After making the first landing on Half Moon Island during the first evening in South Shetlands it became even better. We enjoyed many more landings, nine in all, with only Port Lockroy being missed as the time of evening was too late for a landing. The wind with us constantly became horizontal on more than two occasions and was at its most devastating during our visit to Deception Island and on Hannah Point.
The return journey from Hannah point on 3rd February was breathtaking! The Zodiac was tossed up and down like a toy and on attempting to reboard the Ushuaia, I nearly fell back into the inflatable! Leandro said it was the roughest landing he had done thus far and he was concerned for me.
In between this adventure, we had fun in Niko Bay where many of the group took an Antarctic bath at a pleasant 1.72 degrees C! I sat on the stoney beach and listened to their shouts!! I heard Chinstrap, Gentoo and Adelie Penguins at various times on most of the landings and the Adelie made a hell of a noise! It sounded like laughter!!
One evening some of us witnessed nature and its best and most destructive. When visiting Peterman Island. Leandro and I visited a large colony of Gentoo Penguins and listened in near silence as they chatted among themselves and wondered about. Leandro described the action and I enjoyed the sound of sea and penguins. Many of the others watched the sun setting. As darkness fell, a bird, an Arctic Skua common among Penguin colonies attacked. These birds eat penguin eggs and young chicks when ever possible. Leandro told me what occurred: The Skua went back and forth along the line of penguins tying to find and take eggs and chicks, while the adult made hissing sounds and tried to ward off the birds. It reminded me of stories I had heard of the naval convoys during World War II heading to Russia and being dive bombed and picked off by single German bomber planes… Just before we left, and after the penguins giving an impressive defence, one chick was taken and killed. Apparently, one lady found this too disturbing and returned to the ship. It was sad to learn about but part of nature.
The white continent is impressive as we learnt and discovered. The science bases and historical harbours and science museums I visited were fascinating and provided extra insight to the wildlife on the most southern and cold of continents. Hearing how scientists lived and worked, undertaking meteorological and other scientific research in an environment as remote and extreme as Antarctica can be, was amazing.
Leandro and I spent a fascinating hour on Niko Bay exploring, and in my case, touching every object in the former British scientific accommodation. Established in the early 1930s by the British and eventually bought for £1 by the Ukrainians in 2009, the former lodge, now museum, illustrated the harshness and also toughness of people two or three generations earlier. Five to seven men living and sleeping in small wooden cabins, which were only a few inches higher than me, for over two years was amazing.
The Russian station, however, held the best of modern comforts including the most southern bar in the world. We were offered early morning vodka, sadly I declined! Apparently, under British occupation, ladies who visited the station often left their bras as a souvenir! Only a couple were on display and I was unable to feel any!!
Although Antarctica was the seventh and final continent I visited, it was so much more. All my senses – sound, smell, touch, skin nerves, spacial awareness, temperature, feet textures and facial muscles – exposed and tested by all the elements in Antarctica. I was so privileged to be there on the snow and ice, in penguin poo, hearing birds and penguins talk, elephant seals grunt, Humpback whales blow for air. Feeling the icy wind slash through my four layers of clothing, the snow giving way time and again under my feet causing me to loose balance and fall into the snow, often on my arse.
It was climbing up the volcano on Deception and walking the beaches on Peterman and Paradise, just being there, that made it so special. The Zodiac – crazy, speed frilling, wave crashing, wind chilling rides – only add to the adventure and hearing about the history of whaling or feeling icebergs in the sea as we speed by was an even greater pleasure. Going with such great people like the two Greek boys, Leandro, Danny, Andrea, Cecilia and everyone else I met made it so much fun.
I loved sliding down the snow onto the beach or handling whale bones on Half Moon Bay and hiking the volcanic clad glaciers, paddling in rubber boots in the sea, hoping a penguin might swim by, listening to the lectures and adding colourful questions and provocativeness, when requested, it was so fantastic. What a blast, what an adventure, what such kind, friendly people.
Now I am in Santiago de Chile for one night before heading up into north Chile, first along the coast and eventually inland to the world’s highest desert. Since the Antarctic expedition, I’ve explored Puerto Williams, Chile, flew to Punta Arenas where I held everybody’s attention at the hostel Backpacker Paradise. Christina and Migel, from Spain, and Ronny from Switzerland did their best to look after me!! Then it was to the Falkland Islands for a week of relaxation, expensive but interesting tours and nice, kind people. I have now been on Falkland Radio which was fun and heard King Penguins make trumpet sounds at Volunteer Point. If anyone goes or is thinking about going to the Falklands, I recommend staying at Lookout Lodge with Caroline Cotter. Three meals a day plus free laundry for only £30 per night. It is a little way from town but very walkable.
Today I visited Parque de San Cristobal and the statue of the Virgin Mary. It was an interesting trip. Another backpacker and I took the subway, metro, then a cable car to the top of the mountain to look over the city and take in the tranquillity ad peaceful religious environment. Its now getting warmer as I begin my travels through northern Chile and further into the heart of South America. About 28 degrees C, 90 or so Fahrenheit, in Santiago today and set to get hotter!! Well that is all for now. Happy travels, Tonythetraveller.com