March 4, 2019
This morning’s GPS Position: 64°10.2’S / 064°06.8’W Air Temp: +2°C Sea Temp: -1°C
Monday, March 4th, we were awoken at 6:45 to watch the sailing of the ship through the Lemaire Channel which is a beautiful narrow channel measuring only 745 m / 2400’.
There are lots of rocks under the water and even more bergs on the surface – some of them so close it seemed we could reach out and touch them! Before exiting the channel we could see a lot of ice and a huge iceberg which appeared to block the exit. The Captain asked everyone on the outer decks to move to one side and we sailed right next to it and exited. It kinda felt liked the Titanic without the big bump.
After a 7:30 breakfast on this foggy, cloudy day, we made our way to Petermann Island where we encountered curious Gentoos right at the landing site.
Again red poles were placed setting out the safe areas to walk (some of these islands have crevasses that you would not want to encounter).
There were many Gentoo rookeries
as well as a small rookery of Adélie ones who were not very active.
How to identify the penguins we encountered:
- Chinstraps look like they are wearing a helmet with, of course, a chinstrap;
- Gentoos have a red beak and look like they are wearing earmuffs – most curious ones; and
- Adélies are completely black faced with a light bluish white circle around their eyes – they are most rambunctious.
There were several places where you could sit down get comfortable and let the curious birds would come right to you and check you out – it was amazing! Fran’s biggest dream for this trip.
This rookery was quite large and encompasses rocks and small swimming pool where we watched the birds practicing their swimming (this is an innate behavior and is not taught to them by their parents). Where the young are old enough to fend for themselves, they have to go into the water to get their own food as their parents quit doing it for them.
Since you can never have too many penguin videos, here’s a few more from out time on this island:
After some time, Doug decided to do the hike to the other side of the island where he had lovely vies of the “ice berg” cemetery.
Fran stayed behind and had four more “close encounters of the penguin kind”. It was so special. The penguin pic at your clothing, especially zipper pulls, straps of backpacks.
Then Doug returned
It had rained on and off a good part of the day and the sun never full showed itself but the temperature was above freezing. The gear that the travel agent lent us kept us warm and dry.
Views of the bay:
We returned to the ship for lunch and began sailing to another island but the wind picked up far too much for the afternoon’s tour. Ali, our tour guide, had spoken with the captain and a new plan was made: we’d head south crossing the Antarctic Polar Circle this afternoon and try a landing on that side of the circle tomorrow. This break also gave our wet gear from the Petermann excursion, plenty of time to dry out.
We had a quiet afternoon which included a lecture on Dogs in Antarctic. They were used for a period covering 1940 into the 90’s. Most of the dogs were from the UK and eventually they began breeding here. In 1965, snowmobiles were arriving on the continent but dogs were still used although not as plentiful. It is said that there have been more than 10,000 dogs on land and they traveled over 336,500 miles!
Fun Fact: the first human born in Antarctica was an Argentinian boy born in 1978!
So the ship began to move away from the coast into open sea and began to get rough and many of us began to feel queasy. After taking some Dramamine, we went upstairs to the lounge to watch the horizon. After over an hour we did not feel much better so we tracked down the ship doctor and got another patch. Then it was dinner time and Fran got us a can of ginger ale and by the time the food was served and we felt almost normal.
We retired to our rooms and hit the hay.
Tuesday, March 5th, 2019
The ship crossed the Antarctic Polar circle (66°55.4’S) around dawn on Tuesday morning and plans had to change again due to the amount of ice (which means slower sailing) and instead of landing today, they offered trips on zodiacs to get up close and personal with ice bergs and spend a bit of time south of the Circle in Crystal Sound.
This morning’s GPS Position: 66°35.4’S / 067°17.7’W Air Temp: +1°C Sea Temp: -1°C
It was like we were on another planet; so many sizes, shapes of ice and in this cloudy foggy weather, the blues of the ice really come out strong. The water is crystal clear and we all get to taste some of the clear ice with bubbles in it and you can feel them pop in your mouth as you let it melt on your tongue. Because the sun was not out the colours are much more vivid and because the water is crystal clear, you can see the beautiful blue of the underside of the ice. Zodiac tours were given in the Crystal Sound; the divers did their southern circle dive and the kayakers enjoyed their own cruise so everyone could partake as there was no landing today. We saw crab eater seals on ice floes, large blue ice bergs looming out of the fog. It was a good thing the zodiac drivers have walkie talkies, because at times we couldn’t see the ship and we moved around in small zodiac convoys.
This excursion’s GPS Position – our furthest south: 66°33.48’ S / 067°23.62’ W
Upon returning to the ship we celebrate the polar circle crossing and are offered hot chocolate with rum to warm up.
Followed by a group shot by Sara of the expedition staff.
Tonight happy hour was offered at the bar offering half price drinks served with glacier ice! Our zodiac had picked this up on the way back.
At our evening briefing we are told we will begin returning north overnight and will try and do two landings tomorrow.
This morning’s GPS Position: 65°11.0’S / 064°17.3’W Air Temp: 0°C Sea Temp: -1°C
Wednesday morning brought a great deal of fog and the going was a bit slow with all the ice around us. We could see seals on sea ice often today; even out of our bedroom window.
We arrived at Yalour Islands as scheduled but had to reposition so the ship could see land so it was visible when we returned. (the expedition crew is constantly in contact with the ship and they carry GPS devices and walkie talkies at all times).
There was so much ice that they had to use the zodiacs to push ice away from the boat to get the gangway down and then we were split into two groups: 1) on land to see Adélie Penguins and 2) a zodiac tour around the island spotting seals and penguins on the ice and then we switched. To make visibility worse, it begins to snow as well but it seems magical to us.
We were in the land tour first group and we spent about 45 minutes on land following trails past the colonies of Adélies. Sadly we saw several carcasses – all part of the circle of life. The penguins are in molting season now so many just stand there looking so cute. They do not eat during this period of molting and use all their energy for the process itself.
Interesting hair day for this little penguin:
Once they have finished, they will go into the water to look for food: krill.
Here is a jar of krill we saw on a shelf in a museum in Ushuaia – it’s a type of crustacean like a shrimp.
Around 11:15 we boarded the zodiacs again and spent the next hour cruising through ice bergs,
spotting both crab eater and weddell seals and sometimes they were with penguins.
We also saw a blue eyed shag and a giant petrol.
Today most amazing moments:
Back at the ship, we spotted many birds and humpbacks again (so not sure you can believe us as there’s no photographic evidence this time 😉 ).
After lunch and they offered another excursion at 3:15.
This was on Winter Island where we visited “Wordie House” a former British Base. This time again we were split into two groups to allow two landings. We did Wordie House first.
It began snowing and didn’t stop until we were back at the Plancius.
The second landing was a visit to the Ukrainian Research Station VERNADSKY which is manned and active.
We were given a tours in groups of about ten through the main part of building.
Once we completed the short tour, we could head upstairs to the most southerly bar in the world: The Faraday as well as the most southerly souvenir shop.
Before entering the bar, there is a table set up that acts as a post office where you can get your passport stamped as well as purchase stamps/postcards. We mailed one to ourselves. No one has any idea when they will actually be mailed as it could be too late for the season so it may not even leave until next spring. Will be interesting to get it one day…..
The bar is small and the tradition for female visitors is to give up your bra for a free shot! Of course, Fran did this:
There were lots of Gentoo penguins outside and before returning to the ship we had to watch these cute creatures some. The zodiac ride back to the ship was interesting, as our driver had to navigate lots of ice.
Tonight for dinner we were offered an Antarctica Barbecue on the outer deck behind the dining room most of which was under cover. They served barbecued ribs, steak, chicken and sausage with corn on the cob, baked potatoes and salad. Beer and wine were free and we all had lots of fun. Desserts were numerous tonight and the views of seals on ice floating by and penguins swimming were spectacular – must have seen at least six float by us as well as a few in the water clambering to get on.
(Sorry these are Phone camera photos so not great).