Tag Archives: Antarctica

Return across Drake Passage

6th & 7th January 2017

It's all ahead of us now - Drake Passage, that is

It’s all ahead of us now – Drake Passage, that is

I opted for anti seasickness tablets rather than the patch for the return trip across the Drake at Jelte’s bar-side medical dispensary, and happy I did. I wasn’t sick and or overcome with tiredness and thoroughly enjoyed the crossing.


Yay, no wakeup call!!!

Yay, no wakeup call!!!

The first night was gentle,the following day saw a fair amount of staggering, we had up to about 5 metre waves, although this is apparently classed as Drake Lake! Between meals there were talks by the guides and a movie.


Is this first time I've got a bird in a pic!!! Nah not really.....

Is this first time I’ve got a bird in a pic!!! Nah not really…..

I thoroughly enjoyed Christophe’s talk about Amundsen and the race to the north pole. This brought back memories of my first visit to Hobart when we stayed at Hadleys Hotel and were in the Amundsen Suite. Bruce gave a hugely enthusiastic talk on seabirds and why they are so cool, he even managed to stir interest in me, who is so not into birds.

Our daily briefing was more about what was to come – paying our bar bill and disembarkation, rather than the exciting plans we’ve had on past days. I was very proud of myself today, no naps and appeared at every meal, yay.

The most wave action I've seen from my cabin

The most wave action I’ve seen from my cabin

Second night and day on the Drake was much the same, with more talks by Lousie about Shakleton and Marijke on whales and her time spent with the Australian Antarctic Division. Those of us who weren’t sick or sleeping spent most of our time in the lounge or up on the bridge deck, hopefully not annoying the Captain and crew, who were always very welcoming and happy to answer questions or just have a chat.

Diego Ramirez Islands

Diego Ramirez Islands

A surprise for all came when Andrew advised we were at the Diego Ramirez group of islands and had permission from the Argentine naval base there to sail within 3 miles. This is another rare treat, being the most southern land of South America, and was great for the bird lovers spotting albatross and petrels galore.

Returning boots and paying our bills kept us busy for a while then another treat, we headed up and around Cape Horn on the way home. Andrew told us later there’s an old mariners tradition that says sailing around Cape Horn entitles you to wear a gold coin earring, not sure if this extends to motorized ships!

Our last briefing that night was wonderful, there was a fantastic 10 minute slide presentation, farewell drink and toast by our Captain who also told us he hadn’t been able to get that close to Diego Ramirez for about 5 years. We’re so fortunate to have had such good weather and a company who are happy to go the extra mile.

More food!! Our last dinner was awesome, as always and afterwards the other staff were paraded to our joy. The chefs, cooks, baker and stewards were grinning from ear to ear at our applause. It’s such a happy ship, I’ve had the time of my life.

After dinner we congregated in the lounge for a night of story-telling, reliving the voyage and generally lots of laughs. Next morning after breakfast it was last minute packing and then all of a sudden Andrew announced the Argentine authorities had cleared us to disembark and it was all over bar the goodbyes! I have a day in Ushuaia waiting for my flight to Buenos Aires where I have another few days before heading home, bring it on!

I can truly say I’ve had the most wonderful 12 days on this voyage. Antarctica and everything about it was mind-blowingly beautiful – I certainly don’t have the words to describe it and my photos don’t do it anywhere near enough justice. The ship crew and expedition staff were the absolute best and I found heaps of fellow passengers who I just fitted with, probably no surprise when you consider this is not your everyday trip.

I can’t recommend Oceanwide Expeditions highly enough and I just loved the mv Plancius! I’d better add here that I’m in no way being or have been reimbursed for these posts, sadly  ; my praise is purely my unbiased opinion.




Filed under Antarctica, Mid-life travel, Solo female travel, Travel

Last day in Antactica, Half Moon Is & Robert Pt

5th January 2017

Oh no, last day in Antarctica before we head back across the Drake Passage to Ushuaia in Argentine, where did the time go?

The expedition staff were over the moon this morning to see “proper Antarctic weather’, overcast and -1 degree, and windy, for our last day. They didn’t want us to go away thinking it was always sunny, calm, and clear skies.

The fitness gurus in the group set off for a 10km run, the mountaineers started their trek and the other brave souls landed for more penguins and a walk. Me, I stayed on board and sketched, chatted and took photos from the bridge deck of snow falling! I spotted one of the zodiacs stopping and starting on the way back, eventually being towed back to Plancius by another. I took a couple of pics and decided to make a sketch. When Marijke looked through by sketchbook later she was so excited to see it there, as that was her zodiac that had been towed. The German friends were also super excited to take a pic as they were among the passengers! Again, the lost SD card has reared it’s ugliness – the pics of Marijke’s zodiac under tow were obviously on that camera, grrrrrr……….

After lunch we headed to Robert Island for our last landing but the surf was too high for a landing, the bravest endured another zodiac cruise. Again, I was happy to stay on board to start another sketch, this time one I’d taken when kayaking.

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Neko Harbour, Almirante Brown and BBQ in Antarctica

2nd January 2017

I stayed in the lounge when we got back to Plancius from camping, didn’t think it would be nice to wake Marijke that early, so settled with a cuppa and book from the library until Andrew made his daily wake up call at 7am. “Good morning, good morning, it’s Monday 2nd January and the weather is clear with a slight breeze and the temperature is 3 degrees. Breakfast will be served in the dining room at 7:30 for those who want to join. I hope you all have a good day”. What a brilliant way to get us all up and going, better than an alarm any day!

This morning we landed at Neko Bay, our first landing on the continent of Antarctica, until now we’d been on the peninsular. A good snowshoe climb up the hill was the perfect excuse to sit in the snow and beautiful warm sun, watch penguins and look out over the bay at the glaciers, icebergs and of course Plancius. Also sketched for a while back near the shore and enjoyed a penguin visitor up close although by the time I realized and got my phone out for a photo he’d moved on to visit someone else.

The first polar plunge took place before we headed back for lunch. The doctor was on shore with his bag of tricks and zodiacs idled about 10 metres or so from the shore. I’d say about 20 people took the plunge, most only stayed in about half a minute, but one of the Chinese gents swam out past the zodiac and back. Lots of gasps and arm waving by the plungers and laughter and camera clicking by the onlookers. I was biding my time!

After lunch we had another split landing, half landed at Almirante Brown station first and the others took a long zodiac cruise around the bay. I was in Christophe’s zodiac and was awsestruck at the icebergs, the colours of the compressed ice was fascinating. I’ve seen lots of photos where the ice is a bright turquoise blue but there were also heaps with much deeper blues. They look like there’s lights shining through, and the colours under the water are every bit as gorgeous. The vast knowledge these guys have didn’t cease to amaze me the whole trip, and they are so enthusiastic it’s always entertaining to listen.

Our turn at Almirante Brown station was another chance to climb a hill for gorgeous views and then a snow slide back down. I was a bit boring there, only went part of the way but enjoyed poking around the buildings and old infrastructure.

Dinner tonight was special, a BBQ on the back deck with free drinks and gluhwein. It was also Katie’s birthday but she had to stand out there serving up our meals. The weather was actually freezing cold and windy, not at all like we’ve had before, but more typically Antarctic according to the crew. They keep commenting on how lucky we’ve been with weather and they hope we get to experience ‘proper’ Antarctica before we leave. I wasn’t keen or silly enough and had my BBQ in the dining room with other softies. I keep finding days and events with no photos because of the lost SD card, really disappointed I don’t have any of the keen ones, outside in beanies, gloves and everything else warm they could find, eating their burgers.

The mountaineers had an eventful morning, with the young Australian guy, Adam, from Melbourne having a scary incident. Unfortunately the crevassing proved problematic on the way down with him falling in one which required both Cube and Mal’s assistance to get him out.Poor guy was quite shaken and everyone was really shocked.

Think my big night out camping was taking its toll, dinner and an early night for me.






Filed under Antarctica, Mid-life travel, Solo female travel, Travel

Camping in Antarctica!

1st January 2017

What a way to start the new year! Another landing a Damoy Point in the morning for more snow, ice and penguins where I had my first experience of show-showing. I was surprised at how easy snowshoes made the trek up the hill, although I needed a quick lesson on how to put them on, very easy as it turns out, with 3 straps over the front and one behind the heel, just like a pair of sandals. Sadly, I took my small camera this morning, then on the last night of the cruise stupidly removed the SD card to download something from the laptop on board and consequently lost it! So no photos from here, but can’t resist adding others from yesterday!

I’m not sure if it’s the weather or I’m just layering extremely well but I keep having to take my big outer jacket off every time we land, even before I get to the top of a hill. The weather though is just beautiful, still around 4 degrees I think, but sunshine and no wind makes it feel much warmer.

I must say though, as a group, we have vastly improved our lifejacketing skills!!!! Who’d have thought a few days ago it would be a simple 2 second task now, even grabbing the “tail”to bring up between your legs to clip in front – amazing creatures we are, lol.

Tag board on Plancius

Tag board on Plancius

Mind you, the tag system still has some way to go before we all remember to turn our cabin number over when we go off and on the boat! There’s always a call for the “card game” as they call it – these cabin numbers please go and turn your tag if you’re on-board, we won’t be moving until everyone is here!

Another fabulous lunch and it was off to our dual landing. After checking out the penguins for a while at Jougla Point I perched on a rock and sketched the view across the bay towards the buildings of Port Lockroy.

Then the exciting visit to the old base where we could explore the museum, buy souvenirs and post mail! The base was used in WWII by the British but abandoned until 1966 when it was renovated and now researches the effect of tourism on penguins as well as serving us tourists.

Penguin Post at Port Lockroy in Antarctica

Penguin Post at Port Lockroy in Antarctica

The penguins weren’t at all worried about us, there were so many of them with chicks it was just wonderful. Looking back I feel I didn’t take enough pics of the wildlife, but at the time I was so mesmerized by the landscape, they took second place. Of course, I took my passport to have it stamped, bought some souvenirs and postcards and posted them in the Penguin Post box.

At 9pm we got the call to head off for our night camping at Lefévre Point where there was a lone Adelie penguin waiting for us. He patrolled along a high ridge of snow just behind us all night and was still there to farewell us at 5 the next morning.

Well, what an experience, just getting from the zodiac on to dry land, or at least ice and snow, was a bit precarious and then sinking knee deep with some steps and finding hard ice with others was a tad challenging. Then the fun really began, find your spot and dig your little grave they said, it’ll be fun they said! Yeah right, I was having trouble keeping upright without trying to dig a bloody grave, lol. Nacho spent the night in the open like us but Christophe had a little tent; because he was camping 4 nights a week he wanted some luxury! These guys are amazing.

One of the funniest sights was a porta-potty sitting on the ice in front of a lone rock near the shore, not much privacy there. No wonder the guides kept stressing the lack of facilities and importance of “going” before we left Plancius.

The ‘grave’ is really just a shallow one, enough so you’re laying below the rest of the snow around you as protection from the wind. Having heard from last night’s campers the difficulty they had filling them in the next morning, most of ours were pretty shallow. Looking back at photos now I realize mine was nothing like a grave, my top half may have had some protection, just, but the other half was well and truly out in the open. I doubt I had any chance of doing it right.

If you thought that was difficult, just imagine this. You’ve got a big waterproof bag with all your dry sleeping gear and a bivvy bag to organize and the instructions for what went where had gone in one ear and out the other what seemed like days ago.

First you lay your bivvy bag in the grave and open it up, then a base mat, then blow up your next mat and lay it down, then lay down one sleeping bag, then another sleeping bag (hoping you have them in the correct order) and you’re done! Except, I kept walking, or more correctly falling, on things because of the soft snow and awkwardness of it all – and they’d done an amazing job of scaring me silly again about how if things got wet you’d end up freezing cold. But then you had to somehow get your knee high waterproof boots, outer jacket and waterproof pants off and get into this nest without getting anything wet, – and keep them dry too, and put them safely away in the big waterproof bag.I also had little packet hand-warmers to put between my 2 layers of socks and inside my gloves, I managed the feet ones then couldn’t find the hand ones, gave up looking as I was just getting more twisted. OMG it was so hilarious watching other people, I just can’t imagine how bad I looked, but it really was immense fun.

I eventually managed to plop myself down in the middle of my bed and was vainly struggling to straighten everything so I could get into it all when one of the young Swiss girls came along and asked if I wanted her to help tuck me in, must have looked pretty hopeless! She was lovely though, I said I’d be right but we both laughed and she helped with all the zips. By the time I’d got that far I was boiling; mind you, I had 2 pairs of socks, thermals top and bottom, windproof long pants, light merino top and down jacket on, so it’s really no wonder I didn’t feel the cold.

I’d lost my glasses case with the hand warmers so slept with glasses on all night, all the better to peek out with every now and then. Was just settling in when I felt drips on my face. What the? Pulled my bivvy bag further up over my face. Next thing was pitter patter on the bivvy bag, pulled it back for another peek and, guess what? It was snowing!!!! How exciting – what more could I ask for? It was just perfect, not too much, just a little every now and then.

I tried rolling on to my side a couple of times but kept getting twisted in my sleeping bags so slept like a board most of the night. By about 2 though my butt was so sore I persevered and got on to my side, next thing I knew, Nacho, one of our camping guides was waking us up – 4:30 had arrived and we had to pack up and leave.

So, it was all done in reverse, not quite as difficult or hilarious but entertaining all the same. Thankfully the ice wasn’t rock hard and filling in the graves didn’t take long or too much effort at all. A sad goodbye to our campground and Adelie penguin, quick trip back to Plancius in the zodiac and it was all just a memory – but what a memory, camping on the ice in Antarctica, with falling snow and patrolling penguin thrown in for good measure. Priceless!







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