Enterprise Island Governoren

It is already afternoon when we reach Enterprise Island. It is gray and cloudy. A light drizzle falls from the low-hanging clouds.

We drop anchor near a bay surrounded by a glacier. Here in Foyn Harbor lies the rusty wreck of the Governøren. At the beginning of the 20th century, the ship functioned as a kind of floating whale factory. From whaling to processing the blubber into oil, everything was done on board. It was one of the largest and most technically advanced whale factory ships of its time.

In 1915, the Governøren caught fire. The captain ran it aground here to save the crew and some of the cargo. The 85 crew members remained unharmed. The wreck became a reminder of the history of whaling in the Antarctic. Half sunken, rusty, rising defiantly out of the water, still imposing, it has now become home to Antarctic terns. Other remnants of these historic times can also be seen in the surrounding area: numerous mooring lines on the rocky coasts of the islands, rusty chains and wooden waterboats that were used to supply fresh water.

The cloudy, gray and wet weather somehow fits in with the decay of the rotting relics and this thoroughly gloomy chapter of Antarctica.

Fortunately, times have changed and the whale population has recovered somewhat. They are here again. Although not quite as numerous as at the end of the 19th century, we have seen and – in the fog – heard many of them again.

Even now we can hear them blowing and breathing nearby… there must be some around here somewhere. And we set off in the dinghy to try our luck at finding them.

We feel our way through the fog for almost two hours, stopping again and again to listen. Silence, nobody dares to breathe. Then we hear a blast! We try to make out the direction and rough distance, which is difficult in these conditions. The silence and the fog carry the sounds for miles. We drive a little in the suspected direction and start the game all over again. Again and again. The whales are making fools of us, the blowing can now be heard from several directions. We decide on one and are lucky. Our patience is rewarded: at some point the fog clears and we can see them at a distance. There are three humpback whales. A fourth approaches from a different direction. We sail towards them a little further in the dinghy. Then we switch off the outboard motor, let ourselves drift and watch them silently and reverently. They slowly come closer, all four of them, and are eventually with us, next to us. Shiny black. Diving up, down, up again, under us. We hold our breath. The whales blow, breathe, puff in their very own, calm rhythm. This archaic sound, these giants of the oceans so close to us – it is incredibly impressive and always gives us goose bumps. An encounter, an experience that gets under your skin.

Port Lockroy

Hot Spots

On the way north from Vernadsky Station, we pass the north-west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, the part most frequently visited by Antarctic tourists. Easily accessible, mostly ice-free in summer, only the Drake Passage has to be passed on the way here from Ushuaia. The number of expedition cruise ships has increased dramatically in recent years, as has the number of tourists, and the number of landings at particularly popular, easily accessible locations has increased accordingly. There are strict schedules, tight time slots and every single landing has to be registered and booked in advance.

Fortunately, we’ve mostly spent the last few weeks in remote areas, in the Weddell Sea or far to the south. Only here on the west coast, around the Lemaire Channel, have we occasionally spotted a cruiser. But now the season is coming to an end, the Antarctic summer is already giving way to fall, many ships are already back in the north, even the much-visited places are lonely and deserted again.

So we took the opportunity to call at some of the tourist hotspots on our way and spent the last few days doing a bit of sightseeing on the north-west coast.

Port Lockroy

On Wednesday we left Vernadsky and passed the Lemaire Channel a second time, this time heading north. It was autumn and the entrance was icy. Whales accompanied us, on the north side we were greeted by cold winds of 25 knots from the north and a strong wave on the nose.

Port Lockroy is located on the west coast of Wiencke Island in the Palmer Archipelago. The natural harbor was discovered by the fourth French Antarctic expedition (1904-1905) led by polar explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot and was later used for whaling. The British research station A was operated on the neighboring Goudier Island until 1962. Renovated in the 1990s, it is now used as a museum and souvenir store. It is also home to the southernmost post office in the world. This makes Port Lockroy one of the most popular destinations for Antarctic cruise ships. But the season is almost over and we are alone in Port Lockroy.

Almost: A large colony of Gentoo penguins lives on the island. The station/museum is also still occupied, although it has been closed for some time due to bird flu and is not open to visitors. We contact the station and are told that we are welcome to post mail if we wish. However, this would only be processed and sent via Falklands at the beginning of the coming season, as the departure of the staff is imminent.

We like the idea of surprising our loved ones at home with a postcard from Antarctica in a good year’s time or receiving one ourselves (should it arrive). Although we can’t buy one in the local souvenir store, we can still find a few on the Selma. We write diligently to families, friends, each other … , collect British pounds for postage and later hand over our mail to the station by dinghy.

The penguin colony cavorts in the immediate vicinity of Jougla Point, a rocky peninsula. In the middle of the colony lie vast quantities of whale bones, which Jacques-Yves Cousteau collected here many years ago to form an almost complete skeleton. Remnants of the whaling times in this bay. As always, the colony is a hive of activity. Chicks, changing from fluffy child fluff to adult plumage, chase after their parents, insistently demanding one meal after another. Again and again, a large portion of previously caught krill is transferred from the parents’ beaks to those of their chicks.

Penguins stand motionless on the rocks, some disheveled and patiently enduring their moult. Others wander from here to there, following a plan or destination that is not always clear to the observer. They don’t seem to be particularly impressed by our presence – they are probably used to completely different crowds here.

The wind picks up and we make our way back to Selma. It takes several attempts to cast off with the dinghy between the many rocks in the onshore wind.

We continue the next morning, it is gray and cold. A light drizzle is followed by a few patches of sunshine that make the icebergs floating in the distance glitter or glow on the dark gray water. A rising wind gives us hope of being able to set sail, but it falls asleep again. Fog rolls in, and unfortunately we see little of the spectacular scenery of the Neumayer Channel in the glassy sea. Later, in the Gerlache Strait, we encounter whales again. Everywhere you look. Sleeping, migrating, hunting, feeding whales. Far away, close, very close, right next to the Selma. These encounters, the sounds are always deeply impressive.

Vernadsky Station II

Outside, the wind hisses around the masts of the Selma and the rain beats on the roof of the wheelhouse – it’s just plain bad weather. We’ve just managed to hide back here in the Argentine Islands in Vernadsky in time for the storm forecast for the next two days to blow in from the north on Monday afternoon. As we did on the way south, we will weather it here under shelter.

From Adelaide Island back north

At this time of year, it should be snowing rather than raining – it’s fall. This has already been clearly noticeable over the last few days. On the way here from the southern tip of Adelaide Island, it gradually got colder after a sunny, enjoyable day with the best weather. We had to deal with a lot of ice again and again.

We actually wanted to round Adelaide Island and sail north again on the west side. But on the way back from our glacier tour, we saw numerous large icebergs and densely packed drift ice fields lying off the west coast from the ice cap. Together with the predicted stormy wind from the SW, these were not ideal conditions, as we wanted to sail to Vernadsky in one go without a break and thus also sail through two nights in order to arrive on time. Piotr therefore decided to take the route on the east side of Adelaide Island again in order to return north. It got really narrow in some of the channels and we had to turn back more than once because there was too much ice to pass through. Fortunately, there was always another canal as an alternative. This was also full of ice. But with very little speed, a lot of patience, a lookout on the mast, many turns of the steering wheel and a person at the bow trying to push the ice past the bow of the Selma on the left and right, we navigated – slowly, step by step (Piotr’s approach in most situations) – in a slalom through the ice fields. In the darkness of the night, we were just a tad more cautious and under the glow of our bow lights, supported by radar and sometimes moonlight.

Waddington Bay, Rasmussen Point

On Monday morning, we drifted for a good 1.5 hours before dawn, before heading for Waddington Bay in the morning sun. Here, too, the water was already covered in ice. Smaller fields of drift ice and repeated pancake ice (tightly packed round patches of ice with a slightly raised edge that look like large pancakes) accompanied us all the way to Rasmussen Island, where we dropped anchor. We wanted to take advantage of the sunny morning and the calm before the storm to go ashore. The Zodiac took us through the pancake ice to the island. Every now and then we had to help out with the paddles and break the ice or push it aside.

On Rasmussen Island lies a blue whale from the 12th century (!), or rather what is left of it. After such an unimaginably long time, that was quite a lot: not only the skeleton, but also the skin and blubber are partially preserved. A piece of nerve cord as thick as an arm protrudes from the huge jawbone, looking like wood, like the branch of a tree. While we gazed in awe at the whale and ice, Ivan took the opportunity to collect more samples. The island is a paradise for him, with lush, green moss cushions and colorful lichen adorning the barren rocks.

We gave Ivan time, moored the Selma and took the dinghy across to Rasmussen Point. On the way, we stopped at a large floating ice floe and boarded it for a short ice walk. A colony of Gentoo penguins awaited us at Rasmussen Point. However, they were not particularly enthusiastic about our landing, so we had to look for a less densely populated spot.

Once we had climbed up the rocks, we had a fantastic view. Icebergs, penguins, skuas, lush moss greenery, abandoned penguin nests … and a small refuge of the former British Faraday Station. The view of the neighboring glacier, its huge front and break-off edge was gigantic. But from the distance, the front was already approaching darkly from the southwest.

Into the safe harbor

We hurried to get to Selma, collected Ivan and his equipment from the island and set course for Vernadsky Station, a good five miles away. The weather changed within a very short time, the wind picked up to almost 30 knots, which didn’t make the journey through the thick ice any easier. However, a look through the binoculars from the mast was reassuring: a narrow dark strip along the coast of the Argentine Islands suggested that most of the water was open, which proved to be the case.

We passed the station just in time and reached the small bay, where another yacht, the Jonathan, was already well moored.

We dropped anchor and put out our shore lines, five this time, so that we were nestled close to the rocky edge of the bay in the lee. Always well observed by the landlord of the bay: the leopard seal. At first he played with interest between the rock and the boat, diving up and down, rolling and turning, swimming under the Selma, coming back and starting his game all over again. At some point, the dinghy became the object of his desire and he began to chase Ewa and Voy, ramming the boat once so that Ewa armed herself with a paddle as a precaution.

But at some point, all the lines were unfurled and secured, Selma lay calmly and firmly, the dinghy safely back on deck. And we were finally able to toast in peace to all the events of the last few days in the south: the crossing of the Arctic Circle, the southernmost point of our journey, the successful land excursion, the fact that life and togetherness on board is still wonderful and a celebration… The Neptunia Hendricks Gin from Ushuaia was just right for this, and Neptune also got his sip in thanks.

Misadventure I – Nasty surprise

We happily dropped Ivan off at the station straight after our arrival, along with his boxes and bags full of samples. We had spent the whole evening comfortably on board and were glad not to have to leave the boat in the bad weather, just like Piotr, who still had a sauna appointment.

The storm could be clearly felt throughout the night, shaking the lines again and again, hissing through the shrouds, the rain pattering on deck. The next morning didn’t look much better. 40 knots of wind, gray and wet. And the first look out of the wheelhouse held another unpleasant surprise in store for us: the dinghy was lying pretty flat in the water, the front chamber limp and deflated.

Apparently our neighbor, the leopard seal, had exaggerated his enthusiasm this time. We don’t know whether it was out of frustration that the orange thing didn’t want to play with him, or whether he perhaps got the sip for Neptune and couldn’t take it. Only that Piotr, returning late at night from the sauna, couldn’t heave the dinghy onto the deck on his own in the strong gusts of wind and didn’t want to get any helping hands out of his sleeping bag in the middle of the night. It can happen that quickly if you’re not careful. But getting angry doesn’t change anything and doesn’t help. We sat out the mishap due to the crap weather for the time being, had breakfast in peace, whiled away the day reading, writing, sorting photos …

When the steady rain finally turned into a gentle drizzle at four o’clock, we salvaged the broken dinghy. Hanging on deck, the extent of the damage became apparent: water was leaking out in several places. The leopard seal had done a great job (or the dinghy had put up such fierce resistance that it felt compelled to finish it off): all three compartments were damaged and showed clear signs of its sharp teeth – holes, slits, cracks across corners … Piotr’s verdict was total loss given the age and overall condition. Which saved us having to transport it to the station and repair it that day. We dismantled the dinghy and stowed everything in the forepeak, where it would find its final resting place for the rest of the trip. We hoisted the second, slightly smaller replacement dinghy on deck and made it ready for use. Incidentally, the villain who caused the damage didn’t show his face once all day.

Misadventure II

The day is already drawing to a close when we finally make our way to the station in two stages and can start the much-anticipated wellness program. The first group scurries straight into the shower and then into the sauna. Part two, which includes me, needs a little more patience, as we first have to untie one of the shore lines and then later deploy it again to let the Jonathan, which wants to move to another spot, out of the bay.

After that, the dinghy is free and we drive to the station. Once there, we pass the time a little, are invited in and have a glass of wine in the bar. When the rest of us call on the radio that we can come over to the sauna – we would just move a little closer together and somehow all fit in – we don’t need to be told twice: Karen, Ursula and I set off. As the dinghy is at Selma, we decide to take the land route through the penguin colony for the sake of simplicity and speed. Ivan hands us two large water canisters and tells us we just have to cross the snowfield and then scramble over the rocks.

The light from the sauna shines temptingly towards us. The penguins indignantly avoid us, some of them are in such a hurry that they slip. When they scold us and stumble away, you can’t help but laugh. But my laughter fades a moment later when my feet suddenly lose their grip. The snow has given way to a dangerous mixture of bare ice and penguin guano softened by the rain, which the soles of my wellies can’t cope with. I slip and slide down the slope past Karen. At the end, the waves crash against the ice. I definitely don’t want to land there and try to hold on somewhere, but wet ice and muddy penguin nests prove to be pretty unsuitable. My pants are already completely soaked. In the end, it’s a big pile of guano in which my hands find a foothold. I somehow come to a halt, scramble to my feet again. My trousers, my boots, my towel, my hands … everything is completely smeared. Karen and Ursula also get a few good splashes as I shake my hands and try to remove the worst of the dirt. We are greeted at the sauna with a grinning “You look like shit!” and lots of laughter. That’s what you get for laughing at stumbling penguins …

I smell like a whole colony of penguins, take off my clothes, wash everything out roughly – with moderate success. But never mind. First we all squeeze into the hot sauna, laugh our heads off at this mishap (which I’m sure happens quite often) and enjoy the heat followed by a tingling dip in the ice-cold ocean. Later, I am forced to make my way back in my underpants, wellies and my half-spared sailing jacket, this time preferring to take a detour via the rocky part of the colony. A thorough wash follows at the station: I jump in the shower, the clothes go in the washing machine, we go to the bar. Later, when we take the dinghy home to the Selma, our clothes are clean again and smell of Ariel instead of penguin.


The next morning it’s time to say goodbye. We want to move on, our course points north. Ivan will stay here for another four weeks before the crew changes in April and, like most of the station members, he will be heading home.

It is an emotional, somewhat wistful farewell. We are all standing on deck as the Selma passes the station, the small wooden pier on which Ivan is standing and waving to us, and a few quick farewells are shouted back and forth. I’m very touched at this moment and my eyes are actually wet. Although we were only anchored here twice for two days each time, it was like leaving good, very close friends behind. During those days, Vernadsky was like a little home to us, a place where we were warmly welcomed and cared for. A place where we were protected and safe while two storms passed through outside. A place where we were able to get to know very special people at a very special time. It is hard to leave them behind, as we all face an uncertain future, but especially they and their families face a difficult one. Our thoughts are with them, even though we are now parting ways again. We are very grateful that they have crossed paths. Thank you Vernadsky!

A new week begins

Monday morning at half past three…

I’m getting dressed for the watch when I hear the engine being switched off. Gerhard, Alan and Piotr, our skipper, come down to the saloon. No watch?

Yes, but because we are sitting in the ice field and the path into the bay is also full of ice, continuing in the dark is not ideal.

So we’ll drift and wait until it’s light.

I’m supposed to wake Piotr after five o’clock and he’ll reassess the situation.

Now I’m sitting on deck and keeping watch alone. It’s bitterly cold. But it’s bearable with my three layers.

Opposite, a light near the shore, a cruiser at anchor? The Selma rocks gently back and forth, the moon and thousands of stars shine in the sky. The night is so peaceful and calm.

Small chunks of ice crackle past. Every now and then a wave claps softly against the side of the boat, otherwise silence reigns.

Writing in sub-zero temperatures without gloves is a bit cold. I warm my hands on the still-hot teacup. A penguin calls from the nearby island. Then silence again.

Then I hear a snort! A whale? No, it’s a seal, curiously lifting its head out of the water. We look into each other’s eyes. Then, with a quick glance back, it dives down again. A seagull flies over me, screaming. Then it’s quiet again.

Venus shines brightly in the eastern sky, the morning awakens – the first mountain peaks are illuminated by the sun, which is not yet visible.

I wake Piotr up. His sleeping place is in the pilothouse, so he has all the navigation systems in sight.

He looks at his iPad (the nautical chart) and takes a quick look out of the window. Everything’s ok, although the island has come pretty close for me…..

He allows himself another hour’s sleep, which means I have to wake him up again at six.

Shortly before six, I see a sailing boat coming towards us, the yacht slowly passes us. The four-man crew, all bundled up, greet me in a friendly manner. The chugging of the engine dissolves into the call of the penguins greeting the day.

I wake up Piotr and Unda, my partner on watch today.

Piotr fortifies himself with a coffee and off we go. Unda and I fight our way through the ice with Selma. Me at the wheel and Unda with the stick on the bow to push away the ice floes that we can’t avoid.

At 08.05 we arrived near the small island of Rasmussen Island – our shift is over.

A new day has dawned! It will delight us once again with many unforgettable and exciting moments. I am very grateful for that.


Yes, this day has started in a very special way for me – my cell phone has repositioned itself and since 08.15 this morning has the following new coordinates: 65°14’41” S 064°15’31 “W, depth 134 meters

On the Glacier

We’ve been on the road for almost a month now. Arrived far to the south. And ready for our planned tour ashore. Great anticipation for the five-member Mountaineering Team, consisting of Alan, Jan, Karen, Piotr and myself. After all, we took all the equipment with us, prepared it and tested it in Puerto Williams and Vernadsky.

Unfortunately, the weather gods were not quite so kind to us this time – they only allowed us a short window of suitable weather. We had actually planned to spend three days on land in order to ascend to the plateau of the mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula. Now we have had to change our plans: instead of the ice cap of the mainland, it will be that of Adelaide Island, and instead of the planned three days, we have one day and one night until the next morning. That’s a shame, but we are and will remain flexible and happily seize the opportunities that come our way.


Early on the morning of March 1, we weighed anchor off Leonie Islands. The rest of the crew kindly took over our watches and breakfast so that we could take care of our equipment. It’s always amazing how much space and storage room there is on a boat like this. We rummage through cupboards, lockers, under benches and in the spaces between the saloon wall and the side of the boat and fill the saloon with our things in no time at all: High tour equipment (ropes, harnesses, helmets, carabiners, ice axes, crampons and co), tents, sleeping mats, sleeping bags, stoves, pots, food, spare clothes and emergency equipment … pile up, are sorted and stowed in the rucksacks and sled packsacks. The rest of the crew flee to the deck or the wheelhouse in the face of the chaos we have created.

Meanwhile, we miss the fact that the Selma passes the south-eastern tip of Adelaide Island near Cape Alexandra in the Woodfield Channel and thus also the southernmost point of our journey at 67 47′ 700” S and 068 46′ 003” W.

We reach our planned starting point, the former Chilean station Teniente Carvajal on the south-western tip of the island, at around ten. Countless icebergs and an almost closed carpet of large and small floating pieces of ice, crushed ice, lie off the coast and we slowly and crunchingly make our way through them. It starts to snow and the wind blows uncomfortably. While the anchor drops, we get the pulkas and snowshoes out of the forepeak and all the equipment on deck. Everything is brought ashore in several stages with the Zodiac and heaved onto the old pier of the station, which is crumbling from the wind and weather.

The station has been abandoned for years. Several buildings lie derelict in the harsh Antarctic climate, with vast amounts of garbage, former building materials and debris lying around. In between, there are also huge numbers of fur seals that have taken over the area and, just like the skuas, are fiercely defending their territory, through which we try to make our way with our equipment. In one of the open buildings, we swap our rubber boots for hiking boots and leave our sailing gear behind. We find our way to the edge of the glacier behind the station and – again in stages – bring our pulkas, packsacks and rucksacks to the starting point, zigzagging between garbage lying around, slippery rocks, curious penguins, hissing fur seals, skuas attacking in a dive and sleeping elephant seals. After what feels like an eternity since we landed – it is now midday – harnesses and crampons are fastened, rucksacks and helmets put on, everyone is integrated into the rope team, the pulkas are strapped around our hips and we are finally ready to go. The rest of the crew wave goodbye and we set off.

Ascent to the glacier

The lower part of the glacier is bare, the ice is bare. It takes a while for our five-man rope team to settle in and find a common pace. Alan leads the way, first up the glacier to the ice cap – the Fuchs Ice Piedmont. After half an hour, we come across the wreckage of an airplane in the ice, the remains of a crashed Chilean Twin Otter. There are countless barrels of fuel lying around on the ice, looking back over the bay and Avian Island, nothing but white in front of us, the ocean dotted with icebergs on the left, the cloud-covered mountains of the Princess Royal Range bordering our field of vision on the right. It has stopped snowing. The next few hours simply consist of walking, step by step up the gently rising ice cap. Sometimes more, sometimes less evenly, we eventually find our rhythm. There are only a few snow-covered crevasses that run parallel to our direction of travel. A shadow or a minimal amount of packed snow usually gives us a hint of them. We collapse two or three times, but only up to our knees. Nunatak, our destination in front of the mountain range, is only slowly approaching, and here too the distances are fooling us, deceiving us into thinking we are close. The gray of the sky gets darker and darker. The sharp line between the ice surface and the sky, the contrast between the two looks beautiful. Over time, a band of clouds moves in our direction from the sea.

Around five, after three and a half hours, we decide to set up camp. Nunatak and the mountains are much closer, but we haven’t reached them yet. But we have to return the next morning and want to be back on the Selma by ten at the latest before the wind turns south and pushes the ice further into the bay.

Camp on the ice

We check the area around the camp for crevasses, set up the two tents, secure everything against the wind with snow poles, sticks, ice axes … tie the pulkas down. The snow melts and we hungrily enjoy our three-course meal of dehydrated trekking food straight from the bag in front of the tents: vegetarian pasta Bolognese, creamy pasta Alfredo and, to top it all off, chocolate mousse. Full and satisfied, we miss the forgotten whisky or rum just a little.

Despite our warm down jackets, it has become very cold, the clouds approaching from the sea have reached us and within a few minutes they have completely enveloped us. Whiteout. And time to crawl into the tents, these two little yellow dots in the vast, seemingly endless white universe around us. While we make ourselves comfortable inside, it starts to snow outside. It takes a while for us to get warm – the three men next door are probably cozier than Karen and me. We listen to the snow crystals trickling onto the tent wall and the Antarctic silence together for a while, until a quiet snore drifts over from next door and we too eventually fall asleep.

Eight hours of undisturbed sleep lie ahead of us: no watch, no maneuver, no iceberg, no anchor alarm … but I can’t really enjoy them. It’s a restless sleep, I wake up too often. The back also finds lying down for eight hours unusually long, so waking up at four in the morning isn’t so bad. If only we didn’t have to get out of the warm sleeping bag! We delay this as much as possible, melting the snow we had put in the awning in the evening in the red light of our headlamps and spooning warm muesli out of the bag. Only then do we peel ourselves out of the sleeping bag and into our clothes and shoes, which have remained reasonably warm under the sleeping bag – deposited under the backs of our knees during the night. In the morning, I’m glad to have so much space for two in the tent, the three next door have it tighter.

The first look out of the tent makes up for getting up early and the effort of peeling yourself out of your warm sleeping bag. It’s clear, the moon is still in the pastel-colored sky. The line of the mountain range is razor-sharp, above it a few veil clouds, pale pink, as if painted. The fresh snow has blanketed everything in white, the sea in the distance is a steely blue, as if frozen over. And in the east, the approaching day is already turning the sky golden. I can hardly get enough of it, but the air is freezing cold. Little by little, there is movement in the neighboring tent, one by one we peel out into the Antarctic morning.

Back to the sea

We pack up, take down the tents, load the pulkas and get ready to go. We put on everything we have to brave the cold. Putting on the crampons is easier without gloves, but it takes a long time to warm up your fingers afterwards. It’s good to finally start walking, to move muscles that have become stiff in the cold. There is a fine layer of fresh snow on our sledge track from the day before, which we now follow on the way back. With every step, the body becomes warmer, the muscles more supple, the feeling returns to the fingertips. The sky turns from light blue to deep blue, the snow in front of us a pale pink, already illuminated by the rising sun climbing over the mountain range. We have already been walking for an hour when we reach it, feeling the warmth on our faces, taking our first short break to stretch our noses out into the sun, enjoy the sparkle of the snow and breathe in this morning with all our senses. We laugh at our hundred-metre-long shadows, which will accompany us from now on, getting shorter and shorter, on the way back to the sea. The shadows of the pulkas also pile up meters high, those of the rope between us, which is actually almost taut, make high waves. Our caravan makes a funny picture. The snow crunches under our feet and we all have a grin on our faces. The way back is slightly downhill, so we’re going fast. The pulkas overtaking us slow us down briefly until we keep them in check again – now also with the tail tied into the rope. We soon see the wreckage of the plane appear as a glowing orange dot on the horizon, followed shortly afterwards by the blue barrels scattered across the ice. The icebergs on the sea grow with every step, the offshore island of Avian Island appears, and shortly afterwards we discover the masts and the hull of the Selma, glowing red in the morning sun. Although we were only out for a short time and really enjoyed our time ashore, the sight of it warms the heart. Down there in the endless expanse of this magnificent landscape lies our little boat, our home. The ice soon changes, the glacier becomes more choppy again, the station appears and shortly before nine we have rocky, solid ground under our feet again.

Our glacier tour on Antarctic soil was short, but exhilarating and beautiful.

We make our way through the fur seals and elephant seals again and gradually bring everything back to the pier. Meanwhile, the Selma has left her anchorage and comes to meet us. Ewa soon appears with the Zodiac and we bring everything back on board, trip by trip.

We still have a little time left to look at the Chilean base and wander through the abandoned rooms. It was used again in 2014/2015. Much of it looks as if it has just been abandoned, as if the kitchen and bar could be put back into use straight away, darts or billiards could be played … skis and equipment would just have to be taken off the shelves, and in the Commandante’s office there are still open folders on the desk and the stocks of Scotch tape and Pritt pens are untouched. An unreal scene. Back outside the door, the icebergs out in the bay gleam in the sun, fur seals bask on the warm rocks – quite a contrast to the garbage lying around or even the untouched endless white expanse of the morning just a few hours before.

A little later we are back on board the Selma, at home so to speak, and are pleased to meet the rest of the crew, exchanging our experiences of the last few hours over a coffee.

We stow all our equipment back in the depths of the boat and then, with the wind from the south, we sail on. This time, however, not to the south, but to the north.

Adelaide Island – Shore excursion

On March 1st we departed early for the southern end of Adelaide Island and the Chilean Base. This base has not been used since the winter of 2014-15. We had to break a way into the anchorage due to surface ice, swells, and winds. On the way, we hit the southern most point of out journey at 67 47.700 S. Not a record by any means but a record for most of us.

While we were en route the mountain group prepared for our overnight land excursion. Due to the weather forecast and our now limited timeframe, we opted for an overnight on Adelaide Island instead of the mainland. Also, only one night instead of the 2 or 3 we had originally planned on.

We pulled out all of our gear for glacier travel, sleeping, and eating. Once anchored, we landed, found a building on base where we could stash our foul weather gear, walked past a group of Fur seals, got screamed at and dive-bombed by protective Skuas, hauled gear past a group of lounging Elephant seals, and finally strapped on our crampons and sledges.

We pulled sleds over the frozen glacier stopping to see the remnants of a crashed Twin Otter and loads of empty fuel barrels. The landscape grew ever more remote as we worked our way towards a nunatak (rocky outcropping protruding from the ice field.

We had 5 people on a single rope with Alan in the lead. Being roped up is a lesson in patience and perseverance and perspective. The reason we were roped up was in defense of unseen crevasses. If one person goes in, the amount of fall is determined by how much slack is in the line between the faller and the next person. Therefore it is important to have minimal slack in the rope between people. Easy in theory but challenging in practice.

Luckily, the crevasses were not wide and when someone stepped in one (crevasses were covered by snow) we only went in to our knee. Walking the same speed, stopping when someone had to adjust their gear (usually a crampon needed to be tightened), if the person behind walking too far back would pull your harness, if they are walking too fast you trip over the rope. At time it feels like you are being pulled forwards and backwards at the same time. All this needs to be adjusted by communicating, otherwise it becomes a nagging miserable walk. Paying attention is critical at all times for the safety of the team and your own sanity!

The view grew grander the higher we climbed on the glacier. Icebergs to the south and west as far as we could see. White bergs standing out in the grey moody sea. It’s a black and white and grey world…..

After 3.5 hours of walking we decided to make camp. Our goal had evolved over the entire trip and we were practicing maximum flexibility – we would take what was available and not try to do too much. We wanted to be remote, be free of the boat, be absorbed by the environment, enthralled with our surroundings. In that sense – we achieved our goal.

As we were setting up camp (two tents) the sky began to change. From high clouds with little wind, the clouds started to advance toward the shoreline now behind us by 5 miles. Since we were at the far end of the island, half of our view was towards the water, the other half to the mountains.

As the clouds advanced it felt as though we were being engulfed. By the time we finished dinner, our view was pure white nearly everywhere we looked. The skyline disappeared as the sky and snow became one.

We settled in for a long sleep. Light snow started falling, temperature was somewhere in the mid-20’s, cozy in our tents. Sleep eluded most of us, but Piotr (the captain) slept soundly, uninterrupted.

0400 came early and melting snow for breakfast and water for the return began immediately. We ate in our respective tents, then popped out one by one to take in the view. The sky had cleared, the water in the distance looked frozen over but was not, the mountains were crisp and clear. Sunrise would come an hour after we started back. A little easier as we were going downhill. Long shadows walked beside us.

After we hauled our gear to the pickup point we spent some time looking around the base. Room for up to 32 people the base was at one time quite large. The British sold it to Chile in 2003. Now it stands as a refuge for sailors or other base personnel to use if needed (British Base Rothera is a couple hour sail away).

While the mountain group was gone, the rest of the crew and Selma anchored behind Avian islands, deflated the kayaks, relaxed, and enjoyed the time to themselves.

Once back aboard and all together, we set our course north. We motored up the east side of the island (we had considered going outside but didn’t due to forecasted weather and ice considerations). We enjoyed nice sunshine, calm waters, making our way through icy areas. We were able to see landscapes that eluded us on the way south.

Wildlife continues to be abundant with whale sightings fairly consistent every hour or so. We slowed and watched whales feeding, not too concerned with our presence but not getting too close either. Seals on flows- Weddels, Fur, Leopard and now Crabeaters. Antarctic Terns, Skuas, Dominican Gulls, cormorants all take to the skies and float on the sea.

We pressed on overnight, using the ice light, picking our way through channels nearly choked with icebergs. Pancake ice becomes a daily occurrence, temperatures are staying closer to freezing. Same area different scenery.

Further South

We set off from Vernadsky two days ago. The break did us good, but now we want to continue. For most Antarctic travelers, the southernmost point is reached at the latest here at the Ukrainian Station or even a little to the north after passing through the Lemaire Channel, at Petermann Island, and it’s time to turn back. But not for us. We have the time and inclination to head further south. Adelaide Island is our destination.

Across the Arctic Circle to the south

On the one hand, there may be some opportunities for the Mountaineering Team to let off steam on land for a few days. On the other hand, we have taken Ivan on board, a biologist from Vernadsky. And for him, our journey south is a rare and wonderful opportunity to pursue his passion and science – the study of Antarctic plants, especially mosses – and to collect samples at selected locations along the way.

We want to head south as quickly as possible to Marguerite Bay between Adelaide Island and the Peninsula / mainland. The weather is not exactly at its best: it is cloudy, gray and wet. The water – almost black – is dotted with small white whitecaps and numerous icebergs and bergy bits. After four hours, however, you can usually see the smiling faces of those on watch, dripping with wetness. The weather doesn’t make anchoring in the evening easy either: a first attempt at Marie Island fails because the wind is too strong from the wrong direction for the spot, and we have to discard other options because the depth is too great. We sail south for another two hours until we finally drop anchor in a bay near Cape Bellue.

It’s still wet and gray when we cross the Arctic Circle at 66 degrees 33′ 55” at around ten o’clock on Wednesday. A reason to unpack the bottle of rum and clink glasses. It’s never been so crowded in the wheelhouse. My watch has just started, so I have the good fortune and honor of being at the helm during this special event, but I also get a glass in my hand and share my rum with Neptune.

The gray remains with us south of the Arctic Circle, paired with decent waves but also sufficient wind, and we can set sail for a good four hours until we reach the north of Adelaide Island. We keep to the mainland, passing Isacke Passage, Hanusse Bay and the narrow Gunnel Channel to the east of Hansen Island. The clouds hang low, the little we can catch of the landscape along Hinks and Lawrence Channel is icy and glaciated. The wind from the northeast picks up to almost 40 knots, the search for an anchorage for the night is again not easy, but we find a small bay. The entrance is barely recognizable, icebergs are stuck on an offshore moraine. Only on the second attempt does the anchor hold, we have 80 meters of chain in place.

Unfortunately, the night is extremely restless. Ice is constantly drifting through the small bay, first in, then out again, and the icebergs that were stuck on arrival are also on the move again thanks to the tide. The anchor watch has a lot to do to keep the Selma halfway clear of them. At least we have support from the moonlight. The anchor is also tugging at the chain, the alarm goes off several times and more than once we think it’s going to break free. Fortunately, this doesn’t turn out to be the case, but hardly anyone on board really gets any sleep, and after a short night we set off again early before more ice drifts into the bay and blocks the exit.

We have a coffee at four o’clock and weigh anchor at five o’clock in the morning. In the morning, the British station of Rothera comes into view. Alan was here a few years ago as a field guide and radios the station. Unfortunately, despite this supposed bonus, we don’t get permission to call at the base.

Leonie Islands

In Ryder Bay, we drop Ivan off on Leonie Island. While he searches for mosses there, we anchor off Lagoon Island and take the Zodiac across. Rothera asks us on the radio to keep an eye out for signs of the bird flu virus. On entering the island, the smell of decay is quite foul. Five not too long dead skuas lie in a narrow area around a small lagoon. This could be a sign of the virus, they are old birds, all without any recognizable external injuries. But a little later, we identify a larger group of elephant seals lying here lazily, dozing and digesting, as the reason for the foul smell. A large pile of huge brown bodies nestled close together. From time to time, a head rises briefly, sneezing or burping, looks at us troublemakers with huge saucer eyes, only to dive back into the cuddly confines of the others immediately afterwards. Or a fin is stretched out to scratch its belly or back. It’s wonderful to watch this peace and comfort, which is only disturbed when one of the animals thinks it wants to turn around, to which its neighbors first snort and complain, only to slowly jerk their clumsy bodies back into place. However, they are only clumsy on land – in the water, these massive animals move surprisingly elegantly and quickly. This is demonstrated by a specimen that suddenly appears directly in front of us while we are waiting on the shore for the Zodiac, only to dive down again immediately afterwards in shock at our presence and quickly seek refuge.

Kayak trip

We decide to spend the night here. So we still have time for an excursion around the islands. Some of us choose the Zodiac. Unda, Gerhard, Karen and I set off in three kayaks. We paddle our way around some beautiful icebergs and turquoise-blue ice floes and discover a small bay where we can observe penguins, Weddell seals and elephant seals at close range. But they take no notice of us. Just as we are about to head back towards Selma, Karen spots three whales that are obviously heading in our direction. Just the day before, Unda told me about her desire to meet whales in a kayak. To paddle with them. At eye level, so to speak. And now that’s exactly what happened. An hour of whale watching at its finest. The course lines of the whales and our kayaks crossed at just the right moment, and we experienced one of the most wonderful and moving moments of this trip. But Unda has already written so beautifully about this.

The encounter with these three humpback whales, especially the moment when one of them surfaced right at the bow of our kayak and right in front of my feet and next to us, its head, the huge body, shiny black, close enough to touch … it was breathtakingly beautiful in the truest sense of the word.

Strangely enough, we were neither startled nor afraid – there was simply no time for that. But it took a moment before we dared to breathe again, to really understand what had just happened, how incredibly lucky we were that Unda’s wish had come true in such a wonderful way.

Ivan, who we picked up again in the evening on Leonie Island, was also happy with his haul: the many samples of mosses, lichens and grasses. We actually felt like celebrating after this day. But a small glass of wine will have to suffice this evening, because we want to weigh anchor again very early the next morning and set off. To the southern tip of Adelaide Island, where we finally want to start our long-awaited mountaineering tour.


We had already set up the kayaks three days ago. Pjotr had been inspired by SY Podorange, where we can moor them well on deck. The dinghy has made a bit of room and now they are snuggled up on the starboard foredeck, their red color matching the Selma perfectly.

Of course, they are at their best when in use, as they have already proved themselves twice.

Ursula and I did the first test on Hovgaard Island. While the others went on a snowshoe hike, we took it easy, paddled between flat rocks and icebergs and enjoyed the silence. We are always delighted by every penguin sighting, it’s impossible not to smile when we see these funny animals. From the kayak, silently and at eye level, taking our time, it is particularly intense. Ursula is paddling for the first time in her life and immediately falls in love with this form of transportation, which I have long been addicted to.

From a distance, Woij keeps an eye on us in the dinghy and could be with us in no time if we need his help or the leopard seal shows too much interest. But we feel comfortable and safe and are only happy about a speedy return trip at the end, when Woij takes us in tow.

We must have raved about our trip, because two days later all six available kayak places are taken when we set off from Vernadzky Station, first to Wordie House and then on a trip around Galindez Island. This round trip is a little longer, but the kayaks prove to be stable, comfortable and with good straight-line stability. We are out for about three hours and enjoy our trip.

As I write this text, we are already heading further south towards Adelaide Island and hope to make intensive use of our kayaks there. My dream is to meet a whale then, at eye level so to speak. We’ll see 😉

At eye level with whales

Two days later, we are on a short exploratory kayak trip off Lagoon Island when we see three humpback whales swimming in the small sound between the islands. They were moving slowly, perhaps feeding.

We immediately start paddling, an imaginary line where our paths might intersect, and the plan works. We get closer and closer to them and are soon only a few kayak lengths away from them, then between them. We see one to our left and another to our right, hear them blow, watch them rise and fall. We are fascinated and excited, hardly dare to breathe and at the same time try to paddle, look everywhere and take photos.

The humpback whales are very close, but don’t seem to take any notice of us. Suddenly, however, one appears right next to the boat, touches it on the bow and makes a wave as it dives down, causing our two small kayaks to rock considerably. Whether out of interest in us or by accident, we don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. We are absolutely overwhelmed, happy and full of adrenaline. We don’t know what to do with all the feelings that are flooding us, we look at each other and are happy to be able to share this experience and see the same fascination in the faces of others that we are experiencing ourselves.

Happy and full of gratitude for this gift, we watch the three whales for a short while before they move on and we return to Selma.

Vernadsky Station I

Before you can see Vernadsky, the Ukrainian station, you can smell it. At least the day before yesterday afternoon, when we arrived, the wind carried the smell of the resident Gentoo penguin colony (gentoo penguins) towards us from afar. Soon after, not only did lots of penguins appear in the water and on land on and between the rocks, but also the station buildings.

Vernadsky Base

We took a break here for two days, hid from the storm from the SW, filled up on energy, water and diesel and visited the Ukrainians. The station is known for its hospitality towards small sailing yachts. The Selma and Piotr are welcome guests after many years, and Piotr has close friends here.

In a small bay close to the station, we lay quiet and sheltered. At the entrance, the resident leopard seal greeted us and drifted past us on its floe. For the first time during the trip, we not only dropped anchor but also deployed four shore lines. We spend almost two hours doing this. On land, we look for suitable anchor points in the form of rocks or large stones, lay slings, deploy floating lines with the dinghy, attach them to the anchor points and then gradually pull them tight from deck until everything fits and the Selma is securely moored. Just as we have finished, another yacht, the Mon Coeur, turns into the bay and moors up next to us. Gennadi, the Ukrainian skipper, is also a good friend of Piotr. He made the Mon Coeur seaworthy again years ago, refitted and extended it. He proudly tells us about it and later shows us every last corner of his boat. Everything is bigger and more comfortable than on the Selma. The engine room alone, where two Mr. Perkins are on duty, is as big as our entire saloon. The cabins each have their own bathroom, the kitchen is huge and it’s warm. Far too warm for our standards. We’re glad to be back on the Selma later, we’ve got used to the 10-15 degrees below deck and love it just the way it is.

A warm welcome

Piotr is invited to the ward in the evening. It’s a special day. It is February 24th. Today marks the third year of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. Of course, this is extremely present here at the station, even though home is unreachably far away: it’s 15,168 km to Kyiv. However, many of the 26 station members currently working here were at the front before the season and / or will have to return to the front after the changeover in April. They all fear for their families and friends back home. This painful reality is a daily reality for the people here, especially on this day. It also catches up with us in our happy and peaceful “bubble” on board the Selma. We may be at the end of the world down here in the deep south, but we are still a part of it.

All the more moving is the warm welcome we receive and the hospitality we are shown during these two days: we are given lots of fresh bread and a large pot of borscht, a detailed tour of the entire station and insights into its history and research work. The former British station has been run by the Ukraine since 1996 and is named after the Ukrainian geologist, mineralogist, geochemist and biochemist Vernadsky.

Historical pictures on the walls fill the corridors of the station, the group photos of the respective wintering teams of the station’s history – whether British or Ukrainian – hang in the staircase to the upper floor. We are allowed a glimpse into the laboratories of the biologists, seismologists, geologists, meteorologists … We get a hint of the complex relationships between climate change, warmer temperatures, migrating penguins, their guano, the subsequent growth of first-colonizing algae … and the resulting changes to the islands and landscapes of the Antarctic Peninsula. The station, which shares Galindez Island with a colony of Gentoo penguins that has been growing for years, can tell you all about it.


But the best part is the hot shower followed by a visit to the sauna.

After a long time, we enjoy the luxury of hot running water. The station’s women’s shower is currently mostly unused due to a lack of female staff, or is used as a temporary storage area for various scientific samples – numerous numbered bags are piled up next to our clothes. A curious glance reveals the contents: these are Ivan’s mosses, which are awaiting further scientific examination.

But the sauna – or banja – is the biggest thing! A small wooden hut on a rock about 300 meters from the station building is waiting for us. There are two ways to get there: by land through the middle of the penguin colony or by boat. We choose the sea route and the dinghy. An adventurous, somewhat weathered wooden ladder leads up a rock to the hut. The steps are slippery, as is the forecourt. Like the ladder, the small wooden deck is occasionally used by penguins, which stand, lie and call all around us, right next to and behind the sauna. The scenery is simply incredible.

We quickly get rid of our wellies and clothes and slip into the cozy warmth. Enjoy the 90 degree dry, crisp heat, the steaming infusion. Afterwards, we stand outside steaming in the frosty cold. Think about it for a moment and then scramble down the slippery steps, over the rocks and dare to dive into the Antarctic Ocean. Afterwards they are electrified, full of energy, everything tingles like a thousand fine needles. We stand outside in the twilight grinning, enjoying a cold beer and the view of the sea, icebergs and penguins. We warm up in the hut and then slip back onto the wooden benches by the hot stove. We indulge in this luxury three times before moving over to the station’s bar, cleaner and warmer than we have been for a long time. Here we are welcomed with music, drinks and a small buffet. It was a wonderful evening together with our Ukrainian hosts and the crew of the Mon Coeur – with beer, wine, cocktails, pool billiards, stimulating and moving conversations that not only accompanied us during the midnight crossing to Selma.

Wordie House

We start the next morning with a late, sumptuous breakfast and look forward to a day here in Vernadsky. No anchoring, no watches, no cold hours at the helm… just a whole day off. Free, so to speak. Well, not quite. First we get a delivery of fuel. Four heavy 200 liter barrels of diesel are winched on deck. While Piotr takes care of filling our tanks in the following hours, we set off on a kayak trip.

We paddle to the neighboring Wordie House on Winter Island. The former British Faraday Research Station is a historical monument from the early days of Antarctic science, built in 1947 and closed in 1954. The former main building of Station F was named after James Wordie, a Scottish polar explorer and geologist who, among other things, took part in Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition as scientific director. The building stands on the foundations of a former hut of the British Graham Land Expedition 1935-1936.

Today, Wordie House is a small museum: visitors are taken on a journey through time, 70 years back to the early days of the British Antarctic stations. The rooms, all in their original condition, offer a small insight into scientific work and station life. Historical measuring instruments and scientific material in the workrooms, the workshop and equipment such as diving gear, snowshoes and dog harnesses bear witness to this. The kitchen, including supplies and food, would still be ready for use. The adjoining lounge is a living room and bedroom in one. Some of the jackets are still hanging on the beds, shoes are on the shelves. Games, books, darts and the guitar have provided variety during the long, dark winter months. I love these trips back in time, breathing in the smell of bygone eras that still lingers in the rooms. Sometimes you think you can still feel the presence of those who once lived here.

A short ascent to the neighboring glacier and summit of Winter Island offers a beautiful panoramic view of the station and the Argentine Islands. We then continue kayaking between and around the islands, past glacier-blue icebergs, leaping penguins, passing cormorants (Arctic Shag) and crabeater and Weddell seals lying lazily on floating floes. We also encounter the leopard seal again, but this time it shows no particular interest in us. After four hours, we pass the station again and return to the Selma.

Crew extension

In the afternoon, the mountaineering team sets off once again for the neighboring glacier. Safety training is on the agenda. Alan, who regularly works for Mountain Rescue in Scotland, patiently practises various crevasse rescue techniques with us. After almost three hours, we are frozen through and finish our training session.

The Selma is now moored near the station’s small wooden pier and has stocked up on fresh water. We move together, rearrange our supplies and make room in the aft cabin to take Ivan on board. The biologist will accompany us for a few days; our journey south is a great opportunity for him to search for samples in remote places that are otherwise out of his reach. Meanwhile, our underwater drone remains at the station to support the scientists there.

Tomorrow we continue south. Now with 12 men on board, newly assigned guards, a thirst for exploration and lots of curiosity. And the great certainty that we will be back here again soon in this wonderful place – at least to drop Ivan off. But perhaps also to enjoy the warm Ukrainian hospitality and the most beautiful sauna in the world one more time.

Westside Stories— Lemaire Channel

We leave the incredibly beautiful but restless anchorage early in the morning. Just around the corner, the spectacular entrance to the Lemaire Channel awaits us. This six-kilometre-long strait between the peninsula and the offshore Booth Island is very narrow, measuring just 720 m wide at its narrowest point. Plenty of room for us small yachts, even if we have to slalom through the ice. Large cruisers approaching announce their passage on the radio, as only one ship at a time can pass through the canal. On both sides of the canal, the mountains rise up to 1,000 meters above sea level. Coupled with numerous glaciers, this is a spectacular backdrop that makes the passage an impressive experience.

Numerous blue icebergs await us on the south side, and Hovgaard Island – a larger island in the middle of an archipelago of numerous small, mostly flat islands that stretches out to the west and south. The anchor drops at around nine o’clock. The island is covered by a gently rounded, snow-white glacier cap. Most of us want to climb its 368-metre-high peak. Meanwhile, Unda and Ursula prefer a short kayak tour to the neighboring penguins.

We put our snowshoes in the Zodiac and are accompanied and followed by a curious leopard seal during the crossing to the island, just like on Astrolabe Island. A little too curious for our liking, after a while it starts to repeatedly graze the side walls of the dinghy with its head and body, dives under us, swims at us again … It is easy to see in the crystal-clear water, its strength and elegance are impressive, as are its huge head and suddenly open mouth from close up. Once again we have the image of those pointed teeth in the orange rubber before our eyes and accelerate. So does the leopard seal. And it is fast – of course, after all it loves to chase penguins as fast as an arrow. But we can’t really shake it off. We are glad when we scramble ashore, wish Voj a safe return journey, put on our snowshoes and are ready to go.

It takes us just under an hour and a half to climb the hill, which looks so inconspicuous from below. Small black dots in the white, vast landscape. The glacier is covered in snow. The higher we get, the more beautiful the view of the archipelago, the countless blue-white icebergs floating like ice cubes in the sea, the southern portal of the Lemaire Channel and the peaks of the Antarctic Peninsula, which unfortunately remain largely hidden in higher layers of cloud. And very small down there, between all this splendor, lies our red Selma.

It’s good to get our legs moving again and we really enjoy the variety of this snowshoe tour. Back on the coast, a skua takes an interest in our snowshoes and we discover an old depot, still full of supplies and emergency equipment. Alan identifies it as clearly British due to its contents and the color coding. On the way back we remain unmolested this time, Voj and we take a different route with the Zodiac so as not to dispute the leopard seal’s territory again.

After some refreshments, we weigh anchor and set off, heading south. It’s about two hours to the Ukrainian Vernadsky Station. This is our next destination. We want to pay a visit to Piotr’s friends here and take a two-day break to find some peace and quiet and avoid the strong winds forecast for the next few days. We are excited.

Westside Stories — Cape Renard

We set off the next morning, wanting to continue our journey south. We quickly leave the Argentinean station Almirante Braun in our wake. It’s still gray and cloudy, but the sun comes out in the Ferguson Channel. And soon we have a good 20 knots of wind from the SW. We set sail and the Selma is in her element. We enjoy the sailing between the peninsula and Wiencke Island and cruise south, tack after tack. At last we have the opportunity to practise this in good conditions and without any permanent risk of ice collision. It’s great fun. We sail into Flanders Bay and then westwards to Cape Renard. The wind decreases, the ice increases. We swap the sails for Mr. Perkins, slalom again and marvel at the countless ice formations and icebergs around us – one more beautiful than the next, shades of blue so deep you could sink into them.

At Cape Renard, the endlessly beautiful scenery is completed by jagged alpine peaks and glaciers, a few penguins and the odd Weddell seal and leopard seal on a floe drifting by. Later, we take the Zodiac through a labyrinth of dense and moving ice to get a closer look at the seals. The effort is rewarded – although they are snoozing comfortably, they take notice of us, raise their heads and give us a quick glance before resuming their cozy slumbering pose.

Cape Renard remains our anchorage for the night. The sun slowly gives way to dusk, the clouds in the sky glow a dramatic orange-gold over the peaks.

As calm and beautiful as the evening ends, the night is unfortunately exhausting. The combination of lots of ice, strong currents in the bay, the tide and constantly shifting winds keeps the ice watch constantly on its toes. Icebergs come in, and as soon as they have been guided past the Selma, the wind shifts and/or the current changes and they drift back and towards us again. We only concentrate on the bigger chunks. Every five minutes we use the pole and try to keep plaice and bergy bits at a distance. With such a strong current and the speed of the ice, this doesn’t always work. And above a certain size, you’re left behind anyway. That’s when the skipper and Mr. Perkins have to take over. There’s not much sleep to be had, neither on deck nor in the bunks, where the constant rumbling on deck and along the side of the ship robs some people of their sleep.

Westside Stories — Course south

We set course south. We leave Tower Island and Trinity Island to starboard. The uncomfortable weather and numerous icebergs remain our companions. Spotlights are installed on the bow for the night. It starts to snow in the evening. In the light of the bow floodlights, the strong wind blows the snowflakes into white horizontal stripes, stroboscope-like. Visibility is zero. We leave the lights off and prefer to stare into the darkness. With the help of the radar, we work our way south through the night. The dawn takes its time. The watch at the helm becomes a test of patience. Only slowly do the first shadows of the icebergs emerge from the darkness, so that we can finally rely on our eyes again. The snow from the previous night covers everything on deck white and wet. Shoveling snow is the order of the day.

The daylight returns, it clears up a little, even the sun makes an appearance. We slowly approach the well-visited part of Antarctica and occasionally encounter a cruise ship. For the most part, however, it is whales that we see in the Gerlache Strait. They usually come towards us, passing us at some distance to the north. Often individually, sometimes in pairs, every quarter of an hour. At some point we stop counting and the rower’s loud call of “whale” is heard only rarely.

We stop briefly at Cuverville Island in the afternoon. The sun shines over an alpine glacier backdrop. The scenery is fantastic, penguins are calling and jumping around, the island is ablaze with colorful lichens and mosses. We meet the Spirit of Sydney and anchor near her. Darrel’s yacht would also have been an option for us – but we are very happy to have opted for the Selma.

On a small island lies the wreck of a small wooden boat next to a huge rusty chain – the question of how the two fit together cannot be answered, they are probably remnants from whaling times. A Gentoo penguin (gentoo penguin) colony lives on Cuverville. We go ashore and have time to observe the colorful hustle and bustle. Here, too, there are numerous chicks, hungrily hurrying after their parents, indecisive swimmers, curious specimens who may be surprised at us strange giant penguins. A penguin highway – a narrow track in the snow – leads up the hill. It looks funny when the little guys hike up, especially when they come towards each other and decide who gets to pass the other first.

The exit from the bay is extremely icy and takes a lot of time. We pass the Errera Channel and the Graham Passage. Narrow, alpine peaks to the left and right, covered by glaciers. At midnight, we drop anchor in Hidden Bay, south of Paradise Bay, a tiny bay surrounded by glaciers. We spend the night here, well protected. The anchor watch is particularly beautiful this time: the full moon disappears behind the glacier and gives way to a clear starry sky that stretches across the firmament and between the masts of the Selma. The ice around us remains mostly calm, only the glacier cracks and bangs from time to time, a small avalanche goes off somewhere, you can hear it rumble and minutes later the wave crashes into the bay. The Selma rocks gently back and forth and lulls us gently to a well-deserved sleep.

Westside Stories — Astrolabe Island and Bransfield Strait

We have now been traveling on the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula for three days. And – compared to the east side – in a different world. Both the landscape and the weather have changed.

After starting on Tuesday morning in Hope Bay, Antarctic Sound, we sailed through the day and night. In the Bransfield Strait it has become gray, cold and wet, and it keeps raining. Wind around 20-25 knots from the SW. We initially set course for the South Shetlands, then cross to the south. Our destination, Astrolabe Island, emerges from the fog at dawn. A colony of chinstrap penguins nests here. Landing proves to be difficult. We can’t climb more than a few meters up the black, rocky coast: on the left, a group of fur seals are dozing on the ice, on the right, the penguins are in charge. The weather is so uncomfortable that even they stand doubtfully on the shore and seem to be delaying the step of diving into the ocean for as long as possible. We decide to explore the coast from the dinghy. A whale passes nearby and as it dives we are visited by a leopard seal. Curious, he makes contact and seems very interested in the orange rubber thingy we are sitting in. It follows us, dives down again and again and suddenly reappears next to the boat or underneath it. It is incredibly fast and easy to observe in the clear water. Up close, it looks imposing, its head and mouth huge, no longer as friendly and smiling as the ones we met slumbering peacefully on an ice floe. We feel a little queasy, the thought of a clash of teeth and rubber with an uncertain outcome makes us reach for our paddles, at least as a precaution. This mutual encounter lasts more than half an hour before we retreat to the safety of the Selma.