Off We Went To The White Continent…

 

 

 

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JET and I have always had a sense of wanderlust, a deep desire to travel to the four corners of our earth.  A couple years ago, we finally bit the bullet and reserved a cabin on an expedition cruise to Antarctica, the White Continent.  Antarctica has been on our travel bucket list for decades, for good reasons:  1) Antarctica is not easy to get to.  It involves two days at a minimum to reach the port city of Ushuaia, at the very bottom of Argentina,

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then another two days crossing the Drake Passage, arguably the roughest body of water in the world.

Plancius proposed sailing route

2)  the window of opportunity for a visit is short, from Mid November through March.  3)  Accordingly, it is quite expensive, due to 1 and 2 above.

Most tour operators open up itineraries as far out as two years from the embarkation date, primarily to allow enough time for normal folks to save up coin and pay for the trip over time.  There is no turning back now…the trip is fully paid for, our bags are packed with assorted clothing that is quite foreign to most Floridians…

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…and we head for the airport in a matter of days…

Rumor has it that we will have internet access during the cruise.  I plan to keep a daily journal of our journey, and post updates each day, if possible….next up…..Buenos Aires, Argentina…hasta pronto!!!

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Interesting Facts about Antarctica

  1.  About 37,000 people visit Antarctica each year, which is approximately .0005% of the world’s current population.  About 5,000 people live on Antarctica during the summer, and only 500 year round.
  2. The largest land animal in Antarctica is an insect, a wingless midge, Belgica antarctica, less than 13mm (0.5in) long. There are no flying insects (they’d just get blown away), just shiny black springtails that hop like fleas and often live among penguin colonies.
  3. If Antarctica’s ice sheets melted, the worlds oceans would rise by 60 to 65 meters (200 – 210ft) – everywhere.
  4. Antarctica is the best place in the world to find meteorites. Dark meteorites show up against the white expanse of ice and snow and don’t get covered by vegetation. In some places, the way the ice flows concentrates meteorites there. The ice makes them gather in one place.
  5. It has been estimated that during the feeding season in Antarctica, a full grown blue whale eats about 4 million krill per day (krill are small shrimp-like creatures), that’s 3600 kg or 4 tons – every day for 6 months. Having laid down a layer of fat from this feeding activity in Antarctica, they then starve for several months.This daily intake would feed a human for about 4 years! If you could stomach it. Krill may be nutritious but they’re not very nice as people food – which is lucky for the whales!
  6. Antarctica is the only continent with no native species of ants, and no reptiles.
  7. The coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth was minus 128.56 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 89.2 degrees Celsius), registered on July 21, 1983, at Antarctica’s Vostok station.
  8. The average thickness of Antarctic ice is about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers).
  9. In January 1979, Emile Marco Palma became the first child born on the southernmost continent. Argentina sent Palma’s pregnant mother to Antarctica in an effort to claim a portion of the continent.
  10. The male Emperor penguin is the only warm-blooded animal that remains on the Antarctic continent through the winter. It stays to nest on the single egg laid by its mate (the female spends nine weeks at sea and returns in time for the egg to hatch).
  11. The Antarctic Peninsula, which juts out into warmer waters north of Antarctica, has warmed 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1950, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center. That’s about five times the rate of warming measured for the rest of the world, according to NASA.
  12. Antarctica is the largest desert in the world.
  13. 90% of the world’s ice and 70% of the world’s fresh water is in Antarctica.
  14. No sitting U.S. president has visited Antarctica.
  15. Every year, a half marathon, marathon and a 100K run take place in Antarctica despite an average wind chill of -20°C, or -4F.
  16. There are more than 40 airports in Antarctica.
  17. You cannot work in Antarctica unless your wisdom teeth and appendix are removed.
  18. Antarctica (technically) contains every time zone on the planet.

12/14 & 12/15/2017 Away We Go!!!

We dropped Ellie at Cyndi’s home in Plantation for her first sleepover away from home in 11 years.

We continued on to MIA, and arrived at the Aerolineas Argentinas check-in counters four hours before our departure time.  One important note regarding travel to Latin America:  Better not be in a hurry, because they are not in any hurry at all.  We stood in a quite lengthy line for over 30 minutes before they even opened up the counter stations, and it took us 90 minutes total to check in and clear security.  We struck out at both the Delta Sky Club and the Priority Pass Lounge.  The one drawback to getting free “memberships” via certain credit cards is that the clubs can refuse entry for basically any reason.  We have been fortunate up to this point….c’est la vie…

Our very full flight included two of the narrowest, cramped seats we have encountered in 35 years of travel.  I could barely fit into the narrow seat, and it was physically impossible to have my knees within my seat boundary.  I kept my left leg in the aisle the entire flight, moving only when the carts came through.  Accordingly,  I basically did not sleep at all, because I had to get up every 90 minutes or so to “un-sleep” my leg joints.  JET and I plan to make every reasonable effort to fly business class going forward on any flights over 6 hours in length.

We landed on time in Buenos Aires.  90 minutes later, we met the car and driver waiting for us and arrived at the Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt by 7:00 AM.  The travel gods took some pity on us, and we were able to check into our room right away…I highly recommend this hotel.  Splendid rooms, excellent service and location, good food.  The rack rates are pricey, but if you belong to the Hyatt Rewards program, you can get a $700 room for free with 20,000 points or $125 and 10,000 points.  We had enough time before our tour of the city at 9AM to change clothes, freshen up and have a nice breakfast overlooking the hotel gardens…

We booked a 7 hour full day city tour with toursbylocals.com.  It was $460 for a private tour with a knowledgeable, English speaking guide with car.  The only exclusions were our lunch and bottled water.  Andres met us promptly at 9AM…over the next 7 hours we visited the following Buenos Aires attractions:

Plaza de Mayo, site of many current demonstrations, Pope Francis’ former Buenos Aires Cathedral and the Government House where Eva Peron made many speeches.

La Boca/Caminito – the old port area where the “Tango” dance was born, also home to colorful homes with walls made from corrugated metal, and many beautiful murals.

San Telmo – a neighborhood famous for its many antique stores, and markets.  We had a superb lunch of home made empanadas followed by Alfajores de Chocolat dessert cookies.

The widest Avenue in the world, 9 de Julio, 16 lanes across, the Obelisco and the Buenos Aires Opera House.

Recoleta Cemetery walking tour, including Eva Peron’s mausoleum and the mausoleum of Rufina Cambaceres, the “woman who died twice”.

Palermo neighborhood, filled with embassies and old money mansions.

Rio De La Plata Estuary river park.

We returned to our hotel at 345PM, thoroughly exhausted after 24 hours of travel and touring.  After cleaning up and looking through our pictures, we decided to order room service for dinner.  40 hours without sleep will do that to you…..on to Ushuaia in the morning…buenas noches!!!

 

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12/16/2017  – Ushuaia, Argentina (The End of the World)

We left the comfort of our heavenly Buenos Aires hotel after a hearty breakfast and headed to Aeroparque Jorge Newberry for a mid morning flight to Ushuaia, some 1,600 miles south of Buenos Aires.

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Ushuaia is the southernmost city in Argentina, and a jumping off point for Antarctica expeditions.  The brisk wind and very cool temps hit us quickly,  a harbinger of the weather ahead for the next two weeks.

We took a taxi up,up,up to our home for the next two nights, the Arakur Resort & Spa, a newish, beautifully designed property about 20 minutes and 1,000 feet up the mountain from town.  This place is not cheap, but for the view, facilities and comfort, it is quite the place to relax for a couple nights pre-cruise.  We were fortunate enough to secure two nights on the front end and one night after the cruise by cashing in some credit card points.  The room for the night at the end of the trip does not have the channel view shown below, but sometimes one must just suck it up…

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The property sits on a reserve of a couple hundred acres with hiking trails in the foothills.  Included in the room rate are several free daily hikes led by guides…we signed up for the late afternoon one…there is also a full spa, pool and fitness center, and a free hourly shuttle to/from town….

JET and I have been blessed with some incredible journeys over the last 35 years….this one is shaping up to be at the top of the list, and we are barely into it…

A Room with a View

room 210 view of Ushuaia

The view of Ushuaia from room 210…very high tech room…the curtains are motorized and can be set to open and close at certain times of the day…

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There is a king sized bed, plenty of seating and many outlets…

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The bathroom has a separate rain shower, dual vanity sink and a huge soaking tob with that view…

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We moved the desk in front of the picture window so we could both work at our laptops…

More to follow after our hike…

Afternoon Hike with Daniella from the Arakur Resort

We went on a 2 hour hike through the preserve surrounding the hotel with another couple and Daniella, one of the hotel guides.   The fresh,cold mountain air is intoxicating.  We saw peat bogs, lichens that will only grow in areas that has essentially pollution free air, trees that fell over and fused with other trees instead of dying, a very out of place cow skull and beautiful birds that followed us on our trek….what a wonderful way to spend an afternoon….please enjoy some photos from our hike…

12/17/2017  A Day of Rest and Reflection, with an eye toward Embarkation Day…

The Arakur Hotel was a great choice to unwind after 48 hours of long travel.  Everything about this place is about minimizing stress, claustrophobia and rushed feelings.  The public spaces are enormous, with 12 foot floor to ceiling windows looking out over the Beagle Channel below…

Looking toward the mammoth sitting areas from the front desk.  There are dozens of very comfortable chairs and sofas in three separate areas…the farthest room in the distance is where the bar is, which also is a splendid place for lunch…

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The restaurant is equally spacious, probably capacity for 200 diners, and the tables are spaced well apart from one another….a lot of thought was placed on these areas, and how to create a tranquil environment…

Guests can explore the hotel grounds in relative solitude…the fresh mountain air is intoxicating…or perhaps spend an hour or six in the pool and spa,complete with swim under outdoor infinity pool and hot tub, with majestic mountains as your backdrop…

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After breakfast, we took a shorter hike up to the summit above the hotel, since the skies were relatively clear and the sun was out…

We then decided to take the complimentary shuttle down the mountain to town and explore a bit.  Unbeknownst to us, not much is open at all on Domingo.  We still enjoyed walking around this quirky little port town…

After walking around for a couple of hours, we decided to stop at a small panaderia for some café negro…..on a whim, we decided to partake of the national beverage, “mate” (pronounced mah-tay)…  from Wikipedia:  “Mate is traditionally drunk in a particular social setting, such as family gatherings or with friends. The same gourd (cuia) and straw (bomba/bombilla) are used by everyone drinking. One person (known in Portuguese as the preparador, cevador, or patrão, and in Spanish as the cebador) assumes the task of server. Typically, the cebador fills the gourd and drinks the mate completely to ensure that it is free of particulate matter and of good quality. In some places, passing the first brew of mate to another drinker is considered bad manners, as it may be too cold or too strong; for this reason, the first brew is often called mate del zonzo (mate of the fool). ”

I second the notion that the first brew is often called “mate of the fool”, because I felt pretty foolish after a few swigs of this beverage…perhaps it is an acquired taste…

We quickly asked the waiter for dos café negro, por favor…

Next up:  Embarkation Day!!!

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12/18/2017 – Embarkation aboard m/v Plancius

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The photo above was taken from the bridge observation deck aboard m/v Plancius, our home for the next 11 nights.  Plancius is an ice rated former research vessel that now accommodates around 100 passengers during both Arctic and Antarctic voyages.  Although not at all swanky, Plancius offers comfortable cabins, roomy common areas, 24 hour coffee, tea, hot chocolate and snacks.  The bar in the lounge is reasonably priced.  Meals are served in a somewhat cramped dining room.  Breakfast is always buffet style, lunch and dinner are served both plated and buffet equally.  The food is plentiful, if on the bland side.  Vegetarians will struggle to find much variety over an almost 2 week voyage.  Vegans?  Hahahahahahahahahahaha…fugeddaboudit…

Top and bottom left:  our cabin;  Bottom center:  dining room;  Bottom right: obervation lounge

We arrived at the pier late afternoon, and breezed through “security”…..because there was no security.  No one checked our passports or ship boarding documents, either at the main entrance or at the ship gangway.  I know it is the small port of Ushuaia versus the Miami cruise port, but it was odd that they let us on without confirming our identity at the very least…

Plancius set sail shortly after 6 PM local time.  By this time, most passengers had unpacked and stowed their luggage, and had congregated in the observation lounge to mingle.  First up was a mandatory lifeboat drill complete with survival life vests and a tour of the two lifeboats, each capable of carrying 63 passengers.

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Next, we celebrated embarkation with the ship and expedition teams in the lounge over a champagne toast.  Dinner was served afterward.

One of the odd things about summer at the end of the world is that it stays light very late, and never really gets pitch dark.  After dinner, most guests were either in the lounge or out on deck, watching the Beagle Channel drift by – Argentina to the north, Chile to the south.  We spent time chatting with other guests and enjoying the anticipation of the journey ahead.  One interesting thing about a trip to Antarctica is that most of the passengers are very well traveled.  it was not uncommon to meet people who had traveled to over 100 countries, and about half of the ship’s passengers were visiting their seventh and final continent on this voyage.  No less than 3 other ships departed around the same time as Plancius.  Here are some images from the first evening at sea…

12/19 & 12/20/2017 – The Drake Passage

A cup of tea during the outbound Drake crossing…

The Drake Passage is arguably the roughest body of water in the world.  The Atlantic, Pacific and Southern Oceans converge, with little land to impair their currents.  As a result, 50 foot seas are not at all uncommon.  Hence, the affectionate nicknames for the Drake Passage, the “Drake Shake” and the “Drake Lake”.  Which of these one experiences during a voyage to Antarctica comes down to luck.  We were fortunate going both ways.  The outbound journey was sportier, perhaps a 3 or 4 on a 10 point scale, with a 10 being 50 foot waves.  The return sail was much more calm, perhaps a 1 or 2, and we made great time…

During the roughest parts, the Captain of Plancius closed access to the outside decks, except for the bridge deck.  There are barf bags located all over the ship, and the crew tied these nifty 2 inch thick rope rails in 3 sections of the lounge.  There were times where one could not walk 5 feet without grabbing onto something.  Sitting in a chair in the dining room meant sliding into your neighbor.  A cabin bed became a vibrating massage table.  Here are a couple of videos about 24 and 48 hours into the voyage, the latter of which is just as we can see the outer islands of Antarctica…

JET’s optimistic view

Sporty seas coming into sight of land…

12/21/2017 – Land Ho!!!  Bramsfield Strait to the Neumayer Channel

We woke up to the sight of land for the first time in over 2 days….vast mountains and glaciers, not a speck of green to be found, nor any hint of civilization.  The tone among the passengers was electric as we ate breakfast.  This would be our first zodiac excursion to land…technically one of the outer islands and not the Antarctic peninsula itself, but exciting, nonetheless…here is a map of the actual route of our voyage, the area we would spend the next week in, and some photos of our fist glimpse of the white continent…

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Our first zodiac landing was at Damoy Point.  Zodiac landings in Antarctica are somewhat laborious.  First, you have to put on several layers of warm clothing.  Next comes a water and windproof outer layer, as well as waterproof boots, gloves, hat, perhaps goggles.  Then, we each had to put on the mandatory zodiac life vest, which had to be completely fastened.  Finally, if you were bringing a backpack, it had to be worn so that BOTH HANDS are free.  No slinging it casually over your shoulder.

Once ashore, there were some historical huts to look at, as well as many Gentoo penguin colonies and the penguin highway where Gentoo’s were making their way back and forth to the water. Expedition team members mark the path we are allowed to hike on, and wildlife always has the right of way. We walked past several Gentoo colonies and up to a point called Tombstone Hill where we got a great view of the bay. Ester, one of the Expedition team,  took the photographers to see the penguins and helped her group to take some beautiful pictures. The mountaineering group climbed a ridge directly across the bay from us.  The kayakers were blown out for day one because of strong winds.  After a couple of hours, it was time to return to Plancius for lunch….

After lunch, our second landing of the day was a split landing between Port Lockroy on Goudier Island and Jougla Point. At Port Lockroy, we were able to visit the famous Penguin Post Office and send postcards back to friends and family.  After the post office, we were able to watch Gentoo penguins nesting and some lucky ones were able to see their first Gentoo chicks only a few days old. At Jougla Point we hiked up the ridge to incredible views and more colonies of nesting Gentoo penguins.  After several hours, we returned to the ship for hot chocolate and conversation before the day’s recap and dinner…

12/22/2017 – Cuverville Island and Danco Island

Plancius traversed the Errera Channel overnight, and we were already positioned opposite Cuverville Island by morning, which was to be the location of our first landing, and regarded as having one of the largest rookeries of Gentoo penguins in all of Antarctica.

Conditions in the bay were smooth and the landing was easy. We spent the morning exploring the shore of the island between the various penguin colonies.  The penguins at Cuverville were in the beginning stages of nesting, most still sitting on eggs and putting the final touches to their pebble nests. Numerous brown skuas were circling looking for an easy lunch of an unguarded egg.

After a few hours, we headed back to Plancius for a buffet lunch, but no sooner had we finished was it time to get ready for the afternoons landing at Danco Island.  Snowshoes had been brought ashore, and made the walk a bit easier through the soft snow.  Expedition team leaders led the hike around the island and up to the summit,  and there were even more Gentoo penguins right at the top. The views from the plateau were stunning.

Once the group was gathered back at the shore, it was time for the infamous ‘Polar Plunge’ so those mad enough to brave the icy water got themselves changed. About forty brave souls stripped off and took the plunge.  After the plunge, the group headed back on board Plancius.  Soon, it was time for our daily recap, followed by another dinner filled with conversation about the day…

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12/23/2017 – Lemaire Channel, Pléneau Island and Port Charcot

The day started very special with a cruise through the Lemaire Channel. Lemaire is known as the most scenic channel in the Antarctic Peninsula. It’s also known as the Kodak Gap, because of the many photos that are taken here. Although often inaccessible due to ice early in the summer our Captain navigated the channel relatively easily, and we were able to enjoy the fabulous views that the narrow channel has to offer.

Plancius anchored off Booth Island, allowing for an ice cruise with the zodiacs. This whole area is known as Iceberg Alley or an iceberg graveyard due the shallow nature of the area, and the huge icebergs that get stranded here during the season.  It is often difficult to get the ship very far into the bay area. The light was perfect, with icebergs were sticking out in front of the dark sky. Unfortunately, the wind speed increased during the first cruise, making the zodiac rides very bumpy, and most everyone got wet. It certainly made for a challenging photography session.

In the afternoon we made a landing on Pleneau Island which is around 1.2 km long. From the cobbled beach on the eastern coast, smooth rock terraces slope gently upwards towards a large crevassed ice‐cap, which covers the western two‐thirds of the island. At the landing site a colony of Gentoo penguins welcomed us. The walk over the ice cap lead us towards the northern end of the island where Blue‐eyed shags were nesting. Half way along the walk was a small colony of Gentoo penguins and there apparently was one Adélie penguin hanging out with the Gentoos.

12/24/2017 – Base Brown & Stony Point

Flanked by icebergs to both sides, Plancius inched her way through the Ferguson Channel.  Crabeater seals were lounging on some ice floes.

We finally reached Paradise Harbor to find that it truly lives up to its name. It was totally calm, and the glaciers and ice peaks were mirrored in the flat water. At Base Brown we went ashore, stepping for the first time on the Antarctic continent.  Here lies the remains of the base that was set aflame by the station doctor in 1984 because he didn’t want to spend another winter there. Base Brown was unoccupied for many years, and now it only operates in the summer.  Argentinians were due to arrive in a week.

After some time ashore we went Zodiac cruising. Some humpback whales were spotted and some Zodiacs even got close to them. On this cruise we saw many blue eyed shags (cormorants) nested high in the cliffs above us,  and many glaciers.

Toward the end of the landing, there was the opportunity for another Polar Plunge. Quite a few passengers took advantage, some for the second time during the voyage.

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Over lunch the ship relocated to Stony Point, snow covered and dome shaped. From the landing site everybody could pick up a pair of snowshoes and climb to the top. The views were stunning. All around glaciated peaks loomed and the bay was littered with icebergs. It was again calm and the sea was so still that icebergs and cliffs were mirrored in the water. High above us on the slopes the mountaineers worked their way up over some ice fields. From the distance they looked small like ants. At the end of the landing everybody had the chance to make a Zodiac cruise on the way back to the ship and we admired more icebergs in wonderful blue colours and twisted shapes. On the far side of the bay was a small Gentoo penguin colony that we visited. A Weddell seal was hauled out on the snow. He was sleeping and his breath hung like an icy cloud over his snout. A bit further on an ice floe two Crabeater seals dozed in the sun; their fur gleamed golden in the sunlight.

Back on the ship we had an early dinner. Dessert and cheese was this time served in the bar. As a change from normal routine the recap was supposed to be held after dinner, but the appearance of three or more Humpback whales changed all plans. We watched the whales from the windows of the lounge. The show was really good and each time when a fluke was shown applause and loud cheers rose in the lounge rounding up a fantastic day in Antarctica.

12/25/2017 – Orne Islands and Foyn Harbour

Christmas Day in Antarctica…what a surreal feeling to wake up here… after a wakeup call over the PA, those who went outside witnessed spectacular views of the Gerlache Strait, Errera Chanel and Cuverville Island. After a festive Christmas breakfast,  we bundled up in our warm clothing and got ready to get into the zodiacs for a short drive to the Orne Islands. These low-lying islands are found at the entrance to the Errera Channel.  The largest of the islands rise to around 75 metres. Once ashore we got our first glimpse of Chinstrap penguins which were interspersed with other groups of Gentoo penguins.  The snow was hard, so no need for snowshoes. As we climbed we were able to see some small colonies of Chinstraps, Kelp gulls, Skuas and a couple of Crabeater seals lying on the rocks.  There were a few humpback whales feeding in the bay. While we were exploring the islands,  After a couple of hours ashore it was time to get back in our zodiacs and have a delicious Christmas lunch on board.

During lunch, the ship steamed to Enterprise Island at the North of Wilhelmina Bay.  Conditions were sporty, so instead of zodiac cruises/landings, the Captain decided to do a ship cruise of Wilhelmina Bay.  We were entertained by three humpback whales who put on quite a show for us – waving their pectoral fins and displaying their tails as they dived. The whales stayed close to the ship for over an hour and many of us were able to get lovely close up photographs of them as they were swimming. There were also some splendid icebergs in the afternoon sun, which went unnoticed by many watching the whales.

After Christmas dinner, Santa and his penguin helper arrived to the sound of the staff singing ‘Feliz Navidad’ and the passengers were presented with stockings and presents. The day ended with drinks in the bar. All around it was a fantastic Christmas in Antarctica!

12/26/2017 – Deception Island, Half Moon Island and Barrientos Island

Deception Island is named because it conceals an inner harbour within a flooded volcanic caldera. The Captain guided the Plancius though the narrow entrance known as Neptune’s Bellows, avoiding Raven Rock, which waits just below the surface to founder another ship in the middle of the passage. Once safely inside we made our way into Whalers Bay, the site of a former whaling station from the early part of the twentieth century, as well as a British Antarctic research station. From the ship we could see the Norwegian whaling station which operated on shore from 1911 to 1931.  The sheer scale of the oil tanks added to the eerie atmosphere of the old whaling station, a sobering reminder of a destructive era of exploitation.

For those that made the effort to drag themselves out of bed they were certainly rewarded with spectacular views of this volcanic island, bathed in beautiful morning light. We could even see and smell the steam rising from the dark black beach.

From Deception Island, we continued north up to Half Moon Island for our morning landing. Half Moon Island lies north of Burgas Peninsula in the South Shetland Islands and is home to the Argentine Cámara Base.  We were greated with glorious sun and blue skies, and mild temperatures.  The island was a hive of activity in terms of wildlife.  It was difficult to know where to turn your attention.  Half Moon is the home to about 2,000 pairs of chinstrap penguins, many of which were already caring for very small chicks,

The island is also identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because it supports a breeding colony of about 100 pairs of south polar skuas along with an abundance of Antarctic terns, kelp gulls, Wilson’s and black-bellied storm petrels, Cape petrels, brown skuas and snowy sheathbills, all of which were present today. Some folks walked to the other end of the island towards the base. The walking group saw several elephant seals and Weddell seals on route. Others went the opposite direction and were entertained for quite a while by a lone Weddell seal, incredible vistas, and more penguins, including a lone Macaroni in the middle of many Chinstraps.

Whilst lunch was being served we cruised further north to Barrientos Island, our last landing before heading into the Drake Passage and back to Ushuaia.  Barrientos Island is an ice-free island in the Aitcho group on the west side of English Strait.  As we approached the island by zodiac, the first thing we noticed was how different in appearance this island was to anything else we had come across in the past few days, it was green!!!

The island’s wildlife was flourishing with an abundance of both chinstraps and Gentoo penguins with new born chicks, eggs waiting to hatch, and Skuas circling overhead in search of easy meals. The interaction between the two types of penguins and the predatory birds was strangely fascinating.


The afternoon came to an end far too soon and it was time for us to be shuttled back to the Plancius one last time. However, Antarctica had one last treat in store for us, a curious leopard seal that was intent on taking a closer look at each of the zodiacs as they approached the gangway.

Back on board, we anjoyed our last dinner in Antarctic waters, before heading into the Drake and north toward Ushuaia.

12/27 & 12/28/2017 – The Drake “Lake” and Beagle Channel

Over the next 48 hours, we crossed the Drake Passage once again.  The outbound journey has been mildly sporty, perhaps a 3 or 4 out of 10, with 10 being the worst.  The return crossing was a 1, and quite calm.  No one was complaining.  The two days were spent sharing photos with other passengers, recalling the events of the past 10 days and listening to several presentations by the expedition team.  We reached the Beagle Channel in very quick time, and the ship anchored for about 8 hours, until the prearranged rendezvous with the “Pilot”, who would board the ship and guide it into Ushuaia.  We continued to be blessed with wonderful scenery during the voyage to port:  beautiful sunsets, marvelous, high flying sea birds and even a large group of Dusky Dolphins…a magical end to a splendid journey…

It has now been a month since we embarked on our Antarctic journey.  As I write this, I am still processing what we saw and experienced.  Antarctica is radically different from anything most of us experience in our day to day lives.  Words and pictures can’t begin to adequately substitute for experiencing it in person.  Most people who read this may very well never make it to Antarctica for many reasons, and I hope this account of our journey will give you vicarious enjoyment.  For those of you with the interest, desire and means…just go…don’t think about it…just go…

p.s.  we made some swell acquaintances aboard Plancius…the cool thing about a journey like this is that you will be with seasoned travelers, may for whom this will be their 7th continent visited…cheers to all of you…it was great meeting you…until we meet again…

Here are links to both of our photosets on Flickr:

Jet Flickr album

Tall Guy Flickr Album

 

Author: TG&jet

Nature photographers - wildlife, landscapes, underwater; travelers; bloggers

3 thoughts on “Off We Went To The White Continent…”

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