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Antarctic Trip Log

Day 1, 10:25pm, Beagle Channel

Got on the Antarctic Dream cruise ship around 4:00pm. Funny how cruise companies call this a full day when we really didn’t get underway till around 8:00pm. The taxi didn’t go all the way to the ship so we had to schlep all our shit to the boat, that sucked. The staff on this ship is mostly Chilean, all are very nice so far.

A very nice thing happened to us right off the bat. The cabin assigned to us was either unavailable or sucked so bad that they have upgraded us to a suite, next to the Captain’s room! Sweet. The room has three good sized windows and is at the front of the boat so we have a real plum view. It is real fucking hot though, hot enough that we have wedged the door open with a chair. The windows were dirty so I had to go out and clean them – the God awful wind in Ushuaia has fucked them up again already.

Dinner was pretty good, much better than the Isabela in the Galapagos. Overall the ship is not as nice as the Isabela but you get all the grog you want, as long as its with dinner. If you want sauce any other time you gotta pay for that out of your pocket.

Its been a long day for us, mainly waiting for this Antarctic cruise. We payed so much goddamed moolah for it that both of us really have very high expectations. The Drake Passage, which we will hit around midnight is supposed to be the worst stretch of sea on the planet. Hopefully I won’t wake up in the middle of the night and start puking up the steak and salmon that I had for dinner today. I’m pretty doped up with Dramamine, but I plan on taking another pill before I go to bed, so I hope to be comatose through the first part of the Drake.

Day 2, 9:27pm, Drake Passage


Been on this boat for over a day now. I don’t know whether it is the design of the boat or what but it lurches to and fro a LOT. The crew keeps saying how ‘calm’ it is but the the boat sure moves around, so much so that you can’t even fucking stand up without holding on to something. During breakfast this morning I slid clear across the dining room with my bacon and pancakes and bashed into the railing. Luckily I didn’t spill a thing! Pretty much everyone is seasick to some degree and about 25% have it pretty bad. Unfortunately Neena is one of them.

They had a talk in the afternoon about birds and the Ornithologist who gave it was really geeky and showed us a graph of Albatross heart rate on the Y-axis and the activity they were doing on the X-axis. The conference room is the suckiest part of the ship and it is real easy to get seasick there, so Neena puked shortly after attending. The evening talk about mammals was a little boring but informative. I am looking forward to seeing some ferocious Leopard Seals! We have had some Wandering Albatross and Black-browed Albatross follow the ship.

I pretty much slept all afternoon, and didn’t do much of anything during the day, other than eat. The food has been quite good for a cruise ship. I’m hoping the good weather holds and Neena gets better with the seasickness.

Day 4, 9:17pm, Bransfield Straits


Today was the first day we got off the boat after being cooped up for three days! The first landing site was on the South Shetland Islands, on the Aicho Islands. The Zodiac dropped us off on a beach close to the nesting site of many Gentoo penguins. The Gentoo are cute little buggers with orange beaks and a white patch over the eye. They are kinda stocky and waddle around the moss covered slopes. The landscape was primeval with no trees but lots of green mossy carpeting.

We walked over a ridge where we were promptly attacked by Antarctic fur seals that had to be fended off with sticks. The other side was very reminiscent of Bartholome Island in the Galapagos. There were lots more Gentoo with some Chinstrap penguins mixed in. The Chinstrap look like motorcycle riders with black helmet heads and a black stripe across the throat. Very cute, they tend to hop much more than the chunky Gentoo. We also ran across a portly Weddell seal relaxing in many photogenic positions. It was making strange cooing and whistling noises as well.

When we got back to the boat Neena and I had to clean the Penguin poop off our hiking boots, since we had been the only dumbasses to change from the gumboots issued by Antarctic Dream. Penguin shit is red colored and smells pretty foul so this was not an enjoyable process.

The afternoon landing was on Half Moon Island, the site of many Chipstrap penguin rookeries. It was raining during most of the time during the landing so we didn’t get many photographs. The landscape was grey and rocky with very little in the way of vegetation. Near the end of the walk we found a lone elephant seal that stalked off after we got close to it.

Day 5, 6:33pm, Cuverville & Waterboat Pt


2nd day off the boat. We have been sailing through much more snow and icebergs. The landscape is very rugged. We got off at Cuverville Island, on a rocky beach with very clear waters. This is supposed to be the largest colony of Gentoo penguins. By the time we arrived, the adults had already left for the open seas and only the babies were left behind to fend for themselves. Soon they will shake off their fuzz and be able to head out to the open seas themselves, to return in 5 years to the same place to mate.

Venturing out into the open seas is no easy task. Leopard seals are waiting to capture the inexperienced young penguins as they step into the unknown waters. We got to see many such unfortunate penguins devoured by the seals.

We went to Waterboat Point, a Chilean air force base. This the first time on the trip that we actually set foot on the Antarctic continent! It is a research station operated jointly by the Chilean army and navy. We were greeted by an overwhelming smell of penguin poop as we reached the base. The officers were very welcoming and people could actually buy tourist baubles here. Penguins were scaling a steep, huge ice bank colored red and green with penguin poop. No idea why they were putting themselves to such trouble. We saw a lone king penguin who had lost its way, they are normally found only on South Georgia Island.

Day 6 [as written on March 16th, on the way to the Drake Passage]


This day was one of the most boring of the trip. The first landing was on Petermann Island, a rocky spot with ice and smallish glaciers. Here we saw the only colony of Adelie Penguins during the trip, and even then most had gone back to the ocean. We observed one crazy individual ferrying small stones back and forth as if to build a nest. The ground was very slippery and many in our party fell on the penguin shit stained ice.

In the evening we had a zodiac cruise scheduled but it was too windy to lower the boats so that was canceled.

Day 7, 4:43pm


The morning started with a dreary drizzle. We piled into the zodiacs to take a “Zodiac cruise”, to see ice formations and shit. There was a chill wind and it was quite cold on the cruise. We didn’t get to see much – just some small icebergs, the occasional seal and a few Antarctic terns. There was an interesting cave formation with a marble-like glacial covering.

The afternoon was spent whale watching in iceberg infested waters. The boat went very slowly so as not to sustain damage from the ice. There was a lot of activity on the bridge with the Captain and one officer present at all times. We saw several sets of Humpback whales, some of them quite close.

Day 8, 12:13pm, Deception Island


This morning we landed on Deception Island, a barren volcanic place. At the first landing site we made our way through the fog to the edge of the crater. The guide had planted flags along the way so we wouldn’t get lost in the fog. The walk was the first exercise of any kind on the trip. The crater had a lake in the middle with a small stream leading to it. The floor had an interesting pattern formed by the stream during its various courses.

The second landing was in a geothermal area where we were to bathe in the hot waters. I was rather disappointed at first – it was just a trench, similar to a hippo wallow, filled with dirty muddy water. Neena got in first, since I was highly reluctant to enter the wallow. Finally I got in too, and it turned out to be great fun. The water was very very hot and I only managed to bathe in the end that was not the hottest. I REALLY wanted to take a piss but one stern look from the Brits made me refrain. After being in the wallow for a bit I ran out to the ocean for a freezing cold dip, and then back to the hot pool. Originally I had the visions of a warm volcanic lake but in the end the trench was good enough. So now I can say that I had a swim in the Antarctic ocean!

So now we are on the way back, through the Drake passage. Every one is hoping that this crossing will be as smooth as the first. According to the Captain the weather conditions have been “exceptional”, have to see if it holds. I am secretly hoping for some weather so that I can experience the “real” Drake.

7 Responses to “Antarctic Trip Log”

  1. Fred says:

    Very interesting journal, amazing that this was “good” weather – makes one tremble at the alternative.

  2. Neena says:

    Hi Fred,
    Apparently the worst was Force 11 winds – I guess people were confined to their cabins. Even with a little rough weather people have cracked their skulls open. The problem is also that these ships tend not to have stabilizers, apparently because they get in the way when the ship is going through icebergs.

  3. Shreesh says:

    Hi Fred,

    Me too. I think I would heave up my stomach lining like wet toilet paper!

  4. shanta auntie says:

    After reading your blog , I guess I will be just as happy to experience antarctica thru your writing and the pictures. Now I am not as enthused to visit in person!
    Never knew there were many varieties of penguins! Beautiful pictures!

  5. Jerzy says:

    There must be something magic about cruise boats starting their trips in Tierra del Fuego at 8 pm. Luckily for you, it turned out true. Ours left at 5:30, without us. It takes some effort to get on a boat that is sailing away. Maybe in exchange for that, we did not experience any penguin poo.

  6. Neena says:

    Hello Jerzy,
    Which cruise did you do? I always thought that you had done the Navimag cruise from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales.

  7. Jerzy says:

    Hi Neena,
    We did the Scorpios cruise, a loop from Puerto Natales through the glaziers of Patagonia. We used Navimag to get from Puerto Montt to Puerto Chacabuco only. Defitive difference in standards.