published Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Journey to Antarctica - Our weather luck runs out

Thom Benson
Follow live updates as the Tennessee Aquarium's Thom Benson travels to Antarctica from Chattanooga

Last night a lenticular cloud was spotted from the stern of our ship. Lenticulars are special types of clouds produced as a standing wave as strong winds aloft move over mountain areas. Usually some bad weather can be expected within 24 hours.

So before bed, I enjoyed another Midnight sunset and caught another pack of Adelies heading off on their own private little iceberg.

Both landings were cancelled today. Apparently, our weather luck ran out on December 13th. The winds were tropical storm force, sustained between 38 and 54 miles per hour. Occasionally it would snow, so technically we were in a full-blown Antarctic blizzard. By the time we reached Neptune's Bellows at Deception Island, it was too dicey to attempt taking Le Boreal through the narrow (and shallow) entrance into the caldera of this volcanic island. As a result, we weren't able to make our polar plunge. (A swim had been planned at Deception for those willing to brave the water.)

During the evening we had a pleasant conversation with the Captain of Le Boreal. Marty Tuck, who is part of the Aquarium group, told us about his Grandmother who survived the sinking of the Titanic. She was eight years old at the time and remembered her experience very vividly. On the date that oceanographer Bob Ballard found the wreckage, he called all of the survivors before making the announcement to the media. Marty said his grandmother never spoke much about the experience, except for a few radio shows on a Detroit radio station that would invite Ballard on the air at the same time. (As a side note, Ballard will be at the Tennessee Aquarium in February as part of our NOAA supported Blue Planet speaker series. )

The Captain shared his story of dealing with pirates off the coast of Somalia in 2008. He was able to keep his cool with machine gun toting men who at times argued amongst themselves. His bravery stalled any violence to his crew and kept the pirates from escaping before they were rescued by the French Navy.

We saw the many weather faces of Antarctica today, from storm-tossed seas to a tranquil Midnight sunset. We're wondering what tomorrow will bring on the 100th anniversary of the South Pole being reached.

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