A Travellerspoint blog

Man the pumps.....

overcast -20 °C

And so whilst Leigh slept soundly through the 14m swells, I was busy bailing the cabin out - thankfully though we passed through the rough patch around 5am this morning and are once again back to an even keel. However due to adverse weather conditions and shifting winds our initial 6am shore visit was postponed. That initial disappointment was not long lived as we were treated to a rather spectacular display from dozens of Humpback Whales (many of which had calves) which had been drawn to the area by the krill bloom which had literally turned the water pink.
Our second landing of the day took us to Danco Island in the Errera Channel. A charming little island where we had an opportunity to sit and watch some penguins against a beautiful backdrop of icebergs in the Channel. Returning to the main expedition boat Leigh almost fell out of the zodiac (small boat) in stunned surprise...Leopard Seals!!! For those of you who haven’t brushed up on your Antarctic Wildlife lately, the Leopard Seal is to the Antarctic as the Leopard is to the African Bush...beautiful yet deadly! Normally quite an elusive creature here we were presented with two less than 15 feet away. Leigh was so excited I thought she may pop!
Now try and picture the following rather surreal moment which we experience at midday.... the chef surprised us with a BBQ on the top deck! Here we are anchored up the Errera Channel on the Antarctic Peninsula surrounded by Icebergs, Humpback Whales, listening to Country & Western music and munching down beef-burgers, you couldn’t make it up – we both agreed that it’s got to be the coldest BBQ we’ve ever attended...even the cheese froze – so much for serving at room temperature ehh!
Its official...we’ve now visited all 7 continents now. Earlier this afternoon the Whelan/ Russell partnership finally landed on the Antarctic Continent (Neko Harbour in Andvord Bay)...our reception committee....2 Gentoo Penguins, and they were far from amused by the intrusion! It’s true we were hoping for a little more pomp and ceremony but it’ll have to do I suppose! As we slipped around the headland we soon saw that the party had already started as we came upon the Penguin Colony/Rookery. Being the guest of honour we settled down and spent the next few hours taking in the delightful sights and dubious smells before returning back to the boat before a baileys and hot chocolate and then bed time...what a day!

Posted by Rosscopico 04:43 Archived in Antarctica Comments (0)

Captains Log, Star Date.......

sunny -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!

Posted by Rosscopico 04:40 Archived in Antarctica Comments (0)

Life on the high seas

sunny -2 °C

Surrounded by nothing more than a churning sea and blue skies, which extends as far as the eye can see, one cannot help but be filled with a sense of isolation, well that is if you care to ignore the other 100 people on board. Drakes Passage in the Southern Ocean, the body of water which separates the tip of South America from the Antarctic Peninsula, is renowned the world over for its rather unforgiving weather, but today according to the Captain we have been most fortunate to receive nothing more than force 5 winds....as the boat heaves and drops away underfoot I’d kindly recommend that he reconsider the use of ‘fortunate’. A quick head count pretty much confirms that most of those onboard have already sought the refuge of their bunks below, yet somewhere above me on the top deck I can just about make out the unmistakeable form of young Russell, armed with a manic grin, a set of binoculars and standing by the onboard ornithologist she’s in her element watching the giant Wandering Albatross that is following in the wake of the ship....Captain Salty no less!
As I head off to bed later that evening I pop into the well stocked onboard library and come upon ‘The battle for the Falklands’ by Max Hastings & Simon Jenkins (1983), an excellent account of the war here in the South Atlantic back in 1982. With Argentina refusing entry of two British ships last Monday and all the sabre rattling going on re who is the rightful owner of the Falkland islands (Malvinas as the Argies call them) I ponder whether all will still be the same upon our return in 12 days time...only time will tell!

Posted by Rosscopico 06:31 Archived in Antarctica Comments (0)

Lifejackets already but we’re nowhere near Italy...

sunny 2 °C

What a day is all I can say. Shortly after departure we learnt that 7 short blasts and 1 long is not a good thing and as I donned my lifejacket by the lifeboat I realised I’d left the hip flask down below - such a school boy error! Amongst all the confusion Leigh pops up beside me out of nowhere with a glass of champagne and declares all is well - apparently it was only a demonstration....as you can imagine I was livid.......where was my champagne!!!!
In all honesty I’ve probably experienced enough ‘shags’ today to see me through to retirement! For those of you in the know shags are cormorants (birds) and for those of you not...please kindly remove your head from the gutter! Our trip along the Beagle Channel earlier could only be described as a cornucopia of wildlife with birds, seals and endangered Sei whales galore. We haven’t left on our Antarctic expedition yet and already the wildlife count is underway. Following quite a pleasant morning we stopped off at Harbington Estancian (estb byThomas Bridges) the earliest European settlement here in Tierra del Fuego (bottom of the world) for a look around the farm and museum. We were fortunate enough to get a glimpse of the working laboratory which has one of the largest sea mammal skeleton (2,700) collections in the world. As our resident marine biologist put it, to some they might be just bones but to him they were a treasure trove of secrets....to me though they were bones and quite smelly at that too due to the stripping/putridfication process going on!

Posted by Rosscopico 06:30 Archived in Antarctica Comments (0)

Saying goodbye to terra firma

sunny 6 °C

Today I am nursing what can only be described as the hangover from hell...we haven’t even left Ushuaia yet and already the room is spinning! It’s totally my own fault though...following almost 2 months of being virtually on the dry and on the verge of rejoining the pioneer movement, which is quite an accomplishment for an Irishman, I decided to indulge in a few farewell libations as we bid farewell to the Chilean crew and ‘Gus’ our trusty Dragoman overlander truck. Those celebrations I’m sorry to say, lasted well into the early hours of this morning and were particularly messy....once again I’d managed to find an Irish bar (The Dublin) but which surprisingly enough didn’t serve any Guinness. Following numerous attempts to sneak the R2D2 prop out the door in a somewhat futile attempt to wheel myself home I had to admit defeat and was eventually guided back to my bed by the last standing responsible adult, Russell.
Now you might be wondering why we haven’t left Ushuaia yet...we are! Following our embarkation earlier this afternoon on to the M/V Clipper Adventurer we were gathered forward in the main assembly area by the expedition leader for a ‘chat’. Sounds ominous I know, but based on experience when someone wants to have a chat with me it’s normally not good news...either we’ve run out of red pens in the audit stationary cup-board or Leigh’s managed to tape over one of my rugby games. And so began the discussion about how the unit (being the boat) was only as strong as the weakest part which in this case was a small 5” plastic rod - which had fractured resulting in a loss of hydraulic pressure to the left rudder. Kind of ironic how a small 40gm piece of plastic can cripple a 5,000 tonne vessel but there you go! Anyway with a spare en route from Buenos Aires we would now be departing some 24 hours later than envisaged.....fortunately for him the mutiny was quelled when the Captain wheeled out a cocktail or two....naturally enough Leigh led the way!
Apparently there’s no such thing as a stupid question according to our expedition leader...well that was until the guy in the strange cowboy boats proceeded to ask her just how good the mobile phone reception was in Antarctica...this was then duly followed up by his son who enquired about ‘wifi’ in the zodiac boats...as the leader stood dumfounded Leigh and I quietly moved seats convinced that they would shortly be the first to receive a ‘Darwin’ award for stupidity.

Posted by Rosscopico 06:28 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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