Tuesday, 7 February 2012


Photo © Andrew Wenzel

We have written often about wilderness adventure.  About one of the last great frontiers on earth. About the long arduous journey one takes to get to Antarctica.  We have gone to great lengths to get far, far away, to cast off the trappings of city life and immerse ourselves in a remote and wild place. Getting this far away means we are far removed from the safety and care that our cozy modern societies have to offer us at home.  If you get sick or injured, the nearest full facility hospital may be days away. 
Russian Base Bellingshausen, Orthodox church in the background.
Photo © Andrew Wenzel
Yesterday evening one of our guests, a senior gentleman, slipped and fell awkwardly while on shore resulting in a rather severe injury to his hip.  We have an excellent Doctor and nurse on board Fram that are available 24 hours a day, 365 days/week plus a well equipped hospital.  But many injuries and illnesses require special attention and this was one of those injuries.  Fortunately we were at Halfmoon Island when the accident occurred.  Fortunate because we were within a few of hours sailing to the Chilean Base Eduardo Frei on King George Island where there is a landing strip from where someone can be medi-vacced. 
Eduardo Frei, Chilean Base and Bellingshausen,
Russian Base, King George Island.
Photo © Andrew Wenzel
A series of radio and phone calls were made to Eduardo Frei and the medical centre in Punta Arenas.  Very soon a flight from Punta Arenas to King George Island was arranged for the following morning and Fram was on her way to the Chilean Base.  It was remarkable really how efficiently and quickly everything was arranged.  Really remarkable when you consider that we are on a ship in Antarctica.
the last we heard the gentleman was doing well in the hospital in Punta Arenas.
But then what?  Obviously we had made a big change in our itinerary.  Well, just as smoothly, arrangements were made for us to visit the chuilean Base and the Russian base, Bellingshausen in the morning while we waited for the flight to arrive.
Our nurse, Cecilia and Marilyn from reception at
The Great Wall, Chinese Base, King George Island
Photo © Andrew Wenzel
It was beautiful morning.  We got to walk around both bases and even had time to hike over to the Chinese Base “The Great Wall.”
In the afternoon we visited a Gentoo Penguin colony on Ardley Island which lay about 500 metres off shore from the bases we had visited in the morning.
We had fair weather.  It was partially sunny with a cool breeze.  The chicks were all off the nest and roaming all over the landing site.  They are now at the age when they are the most fun.  There is a stage Gentoo chicks go through when they are very inquisitive and often will approach people.  On numerous occasions I saw curious chicks pecking at people’s clothing or boots while the object of the penguin’s attention stood in rapt wonder over this unexpected intimate encounter with a wild animal. Sometimes one chick would suddenly run amok, flapping its wings furiously and squawking shrilly.  These frantic antics never failed to make me laugh out loud. 
Photo © Andrew Wenzel
Yesterday we had feeding Humpback Whales right alongside the ship.  We saw our first penguins and hiked to a stunning viewpoint overlooking the sea and glaciated mountains.  Today we had penguins pulling on our clothing.  Imagine that!  

You can’t have these amazing encounters whilst safely ensconced in a comfy armchair at home.