Day 19 – Deception Bay – Half Moon Island

A wonderful final day began at Deception Island. As you approach it looks like a large island. Then passing through a small passage you realise you are in the crater of a huge volcano. Many thousands of years ago it erupted violently blew a hole in the side and the sea rushed in and filled the crater to make the central bay.

A gentle hike up to the edge of the crater with some stunning views and then through the snow to a view of the derelict whaling station that is now a rather sad historic site having been allowed to disintegrate since 1950.

An amusing diversion was the traditional end of cruise leap into the freezing cold ocean. There were 3 idiots – sorry I mean volunteers- including an obligatory mad Scotsman – who jumped in and out again. The Doc was nearby with a charged defribilator which should have suggested this was one to avoid. Not if you’re Scottish!

And so to our final landing on Half Moon Island and what a way to finish. A crescent shaped piece of snow covered and wind swept land under a superb blue sky. A hike to the Chinstrap rookery was followed by magnificent views along the South Shetland Islands. Mountains valleys icebergs and no civilisation for 1000 miles.

It’s the vastness and the scale that is so much part of this and is impossible to adequately convey. We have been overwhelmed by the stunning scenery and wondrous wildlife. We are in their domain but we are not predators and they just ignore us. It is a strange sensation to find Penguins wandering around ones feet oblivious to our exploration. We in turn make sure we give them priority wherever we go. 

Now it’s a two day thrash across the roughest stretch of water on the planet. The notorious Drakes Passage.

So we come to the end of a fantastic trip. We have seen the vastness of Antarctica the history and variety of the rarely visited South Georgia. We have followed the footsteps of Shackleton and his crew and marvelled at their fortitude and resilience in making it home. 

We wouldn’t have missed this for the world.

Michael Erica Howard & Michele

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Day 18 – Paradise Bay & Neko Harbour

Early start today. Last nights diversion round the pack ice gave us a head start. A zodiac tour round a bay enclosed by ice cliffs and glaciers. Very cold and snowing heavily.

At one end we came across Base Brown which is a rarely used Argentinian so called research station but it’s really there to lay a political claim.

Conditions worsened and then within sight of the ship the bar hove into view!! 3 waiters had taken a zodiac loaded with champagne and cookies! Nice surprise

This afternoon was our last continental landfall at Neko Bay where we hiked up the morain to view a spectacular and active glacier. This climb was in deep snow and very difficult and in truth we didn’t get to the top retreating from about half way. We are pretty intrepid but you have to know when to call a halt. The pros and the highly motivated had a crack at the top and most got there. From our vantage point the view was spectacular enough even in heavy snowfall.

Howard decided to be well – Howard – with predictable results!

Getting up took a while. TMI perhaps.

We have been surrounded all week by sex and violence and that’s just the Penguins. Erica managed to get some penguin porn on video but we can’t include it in the blog so as not to offend!!

Tomorrow is our last day of exploration. It promises to beta spectacular finale

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Day 17 – Cuvreville Island & Port Lockeroy

A wonderful day. This morning we zodiaced into Cuvreville. An ice filled bay made for a difficult crossing but boy was it worth it. This was whatever you imagine the Antarctic to be but times 10! An astonishing place. Towering ice mountains icebergs and a snow decked beach.

The ice in the bay was hugely difficult for the zodiacs. We found ourselves as passengers pushing off from ice bergs just to get to shore.

This afternoon we paid a visit Port Lockeroy. This is a former Uk listening post from WW2. Now it’s a famous stop off for Antarctic travellers. The island is the size of a football pitch and is a heritage site. It’s the most southerly post office in the world and the base itself has been restored to as was in 1955. The access is a bit tricky but it’s worth the effort.

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Day 16 – Brown Bluff

After yesterday’s difficult crossing we pitched up at Brown Bluff. This was important for many of us as it represented one of the few landing opportunities on the main continental land mass. For some it was the final box they needed to tick for having trodden on all 7 continents!!

This area is home to a large number of breeding pairs so lots of eggs being sat on in this picture! Very cold and the zodiac crossing from the ship was exceedingly so. The picture below shows why this area is called Brown Bluff.

This afternoons intended zodiac tour was cancelled due to high winds. Instead the ship took us through the tabular ice pack. A wondrous sight. These flat topped bergs break off the continental ice shelf. They are about 15,000 years in the making and then suddenly these huge bodies of pure water are set free to drift in the ocean and slowly melt over several years.

Lunch wouldn’t be lunch without a Carry on up the Kybher moment. Today’s saw the boat turn to avoid a large berg and a tray of sticky toffee pudding fly across the restaurant floor. Much anguish amongst those who hadn’t got their pud strategy activated yet!

Tonight is Thanksgiving although there are very few Yanks on this trip. Still it means it’s turkey for dinner or perhaps penguin!

Michael

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Day 15 – Not Quite Elephant Island

Today has been the most difficult day of our trip. We approached Elephant Island but the sea was too rough for a landing. It rarely isn’t! Shackletons men were rescued from the tiny spit of land in August 1916. It was 55 years until another human set foot on it. We got fairly close and marvelled at the strength of will of these men not only getting ashore but surviving dreadful conditions.

From here we had to cross Prince George Sound in a force 8 gale. This has been a very unpleasant experience that frankly would prevent me coming down here again at least in the same way.

Highlight of the day was lunch in the gale. For those of a certain age this was rather like the dinner party scene in Carry on Up the Kyhber! Stiff upper lips all round even when Howard’s beer flew off the table and landed in his lap!

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Day 14 РStill in the South Atlantic 

A second day at sea but we are now south of latitude 60 so officially in the Antarctic. Heavy going in poor weather. Nothing much to report except Howatd got stuck in the shower in the sauna! Sadly or perhaps happily no picture available. 

Tomorrow is Elephant Island where Shackletons crew were stranded on now eroded beach for 4 months. 

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Day 13 – South Atlantic

A quiet day at sea as we all chill out following our amazing South Georgia experience. By all accounts we have been really fortunate to he 3 consecutive days of reasonable weather. Mostly South Georgia doesn’t give you as much time.

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