This one’s a long one but the pics are fabulous. Settle in…
The Endless Sunrise
Shannon set her alarm for 5:00 so we could catch the sunrise. I woke up about ten minutes earlier and looked out the porthole. The sky was clear of all clouds and the silhouette of the mountains was just lighting as the sun rose. We realized we were going to miss the sunrise so we jumped into our warm clothes and hustled out to the bow of the boat.
Stephen’s “Good Morning, ladies and gentlemen. Good morning!” voice came over the intercom at 7AM, explaining that we were passing through the scenic Neumayer Channel and would soon arrive at Port Lockroy. “Breakfast will be served at 8:00. (pause) Good morning!” We were on the deck soon after, bundled up for the snowy day and cameras at the ready.
The water in the channel was smooth as silk, with the only waves coming from the wake of the boat or the tiny penguins that occasionally jumped through the surface.
Penguins hopping through the water
Each morning our excursion leader Stephen’s voice came over the intercom system with a surprisingly soothing wake-up for the ridiculous hour we were roused (this particular morning was 6:00AM). His Australian flowed calmly through the speaker with the same message altered by day, “Good Moooorning, ladies and gentlemen. (pause) Good morning. (pause) The time is six o’clock, the temperature is 4 degrees Celsius and the clouds are overcast. (pause) We’ve seen a few cape petrels and a wondering albatross already. Today we will be landing on Half-Moon Island and will hold a briefing in the forward lounge at 7:00. (pause) Breakfast will be served at 6:30. (pause) Good morning.” Louise joked that she wanted to record his voice and integrate it into her alarm clock.
“When will you ever be able to say ‘I had dinner and watched penguins jump through the water’?” Shannon asked that question at our table next to the windows where, outside in the Bransfield Straight, penguins skipped up and down through the surface.
Thanks to a strong tailwind that moved us quickly through the Drake Passage and the English Straight, we arrived early to the South Shetland Islands around dinnertime. Most of our day was spent in anticipation of what we’d see when we arrived. Lectures continued as scheduled; starting with a history lesson by Chris Gilbert (there are two Chrises… thus the last name), then penguins by Heidi, and finally seals by Shannon.
Our room was unbearably hot and stuffy that first night, but the next morning Shannon discovered that the radiator wasn’t only a radiator but also a ventilation system that piped fresh air into the room. We gave a great sigh of relief since we knew the other nights would be much more comfortable. And since we were showing no signs of sea-sickness we were even happier.
Tierra Del Fuego
The morning was spent a lovely tour of Tierra Del Fuego – “The Land of Fire” – one of Argentina’ National Parks. Our guide took us through a few different scenic views and many opportunities for bird watching. Many people who make this trip to Antarctica do it for the birds as most of the species can’t been found outside the arctic. So the sighting of different types was an exciting moment. I knew then that these journals would start to tick off ornithology examples, like the geese or the ducks that we found. It was inevitable.
A gorgeous view of Isla Redonda in the Beagle Canal
We met for breakfast early and then traveled to Buenos Aires’ domestic airport for our flight to Ushuaia.
Shannon and Mindy in the domestic airport (more…)
The flight was uneventful and we arrived in Buenos Aires relatively on time and super hot since the weather was a muggy 90 degrees. We found Shannon in the hotel lobby – the Hotel Rochester – who told us the desk staff apparently had difficulties determining which room was which, so they encouraged us to “have a drink at the bar” while they sorted it all out. Slightly annoying since we wanted to shower off the airplane, but it gave us a chance to catch up and to plan the few hours we had for little sight-seeing and a bit of shopping.
You’re Going WHERE?!?
In December 2006 I called my travel partner-in-crime Shannon and said “I want to go to Antarctica next year. Do you want to come?” Of course her answer was, “Yeah!!”. Shortly after we posed the same question to Mindy who immediately booked herself a spot in our triple room on a boat for January 2008. Have continent, will travel.