Antarctic Voyage Log 2011-2012

The story of my incredible experience in Antarctica in December 2011–January 2012 is now available as a PDF for download. It’s the  voyage log that I wrote much of, edited, designed, and laid out. This is what occupied me from February until it was completed in electronic format in May 2012. To my great joy, the printed version turned out beautifully and has been mailed out to voyage participants. It’s not available for purchase but it look stunning on screen, so please take a look.

Cover of the voyage log I compiled and designed for my first Antarctic expedition with Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris

Cover of the voyage log I compiled and designed for my first Antarctic expedition with Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris


It was an amazing adventure being a naturalist staff member for Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris in the Southern Ocean. I’m thrilled to be going back again on their special geology-focused trip this year, 12/27/12 to 1/20/13. We’ll be going again to the Falkland Islands, incredible South Georgia Island, and the exquisite land of ice, the Antarctic Peninsula. I’ll be doing the log again, too. The trip I’m on is full but they are doing an unusually long and in-depth Antarctic Peninsula only voyage, 12/30/12 to 1/17/13. If you’re thinking about visiting Antarctica, I highly recommend checking out this exceptional tour which will likely not happen again.

As I write this in early August, 2012 it’s high season for whale-watching in Monterey Bay, and I’m on the Monterey Bay Whale Watch boat almost every single day. We’re seeing humpback whales, blue whales, killer whales, and dolphins, and sharing them with visitors from all over the world. The voyage log was a huge project and once the whale-watching slows down a bit after summer I hope to have more time for drawing on the amazing images and inspirations from the Antarctic, and turning them into art for my sponsors and everyone.

Antarctica Was Incredible — Everything I’d Hoped

My 26-day voyage to Antarctica aboard the M/V Ortelius as tour staff with Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris was AMAZING. I have returned to California with sketches of nesting albatrosses and penguins, small watercolors of glaciers and ocean cliffs, 6,300 photos of icebergs and every possible creature, a couple hours of delightful video, many new friends, and innumerable stories to share.

As I sift through it all I’ll be posting here, “back-blogging” or “retro-blogging.” It turned out to be nearly impossible to post regularly from the ship because of limited internet access but more importantly because our schedule of landings was so intense that catching a little sleep became more important.

It was all 100% worth it and I would turn around and do it again in a heartbeat. I hope you’ll stay tuned to live through the trip again with me.

I would like to warmly thank all my fantastic sponsors who literally helped keep me warm in the chilly Antarctic waters. I was properly outfitted for the elements and everything at home was shipshape while I was at sea, thanks to your support that flooded in when I was invited to sail on very short notice. It’s my genuine pleasure now to mold the experiences of the Antarctic into artwork for each of you.

Limited edition sponsorships are still availabe for anyone who didn’t sign up before the trip and who wants in on the first artistic results of this polar adventure. Sponsors who sign up now will help insure I can spend the coming weeks in my art studio, creating new works from the fresh store of inspiration I accumulated during the voyage. I have months’ worth of painting ideas!

Sponsor Kate’s studio time!

I also have the makings of a great multi-media presentation, so if you have a venue where you’d like me to give an illustrated talk about my Antarctic experience just drop me a line [intlink id=”15″ type=”page”]here[/intlink]. I’m looking forward to sharing all the amazing things I’ve seen in every way I can.

Blissed Out in Antarctica

Today was utterly amazing. I can’t even put into words how incredible everything was — the vast gravel plain below gorgeous glaciers with king penguins and fur seals literally everywhere, the rain that soaked almost everything, the wind that kicked up and really challenged our afternoon Zodiac landing on little Prion Island, and the giant wandering albatrosses nesting there literally 10 feet away from the boardwalk we climbed to reach them – also passing hundreds more fur seals, including tiny clumsy pups and males that charge but veer away if you touch their whiskers with a stick. I am completely blissed out. It’s amazing.

Sent to you over a satellite phone using GMN’s XGate software.


First Landing in South Georgia

The Falkland Islands were wonderful (Jan. 2-4, 2012), and now we’ve traversed over 800 miles of open ocean to reach remote, wild, stunning South Georgia Island. We’ll make our first landing this morning at famous Salisbury Plain on the island’s northeast coast. If you’ve seen photos of tens of thousands of King Penguins stretching up a hillside, they were taken here.

Salisbury is also a huge fur seal and elephant seal colony, and we all have to carry walking sticks or broom handles to keep any territorial fur seals at whisker-tickling distance. They do bite but if you stand your ground and rustle their sensitive whiskers with your stick they’ll back off. Many young fur seals are in the water all around our ship, looking up and twirling playfully in the clear blue. King penguins are visible by the thousands on the beach through binoculars and also swim alongside us, bathing with their white bellies skyward or just porpoising along.

There’s a sense of jollity on the ship as passengers take a leisurely breakfast down the hall. It’s drizzling and there’s not enough light for photography so although half the ship got up for 4:30 a.m. breakfast, our 5:30 landing has been postponed to 7:00. For most of us there’s no sense in going back to bed so we might as well enjoy the early morning. I had a cup of espresso about 4:30, from the wonderful automatic espresso machine up in the library. I can hear laughter and clinking cups from down the dining room down the passage.

Soon we’ll gear up for chilly drizzle and hiking in mud, but for now we’re cozy and warm inside the sturdy Ortelius.


Iceberg In Sight!

The first iceberg of our Antarctic voyage is in sight! It was spotted at 10:24 a.m. on our third day sailing from the Falkland Islands to South Georgia. It’s a beauty, too; towering, with gorgeous blue depths where waves crash over its submerged ledges. This is a chunk of the massive glaciers that pour off the edges of the Antarctic continent and it has drifted northwest over a thousand miles on the currents.

Early this morning, I was awakened by an loud knock on my door and a shout of, “Whales!” I pulled on some warm layers and hurried to the bridge to join a few folks identifying the blows of humpback whales to starboard. Over about fifteen minutes we counted probably 8 whales including a mother and calf pair.

Then in the far distance, the remote and forbidding Shag Rocks appeared on the horizon. The veteran staff say this was the best weather they’ve ever seen at this spot and the captain circled the islands. Blue-eyed shags (cormorants) flew close overhead on their way to and from their nests on the crags.

Just a few miles after Shag Rocks, we passed what was possibly the first Southern Right Whale this voyage has ever seen. I didn’t see the whale myself but from the photos of the flukes I’m certain it was not a humpback.

We are still excited about the rare whale sighting, and now there’s ice!

I’ve seen small icebergs off tidewater glaciers in Southeast Alaska but this lone berg is far bigger, and it’s not even that big by Antarctic standards.

I’m really in the Southern Ocean now.


Made It To Ushuaia! Dec. 29, 2011

Kate has made it to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, “The Gateway to Antarctica!”

Here’s a fun video of my excitement and the beautiful mountains visible from the airport at “El Fin Del Mundo,” the End of the World.


I first drafted this post in the air above a snowy expanse in the Rocky Mountains on the first of three long flights on the way to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. I’m now in the Hotel Canal Beagle (Beagle Channel Hotel) surrounded by the Southern end of the Andes mountain chain, craggy and snowy even in the summer. It’s only 1000 kilometers to Antarctica!

I have glimpsed our ship, the M/V Ortelius, at the pier, have eaten Fuegian-style trout for dinner in a local art cafe, and at last have a secure internet connection. It’s time for some long-anticipated sleep in a real bed (including a late night packing, it’s been…64 hours with a few airplane naps), but first, I want to let everyone know I made it!

Flying from San Francisco to Atlanta with me were Doug and Gail Cheeseman, founders of Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris, the company on whose Antarctic voyage I’ll be naturalist staff member number 15 for 90 world-traveling passengers.

In Atlanta another staff member and a few passengers joined our flight to Buenos Aires, and then in the BA airport we met up with over a dozen more. My last flight down the length of Argentina stopped briefly in Trelew, Chubut State, which took us low over beautiful Peninsula Valdes, where I had seen Southern Right Whales a few years ago. It’s been a beautiful mid-summer reunion with South America so far.

The Cheesemans group are now spread in two adjacent hotels right on the waterfront of gorgeous, mountainous, alpine-flavored Ushuaia. Tomorrow is a day for getting to know everyone as more people arrive and some go on field trips. On New Year’s Eve afternoon we set sail for Antarctica!

Read about the voyage itinerary and what we’re likely to see:

It’s been an incredible three weeks already since I said, “Yes, I’ll go!” and my flight was booked. The response to my requests for sponsorships has been more than I imagined, and just what I needed to be able to take off for a month with a clear mind. My most heartfelt thanks go to each of my generous sponsors, and I look forward to posting a page soon recognizing their contributions.

It’s not too late to sponsor me, by the way. Signing up now for the remaining special limited-edition prints from this artistic expedition will support studio time when I return and allow me to focus on interpreting the experience artistically, in color, in line, in words, and in whatever ways the Antarctic itself inspires me.

Sponsor Kate’s Antarctic Artistic Adventure Go here:

And keep watching this blog to hear about some of that inspiration as it happens. Best wishes from “Fin del Mundo!”

Kate’s Going to Antarctica!

Sometimes dreams come true when you least expect them!

On very short notice I’ve agreed to join the naturalist staff of Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris‘ 26-day voyage to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic Peninsula — leaving in just two weeks!


I fly on December 28, 2011 to Ushuaia, Argentina, in Tierra del Fuego on the Beagle Channel, where we’ll set sail on New Year’s Eve aboard the M/V Ortelius. The itinerary is incredible: three days in the Falklands, six days on South Georgia, one day in the South Orkneys, and a full week on and around the Antarctic Peninsula.

I’ll be soaking up incredible scenery, amazing wildlife, and the power of the great Southern Ocean. I’ve sailed that heaving ocean before — and loved every minute — in a much larger ship, as far as Cape Horn and the eastern Falkland Islands. This time I am delighted and honored to be working on a small, ice-strengthened expedition vessel as part of a tour staff of 15 and only 95 passengers.

There is a lot to do between now and departure, and of course Christmas is right in the middle of it. I’m going over my foul weather gear, pondering portable art supplies, and getting everything taken care of on the home front. There’s location research, travel arrangements, and, these days, getting the digital equipment shipshape. It’s a bit overwhelming, but it will all be worth it when I see my first nesting albatross.

KateWithPenguins2959 KateAsPenguin2958


 Here’s me getting into the penguin spirit at a Magellanic penguin rookery near Punta Arenas, Chile. They sit like that for hours, then bend and preen just when you want to take a picture.