Saturday, February 4, 2012

Half-Moon Island and Yankee Harbour

As I slowly awakened on the morning of January 4th, I immediately noticed that something was amiss.  As consciousness gradually seeped back into my brain, I became aware that the bed was conspicuously rock-solid steady.  No rocking.  No movement at all.  What time was it, and how long had we slept?  I got up and peeked out through a tiny crack in the black-out curtains... and was driven backwards, temporarily blinded by dazzling  sunshine.  Gee, I thought as my eyes cleared, where's the vicious Antarctic weather that I'd been reading about?    

After a quick breakfast Winnie and I geared up for yet another wet landing on the crescent shaped Half Moon Island.  I imagined later that these two little chinstrap penguins had patiently awaited our arrival.  If you're a penguin in Antarctica, it's probably a big deal. Maybe worth the wait.  (Plus, I just enjoy taking pictures of penguins.  And stuff.)
Chinstraps "We have company coming."

Little over a mile long, the island has a series of cobblestone beaches perfectly designed, by Mother Nature, for zodiac landings.  An old rotted out whaling dory marked our landing spot.
Whaling - Artifacts from days gone by...

Looking back up island from the rocky shore, one can just barely make out the navigation tower that's occasionally maintained by the Argentine government.  Ever since the late 1800's the Argentines, Brits, Aussies, Russians, Germans, Chileans, etc., etc., etc., have been erecting temporary buildings around the shores of the continent, and on its islands, to lay claim to the land (ice?) on behalf of their sovereign governments.  God save the Queen.  Or whomever.  They not only used their flimsy outposts, but in Argentina's and Australia's cases, they used their geographical proximity to their countries in order lend credence to their claims.  If one could have  looked down from upon high, I'm certain that it would have resembled a pack of stray dogs, loose and running amok, pissing on bushes and laying claim for god and country as fast as they possibly could.  Pant, pant, pant.  The United States at that time was poverty stricken by war.  Sound familiar?  Congress decided that since the government couldn't afford to place bases all over the continent, they'd build only one base.  At the geographic South Pole.  It was "proximate" to the whole continent!  We win.

Thank goodness that, for one time, the world finally put it's dumb-assed political differences aside.  The Antarctic Treaty was written in 1959, and put into effect in June of 1961, in spite of the Cold War.  It currently has 49 signatory nations and includes everything south of 60 South Latitude.  I'll do a copy/paste at the end of this little blog, because I think that all the Articles are extremely important and noteworthy.  I so wish the world could extend this thinking to...Oh well, never mind.  Thanks, though.

As you can see, the weather was marvelously mild, with sunny skies and temps hovering around a toasty 2-3C.  As soon as we beached, we began to peal and reveal.  Layered clothes and sunblock.  Just the ticket for a day like today.

And just for the record, the Argentinians actually did build a really nice research station here on Half Moon in 1953 that, in recent years, has only been occupied part time.
Argentina's Teniente Camara Station
Nice, huh.  Climbing the hill behind the station leads to a wonderful vista on a clear day.  On the other 364 days, maybe not so much.

On sunny days like this though, the Weddell seals, stuffed with the abundant krill, just snooze.  Mmmm.  Krill and naps.  Naps and krill.  It's the good life, however seldom it occurs on The Ice.
Kind of reminds me of my dogs.

It had been a wonderful, sunny morning.  Next on our agenda:  ride back to the boat, have lunch, and maybe take a nap.  Zzzzz.
This afternoon, Yankee Harbour.

And last, a quick look at:

Articles of the Antarctic Treaty  (from Wikipedia)

  • Article 1 – The area to be used for peaceful purposes only; military activity, such as weapons testing, is prohibited but military personnel and equipment may be used for scientific research or any other peaceful purpose;
  • Article 2 – Freedom of scientific investigations and cooperation shall continue;
  • Article 3 – Free exchange of information and personnel in cooperation with the United Nations and other international agencies;
  • Article 4 – The treaty does not recognize, dispute, nor establish territorial sovereignty claims; no new claims shall be asserted while the treaty is in force;
  • Article 5 – The treaty prohibits nuclear explosions or disposal of radioactive wastes;
  • Article 6 – Includes under the treaty all land and ice shelves but not the surrounding waters south of 60 degrees 00 minutes south;
  • Article 7 – Treaty-state observers have free access, including aerial observation, to any area and may inspect all stations, installations, and equipment; advance notice of all activities and of the introduction of military personnel must be given;
  • Article 8 – Allows for jurisdiction over observers and scientists by their own states;
  • Article 9 – Frequent consultative meetings take place among member nations;
  • Article 10 – All treaty states will discourage activities by any country in Antarctica that are contrary to the treaty;
  • Article 11 – All disputes to be settled peacefully by the parties concerned or, ultimately, by the International Court of Justice;
  • Articles 12, 13, 14 – Deal with upholding, interpreting, and amending the treaty among involved nations.

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