Breaking the ice: Explorers reach new ground

The ice shelf in the distance (Agnes Breniere)
The ice shelf in the distance (Agnes Breniere)

The chill wasn't enough to keep 48 keen international expeditioners from venturing to a new record yesterday, as the vessel to travel the furthest south ever to Antarctica.

Heritage Expeditions' Polar Class Expedition Vessel the Akademik Shokalskiy reached 78°43.971’S at the Bay of Whales, in Antarctica's Eastern Ross Sea.

The previous record was from February last year where the vessel Artic P reached 78° 43.0336’S.

"To have exceeded that is nothing short of remarkable," says expedition leader Rodney Russ.

"We were unable to land at the Bay of Whales, but many photos of this historic place were captured before the fog rolled in," he says.

The new record shows just how much the Ross Ice Shelf has receded since it was first documented by British explorer Robert Falcon Scott in 1901. His calculations put the ice edge in the Bay of Whales at 78° 36’ S.

A Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen built a base called Framheim on the shelf at 78° 38’S after venturing to the remote part of Antarctica in 1911. The base has since disappeared.

The 48 adventurous passengers are celebrating the record aboard the vessel along with an expedition team made up of historians, biologists and two descendants of Sir James Clark Ross, who first discovered the Ross Sea 175 years ago.

Penguins adventure across the ice (Agnes Breniere)

Heritage Expeditions is planning another expedition to Antarctica's Bay of Whales in February 2017.

Mr Russ says the Ross Sea is the most intact ecomarine system left on earth.

"It will be interesting to see if the ice edge has receded even further when we next return in February 2017," he says.