Antarctica Trip Report, March 2015, 10 Days

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by chrisontour84, Sep 2, 2015.  |  Print Topic

  1. chrisontour84

    chrisontour84 Member

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    I will use this Thread to collect my reports about my journey to Antarctica from March this year. The first post is already in here and the rest will follow in the next weeks! It will be a total of 7 parts and at some point in time, I will also start working on cutting the video from all of that :)

    1/7 Ushuaia and Drake Passage
    2/7 Lemaire Channel
    3/7 Dorian Bay
    4/7 Neumayer Channel & Paradise Bay
    5/7 Cuverville Island & Foyn Harbour
    6/7 Deception Island & Half Moon Bay
    7/7 Crossing Drake Passage

    Live #71, Ushuaia and Drake Passage, Antarctica

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    25/03/2015 After a bit more than two weeks in El Chaltén and El Calafate, it was now finally time to leave Ushuaia and begin my voyage to the coldest, driest and windiest continent of our planet: Antarctica. Not too many people have the opportunity to go there and I felt very privileged to be one of them. Together with around 80 other passengers, we would take two full days to cross the rough waters of the Drake Passage before we would be able to set foot on Antarctica, probably one of the most impressive places that we can visit.

    Traveling through Patagonia without a proper camera was pretty tough for me, but at least I would have a replacement of my broken Sony A6000 for the trip to Antarctica! It involved a lot of trust and research, but it all worked out luckily. I basically sent 500€ to a strange Couchsurfer through PayPal, who would buy a Sony A3000 in the duty free shop in Chile, then give the camera to a friend to take it on a 3-day boat trip to Ushuaia before finally handing it over to my Couchsurfer there. Everyone involved was really nice and I was so happy to finally have a proper camera in my hand again, even though it was not as good and not nearly as fast as my old one, but certainly much much better than my phone camera!

    I had half a day to enjoy Ushuaia, the most southern town of Argentina and South America. Feeling unwell from some old Spaghetti Bolognese leftovers at the airport, I was forced to head back from my Photo-walk around town rather soon in order to relax and recover at my Couchsurfers place. My host was not around at the time, but I still had great company by her 50 day old little kitty :) It never felt better to just lay down, doing nothing other than playing with the absolutely adorable small baby cat. Eventually though, it was time to pack up and get ready! I booked my trip to Antarctica with the company Antarpply Expeditions and paid 5.000$ for a standard double room. Now it seems that the price actually increased to nearly 6.000$ just a year later.

    Walking to the harbour at 15:30, it was very easy to spot my ship that would take me to Antarctica: The MV Ushuaia, an 85m long, ice-strengthened polar vessel with a maximum capacity of 84 tourists. A great size, because only 100 people are allowed to enter the continent at the same time and heading there with a bigger ship of 200 or even more would mean that not everyone could do a zodiac landing at the same time. I inspected my cabin, which was really nice for the fact that I paid for the cheapest possible option, sharing it with a funny guy from Taiwan. We also had our private bathroom! Heading back to the main room, I was still feeling pretty bad in my stomach and had to skip the great looking welcome appetisers. I really hoped to get well soon again to make full use of all the provided meals!

    A safety check was mandatory to get used to our life jackets and we were shown some videos about what to expect in the following two days, crossing the famous Drake Passage. It is known as one of the roughest seas on the planet and the waves here can reach over 30m! (Check out some videos on YouTube, like this one on the same ship actually). A lot of people were worried about getting sea sick and started to take precautions. I was more excited to see some big waves, hopefully being able to capture it on video for you guys. Sadly though, it never happened and for the complete next two days on our Drake crossing, we only had some small waves and super calm conditions in general, smoothly crossing over the Drake Lake as it is called in that case. So I got no cool wave videos for you sadly! Playing chess was still pretty though and we constantly had to take pictures of the board, because it would eventually be flipped over by the movement of the ship. I actually installed the Settlers II as well, a really really old game to play in order to pass the time.

    Another great way to pass the time was eating the breakfast, lunch and dinner. All of which were of excellent quality and quantity. It felt like eating in a nice restaurant and whenever I asked for some more, I got it. Adding a great taste to it made me feel like in heaven, putting on all the weight again that I previously lost in my treks in Patagonia :) The crew also presented a lot of lectures in the main room, either connected to the Antarctica as a continent itself, or to the story of the first pioneers discovering it. Really interesting and impressive stories, you should do some reading about Ernest Shackleton and all the other great people that dedicated their lifes to explore the unknown land in the south.

    After days of staring at the open ocean, we finally spotted the first ice berg at 11:30 on the third day, meaning that we would be pretty close to the continent now. Weather wise, we were faced with a lot of grey and rain while crossing the calm Drake, but now it actually started to clear up and the sun came up a little bit in the afternoon, enabling us to finally see the continent in the distance! It was a great feeling, even though we were just tourists and not explorers. It is hard to imagine how they must have felt during the conditions of the 18th and 19th centuries. Now that we got closer to the land, we also felt how cold it became. With winds up to 200km/h – even stronger than those in Patagonia – the cold air felt colder than it actually was. Standing outside the deck to take pictures turned into a challenge, but most of us passengers would still do it. Nobody expected it to be warm down here anyway! After sunset, it was time for dinner again and get some more sleep. My room mate kept me awake in the last nights for various reasons, but at least I slowly felt better now and was able to eat more. Just in time for the next morning, when we would finally have our first full day in Antarctica…

    >> Pictures
     
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  2. milchap
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    milchap Gold Member

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    Looking forward to the next instalment. Thank you.
     
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  3. chrisontour84

    chrisontour84 Member

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    I'm ready with the pictures from the lemaire channel now and should get the report out tomorrow evening!

    Facebook Gallery


    Cheers,
    Chris
     
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  4. chrisontour84

    chrisontour84 Member

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    Live #72, Lemaire Channel, Antarctica

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    28/03/2015 We finally arrived in Antarctica after sailing through the oddly calm Drake Passage for two full days. Woken up early by our expedition leader Anna at 06:30, I quickly got dressed to head out on deck as we were navigating through the famous Lemaire Channel. The narrow wide channel is a famous stop for tours to the Antarctic Peninsula and despite the bitter cold in the morning, I could not help but staying outside to soak in the majestic sights around me while the sun desperately tried to break through the thick layer of clouds around us.

    The sky on our path through the Drake Passage during the last two days was mostly dominated by a thick layer of clouds, making us doubt a bit if we would ever really see anything. In fact, going to Antarctica at the end of March is a bit risky in terms of the weather. You might not see a lot, you might also be stuck in ice and the wild life could hide from you as well. The clouds were still present when we arrived in the Lemaire Channel, but everyone was heading out to deck anyway despite the extremely low morning temperatures around 07:00 AM. About an hour later, the sun actually peaked out for the first time and turned the scenery into incredible orange colors. Snow and Ice covered peaks could be seen all around us and it was our first real sight on Antarctica, a moment that will stick in my memory for the rest of my life for sure. Slowly loosing the feeling in my hands, it was time to get out of the cold and warm up during the nice breakfast buffet.

    Finishing the breakfast, we had to change into our zodiac gear for the first time as our first landing to Pourquoi Pas harbour was up! Most of the other people on board looked like they would climb Everest, being completely covered in at least three layers of clothes. Myself, on the other side, just equipped with my light weight trekking gear lead me to believe that it could get a bit cold out there. At least I had three layers of socks to keep my feet warm while wearing the gummy boots they provided. Those would need to be cleaned before and after each zodiac landing as well, making sure that no bacteria would be put on Antarctica. Everyone was ready to go in their complete outfit, including a life west as well, when Anna suddenly made the announcement that our first zodiac landing would have to be cancelled. The weather did not permit a landing and there was too much ice to guarantee a safe trip in the boats. Disappointed, we went back to our cabins to change into normal clothing again – waiting for lunch to be served.

    After we filled up our bellies once again, we would finally be able to get out in the zodiacs on our second attempt. The crew prepared three locations for us and we were split up in groups to reach them. My first stop was Wordie House, a shelter that was used by the brits during the second world war. Part of the hut was originally built by James Wordie, a member of Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance expedition in 1921. Inside, we could see original items from that time while outside, the penguins were curiously awaiting us. Antarctica boasts different kinds of penguins and the ones here were Gentoos. Just observing their quest of either standing around or getting from A to B was pure entertainment on it’s own and never really gets boring. We also had seals hanging out, some of them which needed to be observed from a safe distance. Our crew members would make sure that none of the tourists would get too close.

    Up next, the zodiac was waiting for us and ready to drop us off around the corner at the Ukrainian station Vernadsky. Handed over from the brits to Ukraine in 1996, the station is populated with a few scientists, engaged in research about the High Atmosphere and the Ozone Layer, as well as biologists working on mosses, skuas and the underwater plants and plankton. They also have a bar in there and it seemed to be a ritual from female visitors to leave their bra’s there. Very interesting. The most southern souvenir shop in the world rounds up the package and we were headed back into the cold to the waiting zodiac boats.

    On our way back, the crew brought us close to some ice bergs floating around in the area. I was familiar with oddly shaped ice bergs from my trip to Greenland, but seeing them in Antarctica was a bit more special. Unfortunately, the weather was not optimal this day and some sun light would have made the experience even better. We would still have some time here though and for now, I was really happy with what we saw. The zodiac returned us to the M/V Ushuaia at 5:30 PM and while we enjoyed our afternoon snacks, the captain navigated us out of the Argentine Islands again.

    I really enjoyed the times in between our activities as well. Just hanging out in the lounge, reading a book (or playing settlers II in my case) or attempting a round of chess was a really nice contrast program of watching the incredible scenery around us. I actually spent most of the time for the latter and would not really care how cold it was outside, but just like the rest, I would have to eventually retreat in the nice heated lounge or my cabin again to warm up. We had a nice mix of interesting people on board as well, mostly aged above 40 but also with a few “youngsters” like me. I quickly made friends with a few Germans and we would spent most of the meals together. Talking about the meals, I have to say they were absolutely delicious and I could get as much as I wanted. Happy to have recovered from my upset stomach, I was now making full use of all those meals and fruits provided while wondering what the next day would have in store for us.

    >> Pictures
     
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  5. chrisontour84

    chrisontour84 Member

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    And here some pictures, sadly i can only link 5 :)

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  6. Lionell

    Lionell Gold Member

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    Great pictures! Thanks for the trip report! Looks like an adventurous place to visit :)
     
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  7. chrisontour84

    chrisontour84 Member

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    Last edited: Sep 9, 2015
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  8. ella
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    ella Silver Member

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    Beautiful pics and I'm enjoying your trip report! Antarctica is my dream trip so right now I'm living vicariously !
     
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  9. chrisontour84

    chrisontour84 Member

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    Thx!

    Will get the third part out tomorrow at the latest, pictures are uploaded on my Facebook page now if don't want to wait for the text :)


    Cheers,
    Chris
     
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  10. chrisontour84

    chrisontour84 Member

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    Live #73, Dorian Bay, Neumayer Channel, Antarctica

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    29/03/2015 On our fifth day in Antarctica, we explored Dorian Bay, navigated through the Neumayer Channel and had our first continental landing at Paradise Bay. It was a lovely sunny day in March with a lot of photos taken, actually forcing me to split it in two live updates. The first one will bring more penguins and seals, great Antarctic Landscapes and the British station of Port Lockroy, which was unfortunately closing down two weeks before our arrival. A shame, because one of my friends from London was actually working there to sell postcards. :)

    I woke up at 8AM to get out on deck, observing the morning colours come up on the snow covered peaks around us. The captain navigated us to Dorian Bay and the day promised to be a bit less cloudy than the one before. Before we would leave the ship, it was time for breakfast again. My daily menu consisted of warm fresh waffles, croissants, eggs, bacon, toast, ham, cheese, butter, dulce de leche and a lot of different sorts of fruits. I actually uploaded a picture of that set as well, just because it was so damn good and it brings back memories :) After everyone was filled up, we gathered at the Zodiac entry point of our ship and were brought to Wienke Island. The weather now was actually excellent, most of the clouds disappared and the sun was blazing down; I was in awe to see all the snow and ice around us in perfect white.

    Everyone was really happy to witness Antarctica in these conditions while we were getting close to the wild-life packed Island. Despite the usual gentoo penguins and leopard seals, we also saw a Giant Petrels posing on Damoy Point. Those guys were pretty big and very busy eating dead penguins. After nearly an hour of observing the still alive penguins doing their usual business of slipping and sliding through the ice, I went up to the second point of interest: The top slope of Wienke Island, offering a great view on our landing point and the M/V Ushuaia sitting behind on one side and Port Lockroy on the other. The clouds actually came up again now, but it was still great to look down to the british station that usually sells postcards during the tourist season. We were just two weeks late sadly and I was not able to visit one of my climbing buddies from London, who worked there for the last months. The setting of Port Lockroy is impressive: A few small huts situated on some tiny islands in front of a big peak and sourrounded by antarctic waters. The small slope on which we were standing was actually used as an runway for airplanes in the past. Heading back to the Zodiacs, we waved the penguins good bye and watched a leopard seal actually killing one of them in the water on the ride back to the ship.

    Next up on our agenda was Neko Harbour. In order to get there, we had the pleasure of navigating through the Neumayer Channel. The sun was back out again and with lot's of ice in the water, the passage through the channel was nothing short of breath taking. Everyone was standing outside to observe the landscape while the water produced perfect mirror images of the peaks around us. We had a clear blue sky now and the further we got into the channel, the more ice was sourrounding us. The M/V Ushuaia had no problem breaking through it for now, leaving us astonished about the crushing sounds as it broke through the ice plates, some of which were actually occupied by a few seals staring back at us. A few days later in cold conidtions here would have caused us some problems, according to the captain. Aiming for Neko Harbour after the 25Km long Neumayer channel, we eventually turned into a large concentrated amount of sea ice, blocking our entrance. It was now 15:30 and our first continental landing would have to wait a little bit longer as we were looking for another entry point.

    >> Pictures (Will select some highlights later when I have more time and post them here directly too)
     
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  11. milchap
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    milchap Gold Member

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  12. chrisontour84

    chrisontour84 Member

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    1) [​IMG]

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  13. chrisontour84

    chrisontour84 Member

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    More pics

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  14. Zomby Woof

    Zomby Woof Silver Member

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    Great pictures. I want to do an Antarctica in 2017 or 2018. How did you decide on the MV Ushuaia? What other 100 or less people ships did you consider? Why did you decide to go in March vice Dec or Jan? If you don't mind could you tell he cost of the Antarctica cruise?
     
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  15. chrisontour84

    chrisontour84 Member

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    I liked the ship and it was offered through the travel agency based in London, so I was actually able to sit down and have a pint with them before deciding to book the trip through them. I paid 5000$. And the time of the year was just because its cheaper towards the end of the season.
     
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