Yesterday’s activities in Antarctica « Why Evolution Is True

Good morning from Antarctica! Here’s the sunrise about an hour ago (Friday morning). The weather is perfect, with no clouds, and I’m hoping that there’s not too much ice to cancel our landing in Orne Harbor, which will be our first time to set foot on Antarctica proper. Yesterday we couldn’t land because of ice accumulation, so fingers crossed.

On Orne Harbor, or rather above it on a rather steep hill (which we’ll climb), is a colony of CHINSTRAP PENGUINS. I’m told that the penguins climb up and down the hill (about 300 m high) several times a day.

From the ship’s Panomax webcam: snow-clad mountains all around us, gleaning in the sun.

Here’s where we are this morning, and of course there are other cruise ships going down the Peninsula.

A close-up shot:

As the Hurtigruten site reports (their emphasis):

Yesterday afternoon we stopped for the official christening of the Roald Amundsen—the first ship to be officially named in Antarctica. As the Hurtigruten site reports:

Hurtigruten’s hybrid powered expedition cruise ship MS Roald Amundsen has once again made history – as the first ship ever named in Antarctica.

– We could not think of a better location than Antarctica to name a truly unique ship like MS Roald Amundsen, Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam said.

With crew and guests from more than 20 countries taking part in the world’s first hybrid powered cruise ship’s maiden Antarctica voyage, MS Roald Amundsen was officially named in spectacular surroundings in Chiriguano Bay, Brabant Island, Antarctica, Thursday morning local time.

Spectacular location – spectacular ceremony

Replacing the traditional bottle of champagne with a chunk of ice, godmother and polar pioneer Karin Strand revived a ritual invented by polar hero Roald Amundsen himself.

READ MORE: Meet Karin Strand – polar pioneer and MS Roald Amundsen godmother

As Strand crushed the ice against the hybrid powered ship’s raked bow, she chose Amundsen’s own words, first used when he christened the polar ship Maud in 1917:

“It is not my intention to dishonor the glorious grape, but already now you shall get the taste of your real environment. For the ice you have been built, in the ice you shall stay most of your life, and in the ice, you shall solve your tasks”.

Those were moving words, words that we all heard while floating outside the boat in Zodiacs. The Hurtigruten ship Midnatsol hove to beside us, and our captain grasped a string hanging from the bow on which there was tied a large chunk of ice. The Zodiac reversed, the Captain held the string, which pulled the ice away from the boat, and then the Captain let it go. The ice chunk smashed on the bow, and the ship was officially christened. I managed to photograph the moment when the berglet smashed on the ship. It was a much more touching ceremony than I expected:

Here’s an official photo of the christening, taken from either the Midnatsol (“Midnight Sun”) or a drone they sent up, with all the Zodiacs and VIP boats lined up for the ceremony. I’m on the second Zodiac from the front (to the right). There are apparently a lot of bigwigs aboard, including owners and officials of the company. (PHOTO: Shayne McGuire/Hurtigruten)

And of course the gentoo penguins were there to help celebrate, with a pack of them porpoising and floating behind the Zodiacs to witness the ceremony. Truth be told, I was more interested in watching the penguins than the ceremony, though I did watch the climatic final moments before the ice-breaking.


They porpoised and floated and, for reasons unknown, would dive suddenly for ten seconds or so and then resurface. And they stayed around for 15 minutes or so. I have some videos of them swimming and porpoising, but won’t be able to post them until I return.

Coming aboard after the ceremony, I saw the captain and Karin Strand standing on the landing deck. I introduced myself to Karin (who had helped me make this trip) and to the captain, who is surprisingly young. I’m told he worked his way up to captain after starting with Hurtigruten as a dishwasher at age 16. (Of course one would have to go to “captains school” to pilot a ship this size.

The waters last night were extraordinarily placid for this area, allowing for some nice pictures with reflections of the snow-clad islands:

Our newly-christened ship framed by an iceberg:

And a panoramic view:

Some self-aggrandizement: all members of the expedition team have their picture and a brief bio broadcast, in sequence, on a screen in the Science Center. Each of us was photographed wearing a parka of the exact type that Amundsen wore on his South Pole dash; this was made for the ship, and you can buy them in the ship’s store. Here’s me wearing my loaned parka (the bios are in three languages: German, French, and English, though English is the ship’s official language):

I should have combed my hair. And I never wear fur (except for this photo). 

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