Woody’s highlights of the Antarctic 2009/10 season onboard the Akademik Sergey Vavilov

“Peregrine’s Akademik Sergey Vavilov had a fantastic Antarctic season of nine trips. Every trip had many special moments and all had the great and grand Antarctic scenery and wonderful abundant wildlife. All experienced the challenge of the Southern ocean and all had the opportunity to see the spectacle of albatross in their element.

With the blessing of some extended itineraries we achieved some exploratory firsts for the Vavilov. We were able to achieve a landing on Steeple Jason in the Falklands - home to the largest population of black-browed albatross on the planet. Always a challenge to visit in a wave and windswept location, we were all delighted to safely land and view its inhabitants. Many of the staff and crew had attempted this visit on previous seasons to be thwarted by huge swell not allowing Zodiac operations.

We sailed into King Haakon Bay (South Georgia) where Shackleton first landed during his epic journey after the Endurance was crushed in the Weddell Sea. We arrived early and conditions were perfect. King Haakon Bay is not well surveyed and we had to employ some ingenuity to get the Vavilov into the Bay. We led the Vavilov in. After some tense checking we found safe position off Peggotty Bluff in King Haakon Bay and we were all able to go ashore in a scenic and wildlife rich landscape, also where Shackleton commenced his incredible crossing of South Georgia to bring help to his stranded expeditioners on Elephant Island.

We enjoyed the company of a commander of a British nuclear submarine who served during the 1982 conflict and gave a presentation about his and his crew’s experiences on board, entering the conflict and returning home when all the food ran out! The only limiting factor on a nuclear submarine is provisions, they make their own water, air and power and only go to port for food and munitions.

We also enjoyed travelling with a passenger who had a strong connection to the Antarctic and the Peninsula in particular. Sue Ryder’s father (Lieutenant Robert E.D. Ryder) had skippered the Penola on the British Graham Land Expedition of 1934 which was led by Australian John Rymill. For those interested in Antarctic history John Rymill’s account of the British Graham Land Expedition Southern Lights is recommended. Also advance notice that Lieutenant R.E.D. Ryder’s story is expected to be published in 2011 and the current working title is A Reluctant Hero. Sue had her father’s diaries and charts and shared her father’s story with us. We were able on that Antarctic Circle journey to visit the British Graham Land Expedition’s Northern and Southern overwintering sites which brought tears to Sue’s eyes and gave extra meaning to all who shared her journey. Sue also painted her impressions of the Antarctic during the voyage, putting brush to canvas to capture this wondrous landscape.

What a memorable season…"

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