Another attempt at making landfall on Antarctica was planned, and we felt the excitement in the air. Everyone wanted to tick this off their bucket list and have bragging rights. The weather was good and the sun was shining; it was going to happen, and we knew it.
Neko Harbor has glacial caves very near the landing site, so once we got off the Zodiacs, we had to make haste to a safe spot. The caves are formed by glaciers calving, which is unpredictable and causes mini-tsunamis. If we were swept away in one of those tsunamis, it would be hard for someone to get us before we became hypothermic.
When we stepped off the Zodiac at shore, the expedition leader immediately saw that we forgot our life vests. Yikes! How did that happen? Well, there was some confusion, on our part, about when to go to the mudroom to disinfect that day, and by the time we figured it out, all the groups had already left. So, they made a special trip just for us, and normal protocols were forgotten. It definitely shook us up, since the week before, on another cruise line, two people had died from hypothermia after falling out of a Zodiac.
On the continent at last, we joined a penguin colony, who were very much ignoring us and getting on with the business of mating. Penguins are loud and smelly, but adorable and awkward on land. They seem to clown around, but it is really just accidental.
We did hear a loud rumble at one point, and sure enough the glacier calved while we were on land. No one was hurt or in the water at the time, so we scored one point there.
The afternoon landing was at Paradise Harbor, which has evidence of human habitation in the form of Brown Station. Established in 1951, it’s a research station. We, personally, did not disembark that afternoon, but we could see everything from the ship, using our telescope and very nice 83x optical zoom camera, the Nikon Coolpix 950. We rented this camera especially for this trip, knowing that Antarctica is vast and white. So, a little iPhone camera won’t do. We rented from LensRentals.com, if you’re interested in doing the same.
In the evening, the weather put the kibosh on camping again, so instead, they shifted on a dime and announced that we should come down to the mudroom for the Polar Plunge. What is this craziness? Essentially, you strip down to your bathing suit, put on a safety harness and throw yourself into the slushy ice water of the Antarctic. Conscious or not, they drag you back up, hand you a shot of Vodka and a towel, and off you go to shiver for the next few hours. And, if that’s not enough humiliation, they film it all! Of course, my partner in crime, had to do it.
Whales were spotted again today, by someone else. I heard it was my favorite, the Humpback. Humpback whales are the best whales because when they communicate, it sounds like they’re singing. They also work as a team to create bubble nets to capture masses of krill and small fish. They have also been voted the nicest whale, since they perform rescue operations, helping other creatures in need.
At the evening briefing, they told us that a storm the size of Russia, with Category 1 winds, is heading our way. Great, just great.
This post is part of a 10-post series of my adventures on the White Continent. More to come…