Saturday, January 27, 2024

Antarctica 2023-4 - Day 9 - 1/3/2024 - View Point

In accordance with the early schedule for the day, we had breakfast at 6:30am - 30 minutes after it opened. We were the first normal mud room group (apart from the photography group, who is always first) called for the morning outing, with the call going out a little before 7:20am (about 10 minutes earlier than expected). The original plan was a split landing at View Point (our first Antarctic mainland landing), but the zodiac cruises were cancelled soon after we were on board, and everyone just did a landing. The site was a rocky beach that led to a walk over some shale to an outlook with some man-made structures. There was a meteorological station, two Chilean huts (one long abandoned) for emergency shelter, and a cross. The area around the huts was scattered with Crabeater seal bones and remains, from a hunt by humans. We spent about an hour on land before boarding the zodiacs for the return trip to the ship.

View Point - Chilean emergency hut

The return to the ship ended up being a bit of an adventure. We headed straight for the ship, but as soon as we approached they pulled up the gangways; the captain decided to move the ship to clearer waters to escape approaching ice. Unfortunately, these clearer waters were also choppier waters. We hovered around for a bit while the ship was being moved, and took a small diversion to go gawk at a seal laying on an ice floe. Afterward we turned and followed the ship through the path it had made through the ice, hovering around and waiting for a decision to open the gangways and allow approaching. After a couple of false starts and some circling, we became the second boat in line to approach. By this time the water was quite choppy in the 35-40 knot winds. The adrenaline level was elevated when the first zodiac had an incident where one side was caught under the gangway and resulted in a puncture of one of the seven compression chambers. Fortunately the passengers were able to unload without any injuries, as the zodiacs are built to withstand multiple punctures. We eventually made it off the boat successfully as well, in spite of the big bumps; we had been on the zodiac for about an hour by that time. All of the other zodiacs also had successful unloadings, and no other ones sustained damage. The expedition leader, Ryan, later said that this was in his top 5 roughest loadings/unloadings in his 70+ Antarctic expeditions.

Casualty of rough waters

The afternoon excursion was supposed to be a landing at Brown Bluff. But because of the sustained high winds, the rough time in the morning, and the fact that the ship was running behind schedule because of having to navigate sea ice, the afternoon outing was cancelled. Nobody in the restaurant seemed to be surprised when the announcement was made during lunch. The ship would instead get a head start on passing through the Antarctic Sound to head to the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula. The day’s programming was updated to include a few afternoon talks to replace the cancelled outing. Fran spent a couple of the afternoon hours out on deck and in the bridge of the ship; the ship has an open bridge policy, where (at almost any time) guests can come hang out in one corner of the bridge, and use provided binoculars. When I went to join her and a few others once, we got into a discussion about how read the electronic chart being displayed. Ryan, the expedition leader, happened to come up to the bridge, so I called him over to ask about the chart. This led to further discussions about his path to becoming an expedition leader, his experiences on Antarctic expeditions, how he plans expeditions and excursions, and other topics; it was an interesting and informative time for the group of people who were up there at the time.

The water became choppy as we navigated to the west side of the peninsula; so much so that I developed a hint of queasiness. I got through dinner alright, though, and then was fine to laze around the room for a couple of hours before turning in for almost 9 hours (!) of shut-eye.


My favorite pictures from the trip can be found here.

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