First Week in Antarctica

After a day spent just offshore from the Falklands taking on fuel for the whole month’s journey we endured the rite of passage now known as the Drake Shake (the Drake Pasage). It’s notorious as one of the roughest crossings on the planet, and on our crossing, gave us Force 9 gales and 6m waves. Sadly, this blew us far enough west off-course to miss the South Shetland Isles. But we discovered a new use for lifejackets – as head padding against the bunk headwall when the ship rolls more than 30deg!

Current position 67deg49min S, 78deg59min W

So our first Zodiac landing was on Neko Harbour, which is Antarctic Peninsula mainland rather than Peninsula Island. And with that, I’ve now
set foot on all 7 continents (if only very briefly in Africa and Northern America!) Neko Harbour is home to Gentoo penguins – all very cute, but low light and distance means I’ve now got serious lens envy of those with 600mm lenses (a surprising number on this boat!). The landscape is pretty good too, and makes a change from trying to pan cape petrels while the ship rocks in the Drake Passage.

Lemaire Channel is fog-bound, so we don’t see much of “Kodak Channel” but Peterman Island is another chance to see Penguins – Adelie and Gentoo, as well as a few Antarctic Blue-eyed Shags. But the highlight of the evening is encountering our first icebergs as we sail towards
Marguerite Bay, and cross the Antarctic Circle – at 2218 (ship’s time – currently 4 hours behind GMT)

The following day we get a history lesson on Stonington Island, where the remnants of both UK and USA bases are found, and see a solitary
Weddell Seal basking just offshore on an icefloe. Overnight we begin our crossing of the Bellingshausen Sea, heading out towards Peter 1 Island –
a very remote island some 600nautical miles out to sea. (Although the usual distribution of pack ice means it’s rather nearer the ice/shore-line than the map suggests!) Between midnight and 0200 we encounter our first pack ice, and discover that the ship’s relative instability in stormy open waters is more than compensated for by it’s smooth passage through broken pack ice.

Will we get to set foot on the Norwegian-owned Peter 1 island? I’ve  heard rumours that only 600 people have ever set foot on this island before (as of 2007 – so this may be a little higher now). We’ve already had reports that the sea is 8/10 ice around it, and it is often fogbound. But there’s always a chance… To find out if we do, you’ll have to wait til the next instalment of this log – expected roughly a week from now!