Our voyage through the Antarctic continues in Part 3 of a trip of a lifetime. I hope you enjoyed the journey as we set sail through the Drake’s Passage and visited Elephant’s Island. Now, sit back and use your imagination as you travel with me through a winter wonderland.
In the wee hours of the morning while all of us slept, we made our way from the South Shetland Islands into Iceberg Alley in the Antarctic Sound. Being an early riser, I got out of bed, opened the drapes, and literally gasped and fell back on the bed because of what I saw.
Right in front of me, seemingly close enough to reach out and touch, was this wall of huge icebergs just floating by the window. Needing to share this with someone, I woke Carl and we got dressed and ran up to the bridge. Here, we were greeted by a layer of fresh fallen snow and only a few other passengers. Seriously, how can people sleep on this trip? I was even afraid to go back and shower for fear I’d miss something…
The Captain had us barely moving through, as the fortunate few on deck are stunned at the vivid colors, the size, the shapes…each one seemingly more magnificent than the last. The snow continued until breakfast and as a ceiling of low clouds lifted, we saw Paulet Island in the Weddell Sea ahead, which was to be our morning adventure.
The Island still holds the remains of the Nordenskjold Expedition of the early 1900’s, one of the greatest stories of survival in Antarctic exploration. It’s a tale of a sunken ship, makeshift camps, penguins for dinner, and an amazing reunion of Captain Larsen and his men after several years.
Besides this history, it also hosts an extraordinary colony of 100,000 pairs of Adelie Penguins! Half of us go ashore and explore the ruins and enjoy the sounds AND smells of the penguins, while the other half explore along the shore and through the ice floes in our Zodiacs. Then we switch.
On Board the Explorer
Back on board the Explorer, we have a Mexican-syled lunch and Carl and I get to sit with National Geographic photographer, Chris Rainier and his brother, Peter, along for the journey. What a fascinating story here. Chris not only photographs disappearing tribes and cultures for NG, but has been a war correspondent and Ansel Adams assistant before he died. We are duly impressed, plus he’s sweet as can be to boot.
That afternoon, we hear the wind is too strong to stop at any other island, so we head back south through the massive tabular icebergs. Those who slept through it the first time around get a second chance to see awesomeness. And me, I’m more than happy to repeat seeing this majestic vista, as chances are I will never see it again. As an aside: My husband and I always say we’d do this trip again in a heartbeat, but in reality, we won’t. We’re too afraid it will disappoint and we don’t want to ruin these memories. It would never be the same as seeing those icebergs for the very first time when I opened those drapes…
We decide to sit in the Observation Lounge, where you have panoramic windows running the length of the lounge, to get the best views and take it all in. It was fascinating to me that I saw all different shapes in the icebergs, like a boot, but my husband often didn’t see it…We are informed by staff that the icebergs are aground in over 7000 feet of water and that what we see of them above the water is only a 1/3rd of their actual size – AMAZING.
As we’re getting ready for dinner, we run into frolicking penguins on an iceberg and the Captain pulled up close so everyone could see and get pictures. This is just one of the advantages of being on a small boat with it’s focus on education of it’s passengers. The penguins were just little dots on this huge slab of ice, kind of like a moving inkblot, sliding on their tushies like kids playing in the snow.
At dinner, we get to sit at the Hotel Manager’s (yes, they have a hotel manager) table, Patrick from Sweden, and two other couples. Each night passengers are invited to dine with either the Captain or other ships’ personnel at small tables. Our new friends, Ted and Suzie, give us a hard time about being “special”. That night we have a talk about the icebergs we saw, plus learn way more about penguins’ mating habits then we probably ever cared to know!
I have truly been in awe of the splendidness of this continent the entire day. You think nothing can surpass what you just saw and experienced, but it does!!! Again, the Captain pulls us up to a smooth iceberg – remember, it’s still light here after dinner – that is inhabited by all three types of penguins known to the Antarctic; the Adelie, Macaroni, and Gentoo. Apparently, a truly rare site that few ever witness. Then, we are informed that if we get up at 4:30 am, we can see the sun and moon at the very same time….Geez, guess who’s not sleeping again tonight…
Next Up: Deception Island (an active volcano), South Shetlands, and Bransfield Strait.