December 28, 2010. (Antarctica Bound !!!!!!!!!!!)
Departure is at 5 pm today. Checked out of the hostel after lunch and will walk the street of Ushuaia until 4 pm and then go through security at the dock. Ended up at the port around 3:30 and saw a huge line of passengers waiting to clear security. Many did not seem to have any luggage and I was confused but later realized some were on day trips. There were also many going to Antarctica on the 500 passenger ship which was enormous. They are not allowed to land anywhere in Antarctica. The passenger ship must not have more than 100 passengers to make landing in Antarctica. I was actually the first person on board at 4 pm and then Casper, from the Netherlands, came on the ship. We quickly introduced ourselves and were amazed that we ended up as cabin mates. Probably because we both booked at the last moment. After everyone got on the ship we had an emergency drill on the top deck before we started our journey at 6 pm. This 11 day cruise is actually closer to 9.5 days. We leave on the 28th at 6 pm and return at 8 am on the 7th. 2 water trips of a lifetime in the same trip. (Grand Canyon and Antarctica)
December 29, 2010. (Drake Passage)
The Drake Passage is a lively body of water, and a rite of passage for Antarctic tourists. Named after Sir Francis Drake, it extends 900 kilometers (600 miles) from Cape Horn to the northernmost tip of Antarctica and is famous for being one of the roughest seas in the world.
December 30, 2010. (Atlantic Convergence)
Lectures today on whales, dolphins and seals. Still in Drake Passage but in Atlantic Convergence, where the warmer and cooler waters meet. Compulsory emergency drill with life jackets at 5 pm. If weather is okay we will land at 7 am. Everyone getting excited. Really nice people on the boat. Most of the people flew in just for this trip and head back afterwards. I am the only person from the United States. There are Germans, Dutch, Canadians, English, French, Italians and not sure of some of the others. Not sleeping well with the ship rolling.
December 31, 2010. (Last day of 2010 and 1st landing in Antarctica)
Breakfast at 6 am and climb in Zodiacs, a small motorized raft, for landing in Antarctica at 7 am. After breakfast most passengers went to the top deck to see the incredible icebergs. Excitement is in the air. I was lucky enough to be in the 1st Zodiac to launch and land in Antarctica. Amazing, words seem to escape me. Wish the family could be here with me. Not much sun and really don't know how that works here. lol Penguins, penguins and penguins. So incredible how they don't seem to worry much about us. We are to stay about 15 feet away but if they approach you it is okay. Penguins always have the right of way. The landing was at Brown Bluff.
The 2nd landing was at Hope Bay. We visited the Argentine base and were welcomed by the Argentine children, yes children, that live there with their families. We visited the school and I was able to mail a postcard to Kade and Madison from Antarctica.
3rd stop was Paulette Island and saw amazing icebergs as we circled the island in the Zodiacs.
January 1, 2011. (New Year's Day on Astrolabe Island)
Wild New Year's party which lasted way too long and made the morning Zodiac cruise with a lot fewer passengers than normal. Most said it was uneventful. However the 2nd landing to Astrolabe Island was incredible. Beautiful icebergs, every type of penguin including the Marconi penguins which Jordy said was a rare treat since they are normally breeding in the Falklands. We also saw a leopard seal and fur seal, another rarity. Then we spotted a Hamburg whale feeding and followed and watch it for about an hour in the Zodiacs. No lamb for 56 years and had it for dinner, the 2nd time in a week including Christmas Eve.
January 2, 2011. (Cueville Island and Neko Harbour)
We went to Cuerville Island and saw some really beautiful icebergs. Afternoon land was at Neko Harbour.
January 3, 2011. (English base)
Decided not to go to the English base since I had already visited the much bigger Argentine base and they also were going to see MORE penguins. They are fun to watch but it is getting a little old. The afternoon landing were canceled due to high winds. We head to Shetland Island which marks the beginning of the end. Getting restless since I have seen and experienced some of the best of Antarctica. Starting to feel a little trapped as I am used to being able to move from place to place at will.
January 4, 2011. (Deception Bay)
We were awoken at 4:45 by Jordy to let us know that we were arriving at the entrance to Deception Bay in the Shetland Islands. We all went on top to get a look but the weather was dreary and we all wished we had stayed in bed. We took the Zodiacs (small pontoon boat with motor) and landed around 6 am. We were told to bring our swim suits. WHAT!!!! Our first visit was to the Devil Bellows to get a look at the other side of the island and then to the abandoned whaling station. Some people did go for a swim in the cold water and then warmed up in the warm volcanic sand. I WAS NOT one of them. Leaving Antarctica this afternoon.
January 5, 2011. (Drake Passage)
Not much to do since we have left the Shetland Islands and are headed back to Ushuaia. The waves are starting to get much worse. I have been wearing the same clothes for 3 days since my laundry is still not ready but hopefully today. The trip to Antarctica was much more exciting than the trip back. Ready to be back on solid ground.
January 6, 2011. (Drake Passage)
The worst weather of the trip. The captain said the waves in the Drake Passage were the worst he has seen in the boat's 5 year history. Almost everyone stayed in their rooms except for meals. Laying in bed seemed to help the most but luckily I did not get seasick. At 6:30 pm the crew presented a slide show of pictures of the passengers and places we visited. Then we all made copies to keep. Wine was flowing.
January 7, 2011. (LAST DAY)
We docked in Ushuaia around 4 am, had breakfast at 7am and disembarked around 8:00 am. Tired from 2 days of the worst waves the Antarctic Dream has seen in the last 5 years according to the captain. Luckily I did not get seasick but almost everyone stayed in bed most of the time because it was almost impossible to stand or walk. Checked in the hostel and went to sleep after lunch. An incredible trip. Loved the Antarctic part, hated the Cruise part. Also, there were only a few backpackers on this luxury cruise with gourmet food and free wine with lunch and dinner. I have never seen so many dishes that I could not recognize. While the $3990 was $490 over the top amount I had planned on paying, the average cost for most was approximately $10,000 with one paying $16,000 for a room alone. A few people at the hostel are leaving today for the same cruise at the same price so at least I did not pay too much considering New Years eve and day were on the Antarctic peninsula. Also our boat which has a maximum of 78 passengers only had 63 passengers due to the bad weather in Europe, forcing some planes to South America to cancel their flights. Having less than 100 passengers also allows you to land many places that other boats can not land. We also usually had 3 landings per day when weather permitted. Back to simple things and so happy for it. Go Tigers, hope I get it on the television.