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THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF JESS & DAN back on the road again...

The most amazing place on earth

ANTARCTICA | Saturday, 12 January 2013 | Views [1948] | Comments [8]

cruising along the lemaire channel

cruising along the lemaire channel

Dear all,

 

I’m not going to be able to do regular updates on the blog as the internet on the boat is ridiculously expensive and you pay per megabyte, so I’m going to write regularly and then upload it all when we get back to Ushuaia

 

4th January 2013

Yesterday we boarded the M/S Expedition in the Ushuaia port. Everyone was buzzing and it was so exciting taking photos boarding and getting on the boat knowing we were going somewhere truly spectacular.

 

Dan and I have spoilt ourselves and are booked into one of the suites on the boat, 4 big windows, queen size bed, a sitting room, cupboards and a fancy bathroom. All the other rooms pretty much have a toilet in the shower, you could probably use both at the same time. However our bathroom has the fanciest shower I’ve ever seen! It has a power button! It’s like a little capsule with lights and I think it can be used as a steam bath, but we had fun just trying to get it to work as a shower. We were spoilt by the crew today, we came into our room to find towel swans holding a bottle of champagne with a little sign saying ‘happy honeymoon Jessica and Daniel’. The hotel manager is lovely and came and congratulated us also.

 

Yesterday we listened to all the safety drills for the boat and then practiced getting our lifejackets, finding our group and making our way out to the life rafts, if it came to it in Antartica there are full wet suits for everyone to put on, then lifejackets then we all hop into 4 mini capsule boat things that can drive for 3 days with 51 passengers each, they are tiny and would definitely be uncomfortable for 3 days. So lets hope the drill is the only time we see them!

 

We met all the crew who already seem amazing. There are lovely waiters and cleaners from the Philippines, 2 doctors and then there are a team of CEO’s (chief experience officers) who have experience in everything from geology, marine biology, ecology..and a few other ‘ologies’ in there. Most of them are scientists that have spent several years visitng Antartica, one of the senior CEO’s has been going to Antartica every summer since 1972! They have a wealth of knowledge that they are more than willing to share with us, whether it be chatting over dinner or in the lectures they present. We’ve already been to one today to learn about the sea birds (I never realized there were so many types of albatross or kestrels) we can see on the way down and the WHALES that we might see!! I’m so exciting and really really want to see a whale, just one whale would make me happy. Our options are killer whales, blue whales, humpbacks, minke whales or pilot whales. There should be some dolphins along the way too. Once we get to Antartica were going to learn more about the  penguins and seals were going to be able to see. We have learnt already though that the albatross pair will incubate their eggs for up 75 days on a nest and then it takes another 150 days for the chick to be fully fledged and ready to fly. The chicks protect themselves in the nest by projectile vomiting anything/anyone that gets to close. Apparently it’s the most disgusting thing you’ve ever smelt..he did mention though that elephant seals smell worse alive than they do dead!eeeewww, I think Antartica is going to be an assault on ALL the senses.

 

I feel like I have so much to write and tell you and we havnt even made it to Antartica yet! The meals on the boat have been amazing. Last night for dinner we had a salad, green pea soup, pork tenderloin with mash and veg and crème brulee all served at our table. Breakfast was an amazing buffet including eggs, pancakes, bacon, fruit, toast, cereal, pastries, it was delicious!

 

There are 120 passengers on board and 70 staff. We were all warned that once we entered the Drake passage, the huge open body of water that is notoriously nasty, we would be encountering 30 knot winds and some swell. We both took seasick tablets and have been ok so far.We have foam wedges on the edge of our bed so we roll into the middle rather than rolling out. I was a little green when we went down the mud room (where we keep all our gear for going onshore) as it was hot, enclosed and swaying horribly..I almost felt like a spew.

 

Dan and I have had a meeting about kayaking already and are very excited about it, apart from the fact that later today we have to go back to mud room to be fitted with our dry suits…blurgh…going to have to try my hardest not to throw up on my dry suit…

 

Our night finished perfectly last night when there was a knock on our door and another couple from Canada were there with champagne and glasses. Turns out we’re not the only ones that are celebrating our honeymoon! We had champagne on the back deck and watched Argentina and Chile disappear on the horizon. We spoke for a while and it turns out that he is the ‘mayor’ of gadventures, which means he is in charge of company morale and ensuring everyone loves what they do and enjoy coming to work. He’s very close with the CEO of gadventures so it was very interesting talking to them about the company and how it all began in Canada.

 

Thankyou to everyone that leaves a little comment, It’s lovely to hear from you all xoxo

 

5th January 2013

 

It’s almost the end of our Saturday and it has been an amazing day. I’m so excited I have to tell you what just happened at the end of the day before I tell you about the rest of the day! We saw humpback whales!!! Ok, now that’s out of my system I can tell you about the rest of our day.

 

We were told at breakfast today that we made great time crossing the drake passage because it calm (even though the boat was swaying enough that you couldn’t walk in a straight line) that we had made great time and would be able to make a landing at the Aitcho Islands which are part of the Shetland Islands, just 65 miles off the Antartic continent. As we were cruising in between the islands, tiny little  penguins were diving in and out of the water. It was amazing to watch but impossible to time it right to get a photo.

 

Around 2pm we packed on all our layers…2 pairs of socks, thermal pants and top, fleece pants and jumper, then waterproof pants and our massive goose down jackets, beenie, scarf and rubber boots. We went for a zodiac cruise around the islands and saw some grumpy elephant seals malting and several penguin rookeries. After the cruise we were allowed on shore to walk around the penguins. There were gentoo and chinstrap penguins, they all had chicks or eggs under them so if they movied slightly we caught little glimpses of tiny grey fluff balls. If you sit still, the penguins just walk straight in front of you, on their way to wherever they’re going, its amazing how close they get. What else is amazing is how their little bodies survive in the weather, it was SOOOO cold! I think it was around -2 degrees, and my toes and fingers were so numb they were hurting. It was a relief to come back inside and stand in the warm shower to warm my poor toes and fingers.

 

Just as I’m getting out of the shower, an announcement comes over saying there are two humpback whales in front of us…you have never seen anyone get dressed quicker than I did! I put on any clothes that were close by and ran outside. It was magical to see the two humpback fins rise and then the tail rise and disappear under the waves. It was exciting waiting to see where they would pop up again. Hopefully we will see a few more whales before the end of the trip.

 

As long as the weather is clear, we should go out on our first kayaking trip tomorrow which should be amazing!

 

Much love xoxox

 

7am 7th January 2013

 

I’m up ridiculously early today because last night we spent the night camping in Antartica, even now it still sounds crazy! However, setting up camp, watching the sun go down and then come straight back up and the amazing scenery and wildlife surrounding us finished off an absolutely magical day.

 

Yesterday started early too, we had been warned though that if we are going kayaking it will all start early because it takes time to get dressed and get the kayaks in the water. We’ve had several meetings over the last few days to make sure every knew what they were doing. We were there at 7am for breakfast (the food has been amazing! Theres even dessert at lunch time, yay!) and then the announcement came over at 7:15 for all the kayakers to make their way to the mudroom. The mudroom is where all our landing gear is stored so we don’t drag wet gear all through the boat. For kayaking I had on thermal pants and singlet top, 2 pairs of socks, pair of pants and a long sleeve top, on top of the goes a semi-dry suit (its got the hand and neck cuffs, made of a canvas waterproof stuff and includes your feet) on top of that goes the sleeve thingy that connects to the kayak (my brain must have frozen overnight because I cant remember what its called) and then a lifejacket…AND then suncream, sunglasses, gloves and a beanie.With all the gear on we then have to get into the kayak. After all the fuss getting ready and getting in, it was a million times over worth it. We paddled away from the boat and suddenly there was a group of gentoo penguins swimming beside us. Sometimes they kind of swim alongside other times they’re porposing (diving in and out of the water like a dolphin) all around and underneath the water. The water is so clear we watched them going under the kayak. It was absolutely magical and a moment I will never forget.

 

We could see 2 humpback whales as well and we tried to kayak closer however they were feeding so they pop up and then dive down for 3-5 minutes and then pop up on the other side, so it was difficult to get any closer. But still seeing them come up, hearing the blowholes and then seeing their tails disappear was amazing.

 

After kayaking with the penguins we kayaked around Cuverville Island which took us about 2 hours. Along the way we stopped and looked at the gentoo penguin rookeris, arctic tern nests and chicks and the giant petrels. At one point we were kayaking through a path lined with glaciers and we turned a corner and there was a huge Leopard seal laying on the glacier. Leopard seals are scary looking, not friendly fur seal looking (also learnt fur seals are the only ones that “walk” on their 4 flippers, all other seals blubber along like fat slugs). They have a huge mouth with big teeth and scary eyes and they like eating penguins. We paddled around him, took some pics and continued on back to the boat. After kayaking we had a quick landing at Cuverville Island and sat and watched the penguins busy themselves…they always seem to be doing something or going somewhere, its fun to watch.

 

In the afternoon we had a stopover at Port Lockeroy, the British Antartica preservation site. It’s a tiny red and blue hut surrounded by gentoo penguins who at the moment are sitting on eggs waiting for them to hatch. The hut used to be used by whalers as a refuge and then by the British as a refuge and scientific research hut. They hut has been turned into a museum filled with all sorts of interesting things. Because there is no humidity here and half the year things are covered in ice, man-made things/structures are preserved relatively well, so we can still see whale bones, old boats used for whaling and all the bits and stuff in the museum..like the ‘tinned bacon’ and the ‘pork and beef bar’..mm, yummy!

 

On the way back from Port Lockeroy we spotted two Weddell Seals laying on an iceberg, they aren’t as scary looking at the leopard seals but are just as blubbery and slug like in their movements. Just before the boat spotted another leopard seal basking in the sun…stayed well away from him! The wildlife has been truly amazing, around every corner we’ve spotted different animals. At least 5-6 times a day there are announcements to go out on deck and watch the whales, mostly humpback whales but we did see a killer whale in the distance.

 

We had an early dinner and then packed on all the clothes we had and went ashore to camp/try to sleep on Antarctica for the night. We set up our tents and walked up the snow to a lookout for some amazing views all around us. After being toasty warm from the walking with 20 layers of clothes on we crawled into our ‘fart bag’ also known as a sleeping bag liner and then into a -12degree sleeping bag and feel asleep with beanies over our face because it was so light. We were woken up at 5:30 to pack everything up and make our way back to boat for breakfast and a hot shower..and maybe a nap after breakfast.

 

Dan and I were talking about how you would describe Antartica when people ask us “How was Antartica” I was thinking ‘stunning’ ‘magical’ ‘amazing’…but dan’s answer was ‘the opposite of the desert’….mmm, interesting observation dano…

 

7:30am 8th January 2012

 

We’ve just had breakfast and are waiting for the kayak meeting to see if we will be going out or not, all dependent on the weather. It’s a tad blowy and cloudy, definitely not as stunning as the weather was yesterday.

 

Yesterday we cruised through the lumier (must check spelling on that one) channel, the water was so still that it was a perfect mirror of the snowy mountains and glaciers surrounding us.

 

Dan and I tried to nap yesterday morning after returning from camping but there were at 4 announcements to go to the deck for the amazing scenery or whales. Never thought my nap would be interrupted by humpback whales..

 

We had an early lunch after cruising along the Antarctic peninsula and put our kayaks in the water around 1pm. We were warned that it was going to be a huge kayak and it was definitely massive! It beat the records for the longest kayak for the gadventures crew. We kayaked just under 20km in 5 hours, my shoulders are still aching, although it didn’t stop us going out on the kayak again today.

 

We began our kayak through the ‘iceberg graveyard’ a huge harbour where somewhere hundreds of icebergs collect. They were MASSIVE!! Towering above us and then sinking to depths way below us, absolutely amazing. The icebergs are brilliant blues and whites and then under the water they look turquoise, it’s stunning. The shapes are amazing too. Whilst we were kayaking through a huge chunk broke off and then the whole massive iceberg rolled over, it was so amazing..I need a thesaurus to replace amazing…I was using our camera as a video so I captured it all.

 

After cruising the graveyard we made our way across a huge bay, littered with icebergs. We spotted 2 minke whales in the distance but they are very fast and elusive so we weren’t able to get any closer. However for the 2 hours we spent crossing the bay we paddled into 4 different pods of humpback whales, it was absolutely surreal, I still have a huge grin on my face when I think about it. Our encounters with two of the pods were so close we could smell whale fart! One of the pods was made up of 5 whales with two small calves. You can see and hear their blow holes when they come up and then watch their tails disappear as they dive down. Once they’ve gone down they generally stay down for 2-5 minutes feeding on the krill and then it’s anyone’s guess as to where they will come up next. The family went down and then popped up beside us less than 100 metres away, the whales are soo huge and I’m pretty sure I squealed a little when it popped up beside us.

My highlight of the day was definitely the last pod of humpbacks we came across. 2 large humpbacks were feeding and playing? Slapping their tails in the air at each other. They dived and disappeared and then 2 minutes later popped up only 30 metres away from our kayak rolling around on its back slapping its peck (the really big side flippers) The two whales made their way towards us slapping their pecks and then disappeared just in front of our boats. That very moment will stay with me forever, it was magical and has been burned into my memory.

 

The kayaking has been amazing, by far the highlight of our trip. The boat carries 130 people but they only have 20 people for kayaking. Everyone else cruises around in the zodiacs with 10 other people and then makes shore landing. We get to cruise around in our 2 man kayaks on our own little adventures. It’s been amazing to be able to get so close to the wildlife and to just sit on the absolutely still water admiring the scenery.

 

A final stop yesterday was at Peterson Island to see the northernmost rookery of adelie penguins. They have 3 week old black fluffy chicks who were very cute to watch. We watched the cute penguins for a while and then got the zodiacs back to the boat and slept like logs. We were exhausted.

 

We woke early today, had breakfast and were in the kayaks ready to go by 8am. We were in paradise harbour and kayaked around the edge of the harbour admiring the massive glaciers and icebergs surrounded us. Our eyes were peeled for a closer encounter with the orcas but none turned up. We made a stop at the shore and got out of the kayaks to officially plant our feet on the Antarctic continent, all of our stops so far have been at islands along the peninsula. The peninsula itself is a sponge like maze of channels, islands and harbours. It was very exciting for me to plant my feet on the continent, as I’ve now visited all seven continents, yay. We walked up a snowy hillside and then slid on our bums all the way down, the perfect way to celebrate landing on the Antarctic continent.

 

In the afternoon we went for a second kayak back in the bay where Cuverville island was, we were meant to be elsewhere but that bay was packed in with sea ice, huge flat pieces of ice that surround Antarctica in Winter. All of the peninsula ice melted ages ago so they think that the sea ice we saw could have blown in from over 100 miles away! In our two hour kayak session we saw an amazing amount of wildlife, there was our very upclose encounter with a humpback whale, only 10 meters off our kayak, a few minke whales diving around the bay, adelie and gentoo penguins diving around the kayaks and posing for pictures on the sea ice and a few leopard seals and weddell seals basking on the pieces of sea ice. It was all totally surreal. Every corner we’ve turned seems to be swarming with wildlife and it has a lot to do with the huge amounts of krill (tiny little shrimps, sea monkey type thingys) that all the animals feast on. Even that, we have been extremely lucky with wildlife and the amazingly calm weather during our time here.

 

We had a great night in the polar bear bar, one of the staff is a great singer/guitar player and was taking requests all night. Along with drinks served with a chunk of glacier.

 

9th January

 

I can’t believe today is our last day along the Antarctic Peninsula. From tonight we will begin heading back to Ushuaia crossing the Drake passage again, fingers crossed for calm weather!

 

Our last day started with a stopover at Deception Island. This would be our site for the polar plunge! We went for a kayak first and spent two hours cruising around the caldera, as Deception island is a volcano with a tiny opening where the ship can go in as it’s full of water. A perk is that as the volcano is still active there are patches of warm/hot water. During our kayak we saw nesting shags, huge rocky cliffs and caves and a lazy weddell seal on the warm black sand.

 

For our polar plunge we had our bathers underneath all our thermal and waterproof gear. We caught a zodiac to the shore, stripped off and then ran crazily for the freezing cold water. It was deceptive though as there was steam pouring of the first meter of water which was around 30 degrees the sand was also beautifully warm. So you run through that thinking it’s easy and then suddenly the edge drops off and its 0 degrees and your heads underwater because its so deep, its so cold that it takes your breath away and all you can think of is madly swimming back to the warm sand. It was crazy cold!!! However totally worth the bragging rights to say we’ve swam in Antarctica.

 

There’s just been an announcement that whales are around so I’m going out for a look!

 

12th January

 

It’s 7:30am and were sitting in the lounge sadly waiting to disembark. I can’t believe it’s all over, although it will forever rank as one of the most amazing places I have ever been.

 

Finishing off where I left the last entry, we all pilled onto the outside decks to see the fins and blowholes of a huge pod of killer whales. They were a fair way in the distance and disappeared pretty quickly, however by dinner they were back and right next to the boat. We were surrounded by a huge pod of killer whales, at least 20 around every side of the boat. It was totally amazing. There was even a little calf with it’s two parents right near the boat, it looked tiny compared to the others. It was absolutely amazing to have killerwhales popping up on either side of the boat and infront and behind us, a totally magical moment.

 

It was also our last kayak trip on Wednesday. We circumnavigated half moon island which took us around 3 hours. We got a little bit of everything, catching the wind and waves on one side of the island, saw 19 seals including weddell, crabeater and leopard, along with chinstrap and gentoo penguins and one lone macaroni penguin, who wasn’t meant to be there as it’s too far south but apparently he visits the island every year as his partner is a confused chinstrap penguin. It was a very fun last kayak with lots of laughs and jokes as we paddled around. We became a close group and celebrated the amazing weather and all the wildlife we saw at dinner. In the end we had kayaked almost 55km over the 5 days, totally worth all the effort.

 

Following our last day we made our way back through the Drake Passage to Ushuaia. The first 30 hours were perfect, totally smooth and calm. However at 4am Friday morning I woke up as I was rolling around in bed and could hear things rolling around in our room…it got worse..over the next 6 hours, EVERYTHING zoomed off the benches onto the floor, in the violent rolling the cupboards opened and everything came out, the little bottles in the shower came off the shelf and knocked around in the shower. With every roll, everything rolled around in our room, it was crazy. We were told to stay in bed and wait till the storm passed as it was too dangerous to go walking around. Dan got up to take a few pics and bumped and rolled into a few walls along the way. We heard from the captain later in the day, there were 70knot winds which counts as hurricane strength winds, on the beaufort scale the maximum strength for winds is a 12 and the winds we had put as at a 12, it was crazy. The waves were over 10meters and we rolled with it for 6 hours until we came within the coast of Cape Horn (the very tip of Argentina) and it calmed down.

 

For our last night on the boat, the staff were great and put together a slide show of the highlights and the crew sang a goodbye song. The gadventures crew were great and made us all feel very welcome. The ship is in the port to drop us off today and then it picks up another group by the afternoon and heads off again tonight and I wish it was Dan and I waiting to do it all again!

 

Much Love, Jess and Dan xoxo

 

 

 

Tags: antarctica, gadventures, kayaking, penguins, port lockeroy, seals, whales

Comments

1

Have been hiting your tab regularly waitying for an update.
And we were not dissapointed.
Antarctica looks and sounds like it is the trip of a lifetime. What a marvellous way to honeymoon,
Thank you for all your posts and pictures.
I guess thgat now all you have to do is thaw out on a nice beach somewhere......
miss you heaps,

  Loopies Jan 13, 2013 8:03 AM

2

Jess you made me cry! What an amazing adventure you have had. Lovely to read all about it and what a Honeymoon to remember forever for you both! Definatley need a photo video night with the Bassos and Smiths when you return!! Enjoy Rio xx

  Sue Batten Jan 13, 2013 9:02 AM

3

We too have been eagerly awaiting your news and we certainly weren't disappointed, what a amazing adventure. We had just read Brentons wonderful blog from Egypt and how warm it was and then we were freezing reading yours, it was great reading jess thank you thank you for a great read!!!!!!!!x

  Val and mick chapman Jan 13, 2013 9:17 AM

4

Wow your trip sounds amazing guys photos are stunning even though I'm not keen on the cold weather it's definitely a must see holiday. Enjoy Rio lv Aunty Deb and Uncle George xx

  Aunty Debbie Jan 13, 2013 10:25 AM

5

I feel sorry for the lone penguin with the confused girlfriend!

  Bec Jan 13, 2013 10:39 AM

6

Wow, wow, wow!!!!!
What an amazing and unforgettable honeymoon. Can't wait to see all the photos and the videos.
Enjoy the warmth of Brazil
Love Mum xx

  Mum Jan 13, 2013 2:13 PM

7

Well that is one of the best things I have ever read whilst having a cup of tea. The whole trip just sounds amazing and so memorable. Whilst I am sooooooooooooo envious of all the whale watching as it has always been something I have wanted to do, I am so glad that you and Dan are having such an amazing honeymoon and are making memories that will be with you forever. The scenery is spectacular and the wildlife is terrific. You will have so much to show and tell everyone when you return. I cant believe you slept out side though when you have perfectly good accommodation on the ship!!!!!!!!! Look forward to the next stage. Love Gai xxxx

  Gai Basso Jan 14, 2013 10:14 AM

8

OMG u almost made me cry, dont stop writing pretty please it all sounds soooo amazing. I loved reading every minute of it & I can't wait for u to tell me all your stories in person. U sound like an excited lil kid at Christmas talking about the whales it's amazing. Man U must have big arms by now though, ud b giving Dan a run for his money lol. It's so amazing to here your magical stories. I couldn't imagine a more amazing couple sharing such a magical experience with each other. Travel safe xoxo

  Nicole & Nick Jan 14, 2013 10:55 PM

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