Today I think I died and went to heaven. I will do my best but I honestly don’t think there are words or pictures that can even partially begin to capture what has perhaps been the most memorable travel experience of my life.
OK, last night first. The third landing of the day was going to be at Whale Bay at Deception Island, but at the last minute it was cancelled.
This morning we had reached the Gerlache Strait and as we walked onto the deck we were greeted by sunshine, blue sky, a few fluffy clouds and the most amazing view. Snow covered mountain ranges, floating icebergs with veins of blue and surrounded by ice cold blue water. The vastness, the cleanliness, the totally unspoilt natural beauty enveloped us on all sides.
Unfortunately, being Antarctica, it was very windy and so the intended first landing on Antarctica at Portal Point was not possible. I took the opportunity to take some photographs from the ship before the announcement was made that we were going to have a zodiac cruise exploring the icebergs and glaciers at close quarters.
The 80 passenger were split into two groups of approximately 40 each. David and I were in the first group of people to head off, but in the last zodiac, and deliberately got on last so that we could sit at the front of the zodiac to make it easier to take photographs. We cruised immediately along side small and large icebergs of all different shapes. The patterns, the ridges, cracks and the wholes which have formed over many years of weathering were fascinating. Beautiful reflections, glaciers and a range of stunning colour made photography an absolute pleasure. It was difficult to know where to point my camera.
We had the most amazing 90 minutes which passed all too quickly, and then we returned to the ship. As the other passengers got off, David and I were asked to stay in the zodiac, and then the final few passengers from the second group to go on the zodiac trip joined us and we were unbelievably fortunate to be allowed to have a further 90 minutes exploring. (After the last trip they are looking after us so well.)
If that was not good enough as we were coming to the end of this second trip we came across a small ice floe and a Weddell Seal was quietly basking in the sunshine. We were able to get very close and it was not at all perturbed. Forgive the pun but it was truly the icing on the cake. It seemed a shame to have to head back to the ship but we had been out for three hours, (twice as long as anyone else), and lunch was ready and as we sat down the ship set off on its way. Lunch was disturbed as we constantly were standing up to peer out of the wind at the numerous icebergs and ice floes floating past us, with the snow covered mountain ranges as the backdrop.
Not sure where we are heading, and not sure if it can beat this morning. Great to know there is more to come, but even if we headed back home now I would feel this trip has been well worthwhile.
The above was written just after lunch, and I was completely wrong. When mentioning this afternoon, I pondered “if it can beat this morning” - hands down it did. We set off from Wilhelm Bay in 40 knot winds and headed for shelter. Our venue was Danco Island which we reached just before 5pm. We were heading on shore shortly before 6pm and as we approached the shore we were travelling through the most incredible field of icebergs. I really didn’t want to get off and go and photograph Gentoo Penguins. OK, they were on snow but I have so many photos of them and the icebergs were truly unbelievable.
As I climbed out of the zodiac Paulo suggested I stayed at the shoreline and wait for David to arrive and then Agustin, the Trip Leader, would take us in a zodiac around the icebergs. The bay does not normally contain icebergs and even for Antarctica this was a special day, as the bay was full of the most incredible icebergs. I wish I could describe them, but there aren’t words which are adequate. So the two of us had our own personal guide and we could ask him to go wherever we wanted and position us exactly where we needed to be for the photos that we wanted. That was of course subject to the very strong current which was making the boat drift and we actually saw a fairly large iceberg move several hundred yards while we were there, carried by the current. We had the most brilliant hour or more of photography, and then the sun went behind some clouds, and it was time to return to the ship. Tired, cold, hungry, but incredibly happy and satisfied.
My only regret is that I am not sharing this experience with Tom and the amazing friends from the Naughty Corner that I met last time, and I really hope that they will forgive me for my description, as it must be so galling. For what it is worth, I honestly don’t believe from everything that we have been told and have seen, that it would have been worthwhile heading to Antarctica for just one day after we reached the Falklands.
All that remains is to step foot on the Antarctic Peninsula, and more importantly photograph a sunset and sunrise. So for the next three nights it’s bedtime after sunset at 11.15, and up at 3am to see if there is a decent sunrise. Plenty of time to sleep on the two days travelling back through Drake’s Passage.