The next day in Antarctica – it was still buzzing having sailed not only Antarctica, but so far south of Antarctica – a feat unsuccessful on any other voyage all season – we got up very early and sailed very fast. Excited and very keen to explore more… The Frozen Continent.
Also, since we crossed the Drake Passage, I was able to stop taking seasickness pills.
Honestly, I don’t think we really need them, as we were lucky to have Drake Lake, a time when the Drake Passage is all calm and serene.
The Drake Passage is the world’s most powerful sea convergence and most dangerous voyage.
When you understand that this is where the Pacific, Atlantic and Southern Oceans all meet, this is one with waves as high as 12m/40ft.
When it’s calm it’s called Drake Lake, and when it’s rough and stormy it’s called Drake Shake.
We took our time for breakfast and it’s now actually one of my favorite things to do. I love long lazy breakfasts.
It’s so calming and wakes you up properly.
Anyway, after breakfast, I grabbed my camera and headed to the upper deck of the ship.
The weather in Antarctica is very strange. One moment the weather is calm and mild, the next it is stormy.
Then it quickly switches back on again to the mildest weather imaginable.
The Lemaire Channel experienced some of the strongest winds I have ever experienced in sailing. Usually not. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
The water here is protected, so it’s usually like a lake.
It was still pretty impressive though. Especially that big mountain!
When we think of Antarctica, or at least when we think of it, we usually think of huge stretches of flat ice, not huge mountains, so it’s a bit daunting to make sense of it all. It was something
Interestingly enough, these mountains were actually part of the Andes when Antarctica was still connected to South America.
After passing through Lemaire Strait and heading to Neko Port, the wind subsided and the water surface became calm. It was truly incredible.
All of a sudden we started finding lots of different wildlife around us.
Seals on the ice, penguins swaying in the water, killer whales casually swimming.
When the breeze picked up, it smelled so bad I had to be even more grateful that the wind had stopped. Penguin poop!
We were surprised because we were completely oblivious to the giant penguin colony before sniffing it.
At that point the captain told me to get a zoom lens and binoculars to spot the harbor penguin colony.
Here you can see how good the camouflage is. From a distance it looks like nothing, but when I took a photo and zoomed in, I could see hundreds (well over 1,000) of Gentoo penguins.
I was confident that I would be able to see the penguins in the near future, so I eventually ditched my binoculars and was able to see penguin colonies with the naked eye.
The smell of penguin poop has gotten worse, but I’ve gotten used to it.
Also, I get so distracted by the number of penguins in front of me that I don’t really notice how stinky they are.
Not sure what we expected at this point, but we lost it when the captain announced that we would not only be getting closer to a penguin colony, but actually stepping foot in Antarctica !
Finally, we can say that we actually stood in Antarctica!
Seeing everything from the ship was so special, but being able to actually walk on land here was next level.
Again, I don’t know why I was so surprised. This is what we came here for and why we sailed for days to get here. I guess I was expecting it to happen another day or something.
Anyway, we put on our suits and booted and headed to Neko Harbor on the Zodiac boat. Again, like the day before we explored Antarctica in Zodiac boats (those little inflatable boats), we had to decontaminate beforehand.
If the clothes are not brand new, they are made together on the ship several days in advance.
Don’t worry. You don’t need to know how to decontaminate beforehand, as the crew here will help you do this.
After major decontamination, you will be given your own boots by the ship’s crew upon arrival as boots to wear to go ashore. These boots are washed each time you board or leave the ship.
You’ll also be given a parka that you can keep from your expedition.
Alright, let’s land in Antarctica. The plan was to explore first by land and then around the bay on a mini Zodiac cruise.
It was everything we wanted. Penguins are so cute and clumsy.
Also, they are not overly bothered by humans. They haven’t learned to fear humans, so they go about their business as usual.
There is a route called Penguin Highway, which is not walkable. I have to go another way.
Also, if the snow is so thick that there are holes in the show, they need to be filled.
The scenery along the way was stunning and looked incredible on the boat, but on land the perspective is even more impressive.
I don’t remember how long we were supposed to be on land, but we definitely spent double that time just walking around the harbor.
They let us know when to leave, so we decided to make the most of it and take everything in properly.
It was absolutely gorgeous and an incredible highlight of our trip.
We then took the zodiac tour of the bay which was also great. The glacier here is so huge!
Occasionally we would hear the ice break up and fall into the ocean, creating new icebergs, and that in itself was amazing.
It sounded like thunder and completely freaked us out every time it happened.
By the time we started back on the boat the wind started to pick up in the bay and we finally realized why we were told to wear waterproof pants.
As mentioned earlier, I was given a waterproof parka as part of the expedition, so my top half was fine.
I took my waterproof trousers back to the ship, but decided to wear the “water resistant” ones, which are not the same.😆😆
Waterproof is like plastic, so it doesn’t get wet at all. It just doesn’t let water through.
Water resistance tries to keep you from getting too wet at first (because it’s “water resistant” instead of “waterproof”), but if you get a constant splash, you’re completely soaked.
Again, I never made that mistake again. 😆😆
Lloyd was fine wearing water resistant pants, but I took a shower to warm up (and wash off the salt water) right back on board.
It was that night that he invented the “Antarctic Champagne Rule”.
Each time we landed in Antarctica, we had a bottle of champagne at or after dinner to celebrate.
Drinking champagne was a weak excuse, but we happily continued with it.
It was the first day we landed on Antarctica. See you in the next blog post as we explore more of Antarctica.