Photographs from an Antarctica Expedition

Candice Gaukel Andrews August 28, 2014 9

Earlier this year, I was able to take a Natural Habitat Adventures cruise to Antarctica, satisfying my annual yearning for big ice. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

I have a fixation with ice and the world’s cold places. I think it’s mostly because I’m convinced that winter is an endangered “species.” That’s why the poles have always called to me. Science fiction novelist Kim Stanley Robinson wrote in his 1997 book, Antarctica: “There was something about [the continent] that fueled obsessions, that created all manner of idées fixes which then took over whole careers and lives. The ice blink, some called it.”

I try to satisfy my craving with a trip to an icy place once a year; and January 2014, I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Antarctica for the first time. Antarctica and Greenland are home to the two largest ice sheets in the world; and I have now visited both of them. But things are changing, and they’re changing fast. My endangered species hypothesis could become more than just personal conjecture. A new report, published in the online magazine The Cryosphere, states that both places are contributing to a rise in sea level twice as much as they were just five years ago. And the ice sheets are thinning at the highest speed observed since measurements began in 1994.

The report is based on data recently gathered from more than 200 million elevation points in Antarctica and 14.3 million in Greenland that track the loss of ice mass. Current statistics were then compared with figures from 2009. Results showed that the volume of ice loss in Greenland has doubled in those five years, and the loss of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has increased by a factor of three.

A bit of good news is that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is gaining mass. Unfortunately, that growth doesn’t make up for the loss of ice in West Antarctica and Greenland. And, the ice of East Antarctica has a problem of its own: on May 4, 2014, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research reported that an “ice plug”—a small rim of ice resting on bedrock below sea level, which currently holds back the ice behind it—might melt away in coming centuries if ocean waters warm. The institute also predicts that by 2100, ice melt from Antarctica alone could add more than 14 inches to global sea levels.

So, I remain enamored of the Earth’s quickly disappearing ice. I hope, after seeing the photos below, you catch the ice blink, too.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,

Candy

Everyone imagines Antarctica as the place of titanic icebergs—and it is. Unfortunately, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is now quickly losing mass. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

For most who catch the “ice blink,” being able to set foot on the White Continent is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

The mountains on the Antarctic Peninsula are thought to be a continuation of the Andes of South America. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

Named for their spotted coats, leopard seas are one of the primary predators in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters. They eat penguins, seabirds, fish and smaller seals. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

Antarctica has no permanent human residents. Pictured here is a research station that is unoccupied at the moment. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

Gentoos are the penguin world’s third largest species. They populate the Antarctic Peninsula and numerous islands around the cold continent. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

A Gentoo penguin’s flamboyant, red-orange beak stands out against its gray, rock-strewn habitat. The Antarctic Treaty of 1959 provides protection for the species. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

You can find almost every shade of gray and blue in Antarctica. I’m already dreaming of going back to this place of elemental beauty. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

A seal enjoys a respite on a bed of kelp on the shore of ice-free Barrientos Island, located on the west side of the English Strait in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

The Antarctic Peninsula’s bays and coves can be calm and peaceful. It’s unusual to be able to experience what a world without people sounds like. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

The blue icebergs you encounter near the fringe of the continent make any visit to Antarctica unforgettable. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

Want to see more of the great White Continent? Book an Antarctic cruise with Natural Habitat Adventures and WWF!

 

9 Comments »

  1. Beverly Burmeier September 4, 2014 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    I’ve already booked my Antarctic adventure! Love your photos!

  2. John A. Leone September 2, 2014 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    These are great Photos !!

    I’ve only been to Alaska; but it was cool too !!

  3. Lorraine Dumas August 31, 2014 at 10:10 am - Reply

    How fortunate you are to be able to experience this wonder of the world and its inhabitants. Beautiful.

  4. Venkatasamy Ramakrishna August 30, 2014 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    Excellent set of photos Candice, especially for those of us who will never be able to see, feel and appreciate on site such spectacular parts of our world, and its inhabitants. Thank you for taking us there.

  5. PROF. PARTHASARATHI CHATTOPADHYAY August 30, 2014 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    Beautiful photographs! Some are mind blowing, particularly those of icebergs gently drifting over turquoise blue ocean. I love the photograph of the gentoo penguins huddling together into a mass during an Arctic snowfall.
    You were fortunate that you got a leopard seal– the most ferocious predator of Antarctic. They prowl the drifting ice floes, putting their head up a few inches above the water & lurking for any unwary penguin that will jump into the water from the fragmented icebergs. They move deceptively fast underwater,catching the prey by surprise and then shake it violently above the water to remove the victim’s skin and munch on the flesh & blubber. In less than a minute it is over. Only a bloody water bears testimony to the violent orgy that took place moments ago! But the table is turned when a pod of killer whales (orca) appears. They fear none and can subdue prey of any size. The orcas hunt seal. They are intelligent creature. They periscope their body to locate a seal basking in the sun on an ice floe. They move in a pack and attack from all sides, throwing surges and hammering from the bottom. Even if these attempts fail to dislodge the seal (be it a leopard seal!) they resort to the same functions as the ice-breaking ships do— they veer off, and from a certain distance cruise with accelerated speed and land on to the floating ice shelf. These beautiful giants weighing more than 10 ton crush the ice by their sheer momentum and seal’s life is doomed. The orcas then play cat & mouse game with the seal, tossing it up several meters above the sea by powerful blow of their flukes and then kill the exhausted seal and share the ‘meal’. I expected you would be lucky enough to capture these episodes. These are not so rare. Perhaps luck & prolonged observation from strategic locations could award you these moments.

    Another majestic creature you missed— i.e. Emperor Penguin. Standing more than 4feet tall, these elegant birds sport glossy white plumage bordered with brilliant golden line.Paired for life the female lay only one egg in a season. During breeding time there occurs heavy ruckus to seize the best roost. Both male & its female partner share their rounds of incubating the egg. They stand motionless, nonchalantly in blizzard to perform their parental duty. A magnificent sight when you will sea a colony of emperor penguins in snow and far more elegant is their movement down the ice, wagging side to side till they reach the sea to hunt krills (shrimps).

    I deeply love your photographs and highly appreciate the pain that you had to weather to capture those photos in that subzero frigid wilderness where wind howls more than 150 kilometer per hour! Best regards, Madam.

  6. James Brunker August 29, 2014 at 9:48 am - Reply

    Beautiful work! Would love to make it to Antarctica one day……

  7. Phillip Tureck - FRGS August 29, 2014 at 9:47 am - Reply

    I loved your story and images, Candy, this reminded me of my trip back in 2009 to an incredible place in this world.

    Once in a lifetime I would say but i still would love to go back and spend some more time there.

    As always, thanks for sharing.

  8. Bob Gettman August 29, 2014 at 9:46 am - Reply

    Another set of beautiful pictures and delightful commentary !! Thank you, Candice.

  9. Thomas Sawyer August 28, 2014 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    What incredible pictures!

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