This is the second in a series of dispatches by Ryan Dolan of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ global penguin conservation campaign, who has joined a team of Southern Ocean experts on a research expedition to the Antarctic—in the middle of winter. Pew is a member of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance.
Aug. 9, 2016—Bransfield Strait, Antarctica
We’re finally here in the Bransfield Strait, a place known to Antarctic aficionados for its concentration of wildlife. It is stunningly beautiful—in the distance, icebergs hundreds of feet higher than our vessel tower over the ocean’s surface. I will never forget the moment we encountered our first sea ice. I’d been hearing loud rumbles along the hull from inside the lab on board and could feel the ship vibrating. I ran to a porthole to look out and saw waves of pancake ice—large pieces of sea ice with rounded edges from rubbing against each other—gliding on the waves around us. For me, it marked our true arrival to the Antarctic and gave me a strange sense of comfort, like a blanket of ice was tucking us in for our Antarctic adventure.
Although we continue to encounter large pockets of sea ice, there are vast portions of the Scotia Sea and the Bransfield Strait that are uncharacteristically ice-free this winter season.