We were late in the afternoon getting to Damoy Point, the place where we’ll be exploring. My group was scheduled to be the first to land and then we’d swap with the other group to do another zodiac cruise.
Over lunch we watched the weather get more and more grey. It started to snow.
The topic on everyone’s mind was the Polar Plunge. It was scheduled to happen after the afternoon’s activities.
Now, before we go any further, I should let you know that on this ship, the Polar Plunge isn’t simply a jump into the sea from the doors on deck 3. No, no, no. Apparently, that’s too dangerous. People have had heart attacks from doing it that way.
Pfft. As if…!
What the Polar Plunge is on this ship is a slow walk into the sea from a rocky beach, with the water inching up your body in an excruciating dance as you force yourself through ice-cold water to get to a point where it’s deep enough to submerge yourself, all while balancing on rocks that shift under your feet.
How do I know this? I saw Morgan’s video of himself doing it last year. It looked awful. I don’t know why this slow torture is considered safer than a short, sharp plunge into the sea, but there it is.
So everyone’s asking each other, “Are you doing the Polar Plunge?” “I’m thinking of doing it, how about you?” “I’m not doing it!”
Morgan didn’t exactly inspire confidence. When asked if he was going to do it – “I’ve done it once. I don’t have to do it again…”
Now, I packed my bathers. I like to keep all of my options open for ‘once in a lifetime’ things like this. But as lunch progressed, the weather outside got greyer. It began to look COLD out there. I didn’t expect the Polar Plunge to be fun, but it was definitely looking like weather that I did NOT want to strip down to my bathers in.
By the time we were called to get into the zodiacs, the sea was heaving and it was still lightly snowing. I know it’s entitled and selfish of me, but I couldn’t help being slightly disappointed. This is real Antarctic weather, but where was the clear sky of yesterday?
As I looked around, Baptiste was missing. He and Morgan are usually always together. It turned out that Baptiste had snow blindness from yesterday and this morning. His eyes are such a pale blue and even though he had sunnies on, they weren’t wraparound ones and so the glare from the sun on the snow messed up his eyes. The poor guy couldn’t stop crying and was staying in his bunk for the afternoon. We sent the doctor to look at him but it’s something only time could fix.
Morgan was also suffering. He was bright red from sunburn. Ahhh, the French! They may have one of the best accents in the world, but they don’t have the sun smarts of your regular Aussie.
When we landed at Damoy Point I discovered why it’s best to be the second group to land. Snow that hasn’t been trodden on is soft. It’s deep. If someone… say, me for example… steps where no one else has stepped before, she just might sink up to the top of her leg in the snow. Now I see why snowshoes were invented, though they’re still not foolproof. (I won’t tell you how I know this.)
After my snowshoes were on, I set off, following the bright pink plump gortex bum belonging to a sturdy German woman. I figured that she’d pack the snow down pretty well for me. It worked. I made it to the Gentoo rookeries without further mishap.
But this time we were getting a taste of what the Arctic is like. The wind was whistling and the air was cold. Not TOO cold, for my 5 layers of clothing, but I was certainly keeping all layers zipped up and close to my throat, unlike yesterday.
There was a little hut that has been saved as a historic artifact – the British had a landing strip here at some stage and the hut was used for men to wait for the plane – but you had to take your snowshoes off to go in. It was such a palaver to put my snowshoes on in the first place that I ignored the hut and trudged on.
There was no snow, but the wind was whistling past us. There was a track straight to near where the penguins were, and then the trail looped around down by the bay to see sweeping views.
By this time I’d lost the others and I was trudging through the snow on my own. I kept weighing up what to do about the Polar Plunge. As I said before, it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance… but the weather was getting greyer and more windy. Just the thought of having that wind whipping around my nether regions while they were wet from the sea was almost giving me frostbite.
I dug my chin into my scarf and kept walking. I was getting very unhappy about that damned Plunge.
Still, even though the day’s weather wasn’t the best, the place still had an extraordinary beauty – wild and untamed.
There were two rookeries right near us, but a third one was way, way away on the top of a hill. Quite a hike for those little guys to get up and down the hill on those pudgy little legs.
Then it was time for the swap over to the zodiacs. Imagine my absolute joy when Pippa, the tour leader, announced that the Polar Plunge has been cancelled for today.
“YES!!!!!!” I yelled, fist-pumping the sky. I was so elated that I nearly tumbled into the sea then and there.
Let’s see what tomorrow’s weather would bring.
I have to say, I’m loving the zodiacs. It’s amazing how much you can see from so low in the water.
But look at what another group experienced, while I was slogging my way across the ice. How incredible! I think it was Charlie who shared this video with me:
He said that they were a little worried that it might try to take a bite out of the zodiac. They would have been safe if it did, though. On the first day, I remember our guide saying that a seal would have to puncture more than a third of the sections of a zodiac before it would start to sink.
Look at this little guy.
We were bobbing around in the bay when another zodiac zipped across to us. The kitchen staff had decided to bring us hot chocolate with whipped cream and rum to keep us warm.
Liga asked for no whipped cream but 2 shots of rum. Smart girl!
Drinking a cup of hot chocolate in the middle of a bay in Antarctica is something special.
So is seeing this. A blue iceberg.
We all tumbled back into the ship and joined up again for dinner. As usual, the food was sumptuous. I looked out of the window at one stage and saw HORIZONTAL SNOW. This doesn’t bode well for tomorrow…
Then we went up one deck to the lounge and settled in for another quiet evening. The girls usually played cards with whoever wanted to join them, while the rest of us quietly chatted, read or caught up on our blog writing. (That’d be me. I get antsy when I’m on holidays if I don’t get the day’s events written down for the blogs.)
Morgan said, “We’re not far from Ghana… according to my phone!”
Corinna came up to me later that night and pulled me aside. Her face was alight.
“I have more on SamFrank!” she said.
“Tell me. Tell me now!” I said.
“You know how Eneko shares a cabin with him? Well, he was telling Eneko this afternoon that he is a dance instructor.”
We both burst out laughing.
“So, then Eneko told him to prove it, so SamFrank started doing the tango around the cabin!”
We howled again.
“Yeah, Eneko said that he was crap.”
I love the hopping, waddling penguins. The scenery is amazing; I can’t imagine what a great time you must have had. I’m wondering if you are allowed to take a rock or two with you from the pebble beach? That is my kind of souvenir, but along with being careful to leave no trace, I’m guessing you shouldn’t take a piece of Antarctic home with you?
You absolutely can’t take rocks etc with you. My souvenirs were a coffee mug and fridge magnet bought at Port Lockroy and a penguin postcard from Ushuaia to put on my fridge.
Loving the short videos. So special to be that close to animals in the wild. Also the blue iceberg.
Do you ever find out about the ‘real’ SamFrank?
You’ll have to keep reading to find out…