What a day. First lets start with the night. Another night of no sleep. The boat started to rock as we got into open waters going out of the harbor of King Georges Island. The rocking and rolling was too much. Not as bad as the first night, but bad enough. I probably slept for less than two hours. The wind was howling and the boat was going up and down as I crawled into my berth hoping for the best. We were scheduled to wake up at 6:30, have breakfast at 7 and be on the zodiacs by 8. Everything had to be pushed back. We were traveling down the Bransfield Strait in the South Sheffield Island chain of Antartica. The wind had caused the boat to slow its progress and everything was pushed back one hour. The rescheduled time to board the zodiacs was 9 AM. At about 8:30 the boat slowed up and the anchor was lowered into a bay.
We were given life vests to wear when we disembark. I put on my snow pants, long johns, and two layers of tops. Wore a pull down hat and of course gloves with my ski jacket. We were given high length waterproof boots to wear. We all worked our way down to the first level and lined up to be helped onto the zodiacs. The zodiacs are lowered into the sea by a crane. There are approximately 8 zodiacs tied down to the back of the boat on the main level. As I boarded the zodiac I did not know what to expect. You sit on the rim of the zodiac and hold on for dear life. The water is extremely cold and if you fell in, you would not last long. There were eight of us on each zodiac, four sitting on each side facing each other. The ride was about ten minutes to an area called “The Hydrurga Rocks”. The Rocks are named after the Leopard Seal or Hydrurga Leptonix. The Rocks are located on the northern entrance to the Gerlache Strait. Now everyone knows where I was. Why go here? What is so special abut this place? As soon as we disembarked a large Wendell Seal was waiting to great us. He or she was sunning himself and sleeping on the compact snow and ice. Did not even look up as we all walked by him. Not a care in the world. He did ask me, if the market was up today. We then all walked in a straight line up the barren landscape to some penguin colonies. A penguin called “Chinstrap Penguins” make their homes here. Penguins live in colonies. Some colonies are larger than others. I could not stop taking pictures of these magnificent creatures. They were so beautiful as they interacted and played with each other. One colony particularly interested me. I sat down on the ice and took out my 100/400 and just clicked away. I wish I had a beach chair and a thermos of coffee. Could have spent the whole day there shooting and watching these creatures go through their daily lives. It was then time to walk back to the zodiacs. I fell a few times as the weather started to get warmer and the ice was getting softer. We all met at the Wendell Seal and board our zodiacs for the ride back. How amazing this experience was. To be able to photo these creatures in their natural environment was special.
We then arrived back for lunch. I was exhausted. It was hard work walking up and down ice and snow while carrying your camera gear. After lunch Andy had scheduled a lightroom session. I brought my computer down to the lounge, set it up, and fell asleep. When I woke up the session was over. I decided to take a hot shower, get dressed and go outside to shoot and look at the landscape as we travel down the Gerlache Strait. The hot shower was just what I needed. A refreshing way to wake up and get ready for more adventure. I then put on my warm clothes and ventured out to the deck. What I saw took my breath away. How beautiful both sides of the Strait were. There were penguins swimming near the boat and we saw some traces of humpback whales. Saw their bodies, but no large tails yet. It seemed that we were in never never land. Snow and ice on either side with small icebergs floating by. Flurries were in the air. Snow flurries in the summer in Antartica. My mind, spirit and soul wandered and I got absorbed by this magnificent site.
After taking lots of pictures, we finally lowered anchor and dinner was served. I could not eat and my mind wandered to the beauty that I had just witnessed.
After dinner, we boarded the zodiacs for a cruise around the icebergs. My room is on the port side, so my zodiac was scheduled to leave at 8:15 and return at 9:30. I got dressed and worked my way down to the zodiac ramp. The zodiac now seated six of us. We spent close to ninety minutes cruising around icebergs. The icebergs were so beautiful. The blueish color cannot be described. As I sat in the zodiac and took pictures of this wondrous land, I knew that I was blessed to be here and witness natures beauty in such a barren and inhospitable area.
As I finish writing this blog, I hope I get some sleep tonight. Cannot keep on going this way. I am starting to think about passing “The Drake” again on the way back. This morning I was able to get internet service on a computer on the boat. I sent my beautiful wife an email telling her that I was fine and could never describe the first night in “The Drake”. I described it as knowing now how my clothing feels in the washing machine.
Onto another day tomorrow and the hope of some well needed sleep.