"POLAR DUKE" 1999-2000 EXPEDITION
On Friday 26th November 1999 I was lucky enough to spend an hour on board the well known Antarctic exploration vessel "Polar Duke" with her Norwegian Skipper, Karl Sanden. The "Polar Duke" has an interesting history. She was built in 1983 as a specialised Polar research vessel for Norwegian Reiber shipping A/S and is registered at Bergen. Between 1985 and 1997 she was chartered to the American National Science Foundation to provide logistic support for the American research in the Antarctic Peninsula area with regular sailings between Punta Arenas in Chile and the main US Base, "Palmer Station" on Anvers Island. She also assisted in many marine and polar research tasks in the peninsula area. In 1997 she was replaced by the purpose built "Laurence M Gould" and returned to Reiber Shipping. For those interested you can see a fine tribute to the "Polar Duke's" work for the Americans at the following web site which also has lots of nice photos;
NSF tribute to RV "Polar Duke"
After finishing the American charter, Reiber used the "Polar Duke" on North sea oil rig support work.
The "Polar Duke" loading supplies at Lyttelton
For the 1999-2000 Austral summer season the "Polar Duke" was chartered by the German research organisation EGR for an extensive scientific programme based in the Seas and along the coastline of Victoria Land in The Ross Dependency. The GANOVEX VIII Expedition was led by Chief Scientist Dr Detlef Damaske and included both German and Italian scientists on board. The main types of scientific work included magnetic sampling, geological sampling along the coastline and seismic recording work.
The "Polar Duke" arrived in Lyttelton early Wednesday morning (24th November) and after refueling at the oil wharf she berthed opposite the American Ice breaker "Nathaniel B. Palmer" in the inner harbour. The following day she was busy loading all sorts of general and scientific supplies when I visited her. Captain Sanden said they were having trouble fitting everything in and at that stage still had 4 helicopters to load!
This interesting view of the Lyttelton Inner Harbour shows the red hulled "Polar Duke" in front of the also red hulled "Nathaniel B. Palmer" In the foreground can be seen the four Helicopters (N.Z.) Ltd aircraft waiting to fly onto the rear deck of the "Polar Duke"
I was very pleased that the Captain could spare time for me.
He told me that he has been down to the Antarctic many times. Several times of course with the "Polar Duke" but also several times as captain of its sister ship, the "Polar Queen" including once before to Lyttelton back in 1985-86 when it operated as the Expedition ship for the first Italian Antarctic Expedition.
He was kind enough to autograph a few covers I had hastily prepared and in addition I was able to have the ships official cachet applied to these and a few others which will provide a great record of the visit.
"Polar Duke" Reiber Shipping Emblem
Captain Karl Sanden in the chart room of "Polar Duke"
The bridge of the "Polar Duke"
The above view shows the open back of "Polar Duke"
The "Polar Duke" had 4 helicopters to load which seems like a lot of aircraft for a relatively small vessel. On the following day when I visited the vessel again I found all four helicopters lined up on the wharf. They are all supplied and crewed by Helicopters (NZ) Ltd which is the leading private provider of helicopter services to Antarctic Expeditions. I was lucky enough to have a good talk to one of the pilots who will be flying in the Antarctic. He said all 4 helicopters will be used for general purpose work at the disposal of the Scientific parties.
The above photos show the four helicopters carried on the "Polar Duke" which in the two left hand photos can be seen in the background. All the helicopters are Aerospatiale Squirrels with the first three shown being A5350B2 variants while the bottom right one flying is a slightly older A5350B variant.
Helicopter landing on helipad of "Polar Duke"
Rotar Blades being removed for storing
Helicopter being prepared for storage
Boxed Propeller Blades being craned into hold
Two helicopters already stowed under deck
Well badged Helicopter equipment locker
While in the Antarctic the "Polar Duke" will receive another Italian scientific party from the New Zealand research vessel "Tangaroa" which will be involved in similar work in the area between the Dibble and Ninnis Glaciers. The "Polar Duke" will return to Lyttelton on 6th March 2000. Following this she will return to the same Antarctic area for a further month to complete some seismic research.
To view some nice covers from the above Lyttelton Port visit of the "Polar Duke" click here.
during the visit to Lyttelton, Captain Karl Sanden kindly offered to keep me up to date on the Expeditions progress via fax and the following is his first fax sent on the 12th December 1999.
|FAX FROM CAPTAIN KARL SANDEN - 12 DECEMBER 1999
Here is an account of the trip so far. I will update once a week as on a daily basis it is much the same. Hope this is not too long.
The Polar Duke LACS4 departed Lyttelton New Zealand at 2300 November 27 1999, bound for Antarctica. We have a truly mixed crew on board the ship. There are 10 German and 7 Italian scientists, 2 New Zealand mountain guides, 7 New Zealand helicopter pilots and engineers. The ships crew comprises of 6 Norwegians, 3 Canadians and 4 Phillipinos.
Our expedition is called GANOVEX V111. GANOVEX stands for German Antarctic North Victoria Land Expedition. It is a joint German and Italian venture doing aeromagnetic surveys, geology and gps mapping. We have 4 helicopters with us.
After sailing from Lyttelton we head on a course of 180, south, heading for Yule Bay, a distance of 1678 nautical miles. There is a south west wind of 35 knots and a 2 meter swell, a sign of things to come. For the next five days we have high winds up to 50 knots and 8 to 10 meter seas. The non sailors are finding it tough going. We cross 60 south at 1624 Thursday 3 December 1999.
The next day at 1200 in position 63 13S 175 25. 4E we meet the ice edge. It is 3/10ths in strips. We now head towards the Ballaney Islands with the intention of heading South West. The ice becomes a lot thicker, 8/10ths 2nd year ice in medium size floes and for two days we make very slow progress. When in ice it is often a case of 10 miles in the right direction 5 miles in the wrong direction. We use the helicopters to good advantage by making regular flights to spot the best routes. Finally the ice loosens and we head to the south west again.
On Wednesday 8 December we are 90 miles from the coast and head to the south east for more open water. On Thursday 9 and Friday 10 we make good progress in iceberg infested waters. I count 38 in a line stretching out 7 miles from the coast. At 1252 Friday 10, in position 70 06.15S 165 11.5E, 30 miles north north east of Cape Williams. We ram the ship into the fast ice, so we do not move around. We have finally arrived 12 ½ days since leaving Lyttelton. In the Antarctic Pilot it says that the area between the Ballaney Islands and the coast is nearly always impassable. We are proud to have made it.
Helicopter operations start immediately with one going into Littel Rocks to establish a base camp and two more establishing fuel depots. This will be our regular routine for the next few days with the helicopters flying to and from the ship all day.
This far south the sun does not go down so we have daylight all day long. It gets a little bit warm but the average temperature is minus 8c. We have had some visitors in the shape of Adelie and Emperor penguins, Minke and Orca whales and crab eater seals. Birds seen so far on our trip south, wandering albatross, sooty albatross, storn petrel, cape pigeon, snow petrel, fairy prion, skua and giant petrel."
Karl Sanden, Master Polar Duke.
Here follows Karl Sanden's second report written from the Antarctic coast on December 21st
this is our next report.
Polar Duke 7006.8 South 165 12.8 East. 21/12/99
At the time of writing we are just starting to come out of a little storm. Since the 18th of December we have been getting sustained winds of up to 65 knots from the east south east. This is a result of a low pressure system around the Balleny Islands. We had to abandon our station at the ice edge and move around for a night and eventually found a place to get into and stay. We are amongst a string of 11 icebergs so a sharp lookout is kept. They can move very quickly once they start.
The base camp is well established at little rocks, which is 100 miles from the ship. Two helicopters are working the camp and have set up 12 scientific stations throughout the interior. Work continues on geology and geodesy. The scientists are measuring how fast the Rennick Glacier is moving, how fast the earth's plates are moving and the magnetism of the earth's field. It is interesting as we are close to the South Magnetic pole. They have been able to work whilst we are down for weather even though they are only 100 miles away.
The aeromagnetics from the ship is going well with several legs complete. We will start again once the wind subsides a little more and the visibility improves. The daily work for the ships crew continues as normal as we are now into a well established routine. The pilots and onboard scientists find the time a little long and busy themselves with work on their equipment.
We take this time to wish everyone a merry Christmas from the crew of the Polar Duke".
Karl Sanden, Master Polar Duke.
|3rd Report from Karl Sanden, master of the "Polar Duke"
Wednesday, January 5th, 2000 11.41pm.
Polar Duke 69 42.5s 161 34.3E.
We now find ourselves 65 miles further to the west than our last report. We are now at the head of the Rennick Glacier along the fast ice and 29 miles from the coast.
Our trip around was relatively uneventful and took us about 15 hours to get here. We had a beautiful night (although the sun never set) and followed the fast ice edge around. There was a lead all along the edge. This was mostly due to a little southerly wind pushing the loose ice north and off the edge of the fast ice. There were a few tricky spots to get through and a string of icebergs to weave around but good going was made.
Our aeromagnetics has finished phase one and has started on phase two. The geologists are still collecting rocks and have found some interesting samples. this included a 1-meter wide seam of coal and some fossilized wood. There is some work going on with paeleomagnetics, the magnetism of rocks. This branch of science helped prove the theory that Antarctica was once joined to Australia and India in one continent called GONDWANA. Several more gravity stations have been established. The seismologist believes that he has recorded a small earthquake that took place around the Macquarie Islands late in December. A check of his data when he brings his equipment back to the ship will confirm this.
An interesting discovery was made by two of the crew on a trip to Thala Island, a small island in position 70 37S 166 05E. While on the island to check on a base station, John Hargreaves the Ist mate, from Harbour Grace, Canada and Ash Clarke helicopter pilot, from Fox Glacier, New Zealand found in a stone cairn an old English sweet can.
In the can was a letter dated 1962 and an Australian penny. The letter was from the original Anare expedition that discovered the island and named it after the Danish ship they were using called the "Thala Dan". Photos were taken and the text copied down and it was returned to its original position in the cairn. The text is as follows;"A.N.A.R.E. On Sunday, 11 February, 1962, members of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions landed on this island from the ship "Thala Dan" (Captain Hans Neilsen) and raised the New Zealand flag. The ship anchored close offshore. An astrofix was taken by Syd Kirby, surveyor; geomagnetic observations were made by William Burch, geophysicist; and a geological collection was made by Chris Gregory, geologist. A census of the birds on these two islands was taken by Dr. Noel Orton. The Magnetic observations were taken from a point 100 yards from this cairn on a true bearing of 069. Flights were made in the Expeditions Beaver aircraft by Squadron Leader Norman Ashworth and pilot officer Gary Cooper, R.A.A.F. Antarctic Flight to photograph the coast as far west as the Pennel Glacier. The ship remained at this anchorage for more than a week while A.N.A.R.E. men visited other parts of the coast by helicopter and completed an extensive programme of mapping. Phillip Law Leader 18/2/62 U Littlewood Lieutenant."
The entire field party and helicopters returned to the ship on New Year's eve. It was a chance to clean up and do some washing after almost three weeks in the camp. A small gathering was held on the fore deck at 23.45 and the New Year was ushered in. The ships crew were on standby for the Y2K rollover but fortunately there were no problems. Due to overcast skies and flat light, which impairs the pilot's visibility, the field party had to stay on the ship for New Year's day, which was ok for some. They have now returned to the camp and their work continues.
A happy 2000 to all.
Karl Sanden, Master. "Polar Duke" 5 January 2000.
|4th Report from Karl Sanden, master of the "Polar Duke"
January 23 2000
Polar Duke. Matusevich Glacier. King George V Land. 68 56.5S 157 14.4E.
Science continued for the week following the New Year. All seemed well pleased with the work that was acomplished so far. On Sunday January 9th, the field camp at Littel Rocks and every one in the camp moved back onto the ship. The next day we picked up the remaining shore stations. We now have to transit to the east to Cape Adare, at 71 17S 174 14E, to meet with the Italian support ship "Italica". It is planned to change out some scientists and get some new ones for the second leg of our trip. It will also allow our ship to take on fuel, helicopter fuel and some supplies.
To get to Cape Adare leaves us with two options. We can either follow the fast ice edge east, around 238 miles or a day and a half, or go to the west and follow open water to the Balleny Islands then the ice edge to Cape Adare, around 860 miles or 4 days. Both routes are risky and not liable to hold up to the figures. Our ice maps and satellite images show us it is possible to get along the fast ice edge.
At 0800 January 10th in position 69 32.25S 162 18.7E we head to the east. We make good progress until midnight when we can get no further due to heavy pressure on the ice and we stop for the night. This turns into two days and we actually drift 15 miles in the wrong direction. To compound matters we are in an iceberg field and have to be ready to move at a moment's notice. On Thursday the 13th the pressure eases on the ice and we start to move again. Some times we can proceed at full speed in open water and at other times it can take two hours to go a half-mile. At 1800, in position 69 059S 166 04.5E we break into open water and follow the fast ice edge around. The "Italica" has now moved 65 miles further south to Cape Hallet. It is from here we will use our helicopters to establish a fuel depot at Football Saddle.
We have a good run during the night and at 0600 two helicopters proceed to Cape Hallet over the coast to start the depot. the ship continues the journey and makes good time in 3/10ths ice.
We rendezvous with the "Italica" at 2300 on the 14th. Four and a half days after we left. At 0430 the next morning we tie up alongside and commence our refueling. Everything goes well and by 1500 we are under way again. We now have the same problem as when we came as in which route to take back to the west. As the next leg will be further to the west and the weather is not good for helicopter flights, it is decided to go via the Balleny's.
As the ship has been in the ice for a month there has been no real movement and as soon as we get into open water we start to move. The non-sailors onboard are finding the going tough but as soon as we get in the ice they are fine. We are now proceeding for the Matusevich Glacier and leg two of our expedition.
Our route takes us northwest to the north end of the Ballenys, then west and southwest then south to the Matusevich. It is a little tougher than we expected and a little longer. And after almost continous steering from the crows nest by the captain and mates and numerous helicopter flights we reach the Matusevich. At 2100 January 22nd we are alongside the glacier. After a quiet night science begins today at full pace.
Karl Sanden. Captain.
Karl also faxed a map showing the route of the "Polar Duke" during its time off the Antarctic coastline. I have tidied it up, and added colour to make it more easily understood.
To see this map click here.
|5th Report from Karl Sanden, master of the "Polar Duke"
Thursday, February 10th, 2000
"Polar Duke" - Matusevich Glacier, King George V Land 68 56.5S 157 14.4E........................................................ The Aeromagnetics are continuing along with the Geomagnetics, geophysics, Seismology and Geology.
One new science is the Radio Echo Sounding. this is where they measure the thickness of the ice and map the features of the land underneath the ice. The radio waves can penetrate to a thickness of 4,000 meters. A frame in the shape of the roof on a house is suspended under the helicopter and is flown on a pre-plotted track. the whole frame acts as a giant aerial. Alec Forsythe, the pilot, of Lower Hutt in New Zealand tells us that it has taken him a couple of flights to get used to flying it. It is suspended 10 meters under the helicopter and flown at 50 knots at a altitude of 100 meters. It takes a lot of concentration to keep it at the right speed and altitude. The scientists have already determined that the Matusevich Glacier, which is 65 miles long including a 12 mile ice tongue, is 150 meters thick over the water and 2000 thick at the base. It is advancing to the north-north-west at the rate of 2 meters per day and rises and falls 1.5 meters with the tide.
The Geologists have not got many sites to pick from as most of the rock is covered with ice. this will only get worse the further west we travel. But they are well pleased with the samples they have obtained. Martin Olesch has found an outcrop of interesting rock that is fairly unique in the combination of elements that makes it up. It is Vesuvialite-diopside-calsilicate-fells.
The sun is finally starting to set. We are getting a couple of hour's twilight now. The suns path is getting noticeably lower and when it does go down it is rising further to the east. This will be the start of darkness, something we have not had since early December.
One new feature of the glacier is the walking path that has been established by our two kiwi field guides, Maurice Conway of Thames and Brian Staite of Tokaanu. It is a 3-kilometer long flagged path that goes toward the middle of the glacier. It takes over an hour to walk the whole distance to and from the ship, a total of 6 kilometers. As exercise is at a premium it has become a popular walk during our stay. the benefits are quickly felt. After being on the bridge for 6 hours or flying a helicopter all day it is nice to get out and "stretch your legs", then enjoy a good sleep. The scenery is beautiful and once you are a short distance from the ship the only thing you hear is your own breathing. It is so quiet. Everyone who goes outside must wear sunglasses as the reflected light off the ice can quickly cause sun blindness, as a few crew members have already found out.
Although we have had good weather we have also had a problem with the light over the ice. Whilst the ship has been under blue skies the Plateau has been under cloud. this makes it very difficult for the pilots to fly. Alec tells us that when the ice and the sky blend together there is no horizon, which gives the pilot no reference to go by. This is called "flat light" and is almost the same as flying in fog. As there are no outcrops of rocks on the plateau either to give them reference points, the pilots have been forced to return to the ship as a safety precaution.
Our walk has now turned into quite an event. There is some serious walking going on out there. What was once a leisurely stroll on the galcier has become a time trial. the stopwatches are out and the competition is stiff. one crew member has been walking the glacier at different times during the day to see when the ice is at its best for walking. He will then wait for the right time and try his best. By the time we move on we should have a winner, although we will all say we have the best time. one good thing is that after almost three months on the ship we are all still in good spirits. who was the fastest? First place goes to Wilfred Korth of Potsdam, Germany followed by Vidar Paulsen of Kjollefjord, Norway who gave a valiant effort.
On February 3rd, with only three days work left in this area, we observed an intense low moving in from the west on our satellite pictures. We take no chances and put the helicopters in the hold. this turns out to be a good move. the wind increases and by midnight it is blowing 40 knots. At 0600 on the 4th we leave the ice shelf and go into the open water. for the next three days we just go up and down the western side of the glacier. The wind is a steady 60 knots from the southeast. By midnight on the 6th, three days later, the winds have abated and in the morning we return to the shelf and continue our work.
One thing that happened during all the wind was that several large icebergs moved in alongside the ice tongue. As the wind was blowing from the southeast for three days we would have expected them to go west. but they came to the east against the wind. The current had more effect on them than the wind.
On the 8th of February at 0500 all four helicopters are out working on what we hope will be our last day at the Matusevich before we head west towards the Ninnis and Mertz Glaciers. It looks like a nice morning, but things change rapidly. We have two field parties 100 miles from the ship at Scar Bluff, picking up magnetic and seismic stations, when the weather changes quickly. One party makes it back to the ship, the other does not. All the helicopters carry survival kits just in case this happens. They have two tents, sleeping bags, a cooker and food. Three people spend a cold but safe night away from the ship. We have set up a regular radio schedule for contact with them and they are ok. At 0600 the next day they make it back to ther ship to a warm welcome.
The weather is still not cooperating and after several more attempts we leave the Matusevich ice tongue at 0800 February 10th.
We now have less than a month left before our arrival back to Lyttleton. Everything is progressing finely so far. All are well satisfied with the work they have accomplished. The summer season is starting to wind down. Our main contact which is the Italian Station in Terra Nova Bay will be closed for the winter this month.
Karl Sanden - Master, "Polar Duke" 10 February 2000.
6th Report from Karl Sanden, master of the "Polar Duke""Polar Duke", report 6, Mertz Glacier Position 66 43.5S 146 23.7E February 27 2000.
After departing the Matusevich Glacier we head to the north-northwest to go to the Ninnis and Mertz Glaciers. It is hoped to work in the area between the two.
Four hours after leaving we meet the ice and have our first ice recce. It is slow going in 8/10 ice with small floes. At midnight in position 68 30.3S 156 09.9E with the ice under pressure we stop. At 0450 it loosens and we move on again. We make slow progress and by 1100 we are stopped again. We drift slowly to the northwest. Saturday morning at 0300 sees us have a beautiful sunrise with blue skies all around and a diminishing wind that is veering to the southwest.
As we are only 28 miles from the Mawson Peninsula it is decided to try and retrieve the station at Scar Bluff. Pilot Bob McHillenny from Nelson, New Zealand and Italian scientists Giorgio Canova and Egiddio Armadillo both from Genoa leave and are successful in retrieving the station.
After almost a day being stuck we move again to the northwest. On the 13th at 0200 we have 9/10 thin first year ice and a little swell in the water and black skies ahead of us. These are a sure sign of open water. All the signs are correct and we reach open water and proceed along the edge to the west. Later in the night we meet a string of icebergs and have to go around them. this takes about 4 hours. We estimate around 300 bergs in the area.
On Monday the 14th at 1140 we reach the Mertz Glacier. An ice recce tells us that conditions do not permit us to work between the two glaciers, as we would like to. Also the flight took 45 minutes to go around the edge of the tongue only to discover that it was an iceberg, estimated to be 30 miles by 20 miles in size. The Ninnis ice tongue has broken off and so has the Dibble ice tongue further to the west. This is the first time in many years this has happened. It also accounts for the exceptionally high number of icebergs in the area. We now have to try and find a place to stop and work. The western bottom side is out as there is no fast ice and the shelf is 30m high. There is a 2.5-mile long crack in the glacier near the top, it is narrow but workable. As there are a lot of bergs around we decide to work during the day and move into the open water on the night. At the time of writing we have only 10 to 11 workdays left so we will have to use every minute we can.
Unless you have been on a ship going through ice it is hard to imagine the sound it makes. Some of the crew has resorted to sleeping with earplugs in, but pilot John Roberts of Wanaka in New Zealand has moved his bunk into the hold and on top of a container. We could find him in a hammock next. He is also a prolific reader having read 35 books so far.
Mawson called this part of the coast "The Home of the Blizzard". How right he was. We have strong winds and snow every night and work is limited. We have had contact with the New Zealand research ship "Tangaroa". She is 100 miles to the northwest of us. It is nice to know that we are not totally alone down here.
Work has been very frustrating. We have had 25-knot winds at the ship yet 50 miles away at Penguin Point the winds have been gusting to 50 knots. The aeromag has been successful as they are flying above the wind at 5000 feet. But the other sciences have been very limited. As we have been putting away the helicopters in the hold every night we have been starting early in the morning. It takes around one and half-hours to get them all up and flying. On the 22nd before we have the last helicopter out the first one is back and we race to get them all back in the hold as the wind quickly strengthens. This turns into a three-day blizzard. Saturday the 26th is our last full day of work. The Antarctic treats us well on our last day with blue skies and light winds. The geologists get in a full day of work to the west of the Mertz. At 1835 we depart for Lyttelton with an ETA of March 6th.
Karl Sanden, Master "Polar Duke"
The "Polar Duke" will remain in Lyttelton until the 10th or 11th of March when it will again head south with another German/Italian scientific expedition called "NOVOGIMEX" but that as they say "is another story"
|KARL SANDEN'S 7TH (The Final) REPORT
Well Steven, this is the last report from the "Polar Duke" for the Ganovex expedition. It has been very successful, even though we had a few set backs at the Mertz glacier and did not get as much work done as hoped. There is a third leg to the charter and that is a seismic leg. This should be around a month long.
"Polar Duke" March 05 2000.
Our last days at the Mertz saw temperatures down to -22c and windy giving us a wind-chill of -49c. This caused the forming of new pancake ice, which stretched out from the coast 20 miles. It was time to go. We had a lot of icebergs to avoid for the first 10 hours then it was clear sailing. Our plan was to go north north east to Macquarie Island then north east to New Zealand. A trip of around 7 days. We had light winds but a long northerly swell. We saw a low coming from the west and decided to head north and get on the east side to take advantage of the southwest wind when it passed. Three more lows passed the same way on the crossing. This worked perfectly and despite having 35-knot winds and a 8 meter swell it was on the stern and so we made good time. So good that we have had to reduce speed slightly to make our new ETA of Sunday March 5th.
We made landfall 57 miles south of Stewart Island and proceeded up the coast to Lyttelton. Discharge will commence on Monday March 6th. After discharge of all the GANOVEX equipment, the ship will prepare for the third leg of the expedition. This will be a seismic trip. This also is a joint German Italian project. ETD is around the 11th of March for 35 days.
We have not had much in the way of excitement on our crossing. The highlight has been all the new faces that have appeared. As soon as we left Lyttelton at the end of November some of the crew started to grow beards. After 100 days some have been impressive, but as we have been getting closer to land they have been coming off. The biggest change goes to Alec Forsythe and John Hargreaves. Really just young boys!
We would like to thank all of our followers on this site. It has been our pleasure to keep you informed.
Best regards from the Captain and crew, Antarctic research vessel "Polar Duke".
For some photos taken in Antarctic waters last month during the "Polar Duke's" expedition and also other photos showing her return to Lyttelton click here
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