Traveling Nancy

Traveling around the world as far as I can go.

Lemaire Channel and Danko Island


Last night I went back to my cabin and got ready for sleep. Then I looked out our window and noticed that the mountain peaks were reflected in the perfectly still water. So I had to get dressed again to go on deck and take a couple of photos before I could go to sleep.

The sunset in Antarctica was fabulous.

Today has been another incredible day. We began our morning with an announcement from the staff to go out on the deck because we were going to be going through the Lemaire Channel. I think it only took me 2 minutes to put on all of my clothes.

The were telling us a story about these two peaks as we passed them, but I was too busy rushing to really hear it.

Two beautiful peaks in Antarctica

Photographed by Morten Hilmer – Copyright © Morten Hilmer

So I looked up the story on the web.  Una Peaks, formerly known as Cape Renard Towers, are two towers of basalt, each topped by a cap of ice, guarding the northern entrance to the Lemaire Channel on the Antarctic Peninsula.  The were renamed, “Una’s Peakes” by UK Antarctic Place-names Committee in 2008 after Una Spivey, staff member of Falklands Islands Dependencies Survey (FIDS) at Stanley, Falkland Islands.  With the highest summit at 747 meters (2,451 ft), the formation has been long colloquially known as “Una’s Tits.” Remind you of the Tetons?

Some facts about Lemaire Channel.

  • The Lemaire Channel was first sighted by Eduardo Dallman in 1873 and then charted and traversed by Adrien de Gerlache in 1898.
  • He named it for Charles Lemaire, a fellow Belgian, who explored the Congo for King Leopoldo III.
  • Given the right weather, this eleven kilometer and 1.6 kilometer-wide channel is so strikingly beautiful that they call it “Kodak Crack.”
  • The steep cliffs and glaciers of Booth Island to one side mirror the opposite shores of the Antarctic Peninsula.
    • The clear waters gave extraordinary reflections of the mountains.
    • It appears that four different mountain peaks are touching each other.

It was awe-inspiring to watch (and photograph) the skill of the captain as he maneuvered the ship through the icebergs.

We are starting to go through the Lemaire Channel

This is the Lemaire Channel.

Photographed by Heidi Krause © all rights reserved.

I learned from the staff photographer to take photos from eye level. So I was on the floor of the deck holding my camera out through the rails of the deck. Both Morten and Fred took photos of me taking the video.

I was filming from the floor of the deck.

Photo taken by Fred Perry

We are photographing Lemaire Channel and I am on the floor of the deck.

Photographed by Morten Hilmer – Copyright © Morten Hilmer

The sounds of ice crackling and crushing beneath us was amazing.  The captain had to maneuver the ship towards one side and then the other in order to navigate through the narrow opening you can see in this 2 min 45 second video.  Perhaps it will give you a feel for it.

As we got closer to the end of the channel, I was still video taping.  People were talking so I turned off the sound.  It looked like we were just going to drop off the earth when got to the end. My camera battery died before we finished going through the channel.

Sue, Wendy, Andy, Dorene and I had our photo taken on the deck in the channel.

Friends on the deck of the FRAM in the Lemaire Channel.

The plan was to go through the channel and then do a landing on Petermann Island. But after we made it through the channel, they announced that Petermann Island was blocked by ice. So they turned the ship around and went back through the channel. They stopped the ship between Graham Land (which is actual continent) and Booth Island.

We saw this sailboat (a Ketch) named Ocean Tramp sailing through in the floating ice.  I wondered if they had attempted Lemaire Channel.

The Ocean Tramp sailboat went passed us.

It is hard to imagine they managed the Drake Passage in a ketch.

Then each group was taken on a  30 minute Polar Cruise rides.  Andy, Sondra, Sue, and Dorene were having fun on their PolarCirkel boat.

These are people on the PolarCirkel Boat.

Photographed by Heidi Krause © all rights reserved.

Tessa, our expedition guide showed us how to tell the difference between glacier ice and ice that is formed on the water. Sea ice is frozen ocean water that grows and melts in the ocean. Icebergs, glaciers, and ice shelves float in the ocean but originate on land.  Some have bubbles and some do not. There is also clear ice which is the most dangerous for ships because they cannot see it. We all took photos as Tessa showed us the samples.

We all took photos as Tessa explained about the icebergs.

Photo taken by Fred Perry

Teressa showed us samples of ice.

Another sample of ice.

See-through ice chunks are made from compressed glacier basal ice and are clean and pure enough to drink. The compressed air present in the ice bubbles away as it melts.  This clear ice called a “Growler” and can be the size of a truck or a grand piano.  They can extend t less than three feet above the sea surface and occupy an area of about 215 square feet.  They are difficult to see and can be hazardous to ships.

 Tessa gave a piece of this ice to Ann and she used it in her drink tonight.  Ann said it was ice she had ever tasted.

This ice is from a glacier and tastes fantastic

We watched penguins swimming and a beautiful Seals resting on a sheet of ice.  I think these are the Weddells.

Crabeater Seals on the floating ice.

Photographed by Morten Hilmer – Copyright © Morten Hilmer

We also saw a Crabeater Seal resting on some ice.

Crabeater Seal is resting on the ice.

Photographed by Morten Hilmer – Copyright © Morten Hilmer

You can see in this photo how close they took our PolarCirkel boats to the icebergs.

We got close to the icebergs.

We returned to the ship and Fred, Dawn, Rich, Bill, and I sat on a protected corner on the deck in the sun talking with another couple. It was so warm that we had to take our jackets off. Those four people have been so much fun. I am continually laughing when I am around them.  When I look at the photo of Fred and me, I am stunned by the beauty of the mountain behind us.

What beautiful mountains behind Fred and Nancy

We then traveled to Danko Island. We arrived at about 18:00. The expedition team went out to scout out and set up the hike for those of us who wanted to do it. While we were waiting in the observation room one of the icebergs calved. It sent waves across the water to the next iceberg. Searching for a word to describe this spot we finally came up with “Etherial.” It was all so magical.

Those of us who wanted to hike up to the viewpoint signed up on the list.  Fred, Dawn, Rich, Bill, & I were the first ones to sign up on the list.  The expedition staff went out first to set up out pathways for us to walk up through the snow and mush. We had to very, very carefully make our way over some rocks and boulders to get to the snow-covered paths.

It was a pretty steep hike up through the scree, snow, and slippery slopes to the top.

We had to walk on the scree.

The staff members were there to help people up a slippery spot.

A staff member helped us up the hill.

Photographed by Morten Hilmer – Copyright © Morten Hilmer

I had to stop many times to catch my breath.  Fred continued to encourage me.  I have walked on some difficult trails and this one was right up there.

It was so worth the effort.  We could see Cuverville Island from the top. Both of these islands are pretty small.

It was hard to believe I was sitting at the top with the penguins behind me.

I am at the top of Danko Island.

The views from the top were so incredibly spectacular.

What spectacular views we saw from the top of Damoy Island.
Fred is busy taking videos.

Fred is taking videos at the top of Danko Island.

I cannot resist posting more photos of penguins, especially with those peaks in the background.

Adorable penguins especially with the peaks in the background.

How adorable are these two chicks with the adult and the one still sitting on the nest.

Here are two adorable Gentoo.

Then one of the chicks gets fed.

One of the chicks is getting fed.

This is a Gentoo Penguin.

Photographed by Heidi Krause © all rights reserved.

And getting a video of an ecstatic display was an extra bonus.

Everything was so very peaceful.  It was just the penguins, birds, and the views.

Eventually we had to go back down.  Going downhill is usually easier for me, but this downhill was a bit more difficult.  I turned around to photograph the people behind me.

Walking down the scree was also difficult.

The expedition team that sets up our hikes are extraordinary. They work so hard to make every day’s experience a peak experience.

What an unbelievable incredibly outstanding day. This trip has exceeded any expectations I ever had.

Author: Nancy Panitch

Traveling has been a passion of Nancy Panitch's life and she loves seeing how people in other cultures live. Her travels have taken her to many places within the United States, Asia, Europe, South America, and Africa. Being around people inspires her and she has much gratitude for the kindred Souls that are joining together with her in body, mind, and heart. She moved from Chicago to Portland, Oregon in 1982. It was one of the best decisions of her life. While in Portland she stays very, VERY busy. She volunteers (Inter-Religious Action Network, Human Rights Council, & ushering for various theaters); attends a Unitarian Universalist church; goes hiking with groups (Cascade Prime Timers & Trails Club of Oregon) and also with individual friends. Book groups, movie group, and bridge groups occupy her time as well. Her quiet activities include yoga, knitting, Sudoku, and reading. She enjoys all of these activities, but making time to see her wonderful 4 grandchildren takes priority over it all. She is happy to share this blog and hopes to encourage others to travel.

4 thoughts on “Lemaire Channel and Danko Island

  1. Wow! Never would’ve expected to read about such amazing experiences. And sounds like some great people you’ve met as well!


  2. Reading about all you are doing and seeing,makes me feel really lazy here in Maui.What a trip you are having,good memories and stories to share.


  3. Nancy, you are a gifted writer and a lucky woman. I am grateful to be an armchair traveler along for the journey. Thanks for your words and pictures.


  4. What is the temperature? Is it really really cold? It all sounds so fantastic. Tonya >


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