The next day in Antarctica – still buzzing from having sailed not just to Antarctica but far south into the Antarctica circle – a feat no other sailing all season had done – we got up super early and super excited, and super eager to explore even more of the frozen continent.
Also, since we had done the Drake Passage crossing, this meant that we could stop taking our sea sickness tablets.
To be honest, I don’t think we really needed them as much as we were lucky to have the Drake Lake – which is when the Drake Passage is all nice and calm.
As a quick reminder, the Drake Passage is the most powerful sea convergence and the most treacherous sea voyage in the world.
It’s the one that has 12m / 40ft high waves which makes sense when you realise that this is where the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Southern Ocean all meet.
When it’s calm, it’s called the Drake Lake and when it’s rough and stormy, it’s called the Drake Shake.
We took our time with breakfast, which has now actually become one of my favourite things to do. I love a long lazy breakfast.
It’s just so calming and wakes you up properly.
Anyway, after breakfast, we grabbed our cameras and headed to the deck above the ship.
The weather is such a strange thing in Antarctica – one minute it’s all nice and calm and the next minute you’re in stormy winds.
Then it switches up again at a moment’s notice and you’re back in the calmest weather imaginable.
The Lemaire Channel had arguably the strongest winds we’d experienced all sailing. It isn’t typically like that. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
The waters here are sheltered so it’s usually like a lake.
It was still pretty impressive though. Especially those huge mountains!
When you think of Antarctica, or at least when we did, we typically would think of huge stretches of flat ice and not ginormous mountains so it was a bit mind-boggling taking it all in.
Fun fact, these mountains were actually part of the Andes back when Antarctica was still connected to South America, ergo why they’re called the Antarctandes.
After the Lemaire Channel, we went over to Neko Harbour, which was when the wind just disappeared and the water just went all calm. It was absolutely incredible.
Suddenly we started to spot lots of different wildlife all around us.
Seals on the ice, penguins bobbing in the water and orcas casually swimming by.
We should have been even more grateful that the winds has stopped because when a slight breeze blew in our direction, it came with a huge stink. Penguin poop!
It took us by surprise because we hadn’t fully noticed the huge penguin colony before we could smell them.
It was at that point our captain then told us to grab our zoom lenses and binoculars to spot the penguin colony in the harbour.
This is where you notice how great camouflage is. From a distance, it looks like nothing but once I took a photo and zoomed it, we saw hundreds (easily over 1,000) gentoo penguins.
We were assured we’d get to go closer to see them so before long, we ditched the binoculars and could make out with our naked eyes the penguin colonies.
The stench of penguin poop got really bad too but you kinda get used to it.
Also, you’re so distracted by how many penguins are in front of you that you don’t actually notice how stinky they are.
I have no idea what I was expecting at this point but when our captain announced that not only would be getting to go even closer to the penguin colonies but that we would actually be setting foot on land in Antarctica, we kinda lost it!
Finally, we would be able to say that we’d actually stood on land in Antarctica!
Like, it was so special seeing it all from the ship but to actually get to walk on land here was just next level.
Again, I don’t know why I was so surprised – this is what we came here to do and why we sailed several days to get here. I think I was just expecting it to happen on a different day or something.
Anyway, so off we got and get suited and booted and zodiac boat’ed over to Neko Harbour. Again, as with the day before when we went exploring Antarctica via Zodiac boats (which are these small inflatable boats), we had to decontaminate in advance.
The clothes are done all together on the ship a few days before if they are not brand new.
And don’t worry, the crew on here help you do this so you don’t need to know how to decontaminate them in advance.
After the main decontamination as the boots you wear to go on land and you get given your own boots by the ship’s crew after you arrive. These boots are them washed every time you get on or off the ship.
You also get given a parka from your expedition which you get to keep. The boots however you do have to return by the end of your cruise to Antarctica.
Right, so off to land in Antarctica we go. The plan was first to go explore on land and then to go explore on a mini zodiac cruise around the bay.
It was everything we’d hoped for any more. The penguins are so cute and so clumsy.
They’re also not overly bothered by humans. They haven’t learned to be afraid of humans so they just go about their business as per usual.
They have these routes called penguin highways and you’re not allowed to walk on them. You have to walk on a different path.
Also, if you happen to create a hole in the show, which can happen because the snow is thick, you have to fill it up.
The landscape by the way is amazing and even though it looked incredible on the boat;on land, the perspective is just even more impressive.
I can’t remember how long we were supposed to be on land for but we most certainly spent twice that amount of time just walking around the harbour.
They do tell you when it’s time to leave and so we just decided to make the most of it and properly take it all in.
It was absolutely gorgeous and an incredible highlight of our trip.
We then went on the zodiac tour of the bay which was also amazing. The glaciers here are just so huge!
Every so often you’d hear it calve, and fall into the sea, creating new icebergs and that in itself was just phenomenal.
It sounded like thunder and totally took us by surprise every time it happened.
By the time we started to make it back to the boat, the wind had picked up in the bay and we finally realised why we were told to wear waterproof trousers.
As I mentioned before, we were given waterproof parkas as part of the expedition so our top halves were fine.
I had waterproof trousers back on the ship but decided to wear the ‘water-resistant’ ones I had which are not the same thing. 😆😆
Waterproof is kind of like plastic so you don’t get wet at all. It just doesn’t allow any water through.
Water-resistant tries to stop you from getting too wet initially (ergo why it’s ‘resistant’ not ‘proof’) but after getting splashed consistently, you’re absolutely soaked.
Suffice to say, I didn’t make that mistake again. 😆😆
Lloyd had on the water-resistant trousers and was fine whereas I was left running into the shower as soon as we got back on board just to warm up (and also to wash off the saltwater).
It was on that evening we invented the ‘champagne rule of Antarctica’.
Every time we went on land in Antarctica, we would have a bottle of champagne with or after dinner to celebrate.
It was a weak excuse to drink champagne but one we followed through on with gusto.
And there you have it – our very first day on land in Antarctica! Catch you in the next blog post when we explore even more of Antarctica.
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