I’m back….and a bit knackered as the Brits would say. Good trip, great and not so great food, fantastic weather. The only exception was Mr. TxPepper having a severe case of the hiccups for the whole! trip! The entire! trip! 11 days! worth! This not the first time and certainly not the last. When this happens he doesn’t rest which leads to exhaustion along with no appetite which made food exploration little more problematic as one person just can’t eat that much and still wear the same clothes.
So I offer up a picture from the past just to let you know that I’m still alive and hopefully will finish up my Antarctica trip report in the next several days.
31 January…Cruising Day 9…Brown Bluff, Antarctic Sound; Paulet Island, Weddell Sea
We crested the top of the Antarctica peninsula and have come down on the north-eastern side to Brown Bluff for our first adventure of the day and landing.
We did a landing on Brown Bluff…which was a fantastic visual of browns, reds and white.
Primary penguin inhabitants of this location were Adelie with some Gentoo in the mix.
Tara Mulvany, of New Zealand, was an expedition staffer assigned to work with the kayakers. You can read why here and here. But first, you have to finish looking at my pretty pictures. *grin*
These little guys were probably my most favorite of all the chicks that I photographed…so because of that, you have to suffer through a few more pics than usual.
I could have spent more time here with the chicks but I didn’t relish swimming to the next stop so I participated in the process. After loading up, we headed to Paulet Island…
On the way, blocky icebergs commanded a few pictures…
These little guys….
…were hitching a ride on this…
Arriving at Paulet Island we were greeted by approximately 150,000 mating pairs of Adelie = 300,000 penguins + two eggs each* = the potential of 600,000 penguins. *Even though a majority of may eggs hatch, the mortality of the chicks to predators and other acts-of-nature will reduce the numbers.
Looking out from the island, we saw some beautiful ice….
And so the excursion to Paulet comes to an end.
After the cruise-out as dusk was falling, we passed by some dramatic blocky icebergs….
Fast forward to after dinner….and I’ve just shut the door to my cabin getting ready to call it a day, Susan of RusSus Duo comes knocking on the door, telling me to grab my camera and head outside. It was around 10:00pm.
This was the cherry on top….the sky was on fire! Thank you Susan for the heads-up….
So ended another great day. We have one more full day of excursion before we head back across the Drake.
‘Hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.’ ~ Bette Davis, All About Eve ~modified
30 January…Cruising Day 8…Spert Island, Mikkelsen Harbour and D’Hainaut Island
Wheeee! Talk about a ride!! Adrenalin, amazing rugged beauty, what’s not to love!!!
The Spert Island stop was only a zodiac excursion but what an excursion. It was like a ride at a waterpark made of amazing geologic formations, ice obstacle course and really, really cold water. This was the sort of trip where ‘waterproof’ was the word of the day. Franny, an expedition team member and our zodiac driver for this jaunt was excellent.
The other word or words of the day… ‘camera strap’. Can you guess? It was during this excursion that some form of marine life became a lucky and proud owner of an Apple phone. Considering the demographics of the passengers on this trip, I’m guessing it was the latest, greatest version. Oops! And to make the story even sadder, the same passenger’s big camera went on the fritz the day before. One forum I followed in prep for this trip had a few passengers saying that they were carrying three cameras. Me…I carry my main, a point-n-shoot, and my Lumia/Microsoft phone. The point-n-shoot is strictly a backup as it is a little wonky (the LCD screen) but it still takes pictures.
FYI timeout: So this is what I do to ease the paranoia of dropping my phone in an irretrievable situation and to shield against everyday dropsies. It seems that phone designers/manufactures stopped adding a hole for a lanyard about the time smartphones came into being. I think it’s all a conspiracy to create replacement sales from dropped phones while taking pictures. Anyway, I got the brilliant idea of adding what I call a ‘finger lanyard’ to the case itself as there are enough cut-outs to support adding one somewhere on the case. The only thing, one needs to make sure that it doesn’t block the camera lens or a control button. In my case, the perfect spot on my Microsoft 950XL was near the charging port and the microphone input. So what if my phone and me looks a little nerdy. I still have my phone. An alternative but one that is fiddly and not useful for all day, every day is a waterproof pouch. This alternative though is particularly good for splashy situations like kayaking, etc. cause we all know that you’ll want to take some pics….and why take chances.
Water splash created less than optimal photography conditions in addition to bodies blocking shots (as we were unable to standup). It’s not like I was the sole, Very-Important-Photographer on the boat so that’s my excuse and I’m stickin’ with it. So decent, usable pics were few. And to out my extremely rookie mistake, looking through the viewfinder, I didn’t have a clue that my front lens was foggy. Hadn’t had the problem before so it never crossed my mind to check this time. No excuses. *sigh*
~ Back to our regular programming….
First we headed this direction….playing follow the leader! Ice straight ahead…..
We cruised through small-ish ice formations…
And encountered some local residents….
Saw a little more amazing ice…
But then…..little did we know that we were in for a great ride!
We headed back to the boat shortly thereafter, loaded up and headed to our next stop where we did a landing.
D’Hainaut Island on Mickkelsen Harbour was not the prettiest of landings on this trip but it is a facet showing the diversity of Antarctica. Going ashore had us negotiating some interesting ice…
A stark reminder of a not-to-distant bygone era were evident at our landing site…
On the other side from the whale remnants was an Argentinian refuge hut that had its own small cadre of Gentoo penguins.
Loading up, we head out to our next location with a great closing to the day….
29 January…Cruising Day 7…Neko Harbour, a Continental landing and Cuverville Island
After having done three major Fantastic Firsts…where does one go from here? You view a wedding! Yes, that happiest of occasions. Most guys (and the occasional gal) strive for a memorable, over the top pop-the-big-question moment. I think this couple wins it all based on the location of the wedding. But that moment is later on in the day.
First we saw a calving glacier…which I almost missed, humpback whales slowly undulating through the water…where I only got the hump, and an island with very messy Gentoos…and their attendant aroma. But it’s a glass half-full sorta thing and I’m happy I can say, saw that and have the pictures to prove it.
And then this happened during the first round of passengers going ashore….
This couple was from China and was traveling with another six or eight friends. It was a large enough group that Quark provided a translator for them. The ship’s crew and the expedition staff did a great job pulling off this event.
After the excitement of the wedding, as we were hanging out on deck waiting for the rest of the passengers to re-board….we heard a crack of noise. Trying to figure out what it was and where it came from, I spotted what looked like a waterfall. As it turned out, it was a glacier calving. I only managed to catch what I call the dribble but I did get to see a great portion of the ‘gush’ of ice and snow.
Moving on to Cuverville Island, more Gentoos were our entertainment for the afternoon.
But we were treated to a humpback fluke in the distance….
Goals are like breadcrumbs, they keep you moving forward. ~Me
8 January…Cruising Day 6: Lemaire Channel and Paradise Harbour, Brown Station
64°.54’S, 062°.52’W is located in a spot called Paradise Harbour. For me and ~199 of my closest fellow passengers, it was where we stepped onto The Continent. Yes, I use capital letters….it is that special. Many people tell you that they’ve been to Antarctica when in reality, they only sailed by the upper peninsula. The next best thing they might have been able to do is make a landing on one of the islands that could accessed by tenders. But to actually step foot on The Continent is aspirational. And not everyone on every Antarctic expedition gets to do this. Remember those pesky wind and water conditions? Yeah, they can bite at any time.
So we’ve crossed The Circle, taken The Plunge, and now stepped onto The Continent. This was a trip of Fantastic Firsts!
Today’s activities in addition to the Polar Plunge: A scenic cruise through Lemaire Channel:
There was a brief glimpse of this…
If the humpback wasn’t enough excitement, around lunchtime we spotted a frenzy….
…which means there is a good chance of these being in the vicinity….and they were.
After the Lemaire Channel, Paradise Harbour was next with a zodiac cruise and a landing at the Argentinian research station. ‘Argentinian’ as this is the slice of the pie that Argentina lays claim to even though no single country ‘owns’ any part of The White Continent. One can read more about this non-ownership here (not that Wikipedia is the end all be all of all knowledge but it’s just easiest for this conversation.)
Once ashore, passengers could stay near the water and view a few stray penguins or….
The water was so incredibly still, kayakers and the stand-up paddle boarders got to do their thing…
While the kayakers were busy, we did a zodiac cruise…
We had company….
From the zodiac, we saw this as close as safely possible….
Back on the boat….looking out, I saw other passengers having their photographic moment with the same seal.
And looking down…. saw barrels being filled with fresh water. As it turns out, we were helping to top off the water supply for the residents of Brown Station.
Time to get ready for dinner followed by a good sleep. It was a nicely long day.
~*~ ~Thank you to my sis and SallyB for playing the game of ‘A or B’.
In the evening every man looks the same. Like penguins. ~Roberto Cavalli
27 January…Cruising Day 5 Petermann Island, Pleneau Bay and Island
Busy, busy, busy….today we stepped on a mini-terra firma but first…we did a zodiac cruise in the bay around Petermann Island and the kayaking group got to do their thing. The sky and lighting was very dynamic….flat when we started out and then fantastically beautiful in the afternoon.
View from the zodiac….
The kayak group having fun!
We saw some seals up close….
And Gentoo penguins!
And then we went ashore…our first landing of the day:
Moody lighting when we landed….
Twenty minutes later….blue sky…brighter sun.
We were able to get really close to Adelie and Gentoos:
And the researchers aka the penguin-counters got to do their thing…
After Petermann Island, we loaded up and headed to Pleneau Bay and Island…home to Gentoo penguins. This stop was nice because of its mix of terrain…snow, rocks, water and incredible ice formations. And it was the place of choice…if the weather permitted….for overnight camping on the island. I didn’t get pics of my own of the camping as Mr. TxP and I did not participate. I was game but Mr. TxP did not relish having to crawl out of his sleeping bag to go to the loo especially when he had a nice warm, much more comfortable cabin in which to sleep. Also, there was an extra fee to self-inflict this torture so there was that. If you would like to read more about this camping experience, you can read here and here.
So another zodiac cruise was in order….with ahh..mazing ice forms….
And wildlife viewing….
After a nice zodiac cruise, it was time for a shore excursion.
At the end of the day….
…in this calm, serene setting, the crazy humans made camp and sleep beneath the stars.
“At the end of the day, let there be no excuses, no explanations, no regrets.” ― Steve Maraboli
28 January…Cruising Day 6…with a break in our regularly scheduled programming that deserves its own post.
Taking the Plunge or Insanity Rules the Day!
No, not the marriage plunge; I did that a few years back. I’m talking 1.4°C water located at 65°07.42’S, 064°02.73’W Polar Plunge. We were hoping to jump below the Circle but for whatever reason, we were unable. While that would have been the icing on the cake, no need to be greedy.
This is how the conversation went:
Early on during travel prep…..
Me: Are you going to do the polar plunge?
Mr.TxP Son: Yeah pops….are you jumping in?
Mr.TxP: Sure, why not.
Packing day….in goes a swimsuit for Mr. TxP…aaand one for me. Ya never know…best to be prepared.
Day of the plunge…well before 7:00am–announcement made that it’s happening!:
Me…still in bed: Well, are you going to do it?
Mr.TxP: Nah, no reason. *goes off to have breakfast*
Me: Hmmm, okay.
Just a little bit later on, I’m showered, dressed for a day of being outside, and heading to breakfast. But just then an announcement was made for those wanting to participate in the plunge — it was time to queue up. So it was up on the deck to watch and hopefully take a few pics especially of Russell of the RusSus duo. He was about quarter way down in the queue so I didn’t have to wait long. I got a few good shots and then headed to breakfast.
So I’m sitting there staring at my scrambled eggs, battling with myself….yes, no, stay or go, live a little or be a boring lump. I saw a few passengers come in wearing their terry robes, asked them if there was still a queue and if I would have time to join the madness.
Call me The TxFlash! I was the second-from-the-last passenger with a handful of expedition staff eventually queued up behind.
The Drill: Show up in a swimsuit and bath robe. Doff bath robe. Don safety belt connected to a retrieval line being held by two safety staff additionally supported by two safety zodiacs. (Safety is always paramount.) Strike a pose. Venture out past the point of no return. Have no regrets.
O.M.G. The water was so cold that it didn’t feel cold. It was only after you’re out of the water and your skin started prickling that you realize just how cold the water was. My only vocabulary was, “Oh my, oh my….” ad infinitum. Accompanied by the rhythmic percussion of chattering teeth.
Once out of the water, there were spirits (for a price) and a heated pool in which to relax and relive the moment.
After the plunge, I made a mad dash to take a hot shower to warm up. After taking a shower for the second time in just as many hours, I headed out to find Mr. TxP. Not too difficult considering there are less than 200 passengers on a 137 meter long boat. I located him in very short order with the first thing out of his mouth being, “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to take the plunge? I would have done it also”. Hey, there are some things in life where one has to make their own mind up. Since this was a totally optional exhibition of human frivolity sprinkled with a touch a crazy, it wasn’t up to me to make another person’s decision. Well, maybe this was that type of situation where peer pressure and ‘daring’ should be the action word of the day.
Me….no regrets! Plus I have a nice, personalized certificate that reinforces a very vivid, happy memory.
Woops! I posted this out of order. I guess I got excited reliving the moment. Part 9 tomorrow.
Followed by….pics from the rest of the Polar Plunge day.
Dotted line ho! ~ Not said by any sailor anywhere, any time
26 January…Cruising Day 4
I can certify that you don’t feel a bump when you cross the Antarctic Circle.
On 26-1-2016 at 07:41 local time we crossed the Antarctic Circle and the King Neptune celebration commenced shortly thereafter.
We had much to celebrate as earlier ‘Crossing the Circle’ Quark expeditions were unable to venture this far south for various reasons; we were the first for the season. Yes!
Group pictures were taken, libations were toasted, we were soooo fortunate.
An example of how fortunate we were for the whole expedition, at one point we intersected the Quark Diamond. Even being on a very similar itinerary –less the Circle–, the Diamond was unable to make a few of the same landings even by a day that we were able to make. No zodiac cruises, no shore landings, sad passengers.
After the ceremonial crossing, we headed to Andresen Island where we made our first zodiac excursion and saw this along the way:
The zodiacs were lowered and boarding commenced.
And then we cruised toward the island (no landing) to see Adelie penguins…our first large grouping.
From Andresen Island, we head out through sea ice to see what we could see….
And then we sail into this……
And then I saw and managed to grab a pic of this very hard to spot white-against-white….
Going forward from this point, the posts will be primarily pictures…as our days did not vary much as far as daily routine with the exception of a couple of scheduled special events….that only took place if conditions permitted. Of course.
I’m happy to report the Drake was more a lake rather than a shaken-not-stirred martini. Mr. TxP was ecstatic; I was relieved. (Now…we just had to get back across uneventfully.) Eating, lectures, equipment orientation for the kayakers/stand-up paddle boarders, and more eating was the order of the day.
But then we spotted this:
Which eventually led to seeing a whole lot of this:
We were able to get pretty close….
There was rejoicing all around. The humans were placated.
That evening, Captain Alexey Zakalashnyuk hosted a formal reception welcoming us onboard. The crew exhibited great haberdashery making an appearance in a tartan plaid custom designed for Quark.
It was a very good day…and we were only at the beginning.