Sunday, April 10, 2016

April Flowers

Have not put up any flower photos lately, but there have been plenty.
The Heaths and Heather have been pruned, the garlic still has more to go before harvest time, some herbs were planted today and spinach and lettuce was planted a week ago.

Current Blooms:
 Planted these 2 Hyacinth last fall not realizing they would match the Periwinkle.
 Azure Bluets, these delicate plants have lasted very well though out the years. Their light blue color has faded since they first bloomed.

 Had lots of these Winter Aconite this year.

Beers in the Fridge:
Shiner Bock, 4.4% ABV, 13 IBU, just ok, no need to get again. Thin, sweet, bland.
Brooklyn 1/2 Ale (3.4% ABV,) Very nice. Will add this to the rotation.
Weihenstephaner Heffe Weissbier (5.4% ABV, 14 IBU) Made at Bavaria's oldest Brewery. The Eldest and her mann visited and had a good time. Would buy this again.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Antarctic Landings 2016

The Antarctic, January, the Year of our Lord Two Thousand and sixteen.

For the first 3 days off the coast of Antarctica we saw no other ships.
The weather every day was variable, but the thermometer readings were consistent, hovering around 0 degrees Celsius every day.

Locations listed below are shown using Latitude and Longitude in degrees and minutes. A degree and minute of latitude stay constant at 69 miles per degree and 1.15 miles per minute. Longitude degree and minute distances decrease as the distance from the equator increases, lines of longitude meet at the poles.

The Antarctic Treaty provides site guidelines for the Historic sites located in the Antarctic here. We did not visit them all.

Our excursions below the Antarctic Circle (66° 33' 39")

Day 1, Tuesday 19:
67°22' S 69°22' W
This was the furthest south we traveled on our trip.
The First Excursion, a Zodiac cruise at 1:15PM was off the coast of Adelaide Island, near where the letter G is on the left of the map above. The goal was to enter Marguerite Bay and cruise north through "The Gullet"(67°10' S 67°38' W), but the Bay was iced in. This Zodiac cruise was the wettest, if you had not been baptized in the morning as we crossed the Antarctic Circle by King Neptune, you got yours now.
The ship as seen from the Zodiac, off the coast of Adelaide Island.
Day 2, Wednesday 20:
AM: 66° 52′ S, 66° 48′ W
Our first landing was on Detaille Island(AT site guide), near Liard Island in map above. On the island was British Antarctic Research Base "W" used from 1956 to 1959. We visited the hut now maintained by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust. The base is now maintained as it was left.
The landing was uneventful, following a visit to the hut, we trudged up to the lookout point to the left in the photo above.

The pantry containing some well known items.
It is said that HP sauce augments the flavor of Penguin very well.
The hut on our return from the lookout point.

PM: Zodiac cruise in the Lallemand Fjord, south of Detaille Island.
On this afternoon cruise we saw a lot of icebergs, there was no snow today, but the clouds were low.

Excursions above the Antarctic Circle

Day 3, Thursday 21:
The French Passage (bottom left of map above) was taken to get to these islands.
AM: 65°14′S 64°10′W
A Zodiac cruise among the Yalour Islands in the snow. Photography was difficult.
PM: 65°10′S 64°08′W
Petermann Island(AT site guide), this was a tough landing up onto icy rocks. It was still snowing in the afternoon, not such a pleasant day, it was hard to see because of the snow.
The 2 landings were 4 minutes of Latitude apart, about 4.5 miles.
A view of the ship from Petermann Island with staff and Adélie penguins in the foreground. The emergency gear is in the lower left of the photo.
This little yacht was in the harbor when we showed up, not something I would like to do.
Once back on board the ship, we cruised north through the Lemaire Channel with low ceilings.

Day 4, Friday 22:
AM: 64°49’S 63°30’W
A Zodiac cruise in and around Dorian Bay, too windy and rough to land at Damoy Point(AT site guide). There are two huts at this location, the Damoy Hut, a British Antarctic Survey(BAS) hut established in 1975 and an Argentine hut, named Bahia Dorian established in 1953.
British hut in blue, Argentine hut with Argentine Flag.

The first ship we saw since arriving, The MS Bremen, sailing for the Hapag-Lloyd cruiseline carrying 155 passengers.

PM: 64º49'S, 63º30'W
Our visit included Port Lockroy(AT site guide) on Goudier Island, and Jougla Point(AT site guide) on Wiencke Island. The Port Lockroy site is also maintained by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust. The site contains a museum, gift shop and post office, Penguin research is also part of the staff's tasks. The responsibility for our postcards(took 8 weeks to arrive) were handed over to the staff at Port Lockroy, our passports received a stamp from the Staff there as well. Further information about Port Lockroy may be found here.
The approach to Port Lockroy, Bransfield House (Base A) is just visible.
The landing at Port Lockroy was a bit tricky. They had missed 12 boats so far this season(November to March) because of weather. In the 2014-15 season, Port Lockroy was visited by 16,742 people(IAATO statistics).

Bransfield House containing the museum, gift shop and Royal Postbox.

A view of Jougla point, our next landing.

The staff hut at Port Lockroy seen from Jougla Point.  
Day 5, Saturday 23:
AM: 64º53'S, 62º52'W
Argentine Antarctic Base, Almirante Brown Station, from 1951 to 1984 it was a year round base, now summer season only. It is on the Antarctic Continent, our sixth continent. A short hike is required to get to a good view of Paradise Harbor.
This is the first building encountered from the landing site.
 Paradise Harbor.
During our landing, there were workers clearing up the remains from the April 1984 fire started by a disgruntled employee. Middle right of the photo.

PM: 64º41'S, 62º38'W
Cuverville Island (AT site guide) was an easy beach(cobbles) landing with a wide swath of snow leading to a steep set of cliffs. All areas were inhabited by Penguins. The Biologists said the distance the Penguin parents were required to travel to get to their nests had very little to do with the success of the chicks. The island has the largest Gentoo breeding colony in the Antarctic.
 This group of penguins were in the protected area.

Day 6, Sunday 24:
AM: 64°44’S, 62°36’W
Danco Island(AT site guide), easy beach landing, followed by a cruise.

Wilhelmina Bay cruise, north of Danco Island.
We saw Humpback whales.

Day 7, Monday 25:
AM: 64°24’S, 61°31’W
Graham Passage cruise, the passage separates Murry Island and the continent. The scenery was stunning, a highlight was seeing a Leopard seal feeding. Not as gross as expected. A calm and sunny day, nice for a change, but would not have wanted every day to be sunny.

PM: 63°54’S, 60°47’W
D'Hainaut Island(AT site guide) in Mikkelsen Harbor off the coast of Trinity Island. Whale bones and the skeletons of small boats at the easy beach landing site on the northeast side of the island, an Argentine refuge hut is located on the southeast portion of the island. This afternoon the skies turned overcast and the wind started up.

After returning to the ship from D'Hainaut Island, we headed north back towards Ushuaia. The homewards Drake Passage crossing was calm.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Inspector Maigret by Georges Simenon

Penguin Books is republishing the Inspector Maigret novels by Georges Simenon.
There are 75 in total and my goal is to read them all.

I first was introduced to Inspector Maigret by Michael Gambon's portrayal in the 1992-3 TV series. Not sure what PBS station we saw some of them on, but I have since then watched them all on youtube. There were 2 series of 6 episodes. I like the French theme music.

The first novel I read by Simenon was "Monsieur Monde Vanishes", it was a good read, but not of the Inspector Maigret series.

The Maigret novels are not formulaic and in one instance, the suspect does the detection and solves the case for Maigret. He travels here, he travels there, he's gruff, he's laid-back, I find him very interesting. Some reviews of Simenon complain of his writing, I just like the stories.

Here is a Paris Review interview with Mr. Simenon.
Here is a NYTimes essay about Mr. Simenon.

I had a problem finding the order in which Penguin republished the series so I have copied the list below from here.
Some of these reprints have had the titles changed from the original.
The date listed after the title is when I read the book.
  1. Pietr the Latvian, 4/2015
  2. The Late Monsieur Gallet, 3/2016
  3. The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien, 6/2015
  4. The Carter of La Providence, 3/2016
  5. The Yellow Dog, 6/2015
  6. The Night at the Crossroads, 6/2015
  7. A Crime in Holland, 6/2015
  8. The Grand Banks Cafe, 6/2015
  9. A Man's Head, 12/2015
  10. The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin, 1/2016
  11. The Two-Penny Bar, 3/2016
  12. The Shadow Puppet, 1/2016
  13. The Saint-Fiacre Affair, 2/2016
  14. The Flemish House, 3/2016
  15. The Madman of Bergerac, 2/2016
  16. The Misty Harbor, 4/2016
  17. Liberty Bar,
  18. Lock N° 1
  19. Maigret,
  20. Cécile is dead
  21. The Cellars of the Majestic
  22. The Judge's House
  23. Signed, Picpus
  24. Inspector Cadaver
  25. Félicie
  26. Maigret gets angry
  27. Maigret in New York
  28. Maigret's Holiday
  29. Maigret and his Dead Man
  30. Maigret's First Case
The above republished in;
2013: 1, 2
2014: 3 - 14
2015: 15 - 26
2016: 27 - 30

Monday, February 15, 2016

Antarctica Flora and Cold Weather Gear

When landing on the Antarctic peninsula mainland at Admiral Brown Station, we saw our first glimpse of plants in 8 days.

Here is a British Antarctic Survey Overview of Plants in the Antarctic. They state that only 1% of the Antarctic mainland is available to plants.

 Here is what we saw.

Mosses and grass
The grass above is Antarctic hair grass Deschampsia antarctica.
The mosses could be Antarctic endemic moss Schistidium antarctici, and/or/either two co-occurring cosmopolitan species Ceratodon purpureus and Bryum pseudotriquetrum, but don't press me, I'm not a scientist, I only play one on TV. Further reading about Mosses here should you need a sleep aide. I left out the algae and liverworts, neither are my favorites, hence the omissions.

OK, now I got that over with, here are the cold weather clothes I took.

Antarctic Cold Weather Gear list, some items added/subtracted from the photo.
  • waterproof and insulated snow pants
  • fleece jacket
  • down sweater
  • fleece vest (not in photo)
  • 2 hats with ear flaps (didn't lose one so didn't need the other)
  • balaclava (did not use, except to craft a crazy hat) 
  • 1 neck gator (wore every day)
  • 3 pair long wool socks
  • 3 pair medium wool socks
  • 3 pair liner socks
  • waterproof mittens with liners
  • waterproof gloves (purchased after the photo taken)
  • green wool liner gloves (did not use, were backups)
  • silk glove liners (did not use)
  • 4 pair thermal pants
  • 4 pair thermal tops
My standard outing outfit consisted of; liner socks, 1 pair wool socks, thermal pants, waterproof pants, thermal top, fleece vest, down sweater, the Parka and the Muck boots loaned for the duration of the trip. The boots were very warm, I had brought a pair of fleece insoles to add comfort and warmth, probably not needed. Every day the temperature was around 32 degrees F. If the day was sunny I unzipped on land, if it was windy or overcast I stayed zipped up. I usually stayed zipped up when we cruised on the Zodiacs.

After adding clothes needed for the three weeks I had to use a larger suitcase than I usually take on vacations. On the ship we hand washed some items that were made of fast drying material and we also had some laundry done on board. Dress on the ship was casual, so wearing the same clothes more than once was not a big deal. I thought about taking fewer thermal pants and tops, but then I would have had to done more hand washing and I didn't think it made sense based on the weight/space savings.

Standard airline weight limit (before getting a tag of shame) is 50lbs/23kg and we both were close to these limits going South. Plus we knew we would have to pack a Parka on the way home, plus what ever other trinkets we would purchase. Just to add to our concerns, the domestic flight back from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires on Aerolíneas Argentinas had a 15Kg limit, less that the domestic flight going to Ushuaia, very odd. Ended up none of the airlines made a fuss about the weight, but someone did get a Tag of Shame returning from Buenos Aires. We'll put that down to a couple bottles of wine, a shared necessity.

Before departure my bag weighed in at 42lbs/19.5Kg, on the way back it was just under 50lbs/23Kg. The snow pants, gloves, mittens, hats, neck gator and fleece inserts alone weighed 6lbs.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


During one of the talks on our cruise given while crossing the Drake Passage, the Penguins we were expected to see were covered.

These included the 3 species included in the genus Pygoscelis commonly known as the Brush-tailed Penguins. The 3 included; Adélie - Pygoscelis adeliae, Gentoo - Pygoscelis papua and Chinstrap - Pygoscelis antarctica.
The diet of these penguins is mainly krill along with small fish and squid. All three types makes nests of small stones to keep their eggs and young dry and the female lays 2 eggs. We saw quite a bit of stone stealing going on. We were surprised at the variation in size of the chicks we saw within each colony.

 Adélie: These are the smallest of the Brush tailed group and found breeding the most southerly. These are the ones we first saw and my favorite.

 Alternative form of land transportation.
I'm imposing grander thoughts on this guy than is probably correct.
Penguin exiting the water, they pop out like Champagne corks.
Here is a "Waddle" of Penguins heading up to their Colony or Rookery off in the distance.
Another group heading back to the sea for food.

Gentoo: These are the third largest of the Penguins after the King and Emperor. As we traveled more north we started seeing these guys. Distinguished by the white on their heads and a red beak.

 A Penguin highway.
 Off on an adventure.
 British Gentoos at Port Lockroy. The Port Lockroy Base is on Goudier Island (64º49’S, 63º30’W) just off Wiencke Island in the Antarctic Peninsula. The Base is now a museum, gift shop and famous Post Office. It is run by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust by 4 volunteers selected from 5000 applicants. The 4 volunteers stay for 4 months, due to inclement weather they had not been able to land 12 ships during the first half of the 2016 Antarctic summer.
This base is on the Antarctic mainland. Can you guess whose base it is? All the Argentinian huts have giant Argentina flags either on the walls or roof.

We spent a lot of time just watching the interactions at the colonies, very interesting and entertaining. The Expedition staff were always available for questions.

Mothers and chicks
Nice comfy nest of stones.
Nests under the Port Lockroy base.
 Views out from the Port Lockroy base window.

These breed further north than the Gentoos, though it appears that the breeding territory of the Gentoos is spreading both south and north. We did not get very far north due to a bad storm hitting the South Shetland Islands, so we stayed in more sheltered waters.

 These guys sound a bit like gulls.
 A breeding colony.
 Large chick in the right third of the photo.
 Some chicks of various sizes here.

 The green on the snow is algae.
 This guy may not be sleeping, We were told Penguins are able to have half their brain sleep at a time. Uni-hemispheric sleep happens in animals when one side of the brain shows waking activity while the other side is asleep.

Emperor Penguin.
The staff did not expect to see these and everyone was surprised. These guys were molting, you can see the feathers on the snow in some of the photos.

From watching the movie,  The March of the Penguins, I know they breed in winter and have just one egg. The movie is worth watching.