If we are near to the driest place on earth, why is it snowing? There is a valley in the south of Antarctica that hasn’t had precipitation in over a million years. So I am wondering where all of this snow comes from.
So far the Drake Passage has been very disappointing. There has been a bit of a swell, and I would not call it the Drake Lake yet, but it certainly has not been the Drake Shake. Just a low swell, enough to let you know you are on a ship.
We decided to try out the observation lounge this morning. The lounge was added when they did the refit to turn the ship into an expedition ship and it is situated right in front of the zodiacs. However, you can only access it from the outside, and there is no lift access.
However can get there via the forward staircase and it is only a short walk outside between the zodiacs, so you don’t get too covered in snow.
Soon after we arrived in the lounge we were treated to the sight of some fin whales off our starboard bow, and then later we saw some hump backs. Someone spotted an Antarctic petrel so there was much excitement. We sat reading and wildlife watching for a while, and just enjoying being back on a ship. The Observation Lounge is a great spot to sit and enjoy the view, but with no bar, I had to go down to the cabin yet again to grab a Coke out of our fridge.
Expeditions to Antarctica have to be very careful that they do not introduce nonindigenous materials to the pristine wilderness. We were required to take our boots and waterproof pants to be inspected and have any foreign bodies removed before we can go ashore tomorrow. Then you can get your boots tagged with your cabin number in case you get mixed up and take the wrong person’s boots.
After that we visited the wet room and learned how to wash and clean our boots following each outing ashore. We then deposited our boots in the rack, so they were already for our first zodiac expedition. I can’t wait! The good news is that they have a nifty tool to help you remove your boots. This is a great idea as I have to sit on the floor and have Brian tug away to get mine off, so I will not be subjected to such an indignity.
Lunch was a Mongolian BBQ on the pool deck. So dressed in our parkas we sat under the infra-red heating lamps and consumed the most delicious meal. Together with the BBQ there was Mongolian vegetable curry (who knew such a thing existed?) which was a real treat. All very satisfying on a snowy day.
In the afternoon one of the expedition speakers, Jenny, gave a talk on “Antarctica – Then, Now and in the Future”. It was hard to believe that this frozen wilderness was once a tropical paradise. Unfortunately it may be headed that way again. She let us know that the area we will be vising tomorrow is right under the hole in the ozone layer, so wear lots of sunscreen.
Every day Schalk, the Expedition Leader, gives a talk to discuss the next day’s plans. Well the plans had changed – instead of starting at the top of the Antarctic Peninsula and working our way south, due to adverse weather conditions we were going to start south, on Peterman Island. We will go ashore there and see 3 kinds of penguins, the adelie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins. Then we will cruise up the Lemaire Channel to Pieneau Island where we will go out in the zodiacs and see the “iceberg graveyard” there. It all sounded wonderful. After our Hebridean Princess cruise in May we were used to itinerary changes, and this one sounded just fine.
The captain’s welcome on board reception was this evening, and we were introduced to all of the senior officers. It was in the auditorium, the Explorer Lounge, so there wasn’t any mingling, but that’s OK in the time of COVID, at least there was a reception.
In terms of dress code it was described as an informal evening. That’s more dressy than casual, but less dressy than formal. I wore a dress and Brian wore his blazer. There were several other passengers dressed like we were, but the majority were in their expedition clothing, so not dressed up at all. I do like to get dressed for dinner, and Brian likes his blazer for warmth, but certainly you could easily get by with only very casual clothing.
We had another excellent meal, including crepes Suzette, in the restaurant, and retired back to our cabin to get our clothes organized for tomorrow – our first zodiac excursion!