Steven Ginn Photography

2007 Antarctic Photography Workshop

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This trip leaves from Ushuaia Argentina sailing northword to the Falkland Islands (Isle Malvinas) then over to South Georgia, down to the South Shetland islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. We end the trip by sailing accross the Drake Passage back to Ushuaia.

While I am on the boat I will only be able to send text messages and they will cost about $3.50 per half page. So do not expect lots of details. I will send the journal entries to a friend who will post them here as frequently as possible. However, while I will try to write daily updates, I will be relatively out of touch, thus some days may get missed and multiple days may get posted at the same time.

Day 1 (Friday, 2/2)

Leave Portland OR, flying to Buenos Aires, Argentina

This was pretty much an uneventful day. I managed to get on my flight without any problems, and I was basically on a plane the rest of this day. I was happy that my camera bag fit fine in the overhead compartment, but I was annoyed that the spot under the seat was too small to fit my laptop bag; fortunately, there was still room in the overhead storage.

Day 2 (Saturday, 2/3)

Arrival in Buenos Aires

After about 18 hours of flying I arrived in Buenos Aires. I had no problems getting out of the airport, however, as people had warned me, the cars on the roads down here seem to use the lines painted on the roads for lanes as suggestions!

I accomplished several things after arriving. I went to see the tour company that has been setting up a week and a half extension to my trip to allow me to tour some of Argentina after I get back from Antarctica and, with lots of help from Pablo, finalized all those details. After that, I managed a pretty good walking tour around Buenos Aires in about 90 degree (F) heat with high humidity. I also hooked up with my cabin mate on the boat, Julian, did some more touring, and had a nice dinner.

After staying awake (I don't sleep well on planes) for about 36 hours, I finally headed to my hotel room for some sleep.

Day 3 (Sunday, 2/4)

Buenos Aires to Ushuaia

Today went pretty well. After spending the morning walking around Buenos Aires some more and taking some photos, we took a taxi to the airport and met up with the rest of the people on the expedition. After changing gates three or four times, a two hour delay and a lot of confusion on the plane getting everyone seated, we had a successful flight to Ushuaia. Due to the departure delay we did not get to the hotel until midnight.

One unfortunate incident is that one of the other passengers was mugged this morning in Buenos Aires. Suffering a broken hip, he will not be able to make the trip.

Day 4 (Monday, 2/5)

First day aboard Professor Multanovskiy

Today was a particularly successful day. First of all I succeeded in sending Day 1 through Day 3 to John so he can post them. At least I hope he received them, I don't have any way to tell.

But mostly the reason today was successful was that after a short and not very exciting tour of Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, we made it to the boat and are on our way to sea. As I write this we are currently in the Beagle channel headed east. Once we reach the open ocean, we will head northeast to the Falkland Islands. The bad news is that the current report is for 15 meter seas tomorrow on our transit over to the Falklands. I am wearing a patch, so we'll see how it does. We don't reach the Falklands until very late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.

Dinner tonight was excellent with excellent conversation on color with four of the technical experts on the trip.

Day 5 (Tuesday, 2/6)

At sea in transit to the Falklands

There is not much going on today other than some photo critique and more familiarization with the boat.

The seas have turned pretty rough, but the patch is working for me so I don't feel motion sick (although I don't feel perfectly fine either). As I type this my chair and I keep sliding across the floor.

Day 6 (Wednesday, 2/7)

The Falkland Islands

We woke up this morning anchored just off of Carcass Island in the Falklands. After an early breakfast, we shuttled ashore on the Zodiacs and took a hike across the island. We saw some burrowing penguins. The photo opportunities were ok but not spectacular. However the owners of the island, Rob and Lorraine McGill, served all of us tea at their house. If there were other houses on the island I was not aware of them.

After returning to the boat for lunch, we motored over to Saunders Island and again shuttled to shore. The owners of this island—I'm not sure I know their names—met us at the shore and helped pull the Zodiacs in. This island had LOTS of penguins (King, Rock Hoppers and Gentoo), various birds and some sheep. The photography opportunities where much better, and the blowing sand made the scene at times look surreal. All a person had to do was walk down the beach and thousands of penguins would be all around you as they made their way from the water to their rookery just off the beach.

This evening I attended the Captain's welcome party and learned some interesting facts about this ship, Professor Multanovskiy. It was built about 26 years ago and converted into a tour ship 13 years ago. The official story is that it was built as a Russian meteorological research vessel, but multiple people seem to think it was originally a spy ship. Captain Sergey Nesterov has been the captain of Professor Multanovskiy for 13 years, which implies to me that he has captained it since it became a tour ship. He told us that the maximum roll we experienced on the passage from Ushuaia to the Falklands was 20 degrees each way, which means the total roll was 40 degrees. Apparently the maximum roll he has experienced in this ship is 70 degrees! Can you imagine a 140 degree total roll? He also told us that the ship is rated to break through 50cm of ice, but that he has actually taken it through up to 70cm of ice.

Day 7 (Thursday, 2/8)

The Falkland Islands—day two

Overnight we motored around the north end of the Falklands to the west side and woke up anchored in the harbor off Stanley. We spent the morning walking around Stanley, which is a very small place. About noon we pulled anchor and have headed off towards South Georgia, which I understand will take about 60 hours. Of course this means we are back into the ocean swells. In the mean time we are spending time with lectures on various aspects of photography and photography tools.

Day 8 (Friday, 2/9)

En route to South Georgia

We are still at sea today on our way to South Georgia, my understanding is that we still have another day and a half to go to get there. Today has been filled with several lectures and breakout sessions on various aspects of photography.

It is a different experience traveling like this on a boat. It makes the trip feel more like an adventure than just zipping off somewhere on a plane.

Day 9 (Saturday, 2/10)

En route to South Georgia (still)

We woke up this morning still en route to South Georgia with 180 NM left to go. We should arrive sometime this evening. Overnight we passed the Antarctic Convergence which officially puts us in Antarctic waters. The Antarctic Convergence is typically located between 50 and 60 degrees South, the exact location changes depending upon conditions. However the boundary is sharply defined by changes in the water temperature (about 2 degrees cooler), salinity and nutrient levels.

Today consists of more photography lectures and some lectures from the expedition staff on the geology of South Georgia and on penguins.

Sleeping on board this boat is interesting, imagine trying to sleep on a seesaw while somebody is moving it up and down. The net result is that every few seconds your head slides into one wall and then a few seconds later your feet slide into the opposite wall. It is also a challenge to take a shower in these conditions. The good news is that the medicated patch is doing a good job of keeping the sea sickness at bay!

Day 10 (Sunday, 2/11)

South Georgia

We arrived at South Georgia today. Our first stop was at Elsehul bay where we cruised around the bay in the Zodiacs looking at the massive amount of wildlife on the shore: fur seals, penguins, petrels and albatross.

We saw our first iceberg on our way south from Elsehul bay.

Next we went into Right Whale Bay and took the Zodiacs to shore and mingled with the fur seals, elephant seals and penguins. There were thousands of fur seal pups, and you had to be careful not to step on one because they would come up to you. It poured down rain on us for the entire shore excursion.

Our final destination for the day was the Bay of Isles where we landed at an old, long abandoned, whalers' station. Lots of fur seals, some penguins, and, surprisingly enough, some reindeer as well. The rusted metal of the old buildings and tanks with the seals laying about everywhere made for a strange sight. At least the rain had stopped by this landing. We spent the night at anchor in this bay.

Day 11 (Monday, 2/12)

South Georgia—day two

This morning right after breakfast we cruised by Nordenskjold Glacier in East Cumberland Bay. It pretty much looked like a glacier. We then cruised over to Grytviken in King Edward Cove and took the Zodiacs to shore. This used to be a large, almost industrial, whaling station. There were lots and lots of old rusted tanks and buildings. The site is being turned into a historical site, and the old church has been rebuilt. Of course the fur seals and penguins were everywhere again.

While we ate lunch the ship changed locations to Ocean Harbor where there were signs of another whaling station. The most visible of these were the large piles of whale bones. There was also the wreck of the old iron hulled, three masted Bayard which apparently ran aground there in 1911.

We had hoped to go ashore in St. Andrews Bay in the late afternoon or early evening, but as we pulled into the bay we could see that we were not going to be able to do so. The winds were blowing so hard they were creating small water spouts. The winds there were caused by katabatic winds (these are winds that come sweeping down off the glaciers). It is too bad that we did not make it because this was the site of the largest King Penguin rookery in South Georgia. It is estimated at over 200,000 birds.

We continued south to Royal Bay and dropped anchor in time for a quiet dinner. We spent the night at anchor.

Day 12 (Tuesday, 2/13)

South Georgia—day three

This morning before breakfast we cruised over to the Ross Glacier in Royal Bay to catch the sunrise shining onto the glacier. It was very dramatic with the sweeping glaciers and tall peaks partly hidden by clouds but with the sun shining in from behind us.

Next we moved on to Gold Harbor where we went ashore and visited with 50,000 King Penguins. Of course there were the many thousands of fur seals as well. One note on the fur seals, it seems like the farther south we go the more aggressive the fur seals have become. Yesterday one of the other passengers was bit by one of the fur seal pups and today another person came close to being bit. The problem is that you can't avoid going where they are, and even when you can maintain the required distance from them they will often do fake charges at you. In most cases they will not complete the charge. You see them doing the same thing with other fur seals. As you might imagine this stop generated lots of penguin photos. It was a very scenic spot with a hanging glacier just above the beach.

After that we explored Drygalski Fjord from the ship. Drygalski Fjord is a narrow fjord near the southernmost point of South Georgia. It was by far the windiest spot we have been so far, but it was a very warm wind despite the fact that the katabatic winds were blowing at 60 knots. We were all out on deck having a great time trying to keep from being blown away and taking photos of the waterfalls along the side of the fjord that, due to the high winds, were being blown back up hill and the water spouts there were being formed. It was so windy that I took my glasses off so they would not get blown away.

In late afternoon we left South Georgia and set a course for the South Orkney Islands. Once we cleared the southern tip of South Georgia the seas became very rough such that many of us did not bother with dinner.

Day 13 (Wednesday, 2/14)

En route to the South Orkney Islands

We woke up today, if you can call last night actually sleeping, still in transit to the South Orkney Islands in what is called the Scotia Sea. We will be at sea all day today, so the agenda is for more lectures and maybe some naps. The sea state is still fairly rough but a little better than last night.

Day 14 (Thursday, 2/15)

The South Orkney Islands

We arrived at the South Orkney Islands at about 9:30am today. It is a very rugged place; however, the most amazing thing about it is that there are icebergs everywhere: big ones, small ones, some of every shape, and some of the most beautiful deep blue color. They have all broken loose from ice shelves on the Antarctic continent itself and have floated over 400 miles to get here where they get caught up among the various islands that make up the South Orkneys.

We did one shore landing on a small beach between two glaciers. This time instead of pups and female fur seals we saw a beach full of male fur seals. We then took the Zodiacs and cruised around a number of the grounded icebergs close into shore.

In the late afternoon, after many shots of icebergs, we headed back out to sea on our way to the Antarctic Peninsula.

Day 15 (Friday, 2/16)

Enroute to the Antarctic Peninsula

Today was a day at sea again working our way closer to the Antarctic Peninsula. There are two major good things about today. The first one is that it has been very calm all day, almost no rocking in the ship at all. The second is that we have more ice bergs than you can believe. Everywhere you look you see huge ice bergs, it is very cool, also I suspect that all the bergs are what is keeping the ocean swell down. The ship can no longer go straight but must wind its way through all the ice. This evening at sunset the orange glow of the setting sun on all the ice bergs was awe inspiring.

Day 16 (Saturday, 2/17)

The Antarctic Peninsula—day one

Today was an early start—the wake up call was at 4:15am. We did a shore landing on the Antarctic Peninsula before breakfast in clear skies at a place called Browns Bluff. There were some seals and penguins, but the more interesting part was all the ice. Every slope had glaciers on it, and the water was choked with ice bergs from very small to very large. The penguins were the most friendly ones of all. When they saw you they would run, actually waddle, over to say hi like you were some long lost friend.

We saw the largest tabular iceberg so far today, measured by the captain at 4.5 km long.

After breakfast the ship headed south on the east side of the peninsula into some very ice-choked waters. As a demonstration the captain did a little ice breaking into a shelf of solid sea ice about a meter thick. After that we headed back north and cruised into Hope Bay where we saw Argentina's research station and, of course, more glaciers and penguins. The only seal we saw here was up on top of an ice cliff on the front edge of a glacier. Nobody could figure out how it got there or how it was going to get down.

Currently we are headed around the north end of the peninsula to head south along the west coast.

The seas remain very calm. One indicator of how calm the seas are has to do with the lunch and dinner meals. Every lunch and dinner starts with soup. If it's calm, a soup tureen is placed at the end of each table and the people at the table serve themselves family style. If it's rough one of the waiting staff brings the tureen and serves everyone at the table, this however does not help soup sloshing over the side of your soup plate. Finally, if it's too rough, they skip the soup course; this has only happened once so far on the trip. Amazingly there has been a different soup with every meal each day.

Day 17 (Sunday, 2/18)

The Antarctic Peninsula—day two

We woke up on the west side of the peninsula sailing south in the Gerlache Strait. We spent some time observing Humpback Whales and penguins playing in the strait. We then moved into the Errera Channel which was narrow and scenic. Our first stop after lunch was Neko Harbor where we went ashore. The light was good, and I managed to get some interesting landscape photos. Like most of the places around here, Neko Harbor has a number of large glaciers coming down into a small bay and, of course, the requisite group of penguins hanging out on shore.

Next we moved the ship to Paradise Bay and did a Zodiac cruise by the glaciers in this bay during a driving snow storm. We also followed four or five Minke Whales for a bit. We spent the night at anchor in this bay.

Day 18 (Monday, 2/19)

The Antarctic Peninsula—day three

After breakfast we cruised through Lemaire Channel, a very narrow channel with steep, thousand foot high, rocky mountains on either side of the channel. At the end of the channel was a place jokingly called the Iceberg Graveyard. This turned out to be a very interesting place with lots of small icebergs with fantastic shapes; one even looked like the Roman Colosseum. At one point we had a very curious Leopard Seal swim around the Zodiac for some time posing for photos.

We then cruised to our sourthernmost point, Petermann Island. We went ashore and I bet you can't guess what we found: more penguins. I found a nice spot to do a landscape photo of a couple of icebergs stuck in a small inlet. On the way back to the ship on the Zodiacs, some Humpback Whales were spotted, so we went over and watched them for a while. There were two: one small and one very large. They became curious about us and came right up to the Zodiacs. They surfaced several times right next to the one I was in, and at one point one of them nudged the Zodiac. This was all very cool and exciting—it's not common that this happens. I have some very close up photos of these Humpbacks.

We are now heading back north through the Lemaire Channel, and by 4pm tomorrow we are supposed to start crossing Drake Passage. I suspect that starting tomorrow I will require motion sickness medication for several days. We arrive back in Ushuaia at 7am on the 23rd.

Day 19 (Tuesday, 2/20)

The Antarctic Peninsula—day four

Today has been very low key so far. Last night we pulled into a calm little bay and spent the night at anchor. This morning we headed north through the Neumayer Channel and back through the Gerlache Strait. The plan is that we will stop at the Melchior Islands which are right on the edge of the Drake Passage; if the conditions allow we are supposed to do a Zodiac cruise. So far today visibility has been very poor, and it has been snowing off and on.

At lunch today I heard that the barometer was taking a dive and that indications were that we needed to prepare for a possibly rough passage. We were asked to start packing our cabins so nothing could fly around.

Day 20 (Wednesday, 2/21)

The Drake Passage—day one

At about 4:30pm yesterday we headed north into the Drake Passage pointed straight at the tip of South America. Last night was a little rough: while in bed I alternated between banging my head and my feet into the wall at either end of the bed.

This morning, while it is still fairly bouncy, it is not overly extreme, so I can get around. The day has been filled with more seminars. While I do feel a bit cruddy, the motion sickness medication has worked well and has allowed me to eat and be up and about.

Today is a day when the wait staff served our soup for us, so it's rough but not too rough. At least we got our soup!

Day 21 (Thursday, 2/22)

The Drake Passage—day two

This day turned out to be a bit rougher. During breakfast, which is served buffet style, a large wave rocked the boat enough that all of the buffet items ended up on the floor, I was able to barely stay in my chair (the dining room chairs are bolted to the floor but swivel). For lunch I felt it was safer for everyone concerned for me just to stay in bed. My understanding is that no soup was served and that several people ended up falling out of their chair and finished their lunch sitting on the floor.

The good news is that by dinner time we had reached the Beagle channel in South America, and we actually had dinner anchored in a calm bay while we waited for a pilot.

Thanks to the motion sickness medication I was able to get out of bed enough to attend the seminars offered today.

Day 22 (Friday, 2/23)

Back in Argentina

We reached port about 7am this morning and, after breakfast and luggage handling, disembarked about 8am. It turns out that I am the only one who is staying in Ushuaia tonight, so while everyone else boarded a bus to the airport, I collected all my gear and walked off down the pier in search of a taxi to my hotel. The name of the hotel I'm staying at is Hostal Del Bosque.

I did bring one extra thing with me from the ship: over the last day or two I seem to have caught a cold along with several others on board. My understanding is that most of the ships crew was ill during this voyage with some sort of virus, but they were keeping it pretty quiet. I seem to have just a simple cold.

As you might imagine, showing up at a hotel at 8:30 in the morning meant that my room was not yet ready. The hotel is full and the previous guests were probably still asleep. The hotel was kind enough to watch all my gear while I walked around town for a few hours. I was able to get into my room at about 11am, but the front desk then called and asked me to change rooms because they had given me a room with two beds which they now needed. Of course the room with one king bed was not ready yet, so I stayed in the original room until it was time to move to the new room. The rooms are pretty nice—suites really—a separate bedroom and a combined dining room and living room area with a nice big table. There is also a kitchenette area.

This is the first real Internet connection I have had since I started the trip, and even it is limited in its bandwidth: it took about an hour to download all my emails and their attachments. The hotel I stayed in when we arrived in Ushuaia the first time back on Feb 4th also had an internet connection, but either due to everyone in the group trying to use it or maybe because they had an even slower connection than this one, I was only able to download part of my email and send one before it stopped working all together.

It was sad to receive an email saying that Jack, one of my parents goats, had to be put down due to a broken leg. It is also sad that Elizabeth, the other goat, is now without her companion.

Since I am at the height of this cold, I am staying in the room today to rest. For lunch I wanted room service, but there was no menu in the room. So the technique I used to order room service was to walk to the restaurant, look at a menu (try to understand it—they do have some English on it but it's not very good) order, walk back to my room, and wait for it to be delivered. I tried to order a pizza but the lady kept trying to tell me it was for two and did not seem willing to let me have it, so I had her pick something. I ended up with a fairly nice dish similar to ravioli.

I fly out tomorrow afternoon to El Calafate in Patagonia.

A few thoughts on the Antarctic trip and on Ushuaia.

First on Ushuaia, this town is definitely seeing a lot of benefit from tourism. The main street is almost nothing but souvenir shops, and there are a number of new buildings being constructed. However, I don't think the population doubles like it does in some cruise ship destinations because all of the ships landing here (that I've seen anyway) only have 50 to 150 passengers.

Clearly there is a lot of growth in this town but it appears to me to be very haphazard. One of the biggest signs of this haphazardness is that they seem to be constantly working on the sidewalks, yet with the exception of the sidewalk in front of the pier, all the sidewalks in this town are in terrible shape. You have to watch every step. Each store seems to put in their own style of sidewalk and they don't always put it in at the same height as their neighbors, they also don't put it in very level. I thought it was entertaining at one point when a portion of the sidewalk was closed while it was being redone and they had old wooden pallets laid out in the street as the alternate sidewalk.

Regarding the cruise. It was definitely enjoyable and worth the time and effort. I also think that it was worth doing all three destinations: the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. From a wildlife perspective, South Georgia was clearly the winner. The beach landings there were full of seals and penguins. For landscape beauty the Antarctic Peninsula with its stark scenery and exotic iceberg shapes wins out. I do have pictures of all this which I will get up on the web site as soon as I can.

So far the most disappointing part of this trip is that one of my cameras, the Canon 5D, died part way through the trip. So for most of the Antarctica part of the trip I was using my Canon 20D. While it is a good camera it is not nearly as good as the 5D. My camera was not the only one that failed: there were six or seven Canon 5Ds and Canon 1Ds that all bit the dust on the same day. It was a rainy day, and, while I was covering up the camera between shots and have successfully used this camera in the rain before, it appears that the rain combined with salt spray may have been the culprit. Interestingly enough none of the Nikons on board had any problem, although the ratio was about ten Canons to every one Nikon. This did prove that bringing a spare camera paid off.

The only manufacturing rep on the trip was the VP of US marketing for Phase One, manufacturer of high-end digital backs for medium format cameras. Their current top end product is the P45, a 39 megapixel back that I believe costs about $30K retail. For a couple of the best days in the Antarctic, I was able to borrow a camera setup from this rep. I was using a Hasselblad H2 camera with a 35mm lens, a 120mm lens, and a Phase One P45 digital back. I have to say that it felt a little odd, maybe concerning, zooming around in snow storms in the Zodiac or carefully walking on guano covered rocks with $45K worth of camera gear in my hands, but some of the photos I got with this setup really made it worth the effort. I have several good ones, but one cool one is when a Humpback stuck its head right out of the water to look at us just five feet in front of me. I have a full frame, hi-resolution, in focus picture of the head.

Sorry for the length of this journal entry, but since it's no longer costing me eight bucks a page, I guess I got a little wordy. I think it's time to take a nap and try to get over this cold.

Day 23 (Saturday, 2/24)

Another day in Ushuaia

I woke up feeling pretty bad this morning, but I had to check out of the hotel by 10am, and my flight to El Calafate was not until the evening. In the end the day was not too bad. After taking an Advil and some Sudafed, I left my luggage with the front desk and walked around Ushuaia and visited museums. The most interesting and largest one was the old national prison that has been turned into part maritime museum, part prison museum and part art gallery. The old cells—very depressing places—either show off some piece of history or have a piece of art stuck in the middle.

I finally made it to El Calafate by about 9pm and to the hotel, Mirador Del Lago, by 10:30pm. I'll save my comments on Argentina's domestic airline until I get home—I don't want to jinx myself. I've organized this part of the trip and prepaid such that I have an itinerary that I am following and transportation set up to pick me up at the airports and hotels to take me wherever I am scheduled to be. This was the first airport pickup, and it turned out that there was a driver and a tour guide. I have to admit that the drive to the hotel was a little scary. It was just the three of us in a van. While the tour guide filled me in on the specifics of my itinerary for the next three days, the driver was driving the van like a bat out of hell; we were all over the road. While the speedometer read only 100km/h, it felt like we were doing a 100miles/h in the old van with its poor suspension. I have to give this van some credit that at least its speedometer worked; most I've noticed so far don't. Also, large wild rabbits seem to be fair game: we nailed one good and loud that had to be the biggest rabbit I've ever seen. This was the only time the tour guide even seemed to notice what his driver was doing.

Traveling like this on a pre-paid itinerary is kind of interesting. Although I have vouchers for each transfer between airport and hotel, for each hotel, and for each excursion, this is not a group tour. I have an itinerary that takes me to different towns where I go on excursions that are independent, day-long, group tours.

Day 24 (Sunday, 2/25)

On to El Calafate

I have to start by saying that today was my first real dinner in almost a month. In other words I had a nice dinner with a bottle of Pinot Noir and there was no rocking and rolling of a boat. While I'm still not feeling perfect, I feel much better and enjoyed the hotel's dining room. You might note that my pre-arranged itinerary seems to have me staying in some pretty nice places (by Argentina standards anyway).

Back to the beginning of a day that exceeded my expectations...

Today was a day-long mini-trekking excursion to Glaciar Perito Moreno (Perito Moreno Glacier). The day did not really start all that promising: it was blowing pretty hard outside, and it seemed to promise rain.

A tour bus picked me up at 8am where I was waiting in the hotel lobby. The driver came in, called my name, and collected one of the vouchers I have. I then boarded the bus with the other folks—about 30 or so—who are also on this particular excursion.

We took a fairly long drive—80km about half of which was narrow gravel roads—to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares (Los Glaciares National Park) where we got onto a small boat, sailed across the lake in front of the glacier, and got off on the other side. We were then divided into an English speaking group and a Spanish speaking group. About this time it started raining and blowing pretty good. After some history discussion from our English speaking guide, we hiked over to the edge of the glacier where the guides tied crampons to everyone's feet. We were joined by a second guide and proceeded to hike up onto the side of the glacier. We did not have ice axes, only the guides did, but we were instructed to follow in a single file. We hiked a bit and then people were asked if they were comfortable. Two ladies out of the fifteen or so English speaking folks dropped out. The rest of the hike took us only a little way up into the glacier but did a great job of showing off the rugged ice landscape and especially the deep blue holes where the melt water sank down into the depths of the glacier. This was not all quite as dangerous as it sounds; it was all ice with no covering of snow that would hide crevasses. We were only about 130 meters above sea level.

A nice touch at the end of the hike was that in a hollow of the glacier, the guides had set up a table where they chipped some 400 year old ice, put it into some glass tumblers, and proceeded to serve us each a Scotch on the rocks (or two).

While it was blowing and raining when we started, by the time we finished the hike, the sun had come out, and it was relatively nice.

After the hike and after eating a box lunch we had been advised to bring, we sailed back across the lake and drove on the bus to a point were we could take another hike to several different viewpoints that gave a spectacular overall view of the glacier. It turns out that what we had seen from the boat is only one side of the glacier. It is actually a glacier that comes down out of the mountains and mostly or completely blocks one arm of Lago Argentino (Lake Argentina). They have some great pictures of the last time part of the ice dam gave way in 2004. The result is that the blocked part of the lake looks a lot like a reservoir that is not completely full. From the viewpoint we could see both sides and the currently very small gap between the shore and the glacier. Apparently the Southern Patagonian Ice Field in which this glacier originates is the third largest ice field in the world only behind Antarctica and Greenland.

On the ride out and back I had a great time talking to a lady who is just finishing a year off from her job. She has been all over the world during the last year but has to go back to work—back in Hawaii—in the next few weeks.

Day 25 (Monday, 2/26)

More glaciers

Today was not the most exciting. It was a boat tour on Lake Argentino, the largest lake in Argentina, to Uppsala, Onelli and Spegazzini glaciers. Uppsala was interesting for two reasons. First, it was named after Uppsala University who was one of SFS's customers. Second, the tongue of the glacier floats before pieces break off so the result is fairly large icebergs reminiscent of some of the small ones I saw in Antarctica.

I had lunch at a restaurant near Onelli glacier with a Brazilian couple that I had met on the tour yesterday. Their English was better than mine, so we had a good conversation. As you know I'm not very good with remembering names, but the husband told an interesting story about having met with and being very impressed by Lou Gerstner before Lou became CEO of IBM.

Day 26 (Tuesday, 2/27)

El Calafate

I walked around and saw the sights in El Calafate for most of the day. My flight to Bariloche was delayed several times. I finally made it to the hotel in Bariloche about 1am Wednesday morning.

Day 27 (Wednesday, 2/28)


This was an interesting day. It was a driving excursion though the countryside in the Bariloche region. It was in a van, not a big bus, so there were not that many people; however, I was the only English speaker. Even the tour guide only knew enough English to tell me when we were coming to a bathroom break. The result is that I spent a lot of time looking at the countryside, which is what I had wanted to do anyway.

One couple, Tito and Norma, from Buenos Aires and I spent some time talking (although very fragmentedly). They spoke only a very little English so it was fun communicating. We had lunch together, and Tito and I shared a bottle of wine; we are best friends now. If it works out I think Tito will take me out to dinner when I'm in Buenos Aires the day before my flight home. Apparently his son works in computers and speaks English well, so hopefully his son will come to dinner with us.

The other group in the van was three older Mexican gentlemen. After lunch they spent a lot of time singing to us in the van. They were sitting in back, and we discovered about half way back the reason for all the singing when they offered to share their bottle of Chivas Regal with the rest of us. The result was that we enjoyed the rest of the trip back. I'm not really sure, but I believe the bottle was full when we left lunch about 3pm and was empty or very close to empty when we arrived back in Bariloche about 7:30pm. I only had two small drinks, and Tito only had one, that means the three of them drank the rest. They were happy guys.

Day 28 (Thursday, 3/1)

Nahuel Huapi

Today was another cruise but it was better than the one a few days ago. The cruise went west on the Blest arm of Nahuel Huapi Lake to Puerto Blest and Cantaros Cascade. The only way to reach these two places is via boat. Puerto Blest has a restaurant/hotel, a snack shop and a park interpretive center. The Cantaros Cascade landing is just a short hike up a boardwalk path along a pretty waterfall to a very scenic lake and a 1500 year old tree. At Puerto Blest there was a short bus ride over to Frias Lake (road is only 3k long and only goes between Puerto Blest and Frias Lake. At Frias lake we got on another small boat and cruised to the other end of this lake, about 20 minutes, and got off to visit the Argentine border station that you find if you hike the trail in from Chile. It was kind of an interesting place because to get there you either must hike a trail from Chile through the Andes or get there the same way I did. My understanding is that the actual border with Chile was something like 3k down the path.

I had a nice lunch in the restaurant in Puerto Blest with a German couple. The man was a retired criminal pathologist who said that his father had been a SS agent during WWII that secretly helped the Jews. His wife is a Spanish teacher in Germany. She knows Spanish well because she was born and raised by her German parents in Argentina. Her mother just recently died after reaching 100 years old. Apparently both her parents remained very German despite spending most of their lives in Argentina.

I found the perfect restaurant for dinner; actually I didn't find it, the front desk recommended it. It was one of those small places you have to go up the back steps to find, but when you get there, it is clear that if you don't eat meat, this is the wrong place for you. There is an old guy who welcomes you from the grill where he is standing by a whole selection of hunks of uncooked meat (beef, lamb, chicken and some sausages). You order what you want, and he takes out a huge knife, cuts your piece from the meat in front of him, and cooks it perfectly to your specifications. Once it's done he personally brings it to your table and puts it on your plate. I had a perfectly cooked rare filet mignon. The only real problem was that the small cut that I ordered was 400 grams and far more than I could eat. The large cut, at 800 grams, must be intended to be shared with others. The wine was also very good. I tried a new technique: I found a wine on their list that I had already had and liked a few days ago, told the waitress (she spoke English some) that I had had it and liked it, and asked if she could recommend something better. She didn't know, but she called over the third and last employee working there—really just a kid in sagging jeans and a yellow T-shirt—who, via translation by the waitress, was able to recommend a very nice wine. This leads to the last problem. As I spent a long time doing a very credible job on the 400 grams of meat, I ended up polishing off the entire bottle of wine. Fortunately it has left me feeling only a little under the weather as I write this entry the next morning!

Day 29 (Friday, 3/2)

Leaving Bariloche

I'll write today's entry early since this is a travel day and I can predict pretty well how it will go. The morning is not even over yet and, as far as I can tell, my flight to Buenos Aires has been delayed twice already—the tour company I used keeps tabs on this and leaves messages for me at the front desk of the hotel. My flight was supposed to leave at 2:30pm, but now they are not even picking me up at the hotel until 3:30pm. My plan is to walk around town and see the sights. If it works like it did when I left El Calafate, when I come back to the hotel I expect to be told that the flight has been delayed again. I hope that does not happen because tomorrow will also be a travel day: hopefully in the morning I fly to Iguazu Falls.

Day 30 (Saturday, 3/3)

Iguazu Falls—day one

As I've come to expect, my flight was delayed again last night. We finally took off shortly after 10pm. This put me at the hotel in Buenos Aires about 1:30am. So I guess I now understand why it takes me two days to get to Iguazu Falls from Bariloche.

My flight today from Buenos Aires to Iguazu was a first, it was actually on time. This makes sense when you realize that it meant that I had to be ready to be picked up at the hotel at 8am after not getting to bed until 2am. When we got to Iguazu Falls, the pilot flew the MD-80 plane around the falls ensuring everyone got a good look. I was told by the guy who picked me up that I should feel lucky because that was not very common, but I could see other jets doing the same thing in the afternoon, so maybe since the airline is on time today they needed to burn a few extra minutes.

I like this place. It is hot and humid and my room has an amazing view of the falls. Since I arrived so early, I decided to take a boat tour up to the falls. My understanding is that at some point they drive into the falls and get everyone completely wet. I'm going to take a waterproof bag for my camera.

A wired Internet connection is available in the room here, but they want money to use it so I'll be waiting until I get back to Buenos Aires to send the latest updates.


As promised, the boat tour was very wet. We started out getting hauled 8km through the jungle in the open back of what must have been an old military truck turned into a tour bus by adding benches in back. A tour guide explained some of the plants and animals. Then, on a fast jet boat which took us up river to the falls for pictures, we put our cameras and anything else we wanted (in most cases, including mine, this also meant our shoes) into a dry bag and were driven under a couple of different branches of the waterfall for a thorough soaking. They then let us off at a trail near the falls for a pleasant walk back to the hotel where I had a cocktail by the pool before going in for a shower and dinner.

Dinner was good, but not as good as the other night. I tried the same technique to select the wine, but it sort of back fired. Once I pointed to the wine I had had before (a Luigi Bosca Cabernet Sauvignon) and even though I tried to explain I wanted something better, it was no use, I ended up getting the reference wine. Lucky for me I actually like the wine. Unfortunately for me, unlike the 65 pesos I paid for it in El Calafate, this time it was 87 pesos. For the remainder of the wine that was left over after dinner, they offered to hold the wine for me for dinner the next night. I thought this was both a nice service and a clever technique for getting me to commit to come back. I decided to take the bottle with me to my room.

Day 31 (Sunday, 3/4)

Iguazu Falls—day two

Today I did a complete and thorough hike on all of the trails in the park around the falls on the Argentine side. I did not have time to get a Brazilian visa so I am unable to go to that side of the falls. However, most of the interesting trails, from my point of view anyway, appear to be on the Argentine side. I can almost reach out and touch Brazil from my hotel room. I can see the viewpoints on the Brazilian side, and while it would have been interesting to go there, I am not disappointed not to be able to make it. The only interesting thing I see on the Brazilian side is a contraption sticking out of the side of the canyon wall that appears to be used to allow people to rappel down to the river shore line. I can also see a set of stairs back in the trees that people walk back up on. This would definitely not be the contraption for those people who are afraid of heights on man made structures.

All of the trails I hiked were scenic and fun with lots of views. Iguazu has many individual or semi-individual cascades of water, and the trails give you a good opportunity to see many of these up close and from a distance. The largest of these cascades is massive. There is a trail that takes you to a platform right on the top edge of this cascade, a very wet place. There is so much spray generated by this part of the falls that it looks like a large column of steam rising a few hundred feet into the air.

There is so much water everywhere that most of these trails are metal catwalks over the ground and the water. On those parts that are paved, you are very likely to meet an animal called a Coati that looks a lot like a raccoon. You can also see lots of lizards; most are small, but I did see one about a foot and a half long.

The animal that you can see the most of is butterflies. They are everywhere in every size and color. They are constantly landing on you to lick up the salt from your sweat, which you do a lot of here! My understanding is that there are 2000 species of butterflies in the park.

There are also a number of colorful birds here, most of which I do not know, but I have seen some Toucans (see also) (think Froot Loops—which are also available here for breakfast) and a large number of big, black Vultures that use the rising air over the falls to circle around.

This is by far the most expensive place I've been so far, so for dinner, instead of going to the dining room or finding a taxi to go into town, I had a chicken burger at the pool side bar. I then went back to my room and enjoyed the evening on my balcony finishing my left over bottle of wine from the night before.

Day 32 (Monday, 3/5)

Back to Buenos Aires

This is another travel day to get back to Buenos Aires. After breakfast, while packing in my room, the first call came to tell me about the first delay in my flight. Now I don't get picked up at the hotel until 2pm. Since I have to checkout by 10am, it leaves the problem of how to dress. Jeans are desirable for the plane since the planes are always cold, but shorts are a must here since it's hot and humid. I guess I'll go for the shorts and just suffer on the plane.

I spent the morning and early afternoon hiking around on some of the trails that don't go to the falls. I found one trail that is marked as an official trail but that does not get much use. It is a 6k round trip hike on a dirt and mud trail back into the jungle. I saw a few other people on the trail with me but not many; most of the time nobody was in sight. The highlight of this hike was that about halfway down the trail I saw a bunch of monkeys up in the trees next to the trail. They were very small but seemed to be pretty relaxed about having me watch them for a while.

When I reached the airport, the airline rebooked me on a different flight because they said they had no idea when the one I was booked on would depart. My next step is to figure out some sort of dinner plan.

Day 33 (Tuesday, 3/6)

Last day in Argentina

Today is my last day in Argentina. I leave on a flight for home this evening at 10:50pm. It has been an enjoyable and unique trip. My plan for today is to more widely tour the city. I've signed up for a city wide tour. I will make one more entry in this journal when I get home.

Day 34 (Wednesday, 3/7)

The Final Day

After what seems strangely like both a short time and a long time, I am home. It seems like a short time because I was busy practically all of the time and I could have spent more time in all of the places I visited. It seems like a long time because it seems like forever since I was in the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica.

As I write this final journal entry I am copying all of the images to permanent storage. My next task is to go through all of the photos that I took to evaluate what I have. Because the Canon 5D was out of commission for the majority of the trip, I didn't use as much storage space as I had anticipated—the Canon 20D (my backup camera) has an 8.2 megapixel sensor compared to the the 12.3 megapixel sensor in the 5D, a difference that adds up quickly over thousands of images. I came home with 12,160 raw images using 118.3GB of storage space. I did use both sets of disk drives that I took; I kept the Antarctic images on one set and the Argentine images on the other set.

The entire trip was fun and enjoyable. The companionship of the other photographers during the Antarctic part of the trip was enjoyable, especially my great new friend, Julian, the Canadian dentist, who was my cabin mate on the ship. During the Argentine portion of the trip I enjoyed meeting and getting to know numerous new people and overcoming language barriers. Of course it was topped off by the beautiful and sometimes amazing landscapes and nature that I saw at each of the destinations on my trip.

I really find myself unable to conclude this journal without one final comment on Argentina's airline service, Aerolineas Argentinas. My flight home boarded on time Tuesday evening, but we ended up taking off about 30 minutes late. Since this was Continental instead of Aerolineas Argentinas they actually gave us a reason for being delayed: we were told that the Buenos Aires traffic control radar was out due to a lightning storm a week ago and that they were spacing the planes out a little more. There are many criticisms I can make about flying in Argentina, but I have to say that with a full day planned for each leg of domestic travel, Aerolineas Argentinas did manage to get me to each destination with my luggage intact.