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Daily Journals


May 31, 2006


It was a Four Diamond Day today. Sunrise to Sunset, all 5½ hours of it, was a beauty. Here, let me get out my reference, manual… Idiot’s Guide to Antarctic Superlatives. Phenomenal. Gorgeous. Immaculate. Perfection. Spectacular. Extraordinary. Do you get the picture? My camera could not do it justice, and I’m grateful that some others shared what they have to give you a glimpse of what we saw today. I wish Mozart were here to write a symphony of what it would sound like if put to music, and I would listen to it til the day I died. Maybe if Renoir were here to paint it. Or if Nureyev and Fonteyn could dance it, or Ella Fitzgerald could sing it…

We are in Marguerite Bay for a couple of days, and this morning traveling along Pourquoi Pas Island (named for one of Charcot’s expedition ships) when the sun was rising. We were moving through grease ice which became pancake ice, first small and then quite large. Scattered among the pancakes were many small ‘bergie bits’ and ‘growlers’, all the way up to really large icebergs. (Somewhere in between the first two categories, 1st Mate Joe Abshire tells me, they’re called “kibbles and bits” I’m going to have to do a segment on “Know Your Ice” one day soon.) The sunrise light seemed to lock onto the snow-frosted peaks and changed hue but never totally let go all through the daylight hours. That light reflected onto the ice and just lit it in pinks and golds all day long. There was no bad time to be outdoors taking pictures, or just to stand there at drink it in. What a difference a day makes.

3rd Mate Larry Brissette had a radio conversation with the British personnel at Rothera Station on Pourquoi Pas I. He said they invited us to tea, and I was all for it. My kingdom for a great cup of tea… They’re all fine and sent their regards to the LMG. (No time for tea, Gromit.)

The air, wind chill and water temperature were all the same (-1.7°C), with little or no wind. If you had your Raytheon-issue ‘warmy’ clothes on, and a pair of gloves you could take off and put on easily, your day out there was perfect. A few people did just that. Then again, a few people slept all day because they were up all night with a 3 a.m. trawl. And the rest of us were in and out just to be sure we didn’t ‘miss’ any of it. I myself spent a good deal of time up in the Bridge, interested in the island landscape around us, asking questions about navigating the icy waters and proximity to different ice formations because the clear air makes distance deceiving. I was looking at black lumps on distant pancakes to see if they might be a seal… or, no, a pig… a bunny, ..or a rock? Ah! It lifted its head, it is a seal! And then to see that seal stretch and lie back down, you could imagine what was going through its head… ‘Here comes that big orange thing again. Darn that, it looks like I might have to move.. oh, no, it’s turning away from me, but now all the little ice patties it’s shoving out of its way will butt up against one another until the one next to me butts mine and makes me want to move or roll over or something…” They don’t seem too motivated, but how much energy must it take just to stay warm down here??? Well, they’re made for it. So, let them move. Show us some personality.

There was a plethora of icebergs in the Bay today, each one with a singular personality. I agree with Paul Waters (Chief Engineer) who remarked from the Bridge that there is not a blue more beautiful than that in the belly of the ice in Antarctica. It is indescribable, so I won’t attempt it. But when that berg is split or worn a bit, and the sun gets in there… “Mmmmmm-mmm! That is some kinda’ blue!”


A Little About the Geography

Way, way off on the southern horizon all day long were the pastel pink peaks of Alexander Island (we think, named for Steve Alexander, who is on this trip ;) ) The chart says the mountain peaks there are about 9,000 feet, and to be able to see them from about 90 miles away (yes way, I measured it on the chart!), that air I must say, is clear, clear, clear! We passed Horseshoe Island, which sits at the entrance to Square Bay, along the western shore of Graham Land. Behind Horseshoe is Arrowsmith Peninsula, and between Horseshoe and Pourquoi Pas is also the entrance to Bourgeois Fjord (hmm, also named by Charcot for a French colonel he probably made a lot of friends naming places for them down here. I hope he didn’t name anything after his first wife, though. Ouch!). On the Continent, itself in clear view (looked like it was from Woods Hole to Naushon Island to me!), were Camp Point, McMorrin Glacier, Calmette Bay and Cape Calmette, and Millerand Island on the Fallières Coast. We are heading south toward Neny Island and Neny Fjord (the island is named for the fjord which was named by… Charcot).

And so this was a day when you’d have to say, “This is why I came here. This is Antarctica!”
Oh, and then there’s the science, of course.

Back to the Science

…or if Gromit could make a facial expression to match it, or if Jon Stewart could make a political joke as funny as it is beautiful, or if Coco Chanel could make a dress to dress it, or if Paris Hilton could throw a party to celebrate it, or if Liz Taylor could marry it, or if….

Tomorrow, I’ll get back to the Science. There is lots to tell, actually they are seeing some really cool stuff.


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S67° 49.186’ W67° 42.238’


Wind: S 4kn
Air Temp: -1.7°C

Wind Chill: -1.7°C
Surface Water Temp: -1.772°C


Roast turkey, bbq pork, mac ‘n’ cheese, stuffing, rice, salad; Sweet/sour chicken, corned beef/cabbage, spinach, rolls, cheesecake, cupcakes and cookies.



Untouched. This is how it looked in Marguerite Bay. [Photo by Steve Alexander]


Grease ice to pancake to pack to icebergs in a painted paradise. [Photo by Janis Umschlag]

Yeah, and that backdrop doesn’t hurt, either. See the ice tunnel? [Photo by Steve Alexander]


Heading south from Horseshoe Island at sunset. [Photo by E. Bailey]


An iceberg on Marguerite Bay, Continent behind it. [Photo by Steve Alexander]


And yes, the science operations show went on. [Photo by Janis Umschlag]