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12/17/2007

Expedition Day at Clarence Island and Elephant Island

During the morning Explorer II steamed towards a huge tabular iceberg that is lying between Elephant Island and Clarence Island. Measuring 28 miles long and 10½ miles wide, the berg was a most incredible sight. Designated T15, it broke off the Ross Ice Shelf and has slowly drifted around the Ross Sea until it was deflected up the Antarctic Peninsula to reach its present position. As we cruised around it, with the high ice-face towering above the ship, we could take in the continually changing beauty of clear-cut lines of white ice, the blues in the fissures, caves and even an arch at the waterline.

As we could also see Elephant Island, where the crew of Shackleton's Endurance found refuge, historian Bob Burton gave his presentation 'Shackleton's expeditions – a personal view'. Bob pointed out that, although Ernest Shackleton is famous for rescuing his men when Endurance was crushed by ice in the Weddell Sea, this was only one of four Antarctic expeditions that he took part in.

The lecture finished in time for everyone to go on deck and see more icebergs, which had broken off T15. The line of bergs led us to Elephant Island and Explorer II sailed along the north coast to Point Wild where Shackleton's men had lived for four months. To get us in the mood for visiting this key place in the Shackleton story, the men of the Expedition Staff sang "Our home on Elephant Isle", which had been composed and sung by Shackleton's men on Midwinter's Day, 1916.

The weather was gradually improving and the calmer seas allowed Captain Moulds to anchor off Point Wild and enable a zodiac cruise. The sun came out and the glaciers of Elephant Island and the many icebergs that covered the sea to the horizon shone a brilliant white as the zodiacs cruised around Point Wild.

The day finished with a complete change in tempo. The Crew Show with a variety of enthusiastic singing and dancing acts was put on by members of the Filipino crew. The turns ranged from traditional Filipino dances to modern song and dance – all performed with gusto, enjoyment and a great deal of skill.

   

We spent the whole day surrounded by ice including a 27 mile long iceberg that separated from the Ross Ice Shelf two years ago.

Captain John Moulds used an old fashioned sextant to calculate the incredible mass of the impressive piece of ice.

In the afternoon we cruised around historic Point Wild.

It was lovely out on deck just after dinner with spectacular scenery.

A stunning sunset on Clarence Island was just the perfect end to our time in the Antarctic.


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