Day 7: Petermann Island

Seventh day on the ship. We are now halfway through our landing days. We’ve had three days in Antarctica; we’ve got three more to go.

We were coming back north from the circle, with two excursions planned for the day—one in the afternoon and one after dinner. We started the morning with an 8am breakfast, followed by a lecture on ice and the Southern Ocean in the main lounge.

Then we had a short briefing at 11:30, where Alex informed us that because our ship had been slowed down by ice we weren’t going to be able to make our hoped-for afternoon landing in Penola Strait. Instead, the team put together a couple more lectures for us to attend. One was on one team member’s experience living at the South Pole.

This evening they had a BBQ planned, which was supposed to be held outside on the deck. But the weather didn’t cooperate, so we had our BBQ in the dining room where we had all our other meals.

Then after dinner, it was time for our landing on Petermann Island. There was the option for a zodiac cruise only, which they said was the best chance of seeing leopard seals trying to catch penguin chicks. Sounded cool but I chose the landing, as did Jeff & Allen. They started loading the zodiacs at about 7:30pm.
We finally managed to get a photo of the three of us together.
There were tons of gentoo penguins with a few Adelies mixed in.
The ice was pretty slushy in some areas. The green color is algae.
Some of the slush was a few inches deep. Good thing those boots are waterproof!
Penguin parents regurgitate krill for their young.
Another hiker penguin
This was the view from the top of that path. See the seal playing in the water?
More penguin chicks eating from their parents’ beaks.
The red is caused by snow algae. This is also sometimes called watermelon snow.
Circle of life
Penguins are super flexible.
Finally around 9:30pm it was time to head back to the ship, although I could’ve stayed on land for hours more. The next day we were going to try for three landings, with the first being before breakfast at 6am. Time to get some sleep.

Day 6: Hurricane

This day, our third day of landings, was the farthest south we would go, at 67 degrees, 51 minutes south (the location of Horseshoe Island that we’d visited in the morning).

After we landed at Carvajal, we were heading north again to hit some of the more common landing sites and where there would be more penguins again. (And who doesn’t want more penguins?)

But at dinner that night, the water started getting rough. At first most of us didn’t think much of it, but gradually, throughout the meal, the waves got higher and higher. Dishes were sliding around. A lot. Sometimes entirely off the table. These waves were bigger and rougher than what we’d experienced on the (admittedly calm) Drake.

We experienced 100mph winds and 30+ foot swells. You could barely stand up on the ship, we were rocking and rolling so much. You had to hold on to a wall to remain upright. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I didn’t feel seasick (the rocking felt different than it had on the Drake) but I didn’t want to take any chances, so I went ahead and took a phenergan to be safe.

I went out to the top deck to get a couple photos of the waves crashing over the bow of the ship.
Some of the biggest waves covered the bow of the ship completely, and some crashed over the top deck where I was standing. (I turned my back and tried to protect the camera as much as possible during those. A waterproof camera would’ve been useful here, too!) It was windy and wet and I didn’t stay out there very long.

Jeff took the GoPro out and got this video of one of the bigger waves. At some point Alex came over the PA system to let us know that it was, in fact, a hurricane.

This happened to be February 14, Valentine’s Day, and Quark had a Valentine’s social planned for the evening in the lounge.
I’m not sure how well attended this was…I opted to skip it and get a shower and some sleep. Showering on a ship during a hurricane is a bit of an undertaking, but I managed by holding on to the bar and bracing myself against the wall. And then the crazy waves and phenergan rocked me right to sleep as we sailed north again in search of penguins.

Day 6: Seals and some surprised Chileans

The seals may have been surprised, too, come to think of it.

After lunch, we prepared to visit Carvajal, a former British Antarctic Survey station that was transferred to Chile in 1984. It hadn’t been used in 14 years, though, so the expedition team had no reason to expect it would be manned now. Alex explained how part of his job is to make contact with manned stations the day before we hope to land there, to make sure they’re okay with having us as visitors and so they are expecting us.
But this day, since they thought it was vacant, the Quark team went ahead in their zodiacs to scope out the landing site ahead of bringing the passengers up, as usual, and they were surprised to find a group of about 10 Chileans working there. The Chileans were also pretty surprised to see them, since no one else had stopped there this season. (I can’t remember if they said they’d seen any other ships go by or not, but for sure none had stopped.) They were there to do repairs and maintenance on the buildings to get them ready to use as a research station again.

Despite having no advance notice, and possibly because they hadn’t seen other people since they got there in November, they were very welcoming towards us.
Here’s the spot where we landed. This was the rough landing spot I mentioned the other day…the zodiac was bobbing up and down by a foot or so in the water and we had to step out onto some large rocks and climb up a few big wet rocks. The Quark team and the Chileans stationed themselves along the path to give us a hand if we needed it. You can also see the bags (in the foreground here) where we put our lifejackets once we were on land.
Fur seals everywhere! Dozens of them!
What we looked like taking photos of them all.
The first elephant seal we’d seen. They open their mouths not to yawn but to bare their teeth, just so you know.
The blue bins stored a variety of things, including human waste. Even the people living on Antarctica must bring everything out with them.
The are the largest seals (in fact this one isn’t even a full-grown adult–he will likely still double in size), and their name refers to their trunk-like noses. Although it totally fits their massive size, too.

Parasites live in their noses for their whole lives, so they always have what looks like a runny nose as they try to expel them.
The hikers heading up a glacier.
More elephant seals at the base of the glacier. This was quite a ways from the water. I was pretty impressed that these seals can move well enough on land to get this far inland.
At the top of the glacier, remnants of a plane crash.
There’s the baby again with the others.
Dozens more fur seals were hanging out at the base of the glacier.
After this landing, we were back on the ship having our daily re-cap in the main lounge when suddenly one of the team brought in the Chileans!
They had wanted a tour of our ship. Everyone gave them a very warm welcome (there was lots of clapping and cheering), and one of them gave a short speech in Spanish (which was translated for us) thanking us for visiting. Several people wanted to take photos with them. Quark also gave them a couple crates of fresh produce, which they hadn’t had since November.

And then we had dinner and sailed into a hurricane. I’ll make that a separate post, since this is already so long.

Meals in Antarctica

Let’s talk about what we ate in Antarctica.

First off, the food was excellent. We ate so well on this trip. And it felt like they were always feeding us when we were on board, which was awesome.

Mealtimes were noted on the daily program. (It was broadcast on its own channel on the TVs in our rooms as well as posted in various spots throughout the ship.)

First was a continental breakfast served in the main lounge, for the hour before the main breakfast started. I could not tell you anything about this one as I was never out of bed to partake of this one.

Then came the main breakfast served in the dining room. This lasted an hour and usually began sometime between 7 and 8am. The seating (for all meals) was open–just sit wherever you wanted. There were a few tables for two, lots of tables for four or six, and a few larger ones.
(I did not notice that my face was in the bacon until I was processing these back at home.)

Breakfast was served buffet style, with a variety of meats, cheeses, breads, eggs, potatoes, fruits, etc. Coffee was free but sodas (including club soda) cost $3 each.
Lunch was also served buffet style, sometime around 12 or 1pm. Each morning they posted the lunch menu describing what was offered in the buffet for that day. There was always at least one vegetarian option (except for one day when there were anchovies in the pasta sauce, which seemed like an oversight).
Some of the things served at lunch included: vegan white chili, couscous salad, tangy tomato salad, chicken cacciatore, Norwegian fish & chips, Monte Cristo sandwich, pan-fried swai, artichoke and prosciutto salad, blackened catfish fillet, chickpea ratatouille, beef & broccoli stir fry, coconut curry chicken, hearty vegetable soup, and pomodoro pasta.

The soups and drinks were served to you by the servers; everything else you just helped yourself to at the buffet. It was no small feat on some days for the servers to carry cups of soup and trays of drinks, with as much movement as there was sometimes. (And sometimes, despite everyone’s best efforts, things slid off to the ground anyway.)
Glasses were laid on their sides in hopes of preventing breakage.
The dessert table at lunch. The best thing about the dessert table is that it always included cheese.

Dinner was usually served around 7 or 7:30, after our daily re-cap.
Dinner was not a buffet; it was seated. Servers took our orders off the nightly menu. Again, there was always at least one vegetarian option, sometimes two. Wine & cocktails were also available (for a fee).
Some of the things we were offered at dinner (and the only way I can remember these is that Quark gave us a file with a bunch of info from the trip, including the menus, after it was over): cream of potato leeks, snapper fillet, roasted pork tenderloin, smoked salmon fettuccini, eggplant milanese, beetroot salad, duck breast salad, carrot ginger soup, tofu tempura, broiled haddock fillet, Ukranian red borscht (vegetarian!!!), vegetable moussaka, Greek salad, vegetable torte, seafood bisque, and mahi mahi fillet.
And then there were two dessert choices, plus ice cream (made on the ship).

Basically, the food was fantastic. And this wasn’t even all of it. They also served snacks each afternoon just before the re-cap. Re-cap was held in the main lounge, and they’d set up a table just outside the lounge with various appetizers–bruschetta, shrimp cocktail, little sandwiches (cucumber and tomato for the veggie option), and so on. There was a bar in the lounge so you could order drinks as well.

And at all times, there were cookies, coffee, tea, and water available in the lounge.

My only complaint about the vegetarian options was the day they had a BBQ. It was meat, meat, and more meat. I thought they’d at least have a veggie burger or something, but no. There were enough sides to make a decent meal but I really wanted a veggie burger.

I almost forgot to mention the awesome announcement that the woman at the reception desk would make when the dining room opened for meals. She had the perkiest voice, and she would announce, “The dining room is now open. Enjoy your lunch!” It doesn’t come across in writing, I’m realizing, but since I’m writing this for me as much as for you guys, I’m leaving it b/c it will remind me of her cute little upbeat announcement.

Day 6: Morning on Horseshoe Island

Day 6, still south of the circle. Our third day of doing landings.
Keeping the deck clean. I was out on deck a little earlier than usual this morning. Before we got to Antarctica, I had thought I would be up super early to take pictures, or even get up in the middle of the night to see the stars. But as excited as I was to see and photograph it all, I was exhausted at the end of each day, so I never woke up before the wake-up call each morning, which came 30 minutes before breakfast. (The time of breakfast varied depending on the day’s plans.)

So anyway, this was the only day I caught anyone cleaning the decks.
The first zodiac full of passengers heads to our morning landing site. This site had tighter restrictions on how many people could be on land at once, so they took us in two waves. Allen, Jeff & I were in the second wave.
The views from the ship were amazing as always.
This morning we were venturing to Horseshoe Island in Marguerite Bay, home of a British research base that had been abandoned in 1960. It was left basically as they’d left it in 1960–magazines & food & all.
This site had a guest book we could sign.
Fun fact: Buildings in Antarctica are never locked, in case anyone has emergency need for shelter.
That paper posted on the wall says at the top: “HOW TO BAKE ABOUT 9 LBS OF BREAD.”
This bright green is copper that’s been exposed and oxidized. It was in rocks all over the island.
Guess who!
More of the oxidized copper
We saw a few seals around the island.
But these were the only two penguins (Adelies) that we saw this morning. Mostly we were too far south for penguins.
This was one of the zodiac rides where I decided to take my chances and keep a camera out, because we’d gone through some really cool ice on the way to land.
This was also the zodiac ride where we had to get towed in. And sitting at the front of our zodiac you can see a piece of ice that Jimmy had collected. They melted this and auctioned off the glacier water at the end of the trip.
The ice was right there.

By the way this also reminds me that in the middle of the night on the ship, you could hear the ship hitting and scraping ice in the water. It was a little disconcerting, but I just told myself that it must be normal because I heard it a lot and nothing bad ever seemed to happen.
And thus ended the morning. Then it was time to eat lunch as we headed to our next landing site, which is where we surprised the Chileans.

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