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9 December 2012 / leggypeggy

Lemaire Channel—a tight squeeze in the Antarctic

Lemaire Channel

Aiming for that little ‘V’ shape slightly right of centre

After two days spent crossing the unexpectedly tame Drake Passage, we all held our collective breath as the Ocean Diamond squeezed its way through the Lemaire Channel on our Antarctica expedition.

Flanked by steep cliffs, the 11-kilometre channel runs between Booth Island and the mainland’s Graham Land.

Lemaire Channel

Heading between an iceberg and a cliff

Belgian explorer, Adrien de Gerlache, was first to navigate it in 1898, almost 25 years after it was first sighted by a German expedition.

The channel is considered to be one of the most picturesque landscapes in the seventh continent, if not the world. It’s also extremely unpredictable, with icebergs the size of ships often clogging the passage.

From day one, we were told the captain HOPED to take us through this famous channel—that his decision to tackle the channel might be made at the very last minute.

That’s exactly how it played out. From a distance, we all felt sure the gap was too narrow. But Captain Peter never blinked (or so we were told), as we edged past a giant iceberg that our crew said would have fazed a less determined captain. I’ll always wonder exactly how narrow that gap was. As you can see from the bottom photo—not very wide. Olivia was on the bridge as we went through, and she says Captain Peter was dashing from side to side to keep an eye on the ship’s clearance.

Lemaire Channel

Up close and personal with an iceberg on the left

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13 Comments

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  1. lmo58 / Dec 10 2012 12:29 pm

    That is an amazingly small passage Peggy. Congratulations to Captain Peter for doing such a fine job.

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    • leggypeggy / Dec 10 2012 1:59 pm

      Captain Peter has nerves of steel. The crew said not every captain would have made a stab at the Lemaire Channel, so we felt especially lucky.

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  2. skippersy / Dec 10 2012 2:40 pm

    Olivia is a brave and crazy person in a good way… good for her! Wow, the Lemaire Channel is beautiful. I guess in summer the weather is not that bad, not to snowy and cloudy. Is that ropes along the glacier edge and mountain above for people to use? Thanks LeggyPeggy for the photos and commentary. And the snow flakes on this blog page, is perfecto for the Antarctic trip and Christmas season.

    Sy S.

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    • leggypeggy / Dec 10 2012 9:48 pm

      Hi Sy! I’m glad you asked about the ‘rope’. It’s actually a string of lights on the deck of the ship, but it does look like it’s on the snow and mountain. The snowflakes are an option the blog site offers during the Christmas season. I thought they were a perfect addition.

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  3. Sue / Dec 28 2012 12:10 pm

    Hi LeggyPeggy. It’s Sue from the second great south land, Oz, and I’m am so drooling over your superbly written blog-with-much-humour that I’ve been inspired to Leave a Reply. Here am I sweltering in mid-summer heat and cursing the fruit fly that have just wiped out my precious nectarine crop while YOU! you have been doing what I want to do most in the whole wide world! I’ve been trawling Tripadvisor ‘Antarctic Adventures’ for info and advice for my trip of a lifetime and somehow got sidetracked as you do onto your blog, found myself going from link to link and got so caught up in it that I’m inspired to participate (first ever).

    Thank you for bringing pleasure to so many of us: both your writing skills and photography are superb – images inspirational.

    What camera did you use and what lenses? (I’m a photographer so always keen on this topic)

    Did you have to compensate (metering) very much because of the ice?

    I guess you used a polariser quite a bit?

    What protection did you use for your camera in the zodiacs?

    The Antarctic is notorious for winds. Was it very windy?

    Did you take a tripod and/or use it very much?

    I am absolutely terrified at the prospect of crossing the Drake Passage (can’t get Shackleton’s ‘dash’ from Elephant Is. to South Georgia out of my mind) but am gradually coming around to the idea of cruising one way – all part of the unbelievable experience, I read, from various adventurers who’ve done the trip.

    Sorry for all the questions, but would love to hear from the horse’s mouth!

    Thank you again for your blog.

    Cheers,

    Sue

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    • leggypeggy / Dec 29 2012 10:54 am

      Hi Sue — Thanks so much for enjoying my blog and for taking the time to leave such a great comment.

      You have a lot of questions and I will answer every one of them, but I will do it in an actual blog item, so that more people are likely to see it. There are some hilarious answers among them. Give me a couple of days. We are finishing our travels in South America, and heading home to Australia (Canberra) on the 4th. I’ll send you a message when I’ve posted the item. And once again thanks so much for your support and praise.

      This blog is my diary and I’m thrilled when others appreciate it.

      Like

  4. Sue / Dec 28 2012 12:23 pm

    Hi leggypeggy,

    I got so carried away with your blog I forgot to comment on the image of the OD approaching the Lemaire Channel. What a momentous experience! I felt negotiating the Narrows out of Wrangell Alaska on the (huge) ferry – no icebergs – was a magic moment, but this would have surely been a highlight. A great pic.
    Sue

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    • leggypeggy / Dec 29 2012 10:55 am

      Thanks again. I was gobsmacked when we arrived in Antarctica and at the Lemaire Channel. We were so blessed to have a captain who wasn’t fazed by the narrow passage.

      Like

      • Sue Daw / Dec 29 2012 1:05 pm

        I’m looking forward to your reply LP but understand you well and truly have your hands full, especially as you are still travelling, oh joy!

        I have just found what looks like an ideal trip for me of 18 days to the Antarctic,the only one I’ve seen of this duration, a Cheesemans tour. AND on a smaller than usual ship which offers more flexibility than others. The cost is very reasonable relative to the 10-day tours; AND we go into Shackleton territory, the Weddell Sea to boot! I’d adore to go to South Georgia but my budget can’t cope.

        Anyhow, enjoy the remainder of your trip and meanwhile I’ll do some globe tripping virtually via your other blogs which I’m sure will bring me great delight.
        Regards,
        Sue

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      • leggypeggy / Jan 2 2013 8:52 pm

        Hi Sue
        I’ve started an answer to your questions, but it remains a work-in-progress. So just a quick comment for now. A crew member on the Ocean Diamond told me that South Georgia is paradise and should be the top destination of any future Antarctic trip we do. I haven’t had a chance to look at possible options, but I’ll stay on the look-out for anything worth sharing.

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      • Sue Daw / Jan 3 2013 12:24 pm

        Can’t wait for some of the hilarious (your allusion) answers to some my questions.

        Yes, I’m getting the distinct impression that South Georgia is a truly exceptional place, certainly according to what I’m gleaning from tripadvisor and other sites. Question: if I extended my Antarctic trip to include it would I be penguined out! I adore wildlife but my main aim is to immerse myself in and photograph the shapes and forms and colours of the sky and landscape.

        Yes please, anything on SG would be welcomed.

        Welcome home!.

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      • leggypeggy / Jan 3 2013 12:30 pm

        Don’t throw out the welcome mat yet. I don’t get home until late Sunday night.

        As for whether or not you’d get penguin-ed out on an extended trip. Heck, I don’t know. Where there are penguins, there is landscape, skies, sunsets and all the stuff you love. And I’m not sure what the crew member who urged me to do South Georgia meant about it being unmissable. He said it is like paradise, but he is one of the ‘penguin guys’ (watch for a blog entry on the penguin guys), so maybe he’s got tunnel vision on the subject..

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