Magellan discovered his famous strait in 1520. For the next 300 years ship after ship followed after him. It was not until 1820 that a Russian ship got down there and the captain said, “Hey, let’s turn left!”, that Antarctica was discovered. For most of the 19th century very few tried to turn left again. It wasn’t till a little over a hundred years ago that Scott, Amundsen, and others attempted to reach the South Pole. So this is new territory. Even today there are only around a thousand year-round residents on the entire continent and most of them are on the peninsula where we were. Why? Well, they say the winters can be a little harsh.
The US has three research stations in Antarctica, Palmer, McMurdo down on the Ross Ice Shelf, and the Amundsen-Scott Station at the South Pole (a fascinating place if you want to look it up.) Today at Amundsen-Scott, even though it is the waning days of summer, the current temp in -63F. I did not see any cruise ships excursions on their web cam.
Our last day in Antarctica began with much larger icebergs.
Also, the deck upon which we had been slopping our fruity drinks only a few day prior, was now a skating rink. An excellent opportunity for the crew to practice its “Man Overboard” drills.
We were also beginning to see the first small signs of pack ice. this was at the tip of the peninsula,
In the mean time the aforementioned crazed electrician had been busy at his work.
We arrived at Hope Bay (Named after our granddaughter. Thanks, guys!) about 7am.
Soon the Esperanza. Antarctica Station, operated by Argentina, hove into view.
This is the nicest looking station we encountered on the whole trip.
Wait a minute! Just past the station, what’s that moving around out there?
These were Adelie Penguins (uh-DELLY). I don’t know if they found our ship to be upsetting in some way, but they certainly had something going on in their crazy penguin brains. They started out by walking back and forth to these two locations although they could have swum there in half the time.
Then somebody said, “Hey! Let’s go up the hill!” So, up they went!
No questions asked!
But even among penguins there will be splinter groups.
In time we had to leave them and the Peninsula behind, though Antarctica seemed dreamlike on account of this frostin’.
We turned from here and headed west toward the South Shetland Islands, where, I can assure you, you will not find any ponies. Along the way we encountered the biggest iceberg of the trip:
What we could see was lager than the ship. And, of course, around 90% of it is under water.
It does make a nice rest stop, if you’re a penguin.
About 1pm we hove into Admiralty Bay.
In Admiralty Bay there are four research stations. This is the Macchu Picchu Station run by, guess who?
Not a bad place to set up shop!
Here is a look behind us across Admiralty Bay.
The captain decided to take us up close to one last glacier, always a crowd pleaser.
Looking around, it was not hard to find traces of some of the sad history of this place. Whale bones.
In the old days the ships used to set up their processing stations on these beaches
On the way out we passed the Commandate Ferraz Station operated by Brazil
As we left, two humpback whales passed us by. We saw humpbacks frequently in Antarctic waters, but rarely saw much more of them that this. We might see an occasional tail or spout, but we did not see any of them breech as they did in Alaska. The simple truth is, they could care less if we have Met Life Insurance or not. They’re still pissed about all those bones on the beach!
As we were leaving Admiralty Bay we passed the last station, the Henryk Arctowski research station run by the Polish Academy of Sciences
Even more whale bones! And, something else:
This seemed a little odd. It’s understandable to have a work boat on hand, but we saw no indication at any of the other stations that there was too much yachting going on. As I later found out, this yacht sailed out of Poland to commemorate Shackleton’s epic voyage and ended up running aground nearby last December. The crew of four was rescued by the Chilean and Argentine Coast Guards in heavy weather and they were brought here. They stayed for several weeks. They were actually taken off the station by our ship, the Zaandam, on an earlier voyage, and transported to Buenos Aires. I’m sure it will be cheap to come back down here and effect repairs.
At last it was time to say goodbye to Antarctica
As we have be fortunate to find on some of our previous trips, there are some places you go that you just don’t quite get over.
For the next two days we would be at sea. Then, we visit the Falkland Islands. Why go there? One reason only: A penguin extravaganza!!!