A Travellerspoint blog

Antarctic Peninsula Excursions - Sunday, 22 February 2015

Shore Excursions

Position - 66°51.29' S
066°48.47' W
Sea Depth - 490 metres
Sun rise - 5.51 am
Sun set - 9.27 pm

After the sea sick episode last night, it was wonderful to wake up to calm conditions and such a fabulous sight.  It was breathtaking.  We are now inside the Antarctic Circle!

We watched the sun rise over the glaciers.  Spectacular!

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There is a lot of pack ice floating by.  Fine, as long as it doesn't join up and surround us.

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This morning, thanks to Baptiste, our Butler, we were on the first zodiac travelling to Detaille Island.  Being first is good, but sometimes not so good.  When we arrived on the island, we had to make our way up to the museum in the hut at the top and as we were walking in fresh snow, we kept sinking up to our thighs.  It really was pretty funny.  Thank goodness there was staff all the way along the track to pull us out.

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The path from the water up to the snow level was very hairy.  A very narrow rock ledge, very slippery with fresh snow.  There was a staff member every couple of feet to guide us safely up the path.  On our way down, they had laid towels over the rocks and snow which made it much easier to walk on.

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Detaille Island is a former British survey base, used for geology and meteorology research.  It was evacuated in 1959 when sea ice and weather prevented access and has remained unoccupied ever since.  Much of its original contents are still in place, providing an important reminder of the science and living conditions in the 1950s.

We hopped in the zodiac for our journey back to the ship, but on the way, did a cruise through the icebergs and took some fantastic shots.  This place is magic and I can't believe I'm finally here.  I put my finger in the water.  It's freezing!

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On the way back to our cabin, we bumped into the Captain and had a little chat.  I asked him please, please, please, no more rough seas!  He said okay!

Lunched with Jeanette then back in our cabin when they announced that the gold group would be going ashore in 15 minutes.  I raced to get dressed but Phil decided to stay on board.  The zodiac took us over to an ice flow where - wait for it - the staff was serving champagne!  I mean, it doesn't get much better than this!  The sun is shining brightly and I didn't wear a hat or gloves and was boiling in my thermals and ski pants and jacket.  It was the most amazing experience.

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Now back on board having a cappucino.

We are sailing very slowly through pack ice.  It is just the most amazing sight.  The photos don't do it justice.

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We decided to order room service and have dinner in our room.  We asked Baptiste his full name - Baptiste Pierre Jean-Claude Rejnault!  How magnificent.

We have left the ice behind now and are sailing through a huge expanse of water.  I don't think we are in the open sea as it is not too rough - not like last night!

I am waiting for sunset at 9.27 pm.  What a magnificent day we have had - blue skies and sunshine.

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Posted by gaddingabout 12:35 Archived in Antarctica Comments (0)

Antarctic Peninsula Excursions - Saturday, 21 February 2015

Shore Excursions

snow 3 °C

Sunrise - 5.44 am
Sunset - 9.08 pm
Sea depth - 70 m
Position - 64°49.71`S
063°30.49`W

We sailed through the night and woke this morning to a winter wonderland.  Lots of icebergs and the land covered in snow.  There was quite a fierce wind blowing and it was snowing.  We are now in the Neumayer Channel at Damoy Point.  A lot of people opted not to go ashore in the zodiacs because the sea was pretty rough (Phil included), but Jeanette and I went and it was great.  I was covered from head to toe in several layers and wasn't cold at all.  I have to take my gloves off to work my tablet, and it was fine.

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We had a few sprays going over in the zodiac but our wet weather gear is so good, we didn't feel a thing.  Lots of icebergs and ice floating in the ocean.

We walked along the "beach" of rocks and encountered some soft, squishy stuff.  One of the naturalists told us that it was "quicksand".  We walked along the rocks and climbed up to the top and photographed some Gentoo penguins.  We took some great shots of le Boreal from up there too.  The island was a bit smelly - penguin poo.

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Then we walked back to the Edward's hut and went in and signed the book.  The wind was blowing a gale and sometimes it was hard to hold the camera still.  We walked back to the shore where the zodiacs were and sat on our bottoms and slid down the snow and ice onto the rocky beach.  It was only for a few feet but a much safer way of getting down.

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The zodiac had a bit of trouble starting because it had ice around the propellor but once that was scooped away, we were on our way back to the ship.  We had our backs to the spray and wind and our clothes got a bit wet but they are so excellently water proof, we didn't feel a thing.

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We had lunch with Jeanette and then attended a briefing about Port Lockrey.  Time for a quick rest before donning all the gear again for our visit to Port Lockrey.  Port Lockrey is a tiny island, only as big as a football field and is manned during the summer only.  It has a museum and a post office.  During the winter it is left unattended and also unlocked, just in case someone needs to shelter there.

Scenic think of everything - using zodiacs to push the ice bergs out of our way!

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As we boarded the zodiac it started to snow and snowed gently the whole time we were there.  It wasn't very cold at all.  Port Lockrey is a Gentu penguin rookery and there were lots of babies there, moulting.

This little fella got up close and personal with Phil!

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We looked through the museum and went into the gift shop and bought a fridge magnet and a christmas tree decoration.  They were a bit expensive - $5 for the fridge magnet and $15 for the christmas tree decoration, but most of the money goes into research and maintaining Port Lockrey.

All too soon it was time to board the zodiac to come back to the ship.  At least the ride over and back was a lot calmer than this morning!

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This is the rigermarole we have to go through on returning to the ship - decontaminating our boots and a very helpful aide for getting our boots off.  We have so many clothes on, it is hard to bend over.

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We set sail at about 6.30 pm and at 5.00 am tomorrow morning we will enter the Antarctic Circle.  This doesn't happen very often so we are very lucky.

We have decided to eat in tonight and what a great choice that was!  We started sailing at quite a fast pace and it was rolling and heaving and so was my stomach.  Yes, you guessed it - after surviving the Drake Passage, I succumbed very badly when we sailed out of the Neumayer Channel into the open sea!  I won't go into the gorey details, suffice to say I made two very hurried visits to the bathroom basin.  I missed dinner completely after Baptiste had set the table so beautifully.

I was very glad to finally fall asleep.

This is the view of the hallway when everyone has come back to the ship after being ashore.

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Posted by gaddingabout 10:41 Archived in Antarctica Comments (0)

Antarctic Peninsula Excursions - Friday, 20 February 2015

Shore excursions

snow 3 °C

Had a great night's sleep, jumped into the shower and then had our room service breakfast.  Then the fun began - trying to put on all our clothes for our excursion ashore in Half Moon Bay.  The island was known to sealers in the area as early as 1821.  This crescent shaped island is 2km long and lies in the entrance to Moon Bay on the eastern side of Livingston Island.  It is home to nesting chin strap penguins and to some blue eyed cormorants.  Half Moon Island is also home to the Argentine Summer Research Station "Camara".

I had on:  a bra, undies, singlet, long johns (top and bottom), long sleeved tee shirt, polo fleece, waterproof outer pants, pashmina around my neck, my chinchilla head band to keep my ears warm, the Scenic Tours beanie, our big red jacket, a life vest, two pairs of gloves (one inner pair and one outer pair), two pairs of socks and gum boots!  Phew!  it was such an effort to get dressed.

We went to the zodiac landing, hopped on and headed off for the land - the south Shetland Islands.  We just couldn't believe we were actually here.  There were a lot of rocks, snow and ice and a big iceberg on the other side.  This is the home of the chin strap  penguin and it was so nice just to stand there and watch them coming and going.  It is quite an effort for them, with their webbed feet to climb up and down rocks.  Nature didn't do too well here. Imagine having webbed feet and trying to climb rocks.

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There were some big fur seals lying on the beach (rocks) and every now and then they would rear up and have a little fight.  It was fantastic.

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We spent about an hour on the island then climbed aboard the zodiac for the ride back to the ship.  We had to rinse our boots in the sea before we got into the zodiac and then back on the boat, scrub our boots and pants in disinfectant before we could go to our cabins.

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It started to snow just a little bit on our way back but only snow flurries.  It is supposed to snow this arvo.  It is supposed to be 3 degrees but feels a bit chillier than that.  It is quite difficult to take photos with gloves on, but it doesn't take long for your fingers to get really cold.

Our lovely butler, Baptiste was waiting for us and carried our boots back to our room.  We got a bit of a rass from Steve and Maddie about our butler, but we love him.

Back in our room to strip off and dry our waterproof pants ready for another excursion this afternoon.

And of course, hot chocolate from Baptiste!  I could get very used to having a Butler!

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We set sail at lunch time and at about 1.30 pm we sailed through the Neptune Bellows.  This channel was named by American sealers after the Roman sea god Neptune because of the strong gusts experienced in this region.  We arrived at Whalers' Bay on Deception Island and proceeded to get dressed in our gear and headed ashore.

In the early 1900s, whaling companies used Port Foster as a mooring site for the floating factory ships.  The shore whaling station was in use between 1911 and 1931.  During the 1940s and 50s the British, Argentines and Chileans all built bases on the island.  In 1967, a sizeable voĺanic eruption destroyed the Chilean base and in 1969 another eruption badly damaged the British Base and partly buried the old whaling station in ash.  A third eruption in 1970 produced a series of craters which are still visible.

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The cemetery was washed away in one of these eruptions and these crosses are all that remained.

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These little things are called Brittle Stars.  Because this is a volcanic island, the beach is black and the water is quite warm.

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The weather is quite a bit warmer than this morning.  I am feeling quite warm with all my clobber on and didn't need to wear my gloves at all.  Having a little rest prior to the cocktail party this evening.

The cocktail party was for all the Platinum and Diamond people aboard, so there were quite a few people in attendance.  Spoke to some Canberra bashing people so after the Captain's speech, we joined another group.

We had dinner in the a la carte restaurant with Lyn and Anne, Jeanette, Shirley, Long Tall Sally and Pam.  The ship was bouncing along in huge waves that were splashing on the dining room windows.  Lots of oooohing and aaaaahing!

Took a sea sick tablet and went to bed.

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Posted by gaddingabout 07:09 Archived in Antarctica Comments (0)

Cruising the Drake Passage - Thursday, 19 February 2015

Had a fabulous sleep last night and woke up just in time for our breakfast to be delivered.  We are both feeling a lot better today.

We all congregated at 9.30 am for a briefing on Antarctica about what to wear ashore and how to get and out of the zodiacs etc. Then we had to take any old gear that we are taking ashore, down to the decontamination point and vacuum it and sign a paper to say that all our gear is okay.  Everyone has bought new stuff so that is okay.

Baptiste brought us a couple of hot chocolates for morning tea.  They were nice but too rich.  There has been a whale sighting so we went up on deck to see.  They were a long way away, but we could see their spouts which were quite close.  The Captain changed course a bit so we could see them.  We went out on the deck to see them but the wind was freezing.

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We went for lunch today into the dining room and sat with Margaret and Gerry and Neal and Elizabeth from Jerrabomberra.  All our co-travellers from Rio came up to us to ask if we were okay, because they missed us yesterday.  That was so nice.

There is a prize for the first person to see an iceberg.  Phil just noticed one and phoned reception but someone had already spotted it.  It is on the horizon and is a long way away.

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It is our Welcome Dinner tonight and we have been invited to sit at the Captain's table.  I am sure it will be very nice.

Dinner with the Captain was lovely.  Everyone made the effort to dress up and there were 10 of us at the Captain's Table, plus the Captain.  I was sitting next to the Captain and he was very charming.  He has very good English so we chatted most of the night.  We had a four course meal and every time a dish was delivered to our table, the waiter told us what we were eating.  When it was time for the main course, ALL the waiters walked in with our meals under a silver dome and all stood behind us and unveiled the meal together.  Everyone in the dining room applauded.

When our desserts arrived, on the corner of the plate was written in  chocolate "Welcome Wendy".  A special little touch for a very special evening.

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After dinner Phil, Jeanette and I went to the theatre for a dance show.  Phil left half way through but Jeanette and I stayed to the end and the finale was the Can Can.

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Into bed as we are in the first group going ashore tomorrow  at 8.15 am.

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Posted by gaddingabout 05:45 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Cruising the Drake Passage - Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Traverse the Polar Front which marks the area where waters from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans meet. Could be tricky!

We had a good night's sleep and awoke to quite a swell, about 4 to 5 metres.  I have put my motion sickness wrist bands on, have a patch behind my ear and have taken a sea sick pill given to me by the Travel Doctor.  The swell is about four to five metres and we had very strong winds 45 kph.

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It is quite difficult to walk around without holding on to something.  We had room service for breakfast and as the day wore on and the sea got rougher, we decided to order lunch in too.  I have been dozing all day which has been good for my motion sickness, plus all the medication, I think I am going to get through this day without being sick!  Yeah!!!

Rikus had noticed that we weren't around today so he called in this afternoon to see if we were okay.  We are both feeling pretty good.  Phil is one hundred per cent okay and I am aware of the motion and have only been eating lightly and only drinking water.

I am now getting hungry which is a good sign, but we are having room service this evening and we should both be fìne tomorrow.

Rikus said that a lot of people have been sick.  Also, we are happy to stay in our lovely, roomy cabin because it is quite dangerous to walk around when the ship is rocking from side to side.

The sea is calming now and by 2am tomorrow we'll be at the Shetland Islands.

We were invited to a Private Cocktail Party this evening with the Captain. The guests from the 6th floor suites were invited but the evening has been postponed because of the rough seas.  Good idea.  I was wondering how to be social and at the same time, hold a drink and not fall over!

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Posted by gaddingabout 17:43 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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