The next morning at 7:45 we were woken by a cheery announcement.
“Goood morning everyone! We’re currently making our way along the Drake Passage. The waves are slight, only about 3m or so. Weather is fine and breakfast will be served in 15 minutes. We have a series of lectures for you in the lounge throughout the day, which are all on your daily log. The lectures on bio-security in Antarctica are mandatory and you will not be allowed on the ice unless you have attended. In the afternoon we’ll issue your Muck Boots and you’ll be called up deck by deck.”
I felt fine. No seasickness at all! Apparently, we went through rough seas during the night, but by morning the seas were just rolling gently. You couldn’t get much closer to a Drake Lake! We all crossed our fingers that this would continue, except for Liga. Although during the previous day she was terrified of being sick, now all of a sudden she was saying, “I want a storm. I think that if we come here we should expect to see bad weather.”
I know; crazy, right?
Some of the lectures were as you might expect: about snow and birds and seals. But others were a little more unexpected, as you can see.
Morgan and Baptiste are clearly riveted by a lecture, while some random guy over Morgan’s shoulder is deeply suspicious as to why I’m taking the photo.
The mandatory lectures about biosecurity were really interesting. I had no idea as to the lengths the company (Oceanwide) goes to, to ensure that Antarctica stays as uncontaminated by invasive species as possible.
In one of the lectures and briefings we had today, we were told that before we’re allowed on the ice, everything we intend to wear will be cleaned to within an inch of their lives. We have to sign a declaration saying that we’ll do everything in our power to keep Antarctica pristine.
We were told that we were not allowed to lie down, kneel or sit on the ice. We must remain standing at all times. Even our backpacks are not allowed to touch the snow. The crew brings a large tarp to each landing that they lay out and this is where people can put their bags, overcoats etc. Each time the tarp is brought back to the ship it’s sanitised.
The clothes that we were planning to wear when ashore were also carefully inspected, with pockets being vacuumed out and anything velcro had a person brandishing tweezers lifting anything caught in it.
We were also taught how to put on our life jackets. These were long red tubes that had gas bottles in them that are designed to inflate if you hit the water, so it was important to make sure that each jacket we wore was fitted tightly enough. We were warned that they could kill you if they were too loose. We kept swapping life jackets every time we left the ship, so they had to be adjusted each time.
This day was a funny one. Going through the Drakes Passage takes 2 days if the weather’s good. So today was spent looking out on endless seas. It’s astonishing how many birds are out here, 500 miles from any land. They follow the ship, so there are always photographers out on deck trying to get the perfect shot.
This photo is typical of my attempts to capture the birds. I’m thinking that I’ll use my photos today, then show you proper photos of the seabirds from people who actually know what they’re doing on tomorrow’s post.
Best of both worlds!
Nearly got it!
We were issued with our Muck Boots after lunch. These are the most comfortable Wellington/gum boots ever. They’re hard to get on but will definitely protect our feet from getting wet. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind a pair after I get home. They’re so warm and comfy.
I don’t know if it was the patch, the antihistamines that Blogless Sandy recommended to combat seasickness or the relaxation of tension after I realised that I haven’t missed the boat, but I spent most of the day taking naps. The ship has a definite roll, which is noticeable enough to be very soothing when you want to sleep.
Liga, Corinna and I discovered that the couches on deck 5 were extremely comfortable for napping. We may or may not have nodded off during a couple of the lectures. The ship’s movement was just soooo seductive.
Over dinner, Liga was saying how she has to eat meat every day or she’s just not happy. She made me laugh when she gestured to her plate, which admittedly had a fair bit of pork on it, and declared in her rolling accent, “Look at me. I’m eating meat like domestic animal!”
We’re certainly not going to starve here. It seems like every time we turn around, we’re being fed.
We went out on deck after dinner to see if we could snap some shots of birds. It only took a few minutes before my hands got so cold that I had to go inside. Those icebergs are definitely getting closer…
I spent some time talking with an American couple and their adult son. It soon became obvious that Mum wasn’t all there. She has early-onset dementia and her husband is her caregiver. They are at the stage of balancing between living their lives as they want and keeping her safe. Their son said to me that they probably have 2 years more travel to go before they have to stay close to home.
It was lovely to see the care they were taking of her and how cherished she was, but it really brought home to me how important it is to get out there and see and do things as soon as you can. We don’t know what lies in store.
Corinna, Liga, Morgan, Baptiste and I spent most of the day hanging around together. At this moment as I’m typing this on my iPad after dinner, the girls are at a table playing a card game while the boys and I are on some couches, reading. (I’m onto my 5th book…)
Corinna’s here in the photo looking pretty confident in the hand of cards she has, while Liga is beside her, mulling over her choices. Corinna was very intent on finding a pack of cards to buy when we were having lunch in Ushuaia, so I’m glad she was able to make use of them.
Unfortunately for her, the boys and I are allergic to card games, but she’s already finding the cards very useful to make friends with other people on the ship.
Later, it was past midnight and the shy was growing dark. A few of us were sitting around on the couches in the lounge, idly chatting, when Liga suddenly sat upright and pointed.
“Look! There are lights ahead!”
It was another ship.
Corinna said, “We are not alone…”
Oh FD I am loving your desriptions and photos! Makes me feel I am right there with you.
PS Am booking myself in for a Cold Culture icebath in January down my way if you’d like a road trip adventure…
Depends if I did the Polar Plunge or not…
I’ve never been drawn to visit Antarctica because I get enough frigid weather here in NY, US. However, your pictures and narrative are causing me to wonder a bit.
Just you wait…
the best is yet to come.
I did love the care that was taken to protect the environment and keep it pristine. It made me really happy to see all the steps we went through and the attention to detail taken. <3
I think they’re even more stringent now than when you were there. They’re all terrified of avian flu coming down and affecting the birds as badly as in the northern hemisphere.