Month: January 2013

In the foreground, adult King Penguins at St. Andrew's Bay, South Georgia. In the background, brown ribbons of colour are crèches – groups struck for protection against predators and the elements – of chicks.

Capturing a Serengeti Moment in St. Andrew’s Bay, South Georgia — Dispatch No. 5

In the foreground, adult King Penguins at St. Andrew's Bay, South Georgia. In the background, brown ribbons of colour are crèches – groups struck for protection against predators and the elements – of chicks.
In the foreground, adult King Penguins at St. Andrew’s Bay, South Georgia. In the background, brown ribbons of colour are crèches – groups struck for protection against predators and the elements – of chicks.

JANUARY 6, 2013
54° 26′ SOUTH AND 36° 11′ WEST
ST. ANDREW’S BAY, SOUTH GEORGIA

Our fifth and final day of exploring South Georgia involved a memorable landing at St. Andrew’s Bay, home to the island’s largest colony of King Penguins. Comprised of more than 150,000 breeding pairs, the colony contains close to half-a-million birds when the juveniles, non-breeding adults and recently hatched chicks are included.

Framed by three mountains (Mount Roots, Mount Kling and Nordenskjold Peak) which tower 2,000 metres above sea level, the St. Andrew’s Bay King Penguin colony sits at the confluence of three glaciers.

The pungent aromas of urea and guano hit us long before we stepped ashore.

Katabatic winds – dense cold winds generated by glaciers – buffeted us about on the beach. Capable of flipping boats, these chaotic winds have forced visitors to seek shelter inside the British Antarctic Survey’s emergency hut at St. Andrew’s Bay.

The glacial outwash plain pulsated with non-stop action: family conflicts and life and death dramas played out before us. Loping like a quarter horse in slow motion, I observed a large Antarctic Fur Seal cut a wide swath through the penguin colony, sending adults and chicks scattering for safety. Caught in the melee, some of the adult birds dropped eggs that they had been painstakingly incubating. Accordingly, we observed the breeding colony from a respectful distance, atop an adjacent hillside.

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crushed bus

Dr. Don Lawton from the University of Calgary to give his CSEG Distinquished Lecturer Tour talk in the Council Chambers on Monday January 28, 2013 at 7:00pm

Dr. Don Lawton will be giving a talk in the Council Chambers in the Canmore Civic Centre on Monday evening January 28, 2013 at 7:00pm (doors open at 6:30pm). Don is a Professor of Geophysics at the University of Calgary and is giving this talk on the 2013 CSEG Distinguished Lecture tour. The topic of the talk is the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes centered near Christchurch, New Zealand. Seismic imaging of the area was done after the earthquakes to better define the shallow faulting and for a hazard assessment of the area.

Join us on January 28, at 7pm (doors at 6:30) when Dr. Don Lawton, Professor of Geophysics at the University of Calgary, will give a talk in the Council Chambers in the Canmore Civic Centre. The topic of the talk is the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes centered near Christchurch, New Zealand. Seismic imaging of the area was done after the earthquakes to better define the shallow faulting and for a hazard assessment of the area. Tickets $5, available at the door. See below for further information.

Come early at 6:30pm and see our posters of Canadian earthquake activity. This talk is part of the 2013 CSEG Distinguished Lecture tourPlease see below for further information on the talk. Come early at 6:30pm and see our posters of Canadian earthquake activity

 

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[gview file=”http://cmags.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Lawton-short-bio-for-CDL-tour.pdf”]

 

 

 

The four members of the party that set out to attempt to become the first to reach the South Pole: (L-R) Frank Wild, Ernest Shackleton, Eric Marshall and Jameson Adams.

The Shackleton saga continues: Frank Wild, Shackleton’s Right-Hand Man, is laid to rest in Grytviken, South Georgia — Dispatch No. 4

The four members of the party that set out to attempt to become the first to reach the South Pole: (L-R) Frank Wild, Ernest Shackleton, Eric Marshall and Jameson Adams.
The four members of the party that set out to attempt to become the first to reach the South Pole: (L-R) Frank Wild, Ernest Shackleton, Eric Marshall and Jameson Adams.

JANUARY 5, 2013
54° 16.9′ SOUTH AND 36° 30.5′ WEST
GRYTVIKEN, SOUTH GEORGIA

Ninety-one years ago, to the day, Sir Ernest Shackleton died aboard a boat anchored in Grytviken Harbour, South Georgia. Suffering a massive heart attack at the age of 47, Shackleton’s death marked the end of the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration.

On this auspicious and rainy day, we made the obligatory pilgrimage to Shackleton’s gravesite in Grytviken. We raised a wee dram to his polar achievements. As is customary, each of us saved a modicum of the single malt whisky for Shackleton, reverently pouring it on his gravesite.

During the 1907-1909 Nimrod Expedition, Shackleton’s team discovered the magnetic South Pole and came to within 100 miles of the geographic South Pole; his difficult decision to abort the race for the pole – due to dwindling food supplies and the deteriorating condition of his men – ensured that everyone made it home alive. When Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, was crushed by ice during the 1914-1917 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, his leadership ensured that all the men under his direct command survived the two-year ordeal.

But Shackleton’s gripping story didn’t end with his death: in a convoluted series of recent events, Frank Wild’s ashes were discovered after languishing, since 1939, in a South African crematorium.

 
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Launch of the James Caird from the shore of Elephant Island on April 24th, 1916. Photo originally published in South, a book by Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Unfinished Business: Following in Shackleton’s footsteps across South Georgia – Dispatch No. 3

Launch of the James Caird from the shore of Elephant Island on April 24th, 1916.  Photo originally published in South, a book by Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Launch of the James Caird from the shore of Elephant Island on April 24th, 1916.
Photo originally published in South, a book by Sir Ernest Shackleton.

JANUARY 4, 2013
54° 9.4′ SOUTH AND 36° 42.6′ WEST
STROMNESS HARBOUR, SOUTH GEORGIA

Following in Sir Ernest Shackleton’s footsteps 100 years later, our group of intrepid explorers retraced the final leg of Shackleton’s epic trek across South Georgia. In the process, we shared, in a very small measure, some of the sights, sounds and emotions that Shackleton and his men experienced a century ago.

Symbolic in nature, the 5.5-kilometre-long hike from Fortuna Bay to Stromness Harbour represents the final chapter in Shackleton’s monumental story of survival against all odds.

In May 1916, Shackleton and two of his men set out – without tents or sleeping bags – on a non-stop crossing of the largely unmapped island. Equipped with ice crampons fashioned from screws wrenched from their lifeboat, they arrived in Stromness thirty-six hours later.

In an effort to save time and energy during their 33-kilometre-long crossing of South Georgia, Shackleton and his hiking companions formed a three-man toboggan chain, glissading down an uncharted mountainside.

Our hike from sea level to the 300-metre mountain pass was slow and measured. But, the toboggan ride down the backstretch was wild and lasted mere seconds.
After a hurried session of perfecting my skills at arresting – or, at the very least, impeding – my trajectory down the snow-covered mountainside, I held my breath and plunged, feet first, over the precipice.

Although my backpack acted as a speed retardant, my Gortex™ pants turned into a potent accelerant…

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Drygalski-Fjord

Plate tectonic movements control Antarctic Circumpolar Current – Dispatch No. 2

Date: January 3, 2013
Place: Drygalski Fjord, South Georgia
Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctica: Dispatch Number Two

JANUARY 3, 2013, 08:39 AM
54° 49.8′ SOUTH AND 35° 59.8′ WEST
AIR/WATER TEMPERATURE 6°C/2°C
SOUTH GEORGIA
A booming voice sounded over the ship’s public address system at 6:30am. Dr. Ian Dalziel, professor of geophysics at the Jackson School of Geosciences (University of Texas at Austin), was on the horn, enticing us to forsake our warm beds for the ship’s bridge. At the very least, Dalziel encouraged us to gaze out of the cabin potholes.
But, it wasn’t charismatic mega fauna – Southern Right Whales, Humpback Whales or Weddell Seals – that catapulted me and my fellow group of explorers to rise so early. For the group of intrepid geologists, it was the opportunity to view something that’s rarely observed in nature: ophiolites or primordial rocks formed at oceanic spreading centres and brought to the Earth’s surface via violent tectonic forces. A world-class outcrop of these ancient sea floor rocks is exposed in the Drygalski Fjord on the southwestern tip of the island of South Georgia.
Suitably inspired, I assembled my camera gear and headed to the Akademik Ioffe’s bridge where I was greeted by a stunning panorama of towering cliffs, glaciers cascading to the ocean and sea birds aloft.
Comprised primarily of the mineral olivine, the olive-green rocks of the Drygalski Fjord Complex represent a classic textbook example of basalts that spewed from the Earth’s mantle during the Cretaceous period, some 150 million years ago. The basalts poured, like molasses, from a fissure in the oceanic crust, creating new sea floor mass in the process.
Towering more than one kilometre above sea level, the exposed ophiolitic sequence is comprised of basalt lava flows that formed in the shapes of pillows – telltale signs that the rocks erupted onto the oceanic floor where the cold waters slowed their viscous flow and created hardened, outer skins characteristic of pillow lavas.
South Georgia is 160 kilometres long and measures between five and 30 kilometres wide. Deeply dissected by glaciers, the island’s central mountain range rises to almost 3,000 metres in elevation. Once connected to the southern part of South America, the micro-continent containing South Georgia is situated some 2,000 kilometres due east of South America’s Cape Horn. Plate tectonic movements, on the order of 6.5 millimetres per year, continue to transport the micro-continent towards Africa.
“This ophiolitic sequence of rocks helps us identify where the South Georgia micro-continent originated in continental South America,” said Professor Dalziel. “At Drygalski Fjord, we see similar rocks of a similar age in a similar tectonic setting, in a place where there is clearly a missing piece of the South American continent.”

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he Akademik Ioffe. 
Image courtesy of Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris.

Geoscientists sail to Antarctica to study plate tectonics, glaciology and climate change – Dispatch No. 1

JANUARY 1, 2013
53° 17.3’ SOUTH AND 45° 7.2’ WEST
AIR/WATER TEMPERATURE 4°C/3.8°C — SPEED 12.2 KNOTS
SAILING FROM THE FALKLAND ISLANDS TO SOUTH GEORGIA

The Akademik Ioffe.
Image courtesy of Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris.

We heralded in the New Year with two celebrations: at midnight, Greenwich Mean Time, our dinner concluded with a rousing chorus of Auld Lang Syne. In the ship’s bar, at midnight, local time, we toasted to a healthy, happy and prosperous 2013 and to great geological discoveries in the Scotia Arc.

Understandably, breakfast was pushed back by 30 minutes the following morning.

Our 22-day-long geosciences expedition departed Santiago, Chile, on December 29, 2012, bound for Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands. With a population of 2,000 people, Stanley is the smallest and most remote capital city in the world. It’s also, unofficially, the lupine capital of the world – every house sports a lovely English garden that’s chock-a-block full of lupines and other hearty flowers.

Following the spine of the Andes, we jetted southwards towards Tierra del Fuego. On several occasions, the plane lurched, seemingly, to the port side when a good half of the passengers jumped across the aisle, straining to get a glimpse of geological processes in action: a smoking volcano and glaciers descending from mountaintops on their death marches to the adjacent Pacific Ocean.

At writing, we’ve travelled 585 nautical miles across the Scotia Sea, en route from the Falkland Islands to South Georgia and the Western Antarctic Peninsula. During the expedition, we’ll spend six days at sea and 15 days on land, exploring geological outcrops and experiencing Serengeti wildlife moments. The seas are uncharacteristically calm this afternoon, and are waves gentle. Although some people have been queasy, no one has suffered from seasickness.
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