Irregular Posts; HomeAgain

Saturday, Jan 8, 2012; HeyBoysAndGirls, We are home and doing the catch up home stuff that was undone for 25 days.  Leaving Buenas Aires was a trip!  The flight to BA from Iguassu Falls was not a problem especially since the welcoming weather was 85 with a stiff breeze off the river.  That was great after the high humidity and high 90s of the days in Brazil.  Saturday morning, we repacked the three bags for the return to the USA.  One “cold” bag was to be checked and the other two carry-ones were set.  Saturday was spent walking around some accessible parts of the city that we had not been to; Puerto Madiero, San Telmo, and other previously visited venues. Our taxi to the airport was set for 8PM for our midnight flight.  Easy time for the short 20 km drive.  HOlycRAP the lines of people waiting to check in!!!  Was everyone in the city heading out of the country at midnight??!  End of the holidays?  After about 30 minutes in one unmoving line, a “helpful” employee suggested that we might try the automatic check in kiosk, even though we had a bag to check.  OK.  Done!  Then we joined another longslowline to “drop bags”.  Some groups/families had TONS of BAGS, and a few had the family dog in a large crate!!  Finally, we leave our one bag and head off with our two backpacks…..to the amazing set of passport control lines.  People are late for planes and are panicking.  Some folks let them cut the line.  How about airport security lines?  The same pluggedtrafficjam!  It wasn’t that anyone...

Irregular Posts; Drake Passage Returning

Saturday, Jan 1 2012, Happy New Year, In the afternoon of New Years Day, we are pitching and ROLLING (15o) through the Drake Passage.  The ten wet landings and three long zodiac cruises have been accomplished; two of the landings ON the Continent.  South of the Circle but the landing was iced out., but we got to see hunting Orcas instead  Temperatures have been consistently in the 30s.  Sometimes we are out in a light wind driven snow. The parkas are quite warm.  The waterproof pants and waterproof boots are required to protect from the 29o water on wet landings.   We have covered over 1700 nautical miles so far.  We have seen five kinds of penguins; Gentoo, Chinstrap, and Adelie in their range, and Macaroni and King “off course”.  Orcas, minke, humpback whales; Crabeater, Weddell, Leopard, and Elephant seals as well as many local birds.  We are hoping to see albatross in the Passage.  Coming south we saw a couple of black-browed albatross but not the wandering and the royal albatross. We had left King George Island area of the South Shetlands after New Year’s Eve dinner, slowly sailing westward toward Nelson Island.  New Year’s Eve party needed to be in quiet waters.  Jan 1st Sunday at 12:20 AM the boat turned north 90 o from the sheltered westerly course and headed north towards the Drake.  Weather maps showed a system that said the passage would not be the Lake but a typical rolling pitching one. It has not yet been as bad as our southerly run with the rolls consistently over 20o.  Then the dining room was...

Irregular Posts; Gerlache Strait

Thursday, Dec 29, 2011; Greetings from the South, We made a long run for the Circle on Tuesday the 27th.  We hoped for a landing below the Circle but the pack ice prevented it.  So we toasted the crossing of 66o33′ with champagne at 2:30 PM. Then, since there was no landing possible in the vicinity, we turned around and headed back north.  For speed we cruised in open water.  Swells were there but not as bad as Drake.  Meg got a little under the weather as she did not have a seasick patch on.  The seasick wrist bracelet, I think, is more placebo then effective.   Wednesday morning, we entered the Lemaire Channel from the south.  With no breeze, the deep water was a black mirror.  Black rock cliffs with white snow and ice, and floating blue shaded bergybits of ice reflected in the mirror.  Growlers hollow-banged against the hull of the ship.  The Channel, really like a fjord, is very narrow and deep.  It sits between high sheer cliffs of rock and ice.  Clouds shawled the peaks and draped the shoulders of the mountains.  High, through a thinning cloud cover, the sun sent shadows.  These were the first shadows seen in a week.  Patches of blue sky began to appear.   A lot of brash ice floating like chunky slush in a lake.  Bergybits and pack ice clogged the Channel near Pleneau Island. As the ship moved forward, the ice banged against the hull and echoed through the ship.  But there was no way through.  Not safe to lower zodiacs either.  So they lowered the anchor and we...

Irregular Posts; Port Lockroy, and The Antarctic Continent at Brown Station

Monday, Dec 26 2011, Good Boxing Day, This is the procedure to go ashore.  Your group is called to the “mudroom” on the second deck where boots, zodiac life jackets are stored.  You are “dressed for the worst but hoping for the best”.  Five upper body clothes layers; inner wicking layer, second thin layer, fleece layer, parka with down layer and a Gore-Tex layer. Two or three leg layers – (insulated wicking if very cold or windy), warm XC ski pants, and waterproof pants.  Three foot layers – wicking liner, thick warm sock, waterproof boots.  Fleece hat, waterproof gloves for zodiac and then thinner working gloves for land/camera work.  Orange lifejacket on top.  Your camera/pack, perhaps in dry bags, is extra. Now dressed, get into the line.  The Checker sees that you are properly dressed.  Hand your identity swipe card to the Cardman at the computer, step into the disinfectant tube to clean your boots and bottom of your waterproof pants.  Out the ship’s door and down the external gangway to the zodiac.  Sailor’s grip to transfer to the zodiac, sit on the inflated wall, and get ready to go.  Zodiacs carry 8 or 10 passengers plus driver depending on conditions.  With waves and wind, you will get sprayed.  The return is basically the same procedure.  There is one additional step.  Boots and pant legs are washed down to remove salt water.  The salt destroys Gore-Tex and other gear. Monday the 26th is Boxing Day, we went to Port Lockroy on Weinke Island,.  This former WWII secret British listening post had been abandoned after the war.  It is now...

Irregular Posts; Palmer Archipelago, Bismarck Strait

Monday, Dec 26 2011, Greetings from the South, Internet connection is really problematic here.  “Don’t even try when there are mountains around.  Even in the Straits, it is iffy for satellites.”  Internet co$$t is by the MB not the minute.  They publish a trip log at http://www.gadventures.com/marine/triplog-login/ Username = 111221, Password = expedition.  Check it out for details that certainly are more factual than mine. Two days and four zodiac landings so far.  Sunday Christmas Day, we landed twice on Deception Island of the South Shetlands.  In the morning, it was a difficult one at Baily Head.  Zodiacs had to beach stern first!! so that they could go seaward again.  Deception Island is a collapsed caldera with a calm interior “bay” and a narrow bellows gap to the ocean. Bailey Head has a chinstrap penguin colony of 120,000 breeding pairs.  Nests with eggs or chicks are all over.  So is penguin guano…piquant aroma for sure; fishychickenshit.  These birds have right of way.  They can approach you but not the other way around.  We are to keep a 5 meter space unless penguins decrease it; 25 meters from nests.  Do not walk on their well-trodden “penguin highway” paths in the snow.  One massive Weddell seal lounged on the beach.  At 300 F, it was very warm for the birds even with the 20 knot wind.  We were comfortable in our goose down parkas. After lunch we entered the inner bay thru Neptune’s Bellows and into Telefon Bay.  Here was the most recent eruption spot from 1967 that destroyed the Chilean and British bases.  These small calderas were empty of water...

Irregular Posts; Antarctica Waters 62° S

Saturday Dec 24  2011, Felices Fiestas, Saturday morning “dawned” on a much calmer sea.  The rocking was slight but you still need to keep a hand on the ship.  It is much less wind today so the swells are OK.  We received our Canada Goose Expedition Parka this morning after breakfast.  It is a down under parka and a goretex over layer with a hood.  It is black and very stylish/functional.  When fully dressed we will look like the Michelin man in black. With the jackets and calmer seas, we had opportunity to venture out on deck.  Cameras ready to “shoot” an albatross and petrels.  I could see that my cross country ski gloves would not deal with wetness at all.  I needed them for finger sensitivity on the controls but only in dry conditions.   Petrels byJack Holmes Beginning in the morning there were a number of mandatory group sessions for the 129 passengers.  These are to prepare you for the continent and the zodiacs.  A visit to the mud room gave us our boots for the trip and a fitting session for life jackets over our parkas.   We all have a narrow section of bench to get dressed on.  We both also needed to see that our waterproof goretex trousers would fit over the boots. It is snowing and Cape Petrels are flocking about the ship.  In a little bit we will head up to the Captains Welcome and then to Christmas Dinner. I have dress for the occasion.  I have put on shoes instead of sneakers and now my formal underware as well as my best shirt...