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JOURNEY SOUTH TO A COLD SUMMER
Mary Hemingway
November 02, 1970
If you pine for penguins and seals, then a Lindblad winter trip to the continent of Antarctica is the answer to your fondest dreams
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November 02, 1970

Journey South To A Cold Summer

If you pine for penguins and seals, then a Lindblad winter trip to the continent of Antarctica is the answer to your fondest dreams

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Standing at the bar before lunch, Topsy Waters chuffed, "The ice was all around. Everywhere but here." We were getting postage-stamp pieces of ice in our Temperate Zone drinks because a fire that had burned out the ship's galley on her voyage across the Atlantic had also invaded the electrical system, knocking out the ice-making machine. Ian McAndrew, the barman from London, could not quite stretch his ingenuity to the manufacture of ice. But as soon as we got into the pack ice along the Antarctic Peninsula, the long finger of the continent that stretches, beckoning, northeastward to South America, Topsy solved the bar's ice problems. Rattling through the floating ice in Zodiacs, which are rubber rafts with outboard motors, Topsy would stretch outward and haul aboard 15- to 20-pound hunks of ice to carry home.

Our first stop out of Buenos Aires was the Falklands, where, at Stanley, capital of the British Crown Colony, we had a year's weather in a day—a hailstorm following bright sunshine, rain pelting, sudden dry wind shrieking around corners and a sifting of snow. The townspeople gave us a bounteous buffet luncheon and showed us how they spin the wool of their famous sheep. From Stanley we headed south, then west to Admiralty Bay, King George Island, in the South Shetland group.

Mr. Lindblad's southernmost target for the cruise was Adelaide Island, nearly 68° south latitude, where the British maintain a meteorological post and emperor penguins live on the ice. But pack ice, too closely packed, prevented our approach and the ship failed to cross the Antarctic Circle (66° 30' south). Captain Gjesdal made four attempts but the ice turned him back each time. So we turned and headed north for Arthur Harbor and Palmer, the U.S. scientific station, with Adélie penguins in residence across the bay from the buildings. "The dirtiest I've seen," Mr. Pettingill said of the bird colony. "It must be a very old nesting ground."

Captain Edwin MacDonald, who has led many U.S. Navy expeditions to the area, was now on his 34th journey there as our cruise's director of polar operations. At Esperanza, one of Argentina's eight permanent scientific stations in Antarctica, he ushered some of us away from the comfortable old two-story scientific headquarters building, past the staked-out sled dogs and up a glacier with inch-wide streams cutting it, to a long frame structure which, MacDonald said, was typical of the oldtime Antarctic stations. From its single door at one end a thin hallway led through the long, narrow building, rooms for the storage of gear giving off on each side into a common room with stove, a long mess table and double-deck bunks on three sides. The classic rule among explorer teams living months on end in these cramped quarters, Captain MacDonald said, was that whenever a man went to bed he might not be approached for conversation, information or any vocal disturbance.

Besides Dr. Pettingill, other distinguished naturalists were aboard with us to offer information and instruction. They were Keith Shackleton, the bird painter and naturalist from England; Francisco Erize, an Argentinian expert on his country's land and sea wildlife; and Dr. George Grice Jr., biological oceanographer at Woods Hole. While we scribbled diligently they provided, in the ship's assembly hall—the Penguin Room—condensed history, chronological and natural. Some excerpts:

"Thirty species of birds live in the Antarctic."

"Krill, planktonic red crustaceans, is the principal food of baleen whales and many penguins."

"The wandering albatross is the largest seabird, with a wingspan of 10 to 11 feet."

"There are 600,000 described species of marine animals."

"The Earth has 140 million square miles of ocean, and the Antarctic waters are surprisingly rich in marine life and decomposed organic material."

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