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South Pole Cruise.

January 11th – 22nd 2004

Quick notes from my trip - By Vitalba Gammicchia

Translated by Franceco zezza

A long time before the 2003 Christmas I met a friend who has been trying for one year to organize a trip to the Antarctic and, inevitably, I got also involved in this project. A few weeks after, on January 11th, we boarded on a ship leaving from Ushuaia (Argentina): the last city - at the extreme end – of South America. We were on our way to explore one of the most amazing continents of this beautiful, unbelievable world of ours.

 

The first two days (of sailing) turned into a nightmare. Passing through the "Drake Channel" resulted to be anything but easy: six meters (18 feet) tall waves and 30 knot wind blowing furiously were labelled by the Captain as "average weather conditions for that period of the year". Almost 80% of the passengers remained closed in their cabins ("surviving" on pills against nausea). Everything was forgotten when – on the 13th of January, about 08.30 pm – we saw in front of us our first iceberg: huge and majestic, ruling the ocean in the fading light of an amazing sunset …

Estimated size of the iceberg was something like 800 m * 100 m (height above sea surface) with a depth of about 700 m. This giant had been classified as a "young one"! On my way to bed, at night, I couldn’t refrain from thinking that – given the start – the following days could only be a real blast!!!

From a "gross" technical point of view icebergs are divided into three classes:

    • flat ones (which are the younger);
    • irregular ones, (with aging icebergs pass from flat to irregulars);
    • Irregular/convex shaped ones (the oldest).

Then it’s been four days of amazing places in an unbelievable universe coloured, almost completely, by two colours: blue (in all shades and hues) and white! The amazing blue colour of the water around the icebergs is matched only by their unbelievable shapes: fans, faces, poles, animals, geometric figures and more …

Sunlight lasts every day about 20 hours, everything shines and glitters ... Each and every moment is filled with a silence hard to believe, which is only broken – every now and then – from penguin shouts defending their eggs from prowler birds.

Even seals (and whales, sorry no pictures) seem to respect this silence with their – subdued – voices …

Our days moved very fast and in full relaxation. We landed twice on the Antarctic Peninsula and on icebergs themselves, relying on tenders (small boats with outboard engines) to take us from and to the main ship. Lectures were held during the cruise to inform us about the peculiarity of the environment we had been moving through. Here are some interesting data (on the Antarctic continent):

    • Surface: 14.000.000 Sq Km (same as Australia. 1 mile is 1,6 Km) 98% of this area is covered with ice.
    • Estimated ice thickness: 2000 m (1.2 miles, which means about 70% of the world’s fresh water supply).
    • Closest country: Argentina 1.100 Km (about 590 nautical miles).
    • Climate: Extreme; icy environment with temperature getting as low as – 65° C (- 85° F) in the central plateu. The temperature in the area we visited ranged (during our stay) from – 5° C to + 10° C (23° F to 50° F) since after all …  it is summer!
    • Winds: can blow as fast as 70 Km/h (over 40 mph).

Continued in next page

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