Friday, December 30, 2011

Antarctica Day 5: Lemaire Channel-Pléneau Island-Iceberg Alley / Port Lockroy – Jougla Point / Danco Island.

“You could live without penguins but why would anyone want to?”--- Monica Shellate - Ushuaia Biologist and Team Leader

From our itinerary: The Antarctic Peninsula’s remarkable history will provide you with a type of excitement often only associated with the early explorers. You will have plenty of time to explore its amazing scenery, a pristine wilderness of snow, ice, mountains and waterways, and an incredible wide variety of wildlife. Apart from penguins and seabirds you are very likely to see Weddell, Crabeater and leopard seals as well as Minke, killer (orca) and humpback whales at close range. We hope to navigate some of the most beautiful waterways (depending on the ice conditions): the Gerlache Strait, the Neumayer Channel, and the Lemaire Channel, the latter are narrow passages between towering rock faces and spectacular glaciers.

The sea ice was too thick so we could not get through the Narrows channel. It was not a disappointment because it was so incredibly beautiful. The ship hung around the channel entrance for 30 minutes before heading back up the Gerlache straight. It was time for plan B. Danko Island and the British preservation station at Port Lockroy. This was an old whaling station but now is manned by a team of 4 volunteers whose role is to maintain the station, sell goodies to the tourists and man the post office. This is an actual working post office, the only one in Antarctica. The thing to do is off course sell postcards and postage and have tourists mail postcards from Antarctica.

There was a small museum of the history of Port Lockroy which was interesting. Just when you think you are a bit of a tough guy visit this place. It will show you what tough really is. There were whale bones and a skeleton as well as chains and other historical items scattered on the Island. Oh, and of course Gentoo penguins have moved in.

The afternoon zodiac was all about glaciers and icebergs. The sea was calm and we spent 2 hours zooming in and around icebergs of every size and shape. I thought volcanoes could never get boring which is true, but icebergs and glaciers take that to a whole new level.

It was Christmas Eve and everyone had that, “ok this has been really fun but now it’s time to party” look in their eyes. So after dinner that is exactly what we did. Beer is oddly cheap on board, $3 and we are working on the chit system, basically an open tab to be paid at the end. It was a bit cold outside so naturally I went out and started a bit of a trend. I took off my shirt and a few of us were laughing our asses off at being so stupid when we noticed that everyone on board was taking pictures of me, paparazzi style. When I got back inside there was a big round of applause and lots of laughs. However it did not stop there. Next up was the suggestion to go to the bow of the boat where the wind was hitting us full force and go shirtless. Yeah we did it and lots of people joined in.

It was now 11 pm and we are in 23 hour days with 1 hour of dusky type of night. The crew was having a party down below and as one of the crew said “you guys are just crazy enough to join us so come this way”. We obliged and were not disappointed. In the bottom of the ship there was a hold big enough for loud music, booze of every type, music and dancing. It was great fun and I would like to say what time I got back to my bunk but it was still daylight and I had no watch. I drank a bunch of red wine with my beer so I guzzled lots of water knowing what pain the morning would bring.

Whatever, I am in Antarctica.

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