Day 3: Getting closer

Still sailing along on the Drake, still taking phenergan, still thrilled out of my mind.
It was like the flight map on an airplane, except it was tracking our ship instead of a plane. This TV screen, which was just outside the main lounge, always showed where we were. This day, our second full day at sea, we were approaching the South Shetland Islands in Antarctica.

The wake-up call came at 6:30am this day. Breakfast was 7-8.

Then, instead of the geology and history lectures like the day before, our morning was filled with logistical things. First, we had a mandatory briefing about IAATO rules and zodiac procedures. This covered zodiac loading and unloading procedures, plus rules like no bringing food ashore, no approaching wildlife, and so on. People are not allowed to approach animals closer than 5 meters / 15 feet. (They can approach you, of course, and often did.)

We signed up for zodiac assignments. There were six zodiac groups, each named for explorers to Antarctica. Allen, Jeff, and I signed up with the Amundsen group. I’ll write more later about how the zodiacs worked.

They also did a bio-security briefing, where they explained the need for not introducing non-native species to Antarctica, or even tracking things from one landing site to the next. Each time we left the ship and then again as we came back on, we had to dip our boots in a cleaning solution, and also scrub off anything that had gotten on our clothes (say, like, penguin poop that you knelt or fell in–and that stuff was everywhere, so you were bound to get it on you at some point).
We were called to the lounge by deck level to bring our things to be vacuumed off. Any outerwear like pants and gloves plus backpacks that we would be bringing onto land had to be vacuumed.

This morning we also got our rubber boots. These were loaned to us by Quark, and they were awesome. They suggested trying them on with two pairs of socks, in case you needed them for warmth, but I only ever wore one pair of hiking/ski smartwool socks with mine, and my feet were always plenty warm and toasty.
They called us by deck level to get our boots. We tried them on to find the right size, and then they were ours to keep for the duration of the trip. They are waterproof, which was necessary because we had many wet landings, where you stepped out of the zodiac into water to walk up onto land.

After lunch, there was a talk on penguins, and then another history one about more Antarctic explorers.

During the afternoon we also saw our first icebergs!
We’d seen a few penguins swimming near the ship, too, which was cool. But then, during the nightly re-cap, suddenly Jimmy the whale guy came in and told Alex (the expedition leader, the one who does the re-caps) that there was a pod of orcas near the ship. We cut short the re-cap and everyone ran out onto deck.

They were everywhere. There were a couple different kinds of whales, there were seals, there were penguins. They were in every direction. People would ooh and aah pointing one way, and then suddenly you’d hear the same from another side. The whales were huge. Some of them came right up close to the ship.
Orcas work together to catch their prey, which is why they’re in groups of three here.

At our re-cap, Alex talked about what landings we would be doing the next day, what options we had for each one, and then told us that they anticipated crossing the circle the day after the next. The captain wanted to get as far south as possible first, and then we would turn around and come back and hit the landing sites that we’d missed on the way down. It would also be the crew’s first time crossing the circle this season, so they were excited about it as well.

After dinner this night, they showed a movie about Shackleton in the lounge, complete with popcorn. And thus ended the third day. Overnight we would be reaching Antarctica. In the morning…FIRST LANDING!!!