So we are getting the hang of this Antarctica lark. Our room is right at the front of the boat, so the routine is to get up after a night of being gently rocked to sleep by the ocean; look bleary eyed out the window at a few passing icebergs; head down for a hearty cooked breakfast; climb into our parkas, waterproof trousers and fluffy hats; hop in a zodiac and off we go. And this morning was like any other, except for the huge protective steel plate the crew put over our window which blocked out the view – apparently this the sort of thing is standard when you are dodging icebergs in the night. Oh well, I guess we can just about cope with that.
But what exactly were we going to do today? We had already ticked off our Antarctica must dos – we had seen penguins, whales, icebergs, seals and glacier covered mountains. We had already toasted each other with mulled wine in a zodiac while being rocked by the heavy swell from gargantuan chunks of ice falling off the side of cliffs hundreds of meters away. We had already tobogganed screaming down the side of a glacier. I mean, what else was left?
- Penguins! And not just penguins, but penguin chicks – thaaasands of them. Seriously, the cuteness scale just grew a new 10. And the gentlemen penguins make presents of stones to the lady penguins just like in the David Attenborough documentaries (and yes, they do actually steal them from each others’ nests when the owners aren’t looking)
- Elephant seals! On holiday from South Georgia! Lying there on the ice looking for all the world like the happy fat couple that they were.
- Icebergs! You are motoring gently in a little open boat through channels in the ice, gaping awestruck at the blueness, the contorted shapes, the sheer size of these things. And suddenly there is a leopard seal, just sitting there minding its own business. And suddenly a huge chunk falls off an iceberg, rocking the boat and causing the other icebergs to lurch, pitch and roll ever so weightily around us. And suddenly there’s a WHALE! Very, very large, and right in front of us. And it swims right under the boat and you can see the whiteness of the flukes through the blueness of the water. And then another chunk falls off the iceberg. And … you just don’t know where to look!
- History and passport stamping at the old British base at Port Lockroy. Even better, Lucy has run out of space in her (previously brand new) passport so I now have a stamp she doesn’t have – hah!
- Watching awestruck as the ship threads its way through narrow channels with high icy cliffs on both sides. Improved (of course!) by a plateful of ribs from the open air lunchtime barbecue on the sun deck.
- Swimming in the sea (well, you have to really). Lucy is probably best placed to cover this, as the part of my brain that dealt with this is still frozen solid
- Standing on deck after dinner and a couple of drinks, watching the sun set (extremely slowly, obviously) and reflecting on how amazing the day has been. Oranges and pinks and golds and … but of course … Killer Whales! Ten of them! With little baby killer whales! Swimming alongside the boat for the best part of half an hour as it slowly fades to dark.
I don’t know if the crew choreographed it or whether it was just sheer good luck, but the third and last day of our visit to Antarctica was simply unbelievable.
And now, the photographs…