Antarctic Circle & Detaille Island, Antarctica


The Hondius idled slowly towards the Antarctic Circle on 22 March as passengers got going with their fill of coffee and tea. Everybody was excited to be traversing south of the Antarctic Circle. Theoretically, when you are north of this imaginary circle, you are in the “Southern Temperate Zone” and it isn’t until you cross south of the circle that you are in the Antarctic (proper).

I found it interesting that the Antarctic Circle is NOT at a fixed latitude. It is currently at 66 degrees, 33 minutes, 49.5 seconds south of the Equator. Per Wikipedia, the latitude depends upon the Earth’s axial tilt which fluctuates more than 2 degree is 41,000 years. It seems like the “definition” of the Antarctic Circle is that the sun is visible for at least once a year for 24 continuous hours when you are south of the Circle.

Crossing the Circle

We were set to cross the “imaginary red line in the ocean” at precisely 7:30am.

Most people gathered in the observation room. They had mentioned that the bridge was going to be open so I decided to head up there — expecting a large crowd of people. In fact, there were only a few us so I figured I would hang out there while we crossed. As you can see, I have a bit of a “shell shocked” look as I hadn’t been sleeping very well (that is another story for another day).

The bottom picture shows one of the navigation screens a few seconds before we crossed the imaginary mark in the ocean (TTG or Time-To-Goal of 13 seconds). After the crossing, I went down outside to the main deck which was covered in a light layer of snow. We had an overcast, but beautiful morning with just a light coating of snow. I did the “tourist thing” and got my picture taken with the Antarctic flag and they had inscribed the latitude in the snow on the deck.

Onwards to diving!

Detaille Island

Our plan was to dive at Detaille Island and then go meet the other passengers who were doing a land excursion. After all, we had to set foot on land (or in the water) to make it a “real” south of the Antarctic Circle expedition! Detaille Island is a small island set in the Lallemand Fjord off the Loubet coast. The island houses a historic British base and visitor counts are tightly controlled at no more than 50 people can be ashore at the same time and only 12 people can go inside the base hut at any given time.

Similar to a few other locations, there is an official visitor site guide available. It contains a map that shows the location of the huts, landing zones, etc.

The British research station was only referred to “Base W” and was abandoned rather quickly in the 1950s and still has a lot of the artifacts including washing machine, jackets, long johns, survey books, etc. It is a like a well preserved time capsule. As you will read, unfortunately, I was unable to visit. But first the diving (or lack thereof) and adventures nonetheless.


We got our gear loaded in the RIBs as the snow fell and Nirvana’s iconic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” played on the stereo.

The four dive RIBs made their way to the dive site. The water clarity was unbelievable and I was looking forward to the dive. We were all getting geared up and when I pressurized my regulator, we heard a slow “hiss.” While we were troubleshooting the issue two of the other boats dropped divers in the water. A few minutes later we had resolved the problem (somehow one of my hoses had come loose from the first stage) and I got geared up ad ready to splash.

The radio chatter started and…the dive was called and the other divers in the water were recalled. Once again, the wind kicked up fiercely and made the diving unsafe.

Our revised plan was to tool around a little bit and then go ashore. We saw some cool icebergs.

In fact, on this iceberg, there were a couple of seals that were just hanging out but the swells (and probably our small wake) started moving the iceberg around. In the video below, I dunk the GoPro in the water so you can see just how clear it is and then you can see the seals start to slip down the edge of the iceberg and frantically “paw” there way back up to safety!

We cruised around a bit more in a bay that was protected from the wind and found a small colony of penguins that all appeared to be contemplating jumping into the water but nobody wanted to be first.

After watching the penguins for a bit, we found a really protected bay and a few icebergs were around that we decided we needed to “conquer.” Becky got some really funny photos of me and the iceberg.

Stealth Iceberg Diver (Photo Credit: Becky Kagan Schott)

The result of the “sneak attack” didn’t go so well. All photos by Becky Kagan Schott.

Below is a video that Becky took while we were “harassing the iceberg” and trying to balance on top of it. 🙂

Landing (not)

After our escapades with the penguins and the icebergs, we decided to see if we could go land at the site and check out the “Base W” facilities. We got the RIB around the icebergs and into the sheltered bay.

This is as close as we got to going ashore as the conditions were continuing to deteriorate:

We had another “interesting” RIB ride back to the Hondius:

Heading back to the Hondius

End of the Day

We had yet another exciting and fun day filled with adventure. Our plan was to make haste and starting getting further back north since we knew we only had a couple days left before we had to leave for Ushuaia. The red lines below represent where we had been (left picture) and the yellow lines represent our planned path to our next stop, Fournier Bay (right picture).

4 thoughts on “Antarctic Circle & Detaille Island, Antarctica

  1. “We got our gear loaded in the RIBs…”

    All really good expedition stories start with this phrase.

    …very interesting- thanks.

  2. I like the hero shot of you holding the flag. That would be the photo to go along with the title to your southern presentation.

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