View Point / Snow Hill Island - Monday, January 3, 2005
Long: 63° 41,1 S
Lat: 57° 11,4 W
Temp: 7 C°
Water Temp: -1 C°
Wind: 30 Knts
Wind Direction: NW
Photo ci contre : Nordenskjöld's Hut (by Colin Baird)
Blustery conditions and spraying seas made for a rough ride in the Zodiacs at first. After we rounded the point into a protected bay however, the waves abated and made for an easy landing. After a climb up several hills, we were treated to spectacular panoramas of Duse Bay and the Trinity Peninsula. This was the aptly named View Point, discovered by a party from Nordenskjöld's 1903 Swedish South Polar Expedition and later named for its magnificent vistas by British Antarctic Survey personnel. We were able to poke around in the observation hut left by the British Antarctic Survey as well as a refuge built by the Chilean Navy. Chile and Argentina both built many such refuge huts around the Peninsula in the 1950's for use by stranded seaman and for reasons of sovereignty. Likewise, in the 1940's, Britain launched Operation Tabarin, during which they set up bases in the Peninsula area to keep an eye on enemy shipping and destroy old fuel dumps. Operation Tabarin was curiously named for a Paris nightclub favoured by 1940s British explorers. The winds calmed down and our ride back to the ship was made in relative calm. Like the Zodiac drivers say however, any weather in which we can get off and on the ship is good weather. The afternoon sun gleamed off the massive tabular icebergs as the ship weaved in and out of them on our way to our next destination, Snow Hill Island.
Seals resting on sea ice was the backdrop for our Zodiac ride to Snow Hill Island. A muddy beach gave way to a hike up to the top of the island for terrific views of the surrounding area. Fossils and the desiccated remains of seals and penguins could be found along the way. Snow Hill Island is the site of the hut where six men from the 1903 Swedish South Polar Expedition spent two years. From here they made important geological and geographical surveys of the area. They were the first to winter on the Peninsula and made the first land explorations of the east side. They found the first fossils to suggest that the climate in Antarctica was once equatorial as well as the fossilized remains of a 1.6 metre penguin. Among the five Swedish scientists was an Argentinean Naval lieutenant who spoke reasonable Swedish after two years. The hut is of great significance as the only intact relic on this side of the Antarctic of the Heroic Era and the beginnings of land-based exploration. As such it is protected by the Antarctic Treaty as Historical Monument #38 and we were only allowed to poke our heads in. This glimpse was enough however to get a feel for the cramped conditions and solitude these men endured in the name of science. Sadly, the importance of Nordenskjöld's work has only recently been appreciated by his native Sweden. A geologist by both calling and education, Nordenskjöld was also a passionate advocate for the indigenous peoples of Patagonia while working there.
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