Cruising the Antarctic Sound
Trinity Peninsula, NE Coast of Antarctic Peninsula
December 31, 2010

Sunset:  10:21 pmSunrise 3:09 am

Too much iced tea last night; I was up & down all night long.  Every time I’d get up, I’d turn on the bridge camera to see what was going on outside.  At 2:30 am & again at 4:15 am, there were people outside taking photos on deck 7 at the bow of the ship.  Even though the sun officially sets, it doesn’t get dark.  Light enough to see people walking around & bright enough to take photos.  Crazy thing to see!

The best thing (& the worst thing) about these waters…… need to be awake 24/7 to take it all in.  After 3 days sailing the western & now the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula some people might say it all looks pretty much the same thing.  BUT every 5 mins. there’s something completely unique & breathtaking to experience.  Most of the time I’m either standing or pacing from side to side on deck 6 aft.  The min. you sit down to eat, go to the bathroom or lie on the bed to rest your feet, the Capt. announces that something new & exciting is coming up on the port side!

Today I must have seen 500 icebergs.  Some are white, some grey; some are striated with lines of neon blue.  Some are as flat as a pancake; some haphazard on top with sides so perfectly vertical that they look like they were carved with an electric knife.

I saw one that was maybe twice as large as & resembled the deck of an aircraft carrier.

Some are shaped like a dunce’s hat.  One in particular was flat & appeared to have a ‘pool’ in the middle of it.

You have to stay vigilant; in the blink of an eye you can miss a whole lot.  Any iceberg, no matter how small, might have a seal sleeping on it.  Or a small group of penguins.

I spotted these tiny things off in the distance that looked like they were hopping across the water.  The closer I got, I realized they were penguins frolicking; just as a dolphin would.  And even though there are lots of them around here……the elusive whales.

It snowed several times today; more of those huge blowing flakes.  Temp stayed right at 32; but the wind chill was occasionally quite brutal.  I had on the ski mask & the wool scarf, boots, 2 pair of gloves, a sweater & a coat.   Had to put my glasses back on today; & they kept fogging up.  Trying to wear the contacts yesterday, solved that issue; but they really irritated my eyes.

I could never get tired of looking at all this beauty.  But it is a tiring job to do so.  It’ll be a relief to be crossing Drake’s Passage again tomorrow.  Nothing for miles & miles; a chance to get some rest.  Sorry, I kinda got carried away; & I’m not following my usual format.

I was jarred awake for the final time when the Capt. announced that there were leopard seals on an iceberg up ahead on the port side.  It was 9:15; & since they were on “my” side of the ship, I thought I should get up for them.  I was out the door in 2 mins.  And there were lots of them.  It was going to be that kind of day.  The Capt. has no actual set itinerary; just a rough plan to cover a certain area.  He studies the weather conditions; & relies on other vessels to tell if the channels are too ice packed or if there’s any wildlife sightings.

On a few occasions, he’s chosen to go through a particularly icy channel just so we could see a penguin colony, a specific ice floe or a research station encampment.  Navigating the huge icebergs slows us down greatly.  So, the Capt. has the difficult job of deciding is it worth it to waste 2 hrs. trying to inch your way through a minefield of ice just to see a particular glacier or would we rather skip that glacier & go down another channel where the visibility is better & we can see a pod of whales.  Every day we’ve ended up going somewhere we didn’t plan.

I went in the Lido to get breakfast.  It’s common for someone to spot something out the window; & half the people in the room run outside to take photos, come back & finish their breakfast.  Everyone onboard, from the little kids to the elderly is really into the excitement of this adventure.

Visibility was too poor; so he scrubbed our visit to Paulette Island, which has a huge population of Adelie penguins.  Instead, he took us 30 miles south of there to Hope Bay so we could see the Argentine-built, Esperanza Research Station.

A short break for lunch.  The Lido menu did not appeal to me today; so I went to the grill, & got a cheeseburger instead.

Today was all about huge icebergs, ice floes & wildlife.  I got lucky with the camera; 2 humpback whales, several leopard seals, maybe 100 penguins.  Unlike the snow drenched, rugged mountains that we sailed right up next to yesterday; today’s focus was large spans of open water containing a never ending obstacle course of ICE.  We would not get to cruise around the South Shetland Islands as planned.  But I doubt that we’ll be missing anything nearly as spectacular as what we did see today.

Tonight we’re full steam ahead heading north back into Drake’s Passage.  After 3 days of mostly calm waters, the seas are rocky again tonight.  I ate dinner at the Lido with Lou; neither of us impressed with tonight’s menu.  It was like choosing the lesser of all evils.  I chose a very disappointing seafood cocktail appetizer of baby shrimp, scallops & 2 tiny mussels.  I couldn’t tolerate it; so got a mixed salad instead.  My main course was a nicely rare & tender piece of filet mignon with brussel sprouts & fries.  I picked up a strawberry/rhubarb cobbler.  We both took one bite; & left the rest.  I had some fruit & cheese for dessert.  None of this was worthy of a photograph.

Lou had gotten kinda of dressed up for the New Year’s Eve festivities; & I saw some really fancy formal attire about the ship.  I was still in my jeans; & not exactly up for a night out.  I think she had talked herself out of it too by the time we got up from the table about 8:45.  The Capt. was having a champagne reception in the showroom at 10:30; & then a countdown at midnight in the Crow’s Nest.

Although I am ending 2010 on an exhilarating adventure, the year as a whole has been down right crappy.  And I’m soooo glad to see it come to an end.  So, instead of hoisting a glass of champagne to toast a new year…….I’d rather just go to bed, get some rest & pray that 2011 is kinder & less challenging.

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