days wandering around the western tip of the peninsula and we encountered abundant but location-specific wildlife, actually set foot on the continent and were able to take part in scientific work contributing to our global knowledge of this amazing place.

Interestingly, whilst countries have laid claim to bits of the continent, there is in place the Antarctic Treaty which doesn’t have all that long to run but I would think would just be renewed. This treaty recognises sovereignty but preserves the continent and protects the continent from mining, exploitation and inhabitation.  It is preserved for research only.  Tours like ours are encouraged because they add to scientific knowledge without the financial burden of countries having to send ships and scientists with all that that entails to do the research.

For example, there is a whale watch. We saw Sperm and Humpback whales. The Minkie whale, targeted by the Japanese who don’t go below the Antarctic Convergence, are numerous and yet to be an endangered species. We saw many Humpback whales and indeed one only a few metres away when it stuck its head out and had a good look at us. We saw one breach eleven times only about 100 metres away and this left the whole boat gasping.

Back to Ushuaia after the trip of a lifetime and Buenos Aires bound. See my next post for a snapshot of the capital of Argentina.

Oh, on the political front, the Argentines still don’t recognise the occupation of the Falklands Islands saying that the Las Malvinas are Argentine and will always be Argentine. So says the sign bidding farewell and welcome back to Ushuaia. After hearing the history of the ownership of these islands, I’m with the Argentines.

What’s Your opinion?


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24 Responses to
Antarctic trip – part two – Antarctica
Blen_Carmichael 6:46 pm 06 Jan 16

Blen_Carmichael said :

John Hargreaves said :

it is interesting to note howe4ver, that as a result of the war, the Brits repatriated all the Argentines from the Islands back to Argentina and then had the referendum. Also, there are only about 1500 to 1800 people on the Islands.

Could we have a source please for the repatriation claim, preferably one which includes the number of people affected?

Pending John’s response, I took the opportunity to Google some old archives at the time. There’s plenty of material relating to repatriation of Argentinian POWs. Can’t find any reference that substantiates John’s claim that Britain repatriated Argentinian islanders. John, did you have any luck with that source?

dungfungus 6:03 pm 06 Jan 16

watto23 said :

Thanks for the photos and the trip report.
The Falklands/Malvinas issue, people on here will just argue against you due to your previous political ties.

China is doing a similar thing now, putting buildings and people onto the Spratley islands to claim them, much like the British/French/Spanish etc. did in colonial times around the globe. Whether that means they should have ownership of the Falklands or not is the debate. The Spanish, French and British fought over them for a while and it appears they were uninhabited at the time other than by europeans, so the Argentine claim is reasonably weak.

Don’t be surprised if the Indian Navy turns up in Suva harbour one night.

John Hargreaves 11:15 am 06 Jan 16

dungfungus said :

tuco said :

dungfungus said :

“After hearing the history of the ownership of these islands……”
Source?

Oh, I remember this comment. So great to see you back CGN.

(Actually, it’s not. Comments like this are the nadir of passive aggressive trolling. Please expand on your point of view so we don’t just get the pointy end of the snark).

I thought my point of view would have been obvious given that anyone who travels to Argentina is constantly reminded that “Las Malvinas” belong to Argentina.
Despite that, Britain took them back by force which from most accounts was the right course of action so I, and I am sure others, are keen to learn what sources John used to form his opinion.
Unlike CGN who used the response “source?” on almost every post, I use it only when it is necessary.
John has been kind enough to follow up on a response so he doesn’t see my request as “aggressive trolling”.

To be fair, I don’t regard Dungers stuff as “aggressive trolling” I just think that much of his stuff disagrees with my view and that is healthy and sometimes entertaining.

And in relation to the trip to Kenya, I was in the twilight of my career and contributed to the discussions on many subjects such as Committee work, the roles of Whips, the difference between “parliamentarians” and “politicians”, much of which was new to the recently elected Commonwealth parliamentarians. We don’t always have to “take” on these trips, it is also appropriate that we “give back”. The guys from the smaller jurisdictions such as the Pacific Islands, Jersey, Guernsey, Norfolk Island (in those days), the Falklands, New Zealand and some of the Canadian provinces, all contribute to the education of people form like jurisdictions. I was proud to share.

watto23 9:59 am 06 Jan 16

Thanks for the photos and the trip report.
The Falklands/Malvinas issue, people on here will just argue against you due to your previous political ties.

China is doing a similar thing now, putting buildings and people onto the Spratley islands to claim them, much like the British/French/Spanish etc. did in colonial times around the globe. Whether that means they should have ownership of the Falklands or not is the debate. The Spanish, French and British fought over them for a while and it appears they were uninhabited at the time other than by europeans, so the Argentine claim is reasonably weak.

Dreadnaught1905 5:50 pm 05 Jan 16

No_Nose said :

John Hargreaves said :

My understanding is that the Treaty of Utrecht returned ownership of the Islands to Argentina but the UK govt refused to acknowledge it.

That would be impossible.

The Treaty of Utrecht (actually a series of treaties) were signed in 1713.

The Islands were not even settled until 1764 (French) and 1766 (British), 50 years after the Treaty of Ultrecht.

Argentina didn’t come into existence until 1818, over a hundred years after the treaty.

I think the relevance of the treaty of Utrecht was more in relation to Spanish territorial claims, and from memory the Falklands were not mentioned in the treaty (although Span were of the opinion that the islands should have been covered by the the treaty).

The more commonly cited treaty regarding the Falklands, and the sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom is the Arana-Southern treaty, which also doesn’t mention the islands specifically.

In any case, it’s certainly a contentious issue for many Argentinians – and, apparently, especially so for those who reside in Ushuaia (as the BBC found out in 2014).

Blen_Carmichael 1:54 pm 05 Jan 16

John Hargreaves said :

it is interesting to note howe4ver, that as a result of the war, the Brits repatriated all the Argentines from the Islands back to Argentina and then had the referendum. Also, there are only about 1500 to 1800 people on the Islands.

Could we have a source please for the repatriation claim, preferably one which includes the number of people affected?

dungfungus 8:18 am 05 Jan 16

tuco said :

dungfungus said :

“After hearing the history of the ownership of these islands……”
Source?

Oh, I remember this comment. So great to see you back CGN.

(Actually, it’s not. Comments like this are the nadir of passive aggressive trolling. Please expand on your point of view so we don’t just get the pointy end of the snark).

I thought my point of view would have been obvious given that anyone who travels to Argentina is constantly reminded that “Las Malvinas” belong to Argentina.
Despite that, Britain took them back by force which from most accounts was the right course of action so I, and I am sure others, are keen to learn what sources John used to form his opinion.
Unlike CGN who used the response “source?” on almost every post, I use it only when it is necessary.
John has been kind enough to follow up on a response so he doesn’t see my request as “aggressive trolling”.

dungfungus 8:09 am 05 Jan 16

John Hargreaves said :

HenryBG said :

Is it safe to assume, John, that your source also failed to point out to you that the Argentinians’ name for these islands is actually a translation of their French name, “Les Iles Malouines”, which ties them to the city of St Malo, in France?

How strong is this Argentinian claim when they don’t even have an original name of their own for the Islands?

But, more relevantly, what do you think the inhabitants of the Falklands would say to the idea that they should give up governance by one of the world’s leading democratic nations in favour of mis-governance by a 2nd-world nation with a long history of political corruption and widespread state-sanctioned murder?

Argentina needs to concentrate on how to figure out successfully running the nation they’ve got, before even thinking about expanding their nation by annexing nearby islands that currently belong to others.
The recurring talk about The Falklands is transparent distraction by Argentinian politicians who are doing their jobs very badly and seeking to divert attention from themselves.

My understanding is that the Treaty of Utrecht returned ownership of the Islands to Argentina but the UK govt refused to acknowledge it. There was a referendum of the inhabitants of the Islands and they all voted to remain British.

it is interesting to note howe4ver, that as a result of the war, the Brits repatriated all the Argentines from the Islands back to Argentina and then had the referendum. Also, there are only about 1500 to 1800 people on the Islands.

Incidentally, for those political watchers out there, the Falkland Islands have a parliament and it has 9 part-time members. I met one of them on a parliamentary trip once, I think it was in Kenya.

I am sure the Falkland Islands MP’s trip to Kenya was of great benefit to his/her constituents as was your attendance of similar benefit to the people of the ACT.
I have never heard of the Treaty of Utrecht but I am constantly reminded that I am intellectually challenged.
Nevertheless, the said treaty sounds as if it was an outstanding success, just like the Kyoto Protocol.

No_Nose 6:54 am 05 Jan 16

John Hargreaves said :

My understanding is that the Treaty of Utrecht returned ownership of the Islands to Argentina but the UK govt refused to acknowledge it.

That would be impossible.

The Treaty of Utrecht (actually a series of treaties) were signed in 1713.

The Islands were not even settled until 1764 (French) and 1766 (British), 50 years after the Treaty of Ultrecht.

Argentina didn’t come into existence until 1818, over a hundred years after the treaty.

John Hargreaves 3:32 pm 04 Jan 16

HenryBG said :

Is it safe to assume, John, that your source also failed to point out to you that the Argentinians’ name for these islands is actually a translation of their French name, “Les Iles Malouines”, which ties them to the city of St Malo, in France?

How strong is this Argentinian claim when they don’t even have an original name of their own for the Islands?

But, more relevantly, what do you think the inhabitants of the Falklands would say to the idea that they should give up governance by one of the world’s leading democratic nations in favour of mis-governance by a 2nd-world nation with a long history of political corruption and widespread state-sanctioned murder?

Argentina needs to concentrate on how to figure out successfully running the nation they’ve got, before even thinking about expanding their nation by annexing nearby islands that currently belong to others.
The recurring talk about The Falklands is transparent distraction by Argentinian politicians who are doing their jobs very badly and seeking to divert attention from themselves.

My understanding is that the Treaty of Utrecht returned ownership of the Islands to Argentina but the UK govt refused to acknowledge it. There was a referendum of the inhabitants of the Islands and they all voted to remain British.

it is interesting to note howe4ver, that as a result of the war, the Brits repatriated all the Argentines from the Islands back to Argentina and then had the referendum. Also, there are only about 1500 to 1800 people on the Islands.

Incidentally, for those political watchers out there, the Falkland Islands have a parliament and it has 9 part-time members. I met one of them on a parliamentary trip once, I think it was in Kenya.

tuco 9:58 am 02 Jan 16

dungfungus said :

“After hearing the history of the ownership of these islands……”
Source?

Oh, I remember this comment. So great to see you back CGN.

(Actually, it’s not. Comments like this are the nadir of passive aggressive trolling. Please expand on your point of view so we don’t just get the pointy end of the snark).

dungfungus 10:18 am 31 Dec 15

HenryBG said :

Is it safe to assume, John, that your source also failed to point out to you that the Argentinians’ name for these islands is actually a translation of their French name, “Les Iles Malouines”, which ties them to the city of St Malo, in France?

How strong is this Argentinian claim when they don’t even have an original name of their own for the Islands?

But, more relevantly, what do you think the inhabitants of the Falklands would say to the idea that they should give up governance by one of the world’s leading democratic nations in favour of mis-governance by a 2nd-world nation with a long history of political corruption and widespread state-sanctioned murder?

Argentina needs to concentrate on how to figure out successfully running the nation they’ve got, before even thinking about expanding their nation by annexing nearby islands that currently belong to others.
The recurring talk about The Falklands is transparent distraction by Argentinian politicians who are doing their jobs very badly and seeking to divert attention from themselves.

Well said HBG.

HenryBG 4:13 pm 29 Dec 15

Is it safe to assume, John, that your source also failed to point out to you that the Argentinians’ name for these islands is actually a translation of their French name, “Les Iles Malouines”, which ties them to the city of St Malo, in France?

How strong is this Argentinian claim when they don’t even have an original name of their own for the Islands?

But, more relevantly, what do you think the inhabitants of the Falklands would say to the idea that they should give up governance by one of the world’s leading democratic nations in favour of mis-governance by a 2nd-world nation with a long history of political corruption and widespread state-sanctioned murder?

Argentina needs to concentrate on how to figure out successfully running the nation they’ve got, before even thinking about expanding their nation by annexing nearby islands that currently belong to others.
The recurring talk about The Falklands is transparent distraction by Argentinian politicians who are doing their jobs very badly and seeking to divert attention from themselves.

Acton 2:04 pm 29 Dec 15

It is wrong to say that leopard seals do not get that far south. Thery range all around the waters surrounding Antarctica. They may look docile on the ice but they are fearsome predators and while their diet is mainly fish, penguins and other types of seal they have been known to stalk humans and check out the taste of zodiacs. These I sighted near Cuverville Island and Petermann Island at about 64-65°S and that is about as close as I wanted to get:
http://www.pixhoster.info/f/2015-12/38a4094e31409fb03be93c9b58c97afb.jpg
http://www.pixhoster.info/f/2015-12/a81ed6b5a9b4f4a6c536b92d81ac4bc2.jpg

The Argentinians claim the Malvinas is theirs, mainly on the basis of geographic proximity, but you need to consider the rights and wishes of the Falkland Islanders and what they have to say about their own history:
http://www.falklands.gov.fk/our-people/our-history/
You feel differently, but I don’t support an Argentinian version of history that denies the concept of self-determination and condones the use of military force by a corrupt junta to extend territorial ambitions.

dungfungus 9:36 am 28 Dec 15

“After hearing the history of the ownership of these islands……”
Source?

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