Unbelievable Paradise, Cold Swim & Icy Camping

Trip Start Nov 28, 2011
Trip End Apr 09, 2013

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Polar Pioneer

Flag of Antarctica  ,
Monday, February 13, 2012

If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo. Literature, and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater; the only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it.

- Andrew Denton


When we got out of our beds, woken up by Johns gentle voice, we were yet to experience what is a truly superlative day in Antarctica. Days like that are rare pearls that should be cherished amongst the precious memories of a life well-spent. Albert Einstein said "Give every day a chance to be the best day in your life." John just couldn't let us miss this chance, so woke us all way early to experience one of the most glorious mornings imaginable.

Mirror seas, surrounded by jagged coastal peaks of snow and craggy rock, bisected by chaotic glaciers, overlooked by imperious white mountains and topped by clear skies in the pink and blue pastel hues of early morning. The orange-red sunrise, the broad brushstrokes of white cloud, the seas like ice soup, with some floes providing a floating sanctuary for penguins and snoozing seals, the resonant blows of leisurely humpback whales: so beautiful it was, that some of almost forgave John for disturbing our gentle slumber.

After breakfast we snuggled into our five Zodies and spread out around Paradise Harbour to explore its icy beauty. What a magnificent place: Skontorp Cove has to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Our leisurely cruise include a few sightings of cormorans, 'flop-flop' swimmming penguins and seals, but the real highlight was the stunning scenery, with a jumble of glaciers cascading into the cove in slow motion. The brash ice showed that the glaciers never sleep. The enourmous size of those and the scenery around made this nother special moment. Although we love to share this with you, it is one of those things one has to experience on their own and in their own way... as there are barely enough words to describe it

Then came our first landing on the continent of Antarctica. Congratulations, we just have added a new continent to our life's collection, be it five or six (Oceania is still to come, as well as Asia for Maria...).

Almirante Brown base is currently home to a small group of maintenance staff, and their leader Miguel welcomed the first Zodies ashore. The divers had a short visit before returning to the ship to dress in and prepare to dive the colourful cliffs near the base. The rest of us had more time to explore the surroundings, watch the penguins and climb the steep hill which gave us som more excercise, definitely needed after enjoying lots of good food from Travis and Mark. This was followed by a thrilling bum-slide, over the moguls either singly or in conga four. Maria could not get enough, so she had to go for a second bump slide - because it's so much fun and it's in Antarctica!

However, a visit to Paradise Harbour is not complete without an icy dip, so once back on the ship we gathered on the outer decks to watch about a dozen lunatics plunge into the frigid water. YES! We did it too! After a jump into the icy water, we were barely able to breath. It seemed as if our mind darkened and all senses were focused on the cold. Some call it 'shocking' cold, however, we managed to swim out and were pretty proud of ourselves. While Jörgen got a shower to warm up, and release from cold, Maria disappeared in the Sauna. Aaah, what a relief!

Soup and salad warmed and nourished us before we motored out into the stunning Gerlache Strait, past the famous Una's tits and along the impressive Lemaire Channel. Along the way we passed several humpback whales, a pod of Orcas and many seals snoozing on floes. Of course we had to get together and firt we all and the our team gathered on the bow for a group photo.

Before dropping anchor off Pleneau Island, we reached our most southerly point at 65°08.2'S, 64°05.5'W, just off Hovgaard Island. Then, fortified by some lovely roast duck, we re-boarded our trusty Zodies to cruise amongst the glorious iceberg graveyard between Pleneau Island and historic Port Charcot. Within the light of the setting sun we saw stunning icebergs, seals that were posing for us and once more climbed on our very own iceberg to roll, turn and jump around anjoy being there.

The divers topped-off their cruise with a dive on an iceberg that was surrounded by no less than seven leopard seals. Regrettably, the seals did not hang around, but the divers had a nice semi-night dive along an ice-wall that mimicked the surface of a golf ball.

Once more back to the ship to re-warm and then all we campers were set ashore at Hovgaard Island to experience a night ashore in Antarctica. Indeed, off we were to CAMP on ANTARCTICA. It was a beautiful, but short, night out on the ice: the perfect way to spend our last night in Antarctica! Overnight Camping on Hovgaard Island the southermost point of our trip at 65'08.02'S,64'05.'W. At least we had some rum packed before we were heading off...

More tomorrow...


Position at 2300 on 13 Feb
Latitude: 65° 05' S
Longitude: 64° 01' W
Course: At anchor
Speed: At anchor
Barometer: 975 hPa & steady
Wind: 2 knots, variable direction
Air temperature: 2° C
Sea temperature: 1° C
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