February 16-20, 2023
I decided to do one post which will cover our 3 days in Antarctica as well as the 2 days in the Drake Passage on the way to and from Antarctica.
The Drake Passage from Ushuaia was on February 16. The saying goes that the Drake Passage will either be the “Drake Lake” or the “Drake Shake”. We were lucky that it was mostly the Drake Lake. A bit bumpy at times but really a very stable passage. Our expedition team is on board and provides us with commentary and they are out on deck a lot with their blue penguin vests on so we can identify them quickly when we have questions. And Stephanie, the leader, has made over 200 trips to Antarctica and she let us know at the show that we were already in Antarctica based on our location gps.
On Friday, the 17th, we were surrounded by the Antarctic beauty – massive icebergs and lots of floating ice. We saw seals, penguins and a couple of whales and Stephanie was on the bridge to keep us apprised of what is coming up. I was out walking on the deck and taking pictures when it started snowing hard. After a short while it was too slippery to be walking out there, so I came back to the room and Norm got the binoculars to be a spotter from our balcony. Later I went back out to walk and I saw that someone had built a snowman! I am guessing it was a crew member since the golf putters were used as the arms! When we came back out to the deck the crew was clearing the snow.
It is really hard to give a perspective of the size of the icebergs and glaciers, so I took a shot with a ship in it.
We cruised Dallmann Bay most of the day and sailed through the Neumayer Channel. Simply breathtaking. What is really fun is to see some of the crew outside taking pictures and watching it all in awe. Most of them are from warm weather countries and have never even seen snow much less the majesty of these glaciers and icebergs.
Speaking of icebergs, the “tip” that we see is only about 10% of the whole thing, – 89-90% is under water.
Here are some of the pictures from our first day here. I have so many but even with that, they cannot really convey the beauty that we are seeing. As I have mentioned, we took an expedition ship here in 2014, the Silver Explorer (Silversea) and were simply amazed by Antarctica. We did get much closer in zodiacs and on land which our larger ship, not an expedition ship, cannot do. But the captain is doing an amazing job maneuvering the ship so we get the best views.
We got to see Port Lockroy where we visited in 2014. We bought some items and sent postcards from there – it is a British outpost that is open in the summer months only. I am wearing the vest I bought there every day.
It stays dark until after 10 PM here – and we were lucky to see whales from our balcony around 8 PM. No pictures though, they were hard to capture with the camera.
Here is the map of the area we are sailing in.
In casino news, I was just about to leave for the night and said I would play one more hand at the poker table. Well, I just about fell off my chair when I had three 8’s which is good by itself, 30 – 1 odds, but because I played the best of 5 with the dealers cards, when she turned up the first of her 3 cards, it was an 8!!! I have been waiting forever for a 4 of a kind hand and that bet paid 50 – 1. So glad I played that one extra hand.
On Saturday, the 18th, the plan was to cruise in Paradise Harbor. As we learned on our previous trip, the weather dictates everything here and the captain tried both entrances to the bay and it was too windy to risk traveling through both of the narrow entrances. So we cruised the Errera Channel instead. Majestic. There were several ice formations with Gentoo penguins on them. And many other beautiful blue ice formations. The penguins were hard to see but I did get some photos.
A highlight was a humpback whale that was feeding just off the side of the ship. Here are some pictures I was able to capture.
More spectacular ice.
Our entertainer on Saturday night was an internationally known tenor, Shimi Goodman. He was fantastic, if you ever get a chance to hear him – take it! He has performed all over the world and got his start in shows in the West End, UK. Great show, I can’t wait for his second one. The guest entertainers always do two shows, a day or two apart and they are always different.
On Sunday, the 19th, we started our journey north in Antarctica, toward the Shetland Islands. During my walk, it started to rain and the visibility wasn’t that good. The commentary continued all day and there is really way too much to mention. The team is that knowledgeable!
We passed Deception Island which is named that because it has the outward appearance of a regular island. In reality, when we went through the entrance, called Neptune’s Bellows, you can see that it is actually a ring around an active volcano! The lava rocks covered with snow are the clue. There are two research stations here, operated by Argentina and Spain during the summer season. There have been many shipwrecks here due to the deceptively shallow areas.
The largest colony of chinstrap penguins are here but they were really too far away to take pictures of. Some of the passengers have cameras with giant lenses and I am sure they got some good shots.
Around lunch time we came to Half Moon Island which is also part of the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. This island looks much like the others in the area, and it is notable for the breeding colony of about 100 pairs of South Polar skuas – they kind of look like sea gulls. Too quick to get any pictures though. Many chinstrap and Gentoo penguins also live here.
Later we will be back in the Drake Passage and will sail there through Monday, February 20, hopefully it will be as calm as it was on the way south. On Tuesday, February 21, we will be at Port Stanley, Falkland Islands where we have a tour to the Bluff Cove Lagoon Penguin Safari. We have never been to the Falklands before and are really hoping we can get in. It is a 50-50 chance as it is a tender port and the winds can change fast and can impact a potential tender landing.