Antarctica the untouched continent

Trip Start Feb 23, 2008
Trip End Apr 28, 2008

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

What an experience Antarctica has been. On board of the Vavilov, the bulk of the passengers were not there for the conference. The conference attracted Radiologists, Intensivist, Anaesthetist, Renal Physicians, Infertility Specialist, Orthopedic, rural GP, CMO and yes there were a handful of Emergency Physicans and Registrars!
The first two days we crossed the Drake Passage. It was stormy with wind over 45 knots or strong gale wind. We had albatross flying around the boat. Taking photos of them proofed to be a difficult task. It was hard enough to stand on the deck without falling over let alone trying to aim and focus at the same time. The boat literally rock from 40 degree on one side to 40 degree the opposite side. The Scopolamine patch is working well. I am glad I was able to get them from New Zealand prior to the trip. Look at some of the video clips to appreciate how much movement the ship does. Those who suffer from sea sickness the Drake Passage can be a very testing experience.
On board the Vavilov we had a special guest with us. Robert Swan is the only person who had walked to both poles. He was hitching a ride to Antarctica to stay 3 weeks in Antarctica and use only renewable energy. Robert  gave us a very interesting presentation about his journey and the importance for us to maintain Antarctica pure and pristine.

On Sunday we finally reached the tip of Antarctic Peninsula. The weather was poor; overcast and windy with occasional showers. We stopped at Half Moon Island in the morning. There is a large colony of Strapchin Penguins. There was a single Macaroni Penguin. There was a number of Gentoo Penguins. There were a large number of Fur Seals and a couple of Weddell Seals. The afternoon we went to Deception Island which is an active volcano. There was an abandoned whaling station and a few destroyed building from the last volcano eruption and mud slide. There were a few pieces of whale bones scattered in the island. At the end of the excursion a few brave the icy cold water and went for a swim in the Antarctic water.
We were greeted with an amazing sunrise on Monday. The weather was beautiful; blue sky and calm sea. We were near Enterprise Island and visited Wilhelmina Bay. We went on to our Zodiac and cruise to Guvernoren wreck, a whaling boat that was abandoned due to a fire. Then we cruise around some spectacular icebergs, we saw some Crabeater Seals and more Fur Seals. It was very surreal to be amongst those pancake sea ice and gigantic icebergs. Unfortunately the beautiful weather did not last long. By afternoon the sky was overcast. We spotted a few humpback whales and we went on another zodiac excursion. The whales were amazing; they were playful and visited each of the zodiacs to make sure everyone has a close encounter. Then we spotted a few Leopard Seals. They are so elegant under the water.
Tuesday was an overcast day with intermittent snow storm. We venture out to Cuverville Island where were greeted by another pod of Humpback Whales. They were more playful and performed some acrobatic maneuvers to entertain us. It is amazing to have a creature the size of a bus so agile under the water so close to us. They were flipping their fluke and the pectoral fin as if waving to us. We finally arrived on the beach to a colony of Gentoo Penguins. These are the cutest penguins I have encountered. When we stand or sit still they would approach us, peck at our clothing even stand of some of us. I had a few pecking at me; it was a very amazing experience to have these animals more interested in me than I am of them! In the afternoon we went to Neko Harbour and landed on the Antarctic Continent again we were surrounded by lots of Gentoo Penguins. There was a single lonesome Adelie Penguin standing on the beach, just like the Macaroni Penguin two days before hand. It is quite puzzling as to why it is there.
Another overcast day on Wednesday, we sail through one of the most photogenic section of the peninsula, the Lemaire Channel. The channel has steep mountains on both sides with numerous glaciers ending at the sea. I discovered a Snow Petrel on deck. It looks like a white dove except it has webbed feet, a very gorgeous little bird. The morning excursion we saw more Gentoo Penguins and a few Adelie Penguins. On the way back we saw a Leopard Seal toying with a dead Gentoo Penguin, it is like a cat playing with its mouse. In the afternoon, we visited Vernadsky Base, a Ukraine Antarctic Station which has a gift shop and a bar!
Sadly Thursday was our last day at the Antarctic Peninsula. I was exhausted from all these excursions in the last few days and considered missing the morning zodiac cruise. I was glad that I went. We were split to explore two different bays. I went to Waddington Bay and our zodiac was greeted by a very curious Leopard Seal, it jump of the water and swam underneath our zodiac. The seal was enormous, 3-4 metres in length or about the length of our Zodiac. Two other zodiacs soon joined us and the seal become more excited. At one point it clearly wanted to fornicate with the zodiac. What an amazing experience. In the afternoon we did our final landing on Yalour Island and saw an Adelie Penguin colony. There were all in their mounting phase and not really photogenic. The Adelie Penguins were not as inquisitive as the Gentoo Penguins and did not approach any of us. On the way back to the ship we spotted more Leopard Seals and two Humpback Whales in close proximity but due to time limitation we sadly need to leave and headed for the Drake Passage. As we started to leave Antarctica the sky started to clear once more showing us a beautiful landscape behind us.
After another two days of rough sea we finally reached Cape Horn before heading back to Ushuaia. It has been an amazing journey to one of the most spectacular place on this planet. I can hardly fault this trip at all, the crew members were fantastic. The chef cooked marvelous meals after meals especially more remarkable during our voyage through the Drake Passage. The only "change" I would like to make is perhaps a longer trip and to visit South Georgia Island where there is a colony of Albatross and King Penguins. Everyone on board believe this trip is worth every single cent and credit must go to Peregrine Adventure.

Now I need to make my way to Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni. I just need to travel through Buenos Aires, Santiago, La Paz before getting to Uyuni!
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