January 11th – The most spectacular day of the trip and pretty high on the lifetime list to this point! We woke up first thing in the morning to a beautiful, sunny morning. Our first landing was at Cuverville Island where we found another Gentoo rookery. This island is a bit snowier than the last and because of this the penguins are even earlier in the nesting process. We were lucky enough to see some eggs still in incubation and several very young chicks. Rachael and I joined a group trek up a snowy summit but were turned back when the guides (what do they know) said it was too dangerous. It turned out we had two of the least experienced guides with us so we were a little disappointed that we got turned back, but the views were amazing!
View from our Hike - Our Boat (Antarctic Dream) on the Right
Our next landing was on the actual Antarctic continent: Neko Harbour. This landing was absolutely spectacular. We made our way up a hill past even more Gentoo Penguins to a beautiful lookout point over Rudolph Glacier. Our Expedition Leader, Stephan, continued to remind us this was a place to sit and “wait for our souls to catch up”. We spent quite a while relaxing and were lucky enough to see the glacier calve.
Neko Harbour Panoramic - Photo by Rachael
The other highlight of the harbor was a group of Gentoo’s playing on a couple of icebergs. The penguins would swim up to the iceberg and jump up a couple feet to land on the ‘berg. It was pretty amusing, especially when some of them didn’t make the jump or were immediately pushed off by their ‘friends’!
After the island, we were able to do a zodiac cruise around Andvord Bay. We loaded up 10 people into each of the 5 zodiacs and explored the bay weaving between icebergs and saw around 15 seals. As we made our way back onto the ship we had yet another surprise waiting for us. The crew had spent the afternoon preparing an amazing barbeque for us on the deck of the ship. It was such a beautiful day that by this point most of us were wandering around the deck in pants and t-shirts
Grilling in Antarctica
Finally, the crew had one more surprise for us, the nearby Chilean base was in need of fresh water and called us to see if we could help. In return they welcomed us all onto their base for a couple hours. We were able to explore a bit, check out their museum and see two “leuguistic” Gentoo penguins – they were all white!
January 12th – This day we were supposed to visit the famous Lemaire Channel. Unfortunately, because of the ice conditions and strong winds we were unable to go through. We adjusted our plans and turned towards Port Lockroy. Port Lockroy is a British base turned museum. It is run by a non-profit agency and the main building was converted to a museum. It was really interesting to see how people used to, and continue to, live in Antarctica. Our trip here was cut a little short due to 30-50mph winds. We hung out on the boat the rest of the afternoon, enduring non-stop winds and fairly rough water.
January 13th – The night was a little rough and the morning didn’t get any better. At around 9am we got a call that we were entering Deception Island. This is an active volcano that, because of large eruptions, is now a circular island and the cone is flooded by sea water. There is a narrow opening that we were able to enter the island and we were all hoping for the island to provide shelter from the wind. Although the water wasn’t as rough, it was still too windy to make any of our landings. So this became the day we spent playing Taki on a boat floating inside an active volcano. Taki is our newest addiction and you will most likely see it come up in the next few posts. It’s an Israeli card game that is very similar to Uno.
The Boat We Almost Had To Rescue in Deception Island
January 14th – Much like yesterday, the winds still didn’t calm down. We spent the day reading, attending lectures, eating, and of course playing Taki!
January 15th – Back on the Drake Passage. After the poor weather for 2.5 days, we were all expecting the worst out of the Drake. But it ended up being even more calm than the way to Antarctica! Again, the day was filled with reading, lectures and even more Taki!
January 16th – Because of the good weather, and a little bit of an early start on the Drake, we were making good time and the Capitan got us special clearance to make a pass around Cape Horn – the most southern tip of South America. Although it was cloudy day, it was still neat to see!
Since it was the last day, the expedition crew hosted a photo contest in three categories, Wildlife, Landscape and Expedition. Many of the ship’s passengers spent the day looking at photos and being sure to make the right selections for the contest. Both Rachael and I entered several photos. At the results presentation, my name was called for second place in the landscape category. As they got to the first place winners they announced the prize was a hat and a bottle of Patagonian Champagne. The winner in the Landscape division was our table-mate the I.T. guy from the Netherlands, the winner in the Expedition category was one of our world nomads and I won the Wildlife category. This left our table with THREE bottles of Champagne! Needless to say, it made the night of Taki even more exciting!
Later in the evening the staff had put together a great slide-show filled with photos they had taken throughout the trip. We also had our final recap of the landings and sights that we had seen and our farewell dinner – and our three bottles of champagne!
Second Place Photo
Champagne Winning Photo - Jumping Gentoo
January 17th – Woke up, ate breakfast and left the ship! Our table of 8 had become so accustomed to eating together that we made plans to meet for dinner that night!
Hopefully we’ll be able to catch up over the next couple days – look forward to tales of border strikes, canceled buses, canceled flights, flat tires and Taki!