Extracts from Diary- Journey to Antarctica -February 2019

Wednesday 20 February

Went into Ushuaia to post some post cards and bought some thermal gloves to wear under my sheepskin ones.  Caught a taxi back to Altos Hotel, collected my luggage and then continued up the mountain to Las Hayas Hotel where I waited with the people of the Chimu trip.  We loaded onto the huge buses with all the luggage and down to the port. The Embarkation was complete by 4 pm. A welcome speech and a drink and then to my allocated cabin. I am sharing with a lady from Sydney.

Called to the Viking Lounge again where all 200 passengers had a safety briefing and then we had to go to our cabins and dress warmly before the alarm sounded for the muster and lifeboat drill required by law.  I got lost coming back to the cabin because we had left the lifeboat from the other side of the ship. Called again at 6 pm to the Viking Lounge. All this exercise up and down stairs is sure to take some weight off me! The evening meal at 7.30 pm was three course, silver service. I had chicken and corn chowder, steamed sea bream, and ginger crème brulee. Very nice. Came back to the cabin at 9.30 pm and then the ship departed. We had been delayed because of a weather system, and the ship was to avoid it. It was like being rocked to sleep in a cradle! Up at 2.10 am and quite a swell. I have learnt to brace myself when walking.

Thursday 21 February

Up at 7.50 am. I did not realise how late it was! The rocking motion must have kept me asleep. Breakfast was from 8 am in buffet style with plenty to choose from. The first item on the agenda for the day was a lecture about sea birds at 9.15 am. There were lots of slides and he described different attributes of different species of birds. Had a cup of coffee and went out on deck for some time. The sun was shining on the stern deck and gentle rolling of the ship. I love it! We left Cape Horn and now there is no land in sight. We are crossing the Drake Passage. The afternoon lecture was by Ursula and she spoke about different types of whales and dolphins. I nearly went to sleep as she has that kind of voice—very soothing. The passengers were divided into four groups—red, green, blue and yellow. We had to go into our groups to have our outdoor clothing checked for any biological material that could infect Antarctica. After that check, we had to go to the mud room to be fitted with rubber boots. More climbing up and down stairs. Dinner at 7 pm was very nice in good company and will excellent conversation. A documentary about penguins with the spy camera was shown in the Viking Lounge. I am sure I had seen it years ago on television, but it was well worth another viewing.

Friday 22 February

I awoke with the sun shining in the porthole.  After breakfast the first lecture was with Sandra about taking better photos. I have to remember to keep my camera out of salt spray. Went on stern deck where there was so light snow. Talked with many other passengers, mainly Australians.  A whale was sighted. After lunch there was a session on Zodiac training that all had to attend. I am anxious about that. I have a fear that I may fall in the water when transitioning from ship to Zodiac. Seals, penguins and albatrosses were sighted. I did not go to the knot tying session. I spoke with Meg Hall about a church service for Sunday, but she said there was none. I have been thinking about it and I could offer to do so. We just have not caught up with each other again to arrange it. After the evening meal, watched a movie about Sir Ernest Shackleton and his remarkable story of Endurance.

Leah and Meg in Antarctica. Photo Credit: Chimu Adventures

Saturday 23 February

We are cruising along past snow-covered mountains of the Melchior Islands.  Took photo of the abandoned Argentine Research Station. Beautiful sunny day for Zodiac cruising. Put on waterproof gear and went with the blue group to the mudroom. There I put on rubber boots and life-jacket and boarded a Zodiac. It was not as difficult as I anticipated because there was a person each side of me to hold in a ‘sailor’s grip’ and step down onto the Zodiac. The tender had ten people on each and Ursula was a driver and guide. We cruised around Melchior Island and the bay. It was very peaceful on the water. Back on board and had to take off all the gear. The batteries in my camera went flat and the new ones I put in were flat also. After coming back to the ship I put batteries on the charger but they were too heavy and fell out of the socket. Marcos, the steward, brought another plug and fixed the problem. There is a yacht in the vicinity which has struck a rock and our ship is in a position to help. The three people from the boat came on board at 1.30 pm and were given lunch. I wonder what happened to the skipper of the yacht who chose to stay on board. At 2.20 pm we were under way again to the Gerlacht Strait to see wildlife and Danco Island. Landings from Zodiacs again. In total I saw seven large leopard seals, one humpback whale and lots of Gentoo penguins. Back to the ship at 7 pm. Dinner at 8.30 pm with Larissa who is expedition staff, Lauren and Deanna from USA.

Sunday 24 February

Up at 5.15 am and went up on deck to see sunrise on snowy mountains.  After breakfast there was a talk by a man from Port Lockroy station. Stamps and post cards may be sent from there. The next talk was by Larissa, a lovely Russian lady who has spent nine years working in Antarctica under various contracts. I am to do a church service this evening, so I am preparing a wee service. Out in the Zodiac again and went to Port Lockroy research station which operated from 1944 to 1962. The gentoo penguins were everywhere in a state of moulting. The young ones were just getting their feathers and were getting under the feet of passengers. The station was a museum and gift shop, so I posted a post card to myself. I wonder how long it will take to get to me! Had a nice lunch and a bit of a rest and prepared prayers on my laptop. Out in the Zodiac again, this time to walk up a high hill but I went up only part way in the snow. It is Port Carchot.  Cruising in the Zodiac and I took many photos of icebergs. Some are the most beautiful blue and some in very strange shapes. Saw a group of seven crab-eater seals. It is getting colder in the evening and good to return to the ship. Such a trial donning and doffing boots and clothes all the time. Our evening meal was late. Went to the ‘Discovery’ room for evening prayers but only Mary and her friend Wendy came. David Macdonald, geologist gave a talk about his forty years association with the Antarctic.

Monday 25 February

We are approaching Paradise Bay where we are to visit Admiral Brown station and then Neko Bay where some hardy people plan to polar plunge. I got fairly tired doing the Paradise Bay cruise and Brown station walk.  More smelly gentoo penguins. Saw a minke whale and a group of porpoising penguins.  An American research vessel was out too. Back for a nice lunch.  I did not go on the Zodiac to Nako Harbour in the afternoon, but had a rest until 3.30 pm. Went up on deck and took some photos.  Willy from Nelson 84 years old, and Alan, a blow-hard Queenslander were in the cafeteria, so I had a cuppa with them. I soon got tired of Alan’s ‘humour’ which was mostly New Zealand put-downs. The polar plunge began just after 5 pm and 69 people took part. They receive a certificate for having done so. Dined with Shelli Ogilvy from Alaska who is the kayaking instructor and has twenty years in Arctic and Antarctic cruises. After the meal there was a quiz game Call My Bluff,  about words that were given meanings each by Yeti, David and Gerard. Only one was the correct meaning. I got four correct out of six. Some I remember were: degomble, clatch, doomix.

Tuesday 26 February

Today is the last day of shore landings. We are going to Deception Island, which is a volcano in an atoll shape and the ship enters grough a gap into Whalers’ Bay. Next, we go to Half Moon Island for another shore landing. We entered the island by Neptune’s Bellows. The blue group was out first in the Zodiacs. We went to Whalers’ Bay inside Deception Island.  I took photos of old buildings and remains of the whale oil plant. Zodiac cruising among seal colonies and took photos of chinstrap penguins. Bought a Chimu hat, Albatros scarf and a seal Christmas tree ornament. After lunch watched a movie about Deception Island and whaling. Had a rest for an hour as the ship travelled to Half Moon Island. Onto the Zodiac again and cruised among the fur seal colonies. Jagged, volcanic landscape.  Came ashore and walked among the chinstrap penguins. They set up a noise when a snowy sheath bill came among them, or sores still, a skua. Lots of juvenile seals were scrapping on the beach—play fighting if they were teenagers. Back to our room at 6.15 pm and I was glad to put away the wet weather gear. Briefing to be earlier and so is dinner. Salsa dancing after dinner, but I never went and came straight to bed. Weather changed in the night and sea became rougher with a huge swell.

Wednesday 27 February

Up a bit later today and breakfast 8 am. Sea fairly rough all the way. After breakfast came down to the cabin and read for a time. Did not go to the lecture about mineral exploration in Antarctica. Lunch was nice and then I had a two-hour rest, more than I have ever done before. Went to stretch exercise class bit it was too hard for me. Dinner was 8 pm and at 9.30 pm a quiz with 30 questions about Antarctica. Most were facts from the lectures but our team came second with 17 correct. Rocked to sleep by the gentle swell.

Thursday 28 February

Last day of the expedition. Attended the disembarkation briefing at 9.30 am as we shall be in Ushuaia again first thing tomorrow morning. Stayed for Gerard’s talk about wintering over in Antarctica. It was interesting. Later I suggested to him that captions to slides should be at the top of the screen so that all could read them. Too many tall people’s heads are in the way or the screens are too low. He agreed with that. After lunch we all assembled on the aft deck for a group photo. A lecture by Ursula about the plastic polluting the Antarctic was really good and well worth taking note of. The pilot came on board to guide the ship into the Beagle Channel. We were berthed by 8.30 pm. An auction of paintings and other mementoes was held.  A chart of the cruise decorated with drawings of wildlife by Larissa and signed by the captain went for $2,100 US dollars! It was a beautiful piece of work. Meg Hall asked if I would do an interview for a promotion video for Chimu. I did it with Tim after dinner. The ship is still in dock—no rocking me to sleep!

Friday 1 March

Up at 5.45 am. The wake-up call at 6 am was by the Australian man who won the opportunity at the auction for $300. All packed and my bag outside my door as required. Sad saying farewell to the new friends I had made on board. Retrieved my passport from reception and sadly left the ship. Walked about a kilometre of the dock to a taxi stand and arrived back at Altos Ushuaia Hotel at 8.30 am. The expedition was over!

Leah E Boniface (Rev’d)

        27 March 2019


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