Another night is over and we are cruising amongst the islands and continent of Antarctica. It almost sounds like it is not a big deal, but it is. And there is no doubt a special feeling that most of us have being here. From Zodiacs and Penguins, to a school of Orcas next to the ship right after I got aboard and cleaned the penguin stuff off my clothes, it is a never-ending adventure.
In my last post I noted that we would be heading to the Ukrainian Science Station and as related to Ukraine it is a #fail. The reason this time had nothing to do with the ship/plane that I was travelling on. Instead this time it had to do with nature and this desert of Ice that I am travelling through. I am on an Ice Ship, not a large ice breaker but it is a class L1 if I remember correctly. However – this ship could not pass through the ice blocking its path – a combination of sea ice and icebergs forming an ice bridge between the continent and the islands. So instead we went to Peterman Island and I got to walk paths around the island to cliffs with amazing views and Adele and Gentoo Penguins.
Some Housekeeping: the rules of the road are to clearly yield to animal life, walk on the snow and if you see two poles in the snow shaped like an X do not go there – this is easy to follow in most cases. But I did not execute this to a level with which I am personally happy. My offence was that after shooting a half hour of video I decided to walk up a rock face. This is normally bad as per our briefing as the penguins nest there. However, our guide had told us if we wanted to get altitude it was okay to climb on the rocks and many of us did. What was most interesting is the rocks had a good number of people on them so I then went up a second group of rocks a foot or two from the first. There was no blocking X and I would have a good view of the sea and all of penguins only a few meters away. But alas it was a bit ambiguous and as I walked up the rocks to view the sea first I heard a yell “Rob stop be careful of the penguins”. I froze and turned my head quickly as if it was on a swivel and looked down to the right and there were two nesting penguins and three chicks. They were not at all bothered by me but it was a close call. I want to pause here for a moment- I almost walked on a Penguin nesting in Antarctica and the story ended well.
Later in the Bar/Observation lounge I talked to a friend and a similar thing happened to him when he had stepped deeply and made a hole in the snow that a penguin could fall in, not be able to get out of and then die. In the end I think this is something on which the American Polar Society can work on to improve knowledge and education of adventure travellers and tour guides before the trip.
Being done on Peterman it was time to head back to the ship via the Zodiacs and this would be a challenge. Remember we have to give way to wildlife and this is good. You also need to know there were two paths back to the Zodiacs over the rocks and these were over rocks yes I know mixed messages. As we approached a penguin blocked path number one. When this happened I decided to circle back to path one and two penguins quickly blocked that path and the penguin blockade was complete. And out from the rocks came a Gentoo Penguin, the one I call Chester no doubt (☺), and he, the other Gentoo, started to break the blockade for us and we were able to get to the Zodiac to return to our ship.
Upon arriving back at the ship, as per process, we need to clean all gear due to environmental reasons and other odor issues. There is an area called the mudroom and this is the spot that we clean up. On this day there was a call over the PA System “Whales to port”. (Or starboard I forget now). We all headed back out to see them. They were right next to the ship, three or four of them. And the original call was that they were humpbacks, it was not accurate as they were Orcas. And they were swimming right toward one of the Zodiacs on approach to the ship. I saw what appeared to be the Orcas going under the Zodiac and surfacing right behind the zodiac. It was the talk of the evening as these Orcas are rarely seen and an announcement was made that the Antarctic Scientist, that study Orcas, would appreciate us providing all of the photos that we had that highlighted the eye patch and other features. Could one of my photos help science and the Antarctic?
Back on the ship we had dinner, and this was an eventful dinner It appears camping is on for tomorrow night and it will be on the continent. Note: All of those planning a “Rob did Seven Continents” Party for me-it is almost time. The camping briefing detailed the cold, risk, and plenty of laughs all around for us, the hardcore.
Tomorrow also holds two landings and then after dinner we will be heading to the mainland to camp out.
I want to share one last thing with you about this particular moment. There is a group of us onboard that are trying to write everything down that we see and these journals will hopefully inspire someone else to walk in our steps. Hopefully more people will find their way to this place to add their support to the American Polar Society.
And yes the ship is headed up the channel and yes this took way too long to write as my writing to looking out the window ratio is 1 to 5. It is 11pm here in the crystal desert/beach and I wish my friends and family well.
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