04.03.2012 - 04.03.2012 -20 °C
After almost 36 hours of steaming we’ve just had our first sighting of land - the South Shetland Islands - and can also see the unmistakable form of an iceberg in the distance. As the hours pass more and more of those shapes appear on the horizon, some bigger than your average 3 bedroom house. The waters are alive with life and there are practically whale sightings all round the boat. By the end of the day close to 48 Sei Whales and countless humpback whales had been seen....absolutely mind blowing!
Had some very interesting Antarctic animal presentations earlier from our resident experts. Apparently you have to retreat when attacked by an Antarctic Turn but stand your ground when faced with a South Sea Fur Seal. Bearing in mind I was drinking at the time maybe I’ve gotten that the wrong way round....anyway all I know is those critters, so lovingly presented by David Attenborough - through the comfort of our armchairs - are quite happy to draw blood given half the opportunity
Bearing in mind how good the food is onboard (5 course meals no less) I think it only fitting to raise the subject of fitness whilst at Sea. Fortunately for me, in addition to running like a loon around the ship in -1 degree Celsius conditions, there is also an onboard Gym. Perhaps I’m pushing the boundaries of belief here with that description as the Gym is in fact a room no bigger than your average family toilet and you could see that they’d watched changing rooms judging by the careful use of mirrors to give that appearance of size, but being able to touch all four walls from the centre I can attest to the fact that one cannot swing a cat in there!. Unfortunately, also though with a ceiling no higher than 5’10” I could see that I was going to have problems with the step machine.
This evening we had our first opportunity to step ashore and visit Whalers Bay on Deception Island. Many of the old wooden buildings here are now protected as historical monuments and have been preserved well by the dry cold environment. Wondering amongst the old machinery along the shoreline one could not but help reflect upon the mindless slaughter of hundreds of thousands of penguins and other local seals and whales that had occurred here back in the early 20th Century to fuel the streets of London with the oil harvested - it’s a wonder how nature ever managed to recover – but recover it has.
For a day that had started out so well we were later given ring side seats to experience how the Southern Seas welcomes most visitors! Earlier in the day the Captain had pointed out that the weather would get a little choppier later, boy was he right! Out of almost nowhere the ship had suddenly entered a maelstrom with Force 12 hurricane conditions, with winds exceeding 100nm an hour and +14 Metre waves. Dinner tonight consisted of soup, much of which never reached my mouth and a dessert which took flight before I’d managed to get a spoon near it though I think the guy two tables away might have been the lucky recipient! A quick look around the dining room confirmed that quite a few of the passengers had opted to skip dinner and retire early. On the way back to the cabins as the boat heaved and dropped in the swell we decided to try out our new game... gangway racing! To explain, this involved getting from one end of the gangway to the other without touch the walls. Sounds simple hey but judging by the sore shoulders later...perhaps not!