Saturday, January 27, 2024

Antarctica 2023-4 - Day 7 - 1/1/2024 - Admiralty Sound & Seymour Island

I finally got some decent sleep after the somewhat late night. Our expedition leader Ryan thought that we should start the new year off with a bang, scheduling the polar plunge (where passengers jump into the 0.5°C water) for this morning. Being averse to both cold and deep water, I did not take part in this activity; but Fran was super excited for it. Ryan was also sensible enough to start things off later than normal, with breakfast opening at 8am. Fran did the 8am yoga class, then we met up at 9am to eat.

The ship was parked in Admiralty Sound next to Cockburn Island. The weather for the day was pleasant - although the temperature was similar to yesterday’s 0°C, the sunny skies and lack of wind made things feel warmer. The plunging began around 10am, with Fran’s group being called about half an hour later. It was fun to watch (from the safety of the 7th/8th deck) the various types of jumps that people did. We later found out that 157 people took the plunge, more than 75% of the guests. Most people did some sort of pose facing the photographer, but some people got creative with it. Diane did a back dive, while Fran did a swan dive. A few people slipped as they jumped off, resulting in more of an awkward fall; a couple of people who slipped (including both Tom and TJ) took a second more successful go at it. They put down mats about halfway through to help prevent slipping. After Fran’s plunge she went up to the sauna to warm up alongside many of the other plungers.

Fran's polar plunge

As we were finishing up lunch Ryan came on to announce that the afternoon excursion would be to the primary location that he had mentioned the night before. This was the site of a group of mummified crabeater seals on Seymour Island - he had only just learned of this via a friend in the weeks leading up to the expedition, and was fairly sure that no tour group had ever tried to go there. He apparently consulted a research paper about the site and combined that with Google Maps sleuthing in order to come up with a plan. They had sent out two scout boats in the morning while the polar plunge was going on, and had managed to find the site. We later found out that one of the boats had to be left on the muddy shore because the tide had pulled out while they were scouting.

Young elephant seal among Adélie penguins

Zodiac boarding began around 2:30p. On each excursion (or plunge) they rotated which mudroom group to start with, so our group was moving closer to the front. However, we ended up boarding toward the end because I had to go back to the room to find my hat, which I apparently had accidentally dropped just outside our room. Our driver/guide was Carlos, who was another good navigator - so far I have been lucky with the drivers I’ve matched with (there have been a couple on other boats who seem  less experienced). The cruise had a bit of an unfortunate start, as a couple of the last boats (including us) were called back to pick up an extra passenger, as the number had apparently overflowed what they planned for; but the 2 hour clock restarted when we pushed off for the second time, so we didn’t lose those 20 minutes. We ended up staying out for almost 30 minutes longer than the planned 5pm return. And fortunately my bladder wasn’t struggling very much, probably thanks to my new technique of semi-dehydrating myself before the excursions.

Seymour Island - first Antarctic landing

As far as I can tell this excursion hit a new high point for all the guests. For one, we made a landing, so we can all say that we have set foot on the Antarctic continent. Secondly, the landing was at a rarely visited/seen site that required extra planning by the expedition crew. The nice weather also made a positive contribution. The site was quite far from the ship, and required going around Cockburn Island to get there. The landing site was a muddy beach next to a glacier. The seals were a short walk away across some rocky ground. There, Ryan proudly gave each incoming group a brief history of the site. I don’t think any of the groups came close to keeping under the 20 minutes that they were each supposed to stay at the site; but then again the guides were totally fine with people taking their time to soak it all in. On the cruise back to the ship we were met by the ship’s drone at the ice floe that still (we had seen it on the way out) had a Weddell seal lazing on it.

Dinner tonight was a BBQ buffet out on the aft of the 7th deck; plus a DJ. It was an admirable effort to take advantage of the nice weather, but with the boat moving it was too cold to hang around longer than the time it took to quickly eat. We later found out that the day paddle groups would be going out tomorrow, and we were set for the morning outing. A late announcement was made after 10pm when an emperor penguin was spotted on some ice - a rare sighting in these parts.

Lost Emperor penguin  Courtesy Intrepid Travel


My favorite pictures from the trip can be found here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.