What a final day in Antartica. Spectacular. Lets start. I woke up at 5 AM and went downstairs for my java. Saw Duane get up. Duane was the groom at the wedding. Very nice man from Maine. Duane went out on the deck at 5:45 and immediately came back in yelling at me to go get my camera. Two humpback whales were next to the boat. I immediately ran upstairs and grabbed a camera. Went outside and was blown away. I looked down and saw one of the true beautiful creatures in the world. Two humpback whales were playing with the boat. I looked down and one of the humpbacks blew some air in my face from his blow hole. where can you experience something like this? I was in awe and frozen by what had just happened. The smell was like rotten fish, but who cared. I got sprayed by a humpback whale. I will take it all the time. I then started to shoot. Could not stop shooting as the humpbacks played with the boat. At 7 AM, others arrived and crowded the deck. I believe that these humpbacks knew what they were doing. If they did not, they would have swam away after ten to fifteen minutes. They played with us for over two hours. How beautiful and extraordinary this scene was. I am so blessed I got to experience a humpback blowing water into my face from his blow hole.
The day stayed on an upbeat after that. Breakfast was breakfast as we traveled to Deception Island. What is Deception Island and why go there? Deception Island is a small island in South Sheffield Islands off Antartica. Deception Island was a whaling station from 1910 through the 1930’s. Before we dropped anchor in the harbor of Deception Island, we passed through a gap in the caldera wall known as “Neptunes Bellows”. Deception Island is volcanic and has an active volcano. There have been three recent eruptions. You have to pass through “Neptunes Bellows” in order to drop anchor in the harbor. The harbor is a caldera created by the volcano. The structure reminded me of Santorini in the Greek Isles. Santorini has a caldera and is also volcanic. “Neptunes Bellows” is called this because there are violent winds that sometimes prevent you from going through the entrance. Lets get back to Deception Island. At the start of World War II, the British established a listening post there to listen for German and Japanese ships and submarines. The British also built some gas tanks, a runway and a large hanger for airplanes. After World War II, the British used Deception Island as a research station. The research station was abandoned in the nineteen seventies after the facilities were damaged three times by the volcano. We took zodiacs across the bay to the beach. The beach was rich black sand and stone. We then walked around the abandoned structures and took some great pictures of these structures and the landscapes of the caldera. My back started to ache and I left the Island at about 11 AM for the boat. i then went through my ritual of downloading and cleaning all the camera gear.
Laid down and woke up after lunch. I am so tired and exhausted. Lack of sleep and taking pictures will do that to you. It was now onto our last land excursion at “Half Moon Island”. For you geography buffs, Half Moon Island is located between Greenwich and Livingstone Islands in the South Sheffield Islands. Now you all know where I am. Have been always looking at a large map posted in the lounge of the South Sheffield Islands. I boarded the zodiac at 5:30 for a trip to the island. Chinstrap penguins greeted me as I got off the zodiac. I have grown to love taking pictures of penguins. They are unique and would love to spend a whole day sitting in a beach chair and a thermos of coffee, observing one of their colonies. I look through my telephoto lens and wait for them to interact. Great entertainment and photography. Could not stop take pictures of my new found subjects as I boarded the zodiac for the ride back to the boat.
Boarded the boat at around 6:45 and we were told that there was an important message to be delivered by the captain at 7 in the lounge. The captain told us that we would be entering the dreaded Drake at around 11 PM and the forecast is bad. We were told to expect forty foot waves and at least 60 knot winds. These conditions should last for 24 hours and we would be confined to our rooms. We were given bottles of water and told to practice going to the bathroom on our hands and knees and the men should go to the bathroom like women. Do not stand up. Hurricanes normally have 20 to 25 foot waves. I immediately sent my beautiful wife, Olivia, an email, telling her that if she does not hear from me in twenty four hours, that everything is hers. All hell is expected to break loose. The doctor walked around the boat giving everyone medication for sea sickness and she gave me some medication for my back. Will I survive? What will this crossing be like? I can tell you the crossing over here was the worst time I had ever had on the sea. This crossing is expected to be much worse with waves double the size. I need to hold on for dear life and hope I survive The dreaded Drake.
Hopefully talk to everyone tomorrow night to assess the damage.