Hidden Brook Press
ISBN – 978-1-897475-36-2
Over 350 pages
of stunning colour photographs
history, travel tips, nature facts
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A Must Read
for Anyone Even Interested in Antarctica
Antarctica - First Journey
by Geoffrey Carpentier
ISBN - 978-1-897475-36-2
– About the Author
– Testimonials about the Book
– Table of Contents
The mystique of the Antarctic enthralls everyone, but few dare venture to its icy shores. But for those who do, a myriad of questions arise - what do I wear? What will I do? What will I see? How do I prepare? Geoff, a veteran expedition guide, brings you his knowledge and experience through the pages of this fun and informative guide. It is packed with interesting facts about wildlife and the many, varied and interesting sites you might visit when down there. Detailed information on history, ice, snow, weather, glaciers, safe travel, protecting yourself and your possessions, effective packing and so much more certainly makes this one of the most informative guides ever written about the Antarctic, South Georgia and the Falklands. The book includes a rare compilation of marine superstitions, which is both educational and in some cases hysterical! Whether a seasoned traveller or one new to the game, this book will undoubtedly make your dream of conquering the Blue Continent a reality.
About the Author:
Geoff’s interest in nature began at 13 years of age when he wandered through the woods and countryside near his Canadian home, learning about nature first hand. From the time he went to university to study wildlife to when he worked for Parks Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, he has dedicated his life to protecting and studying wild things – be they birds, mammals, insects or plants. After his retirement in 2006, Geoff headed off on a new career path, where he put his life long studies to work – he became an expedition and interpretive guide. He has led numerous trips to Antarctica, Svalbard, Russia and Alaska, eastern Europe, Cuba, Borneo and Tanzania. A prolific author, Geoff wrote a previous book on mammals, is widely published in nature magazines and newspapers.
Specializing in both tropical and polar environs, he has travelled the world, visiting over 55 countries on all seven continents, where he has shared time with polar bears, Amazonian snakes and piranhas, observed the private lives of lions, avoided riots in Venezuela, hiked the Andes, camped with Pademelons, walked with penguins and canoed Ontario’s northern lakes.
Testimonials about the Book:
I have gone over the book a little at a time, trying to come up with SOMETHING to suggest, but it's all so well done that I couldn't find things to complain about! This book is going to be so valuable for people contemplating a trip south, and there's a perfect niche for it, since people inevitably have a huge number of questions in mind and can't find the answers easily. It is a pleasure to recommend this book to travellers.
Kenn Kaufman, author of the “Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America”
My wife Angie and I were fortunate to sail with Geoff to Antarctica. Geoff is not only a wonderful teacher but has taken this gift and applied it to his book, cramming it with useful information. It is the kind of book that you will wish you had read before setting out on your travels and it will certainly prove a mine of information when you have long forgotten what you learned on board the ship.
There are many books about Antarctic wildlife and how to identify virtually everything that lives there, visits by cruise vessels, preparations and planning before the big event occurs, but this book concentrates on many things others do not, mainly for first-time visitors. As a veteran traveler and staff member on Antarctic cruises, the author anticipates the issues that might at first seem perplexing to anyone planning to visit Antarctica, and covers them in detail. It is a worthwhile purchase in order to prepare for a visit, as well as to have on hand while there. Recommended for all first-time travelers, as well as veterans to read what you have been missing.
I worked with Geoff Carpentier in Antarctica during the production of my award-winning documentary, The Antarctica Challenge: A Global Warning. His expertise in penguin study and the changing environment in Antarctica made for a valuable contribution to my film. Before you travel to the remotest place on Earth, be sure to read this book. You’ll be glad you did!
Mark Terry, Producer, Writer, Director – “The Antarctica Challenge: A Global Warning”
Travelers considering a trip to the Antarctic invariably have a million questions about what to expect and how to prepare. Veteran leader, Geoff Carpentier, has heard all the questions and knows all the answers, and in this volume he gives you everything you need to know, presented with engaging wit and style. If you're planning a trip to the Antarctic Continent, or even daydreaming about going there someday, this book is essential reading!
Kim Kaufmann, Executive Director, Black Swamp Bird Observatory
The remoteness of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean has been their salvation, helping to preserve them as close to true wilderness as anywhere on Earth. But we cannot forget the fact that, in the not so distant past, man was responsible for the slaughter of whales and seals here on a massive scale – millions of animals were killed. Now, as never before, Antarctica represents a test of our resolve. For the moment, man’s claims of ownership to Antarctica are on hold. The Antarctic Treaty governs Antarctica on a voluntary basis: the Protocol on Environmental Protection imposes a 50-year moratorium on extracting oil and other mining minerals. But how effective is this piece of paper? At best Antarctica promises man a chance to do something that he has never done before – commit to the preservation of a vast wilderness simply because it exists. If we fail, a priceless heritage will be lost forever.
Jonathan and Angela Scott - Nairobi, Kenya
To Kim, Tamara, Scott, Timothy and Leslie
No effort, as great as that which was expended in producing this book, can be done without sacrifice and encouragement by others. My wife, Kim, has been by my side twice to the Antarctic, camped with me on the ice, swam with me in bone-numbing water, sat with me amongst penguins and shared in so many of the memories I will now share with you. Throughout the many months it took to complete this book, her unfailing support, constructive criticism, thoughtful suggestions and undaunting caring made the book what it is. My children, Tamara, Scott and Timothy, have lived with my wanderings all their lives and have accepted that it is something I must do. I know they understand the compelling reasons I wander, for each in his or her own way is a wanderer as well. And with your indulgence, I wish also to remember and honour my “baby sister”, Leslie, who passed away suddenly during the time I was writing this book.
The writer and poet, Bruce Chatwin maintained that all human beings retain something of the nomad, the wanderlust that must have been an essential part of humanity from the time our early ancestors stepped out of the forests to hunt and gather in the African savanna. The urge to set out on a journey or to see what lies over the horizon is as much a part of our being as the affinity my wife, Angie, and I feel for nature when we travel to places like the Serengeti or the Masai Mara in East Africa or to our other great love, Antarctica.
Africa and Antarctica are poles apart in terms of scenery and wildlife, even though they were joined together 200 million years ago as part of the supercontinent Gondwana, which included what is now Australia, India, Africa, Madagascar, New Zealand, New Guinea, Arabia, Antarctica and South America. As much as I love Africa’s sunny climate, warm friendly people and its spectacular wildlife, by the time I first visited Antarctica in 1991, I was ready for a change. By then I needed a new photographic challenge. So, when I was offered the chance to travel to Antarctica, I jumped at the opportunity. With a name like Scott, I had always felt a connection to the icy Southern Continent. Scott of the Antarctic, as Captain Robert Falcon Scott became known, had failed in his attempt to reach the South Pole ahead of the Norwegian party led by Roald Amundsen. Scott reached the Pole on 17 January 1912 then perished with his four companions on the return journey, an event that sealed the Antarctic’s reputation as the most inhospitable place on Earth. Antarctica is defined by the exploits of men such as these. You can feel their presence out on the ice and you will shudder with respect and admiration at their achievements and their failures. Their stories have a sense of unreality to them – rather like the Continent itself. Merely sharing the same name as that other Scott was good enough for me, even though we are unrelated.
Mention Antarctica to most people and you can almost hear their teeth start to chatter. It conjures up images of some kind of hell on Earth, icicles hanging from beards, fingers numb with cold, a journey blackened by the Antarctic winter. But the frozen south that Captain Scott struggled so mightily to conquer wasn’t the Antarctica that fascinated me. I was captivated by the Antarctic Peninsula, the Continent’s slender tail that reaches north towards the tip of South America, which in summer attracts penguins and seals in their millions to its rugged shoreline.
Visitors normally travel to Antarctica between November and March - the Antarctic summer - when the ice retreats sufficiently for the seals and sea birds to clamber ashore and breed. Though it can be cold, particularly when the wind picks up, there are times when the sky is clear blue and you smother yourself with factor 50 sun block in an attempt to keep the ultraviolet rays at bay. Having been born in Africa, Angie feels the cold a lot more than I do, but it wouldn’t stop her from visiting this magical Continent.
Many people begin their safari to Antarctica with a visit to the Falkland Islands, offering glimpses of Magellanic penguins, raucous, burrow-nesting birds that peer out at you from their burrows in the soft dark earth. Gentoo penguins – the most northerly of the brush-tailed penguins – breed here too, and though there is a small colony of spectacular king penguins that nest among the flocks of sheep on the East Falklands, you will have to visit the remote and ruggedly beautiful Subantarctic island of South Georgia if you wish to see king penguins in numbers. South Georgia is the Serengeti of the southern oceans and biologically part of Antarctica. A visit to St. Andrew’s Bay or Gold Harbour will leave you speechless – if conditions are suitable for landing. The island is fringed with grey pebble beaches where thousands of king penguins and hundreds of gigantic elephant seals crowd the foreshore, the land rising steeply to reveal snow-capped mountain peaks as the perfect photographic backdrop. It is also one of the nesting sites of the most majestic of all sea birds, the wandering albatross that plies the seas on an eleven-foot wingspan. The massive presence of Sir Ernest Shackleton – the explorer’s explorer – hovers over the island too. The legendry Antarctic hero - and Scott’s great rival - lies buried here and tradition dictates that those who visit his grave at the old whaling station at Grytviken raise a glass in his honour. The ‘Boss’ would have approved.
The uncertainty of what you might or might not see is all part of a journey to Antarctica. Travel here means expeditionary cruising and there are no givens. An area does not reveal itself at once; it takes time and patience to savour the seasonal changes that give character to a landscape. But no two years are the same: each month brings changes, which is one of the reasons we keep returning. If you arrive too early then you see penguins building and repairing nests, but no eggs. Our favourite time for photography is December and January when the chicks have hatched, little bundles of fluffy down peeping from beneath their parent’s brood pouch, more appealing than any children’s toy. Activity is frenetic and the noise of tens of thousands of birds at a breeding colony is deafening, a strident cacophony of sound. Yet each voice is different in pitch and tempo, sufficient to act as a unique signal to help maintain the pair bond between adults and to allow chicks to distinguish their parents from among the crowd. Whale watching too is a highlight of any journey to Antarctica. Whales gather in the Southern Ocean to feed during the summer, migrating north again as the winter closes in. Some of the best sightings are later in the season in February and March, when you are virtually guaranteed good views of humpbacks and if you are lucky you will see orcas (killer whales) too.
At the height of summer visitors are out on deck at ten o’clock at night – often later – the sun arching towards the horizon only to emerge again a few hours later, bathing the snow and ice in a pinkish glow. The Continent helps to instill a sense of wide-eyed wonder at our world: inhospitable yet alluring, bigger and more powerful than man and his inventions. It is not just the whiteness. The appeal of Antarctica is multifaceted: the landscape, wildlife and history combine to make a journey there a unique experience. To visit is like turning the pages of a classic piece of literature, each day revealing a new layer of awe and complexity. Antarctica swamps the senses.
Standing up on the bridge at night, keeping watch with the captain and his crew as the ship crunches through the pack ice, is a surreal experience for those of us who spend most of our lives with our feet planted firmly on the ground. A journey to Antarctica – or to Africa – changes your life. It forces you to take a long hard look at the state of our planet and its last wild places. Here in Antarctica, the breathtaking beauty of the landscape, the enormity of the ocean, the remoteness of the land, the distance travelled in getting there – and back – are steeped with the ghosts of the early explorers, all of whom fell under the spell of the White Continent.
So how does one make sense of somewhere as complex and fascinating as Antarctica? Fortunately, in my experience the quality of the on-board lecturers is second to none. As you sail along, geologists and glaciologists explain how Antarctica came into being, revealing ice in all its varied forms. Marine biologists discuss the role of the Antarctic Convergence, the point where the cold, northward-flowing Antarctic surface waters meet and sink beneath the relatively warmer, southerly flowing waters of the other oceans (if you stay up long enough you can actually feel the drop in temperature as you cross the Antarctic Convergence), creating life-giving conditions that allow the Southern Ocean to provide for huge quantities of birds and other animals. Birders spend most of their time on deck with the ship’s ornithologist at hand who will help identify the various species of albatrosses, petrels and penguins and provide details of the latest research on their behaviour. Historians, many of whom have spent months even years in Antarctica, bring an authenticity and authority to their tales, regaling their audience with archival footage depicting the deeds of explorers of the heroic age – the burst of epic expeditions and sledging journeys that took place in the first two decades of the twentieth century and gave us the names Shackleton, Scott, Amundsen and Mawson.
Angie and I were fortunate to sail with Geoff Carpentier on one of our many trips to Antarctica. I say fortunate because Geoff proved the perfect traveling companion and mentor – funny, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. I have always taken a keen interest in birding – I wouldn’t quite call it ornithology – but have been slightly wary of the darkly obsessive and mysterious world that some ornithologists inhabit. I need have had no fear with Geoff to guide me – except for the fear of falling overboard with laughter, because Geoff is not only a wonderful teacher but he makes it fun too, and his interests range far beyond the identification of our feathered friends. Geoff has taken this gift and applied it to his book, cramming it with an extraordinary amount of information; you can read it at your leisure, pick it up and put it down without losing the thread of what the author is so passionate in communicating. It is the kind of book that you will wish you had read before setting out on your travels and it will certainly prove a mine of information when you have long forgotten what you learned on board the ship - and it might just prompt you to pack your thermal underwear and head south to the ice for the first time.
Table of Contents:
Dedication – p.vi
Acknowledgements – p.vii
Artwork and Photographic Credits – p.ix
Medical and Legal Disclaimer – p.x
Foreword – p.xi
Introduction – p.1
Chapter 1: Getting Ready – Before You Go – p.14
Chapter 2: Being Healthy, Staying Well and Avoiding Injury – p.44
Chapter 3: A Land of Ice and Snow – p.73
Chapter 4: Behaving While You’re Down There – p.95
Chapter 5: Penguins, Seals, Krill and Tussac Grass – p.104
– Whales – p.110
– Dolphins and Porpoises – p.116
– Seals and Sea Lions – p.118
– Land Mammals – p.124
– South Polar Plants – p.126
– Insects, Invertebrates and their Allies – p.128
– Fish – p.131
– Sea and Land Birds – p.134
Chapter 6: Where To Go When You’re Down There – p.185
– Islands That Never Were – p.185
– Antarctic Peninsula – p.189
– Falkland Islands – p.242
– South America (Southern Argentina and Chile) – p.253
– South Georgia – p.259
– South Orkney Islands – p.277
– South Pole – p.280
– South Sandwich Islands – p.281
– South Shetland Islands – p.282
Chapter 7: They Walked This Land Before Us – p.302
Chapter 8: Getting There and Coming Home Safely – p.321
Chapter 9: Marine Superstitions – p.327
Index of Scientific Names Used in the Text – p.348
Author Profile – p.355
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