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Over the last 24 hours we have been zig zagging our way up the Ross Sea. The ship is carefully dodging large areas of sea ice that we don’t want to get trapped in. Captain Dmitry is trying to find a suitable area for us to land so we can walk on Antarctica but the moment Antarctica seems to be putting up big protective barriers to stop us getting on land! We are now sailing south again from Cape Adare to Possession Islands in the hope that those islands are not blocked by ice and we can ‘make land.’

At times we are in smooth clear seas. At other times there are little lumps of ice floating in the sea that have been broken from larger icebergs. These ‘bergy bits’ are called growlers as they can make a growling noise as they scrape along the boat. At times we see a group of penguins or a lone sea sitting on a growler or a slab of sea ice. Sometimes when we are listening to a speaker in the windowless lecture room, the ship will jolt and groan and we know the ship is trying to make its way through thicker slabs of sea ice. For those of us from Canterbury it reminds us of an earthquake! We love looking out from the ship’s bridge or the decks as the ‘Spirit of Enderby’ noses into one of these huge slabs of ice which are the remains of last year’s ice, hairline cracks appear and finally the ice groans and parts and we sail our way through.


pancake ice

At other times we look out to the pretty patterns of the pancake ice. Pancake ice is formed when the air gets cold in Antarctica and there is no wind. A shallow layer of the sea freezes to about 2cm thick. This is called a nilas. With a bit of wind and waves this ice breaks up and bangs into each other which rolls up the edges of the ice forming a pancake or lily pad effect. Snow falls on these lily pads and builds up to a thick layer and so forms this seasons ice sheets.

We are now passing icebergs on a regular basis, some very close to the ship. As we get close to some of the icebergs they change colour from white to a deep blue - why is this? Ice is actually pale blue in colour - so pale that you don’t notice it in small pieces like an ice cubes, but the thicker the ice gets the bluer it appears! What is actually white is the snow reflecting on the outside. As the snow melts or gets washed of by the sea the ice appears as a deep blue. This is similar to a pane of glass. One piece of glass is clear, but when you put lots of pieces of glass together or you look through a piece of glass end to end it appears green.


Polar Plunge

It is very surreal to be passing blocks of as big as football fields that have started their life as rivers of ice at the top of glaciers and been pushed down towards the sea over hundreds of years. It is even more surreal to jump into the icy waters these icebergs float in- but that is what we have done today! Twenty two of the crew took part in an Antarctic plunge this afternoon. In various forms of dress and undress we jumped into the icy waters one by one. I was surprised that the water was not as cold as I had expected. The main sensation was seeing how clear it was under the water and tasting the salt, rather than suffering from an ice cream headache. The on board sauna was a welcome relief and soon warmed us up. Yet another great experience ticked off on the Our Far South voyage.


shack_sunsight1We've had a funny couple of days. Since leaving Ross Island, we've come across the Ross Sea to the mainland of Antarctica, but we haven't had the chance to land. There was too much ice floating around at Cape Hallett, and too much ice sitting on the beach at Cape Adair. So then we went down to look at Possession Island, but there was too much ice there, too. So we had a swim instead! About 12 of us took turns going down the gangplank and jumping off at the bottom. Some of the big people went in bare skin. I didn't think this was a big deal, as I often go about bear skin, but they were all giggly and silly.

shack_swimGuess what. It was cold!! It was the coldest water I've ever been in, and a little bit of ice floated past while I was in the water. It's going to take me ages to get my fur dry. I hope I don't catch a cold.
Apart from that, we haven't done much, because we've had to stay aboard the ship. We've just started heading back toward New Zealand, but to do that, we've got to dodge a big bit of ice before we can head north. Our next stop is Campbell Island, four days away. It's getting rough again, and there's a lot of snow on the deck outside, as though Antarctica is saying goodbye to us.

soggy_shackI've sent a couple of photos. One is me learning to use the sextant, which is a very clever instrument that people used to use to find out where they were by looking at the sun, moon and stars and doing lots of hard sums with numbers. I like using the sextant, but I'm not much good at the numbers. I think I need to go to school to learn maths!
The other picture is of me going for a swim, and then a picture of me after my swim. I look cold and miserable, don't I?


Scott BaseCongratulations to Bret McKenzie for his Oscar - amazing. I hope that you like my jingle too.
Remember if you have any questions you'd like featured in my video diary send them to and we'll do our best to answer them. Thanks for all your letters so far.





Used by permission: Science Learning Hub

Salinity and temperature of the ocean rise or fall (indicated by arrows) in response to rainfall, evaporation and solar radiation. These properties affect seawater density, causing water to sink or rise (indicated by arrows).


Hello to all my friends, especially at Douglas Park School in Masterton,

We're still having the most exciting time ever! Since my last blog, I have been ashore at Cape Royds to the 'Nimrod Hut', which is the one that Sir Ernest Shackleton — my namesake — built in 1907 when he came to Antarctica in his ship, the Nimrod, to try to reach the South Pole. He didn't quite make it to the Pole, and when he got back he told his wife that it was better to be a live donkey than a dead lion. I'm sure he was right, but of course, it's much better to be a bear, especially this bear on this trip.

shackshutThe hut is quite small and quite dark inside. You can see where people slept (including Sir Ernest's bunk: there's a box with his signature on it at the end of his bed!), and there are cans and boxes of food round the walls. I sat on the cold wooden floor and imagined what it would be like to try to keep warm in front of the big iron stove.

Shackelton bear meets King PenguinsOutside, there are lots of boxes, a couple of dog kennels, and a couple of wheels from a motor car that Shackleton brought to Antarctica, just in case it turned out to be possible to drive to the Pole. It didn't. It was too cold for the car to work properly. I don't think anyone knows where it is anymore: perhaps it's in the sea off Cape Royds. Near the hut, there's also an Adelie penguin colony, and although most of the penguins have gone, there were still a few around. They're lovely birds, very curious and cute! While I was at the top of a hill near the hut, I saw about ten killer whales out in the bay, too, and there was an Emperor penguin chick on the ice near the water. I thought it might have been my friend Happy Feet, but it wasn't and the chick didn't know who he was.

It was lovely and warm at Cape Royds, but it was very cold after lunch, when we arrived at the Terra Nova hut. This is the one that Captain Scott built in 1911 when he, too, tried to get to the South Pole (his ship was called the Terra Nova). Poor old Captain Scott got to the Pole OK, but he found that he had been beaten to it by a man named Roald Amundsen from Norway. On the way back, Captain Scott and his friends had bad luck with the weather, and he never made it. His hut is bigger than Shackleton's. There are bunk beds where the men slept, and you can see their big, thick sleeping bags (made from Reindeer skin). Here, too, there are lots of boxes and tins and bottles of food and stuff, and glass pipes and bottles and flasks that they used to science things they found. There was even a dead Emperor penguin on the science table that the men must have been sciencing.

shackeltons-signature-on-bed-headAttached to the hut are the stables, where Captain Scott kept his ponies. He hoped that ponies would help him get to the Pole, but they weren't much good in the snow and ice. I felt very sorry for the ponies, thinking about them. Roald Amundsen used dogs to pull his sledges, and they were very good at it. Some kinds of dogs suit pulling sledges very well, and actually enjoy it. Does anyone know what kind of dogs they are?

I also climbed up the hill next to Captain Scott's hut, where there is another wooden cross. This one is in memory of three men who came here to try to help Ernest Shackleton cross Antarctica from one side to the other. Sir Ernest never made it across, but he managed to keep himself and his friends on the other side of Antarctica alive (it's a very famous story). On this side, though, the men managed to put all the food out in what they called depots, because they thought Shackleton might still be on his way (they didn't have radios, telephones or emails in those days). Three men died and the cross is for them. Another sad place! And it was very cold. My nose was numb!

After we left the huts, we sailed around Ross Island to look at the Ross Ice Shelf. This is a great big line of cliffs about 40 metres high and made of ice! It's the edge of a great big lump of ice that's about the same size as the country called France! We arrived there very early in the morning, when there wasn't much light and it was cold, but it was still amazing to see it.

Then we tried to get to Terra Nova Bay way over on the other side of the Ross Sea, but there was too much ice. We're heading for Cape Hallett now, and we think we'll get there this afternoon.

Best go! The scientists who collected mud from the bottom of the harbour at Auckland Island are going to show us what they found when they looked at it through their microscope!



Inside Shackeltons hut

In Antarctic history the quests of adventurers to be the first to reach the South Pole are well told and amazing stories. One of the best known and well-remembered stories is the race to be the first to stand at the bottom of world, the South Pole. This ‘race’ was between two groups, one led by Robert Falcon Scott from England and the other by Roald Amundsen from Norway. It was Roald Amundsen and his three companions who got to the South Pole first on December 14th 1911. Three weeks later Robert Scott and the other four men in his party arrived at the Pole and found the Norwegian flag flying from a small tent with a note from Amundsen for them in it.  After weeks of walking and hauling their gear through freezing conditions Scott and his men broke down and cried in despair- they were second and now they had to turn around and make the long, hard journey back to their hut at Evan’s Bay. Back at that hut, 20 men who had supported Scott for part of the journey and had laid out food for him to eat on the return, waited and waited for him to get back. They spent their time carrying out scientific experiments, every day hoping that their five friends would be back soon. But as the days got colder and darker and the winter set in, they sadly knew that Robert Scott, Edward Wilson, Laurence Oates Henry Bowers and Edgar Evans were never coming back.  They had died of cold, starvation and exhaustion after being trapped in a storm and were not able to get to a food depot for survival.


Cape Royds landscape

For years I have read of this expedition and looked at the wonderful displays of pictures and artifacts in the Canterbury Museum that show this fateful journey. My dream was to go to where that journey had begun- Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica.  And on the afternoon of February 24th 2012, I was there.


Boots in Shackeltons hut

Walking through the door of the hut a small porch way divides the entrance to the main rooms and the stables to the right. Stepping into the building you are immediately transported back in time. The smell, the light, the furniture, the clothes, the food, all combine to make you feel that you could sit with the party members at the table and either join in Scott’s birthday celebration dinner held on June 6th 1911, or sadly discuss with the remaining members of the party what may have happened to those who had gone on towards the Pole.

Packing boxes divide the hut up into rooms, with bunks for 25 men slotted into spaces throughout the hut. A pair of boots sits neatly under Scott’s bed. A balaclava sits on the sleeping bag with fur stuffing protruding out the side and a pair of socks and a hot water bottle hang on the wall. On the table alongside the bed an Emperor Penguin lies with crayons and paints scattered at its feet. Torch light helps reveal what is in the corner spaces- a medical area, science equipment, a geology lab, a dark room for developing photos, candles, tins of provisions and most surprisingly a telephone that linked this hut with the hut at Discovery Bay.

Leaving the living quarters of the hut and walking down to the dark internal pony stables brings more shivers down your spine. A mass of seal blubber sits leaking out its oil. A collection of eggs sit in a box on the dirt floor and 10 spades are placed against the wall. The stables are black, but shining at torch in shows the feeding boxes and the stencilled names of the stoic individual horses that pulled sleds towards the pole in conditions that they were so unused to, and were then shot. The chained skeleton of a huskie dog is another stark reminder of the sacrifices made by animals and men in the struggle to conquer the South Pole.

Inside terra nova kitchen

Inside Terra Nova hut kitchen

Sometimes you cry because you think about something sad that has happened. Sometimes you cry because you are so happy that something you have always dreamed of has come true. Sometimes you cry because you are overwhelmed with emotion. Leaving Scott’s hut I truly felt that I had stepped into history. And I cried.

Beautiful day in Antarctica

Beautiful day in Antarctica

I didn’t send out a blog yesterday- not because nothing happened, but because so much happened in the day and I didn’t get time! So here’s the first of what we did and saw in Our Far South on 24th February 2012


Cape Royds landscape

The sky was a clear blue and the sea totally calm as we took the zodiacs from the ship to Cape Royds in the McMurdo Sound.  The cape was named after a meteorologist on Scott’s Discovery voyage, Charles Royds. It was here that Shackelton built his hut in February 1908 before setting off to attempt to be first to the Pole. We landed on a black, stony bay and then began the walk over the ridge to the hut. I had thought that going to Antarctic would be an adventure similar to going to the moon, and it felt like I had got the two in one today. Spread out before us was a lunar landscape.  Black rocks and shingle dominated with small gullies of snow giving it an orca whale type pattern. The black rocks had come from Mt Erebus which stood above us, and has been erupted out from below the earth. Now and again a brighter granite rock stood out against the black. These had been deposited in the landscape when a glacier had slowly moved over this land. The geologists call these rocks ‘erratics’ because they look like they shouldn’t belong in this landscape.

Nimrod Hut

Nimrod Hut

We stood at the top of a ridge and looked down to Shackelton’s Hut sitting snuggly in a hollow, with an Adelie penguins colony alongside it. The Antarctic Heritage Trust have spent the last 4 years conserving his hut. As part of the conditions of being some of the only 800 people who are allowed to enter this hut in a year, we made sure our boots were well cleaned, with a double brush and scrub to make sure that any grit that would wear down the wooden floors was gone from our footwear. No more than 8 people went into the hut at any one time and we were very careful not to bump into or touch anything.

We had been told the lovely story of the New Zealand adventurer, Sir Edmund Hilary, visiting this hut. He said that as he opened the door and walked in a very real Sir Ernest Shackelton walked towards him, with his arm stretched out to shake hands. It was this image that I had in my mind as I stepped into the hut.


Shackelton's signature on bed head

Walking into the hut I was surprised with how light and clean it looked. The hut is not large, but was cleverly laid out into areas for washing, cooking, storing food, sleeping and developing photos. A kettle and pot sat on the large stove and a ham hung on the wall alongside. Tins of roasted mutton, minced steak and beef loaf sat on the shelves along with sweet treats like Griffith’s biscuits. A newspaper sat on one bed, and reindeer fur sleeping bags lay on others. Beds were separated by hanging canvas. The bedhead of Shackelton’s tiny bunk was made out of a packing case with ‘Not For Voyage’ stamped on it, and a closer inspection showed Shackelton’s upside down signature in fine blue pen.  Darned socks hung on lines above us and sledges were stowed in the rafters. Outside dog kennels and horse feeders were a reminder of the other important members of Antarctic explorations.


Inside Shackeltons hut

It had been a special day for crew members John McCrystal and Shackelton Bear. Back on board we held a ceremony that mirrored the one that would was held in the Cape Royds hut once a week, on a Saturday night. John generously opened a special bottle of replica whisky as found under Shackelton’s hut. A dash was poured into our blue tin cups. We closed our eyes, transported ourselves back into the hut, gave a toast to wives and sweethearts and saluted Ernest Shackelton and other heroes of Antarctic journeys. Sir Ernest was not there to greet us at the hut today, but his spirit is still truly alive at the Cape Royds hut.


Shackleton and penguinHello to all my friends, especially at St Joseph's Primary School in Auckland!

What an exciting time we've been having! There has been so much to write about in the last couple of days that it's hard to decide where to begin telling you about it all!
Soon after I finished writing my last blog, we got in sight of Antarctica! We could see Beaufort Island and Mount Erebus on the horizon. Soon we could see other bits of land and ice, and the amazing thing about the way they came into view is that the cold air causes things to appear to float above the sea before they slowly settle down again and turn into real rocks, ice and snow. The experts tell me this is called 'mirage'.
As we got closer, Mount Erebus got higher and nearer, and soon we could see Cape Royds, which is where a hut was built in 1907 by a man named Sir Ernest Shackleton, and guess who is named after him!

About the time we got to Cape Royds, the sun set — at 12:30 in the morning! And even then, the summit of Mount Erebus was a beautiful pink colour. The weather was very clear with no wind, and the sea was beginning to freeze. It turned all dreamy and wispy, so that it was hard to focus your eyes on the water as we went through it. It was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen. But it was cold being up on my favourite place on the top deck: I couldn't feel my nose when I came inside.

In the morning — or at least, later in the morning — when we woke up, we were at McMurdo Station, which is the main American scientific base in Antarctica. It's not very pretty, with lots of square buildings and trucks and skidoos (which are like quad bikes with skis). We went ashore in our little inflatable boats through quite thick ice that had formed on top of the sea, and when we got ashore, we were taken in 4WD cars to Scott Base, which is New Zealand's scientific base. It's much, much smaller than McMurdo (which the Americans call 'Mac Town'). There are some scientists and other people there who are preparing to spend all winter there: normally it's a bustling kind of place, but only 14 are going to winter over. Some of them showed us around the base and told us how everything works, and then we had a yummy lunch.

After lunch, we climbed Observation Hill, which has a wooden cross on the top that was built there in 1913 to commemorate Captain Robert Falcon Scott, who set off to be first to the South Pole in 1912 but never made it back. The view from up there was beautiful, but the cross made me very sad. Our ship looked very small down there on the sea, and we could see a whale — a Minke — near it.
In the afternoon, we came back to the ship. The ice had all been blown away, so the water was clear again. It was sunny, and even though it was about four degrees below zero, it was quite warm. We went ashore again to a hut that Captain Scott built in 1902. It's a square wooden building, very dark inside and not very cosy, but very interesting. There were lots of boxes of dog biscuits and even a couple of whole roasted sheep hanging up — over 110 years old! I enjoyed looking around the hut, but it was a bit like the cross: I felt vey sorry for Captain Scott and his men.

shacksealOur Captain decided we should head for Cape Royds, but on the way, he sailed the ship to the edge of the sea ice on the other side of McMurdo Sound. He saw some Emperor Penguins on the ice, so he bumped the bow of the ship on the ice right next to where they were standing. They weren't scared: they came towards the ship, and although we couldn't get off the ship, we could take photographs from the deck. Some seals also popped out of the water onto the ice, and we saw at least one whale spouting in the water in the cracks in the ice, too.

It was a beautiful evening, with no wind and no clouds. We could see everything in every direction — the Ross Ice Shelf to the south, with the big rocky islands called White Island and Black Island sticking through it; the big, jagged Transantarctic mountain chain to the West. Open sea (with ice) to the north); Mount Erebus to the East. We didn't go to bed until very late, when the sun had ducked behind Mount Discovery.
And today we going ashore at Cape Royds! They're calling for us to get ready to go ashore, so I had better go and get my things. I'm going to see where my name came from! Does anyone know what year Sir Ernest Shackleton built his hut, and what the name of his ship was?


A Cartesian diver demonstrates the relationship between volume, mass and density.
A similar principle is used in Argo floats.


What you need

  • Empty clear plastic drink bottle (1.5–2L size)
  • Eye Dropper – one made all of soft plastic is easiest to use, but a glass one with a soft bulb would do
  • Modelling clay (such as plasticine)
  • Open container of water to set up neutral buoyancy of diver

What to do

  • Seal the Eye Dropper with a piece of modelling clay. Start with a ball of clay about 3cm in diameter.
  • Put the diver in the container of water – add or take away clay until the diver floats with the top just below the surface of the water.
  • Fill the drink bottle with water.
  • Put the diver in – it should float at the top of the bottle.
    Make sure the water in the bottle comes to the very top, and screw the top on tight.
  • Squeeze the sides of the bottle. The diver should sink.
  • Release the bottle. The diver should rise.
    Try and get the diver to sit half way down.Get students to explain what they think makes the diver sink and rise. (Watching the bulb of the Eye Dropper as you squeeze the sides of the bottle should give a clue.)

A short film of the voyage to whet your appetite. Share and enjoy.