No icebergs outside my window today, but the cliffs on either side of the ship as we glided into Whaler’s Bay were quite impressive. The entrance to Whaler’s Bay is a narrow passage named Neptune’s Bellows, and there is a large rock in the middle of the channel, which is only 8 feet underwater, making navigation down the channel quite dangerous.
We arrived in the bay quite unscathed, and soon we were clambering into the zodiacs for a beach landing. Fortunately this time neither of us got water in our boots when disembarking from the zodiac.
The first thing you notice once on dry land is how very dark is the sand. The next thing you notice is the steam rising off the sand. Here we are standing on an active volcano that last erupted in 1969 causing damage to the area around us.
Then you notice people clothed in swimsuits running into the water. The polar plunge is underway.
They do a polar plunge on each Antarctica voyage. However, usually what happens is that you pop on your swimsuit and bathrobe, and go down to the zodiac landing platform on deck 3. You jump off the platform into the icy water and then climb back on board and dry off, put on your bathrobe again, have a hot toddy, and run back to your cabin to have a nice hot shower. I was game for that.
However, on this trip they decided to do a beach polar swim. So after exploring the bay, you strip off your boots and expedition clothing, revealing your swimsuit. You then run down the sand to the water, and walk out quite far into the shallow bay until you can immerse yourself in the freezing water. Dunk your head under the water, and you then run back to the shore, You are given a towel to dry off, and you then put your expedition clothes back on, and go back to the ship in a zodiac. Way too much time spent unclothed and in the freezing water. Not to mention the chilly, windblown. zodiac ride back to the ship. It was a difficult decision, but regretfully I declined to participate.
We applauded the brave folks who participated in the polar plunge, and then walked along the beach to look at the remains of the ruins of the whaling station that had previously been there, but was abandoned several decades ago, and damaged in the 1969 eruption. There are several derelict buildings, rusted holding tanks, and a cemetery.
At the end of the beach there is a disused hangar. There used to be a red plane outside the building, but that was removed some time ago so all there is is the rusty corrugated iron edifice.
On our walk back to the zodiac landing site we stopped to photograph a sleeping elephant seal,
and of course we had to stand and watch the penguins who seemed to be having a good time swimming around and cavorting on the beach.
Not being the most agile of people at the best of times, I had been very concerned about how on earth I was going to get myself back into the zodiac after a wet landing. As it turned out despite all of the layers of clothing which severely restrict ones movement, and my innate ability to be clumsy and fall over, it really wasn’t that bad. I was able to embark on the zodiac with the minimum of effort. Yay, my accomplishment for the day!
We attempted lunch at La Terrazza again, but there was a long wait, so we decided to don our parkas again and brave lunch al fresco at the poolside grill.
The lunch theme was Germany, and there were several different kinds of sausages and sauerkraut. Not exactly my kind of food, but they did actually have a quite tasty chicken sausage, and a fried potato dish the chef called bratkartoffeln, which was actually very yummy.
We sat by the window in our parkas and watched the snow-covered mountains go by. A Ponant cruise ship going in the opposite direction passed by in the distance. With so many expedition ships now going to Antarctica I was surprised that this was the only other ship we had seen.
In the afternoon we stopped at Half Moon Island,
and it was a short zodiac ride to the shore. We made another successful wet landing, and climbed up a very penguin poopy slope to the hiking trail the expedition staff had made through the snow.
There was penguin poop everywhere, and I was glad I had my hiking poles with me. Not that the hike was strenuous, it was in fact more like a pleasant afternoon stroll, but the combination of melting snow and penguin poop made it extremely slippery and I was happy that the poles offered me a modicum of stability.
On our way up to the view point we came across those pooping penguins, and had to stop at one point as they were taking their time crossing the path.
The view from the top was great, and worth the walk, and on the way back we stopped to take a look at a basking elephant seal.
At the landing site we took another path, this one went back down to a beach on the other side from the landing. There were penguins there too, but the main attraction was a sleeping Weddell seal. It was extremely cute, if a seal can be called cute, and we were happy that we were able to take our time talking to a member of the ship’s expedition staff who took great pleasure in examining the pile of seal poop nearby, and going over what the seal had been eating.
He had also found lower limb bones from a seal,
and he discussed these with us. What I have loved about this cruise isn’t only the amazing sights we have been able to experience, but that at every opportunity the staff discuss what we are seeing. Some of the staff weren’t really that good, but this young Argentinian gentleman was great, and we spent a lot of time with him learning all about seals.
We were so focused on what he was saying that we didn’t see the approaching storm. The sky turned black and the snow started coming down. In seconds we were in the middle of a blizzard. Time to get back to the ship. This was our last landing, and so it was very reluctantly that we left the seal beach behind and headed over the hill to our landing beach.
We were about the last people left on the island. I washed the sand and superficial penguin poop off of my boots, and quite elegantly I must say, I climbed back into the zodiac. We were the 2nd from last zodiac to leave the beach, and we had a bumpy, cold, snowy, ride back to the ship.
I was actually quite tearful on that ride. This was my last chance to land in Antarctica. The twice daily excursions had become a way of life. I am really going to miss them.
Back on board we went through the boot wash, and then scrubbed the penguin poop off of our boots, and left our boots to dry.
I wondered when was I going to use those boots again? They had served me well and kept my feet warm and dry. There are no more wet landings planned in my future, but hopefully I will be inspired to head off on another adventure involving zodiacs and beaches in the not too distant future.
It was time to shower and get ready for the Silversea Facebook Group cocktail party hosted by Jonathan in the Panorama Lounge. I had been looking forward to this. Many of our fellow passengers from the Facebook Group have been posting wonderful photos of the trip, and I was looking forward to the opportunity to meet them, and thank them for their wonderful photography.
Well, as it turned out, Brian and I were the only folks from the Facebook group who were there. However, it was a great time to have a glass of champagne and chat with Jonathan. He really has done a wonderful job as the entertainment host for this voyage, so it was fun to learn a bit about his background and how he came to be on the ship.
There was no briefing for tomorrow’s excursions, because there were no more excursions. So we headed straight to dinner in the Restaurant, where we had another wonderful meal.
The evening’s entertainment was Jonathan singing love songs in the Panorama Lounge.
He really has a lovely voice, and it was a good way to end the day. His final song was “Unchained Melody” and he encouraged everyone to get up and dance. It was an opportunity not to be missed, so we got up and danced. It was the perfect way to end our last day in Antarctica.