Antarctica
Curva, punta

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5 travelers at this place

  • Day15

    South Shetland Islands

    February 7 in Antarctica ⋅ ⛅ 36 °F

    Our last day in Antarctica is being spent in the South Shetland Islands before we head north through the Drake Passage. After a little rain yesterday, the weather has turned gorgeous again with mild temperatures and sparkling sunshine.
    It’s incomprehensible that all the water we are sailing through will be completely frozen in a couple of months.
    Today we saw chinstrap penguins and fur seals.
    When walking about on land, occasionally we would hear a huge sound like cannon-fire. That sound is ice breaking-we have never been able to see the occurrence, but the sound is thrilling enough.
    It’s awe-inspiring to see so much earth that has never been touched and is so pristine. What we have seen seems enormous, but in actuality, it is the very top of the peninsula of Antarctica.
    The continent of Antarctica is about 1/3 larger then the land mass of the continental United States.
    So today we will give up our boots and heavy clothes as we move north to warmer areas (sounds backwards, doesn’t it?).
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  • Day7

    Half Moon Island

    November 16, 2019 in Antarctica ⋅ ☁️ 0 °C

    The ship arrives at Half Moon Island at around 07:30 and through my window I can see the expedition team on the zodiac boats heading for the gravel landing site. Antarctic Treaty regulations state that no more than 100 tourists can be ashore at any one time, so the ship’s company has been divided into 12 small groups of about 30 people, each with a specific landing time. My group is landing at 14:00, so I have plenty of time until then to gather my thoughts. I keep thinking about how insanely lucky I am to be here; a feeling which is thrown into even sharper relief by Mum and Dad’s absence. It’s such a shame they’re missing this, but I’m sending photos back through WhatsApp (thank god for the free - and so far functioning - onboard WiFi!) and I know they are following this journal online. I’ve managed to get them each one of the red Hurtigruten jackets that we we wear when we’re going ashore, so hopefully that’ll serve as a nice souvenir.

    My cabin window is pointing directly at the island, and as I’m sat here sipping my coffee, I’m realising that the things I had at first believed to be a series of jagged rocks along the crest of the hill are actually hundreds of penguins! There’s a giant colony of them on the brow of the hill. They’re all over the beach where we will be landing too, so I guess this is a day for getting up close and personal with Pingu.

    As our landing time comes, I’m ready and trussed up like a turkey in all the polar gear, ready to make my way down to the launch deck. We board the zodiac boats again and speed off towards the dark granite beach. Already I’m glad of the extra layers, as the wind is blowing a frosty gale at us. At the beach, I score an 8.5 on the dismount from the boat (I’m getting the hang of this!) and I assemble with the 11 other humans and two nonchalant penguins for the safety briefing (a short summary - stay on the trails marked with flags and don’t pester the penguins). I grab a couple of hiking poles, as I can already see that the snow gives way easily underfoot, and set off up the hill.

    At the top, a truly incredible sight greets my eyes. The sky is now a brilliant blue and the land is entirely covered in snow and ice. Some of this must have been here for millennia. For a generally quite verbose person, I’m struck pretty speechless. Amongst all the wonder of finally getting to see this part of the world, I’m hit with the realisation that I’ve now set foot on my seventh continent, and a fresh wave of emotion washes over me. With watering eyes, not entirely due to the icy wind, I continue up the slope towards the penguin rookery. Here, several hundred chinstrap penguins are huddling together amongst the rocks. This is the start of the breeding season, although it’s too early for hatchlings yet. The smell is quite special - a kind of putrid fishy smell, which is emanating from the copious quantities of penguin guano everywhere. I’m praying the buffet back onboard tonight isn’t seafood, or I think my stomach will turn entirely.

    From the rookery, I follow the final trail across the ridge, but the going is difficult (especially as I’m about twice as heavy as most other people and I keep sinking up to my knees), so I turn around and make my way slowly back to the beach for the final event.

    Now, I’m not much of a daredevil, but it seems that a tradition in these parts is to strip off and take a dip in the icy waters. A sort of ‘right of passage’ on arrival in Antarctica, if you will. Something entirely reckless kicks in within me, and before I give myself time to rethink, I’m stripping off (just down to my underwear - I’m still British, after all) and bracing myself to walk into the ocean...

    My god. For those of you who have never taken a bath in ice water, let me describe the sensation. Walking to the water’s edge, my copious alabaster flesh is already freezing cold, and as the water hits my feet I have a split second of hesitation that this might be a very bad idea. But a voice in my head is chanting “keep moving” over and over, so I stride in and lower myself into the water up to my neck. It honestly feels like burning. The icy water is like a thousand needles pricking you all over. Never one to outstay my welcome, I beat a hasty retreat out of the water, during which time someone from the crew snaps some spectacularly unflattering photos of my vast bulk attempting to haul itself out of the ocean. I can’t feel my feet at all - they could be cut to ribbons for all I know. The crew give me a clap and hand me a small towel - woefully inadequate for the task at hand, I must say - and I begin to wonder how the hell I’m gonna get my clothes back on when I can’t feel my hands or feet. After what feels like an age (but was probably only a few minutes), I manage to wrestle myself back into my gear and make a swift entry onto the next transit boat back to the ship. I’m cold, but elated - not many others can say they’ve had a swim in Antarctica - but that’s quite enough adventure for one day!
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Curva, punta

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