Tent City and thereafter!
16:58 on Thursday the 30th November, 2006
24 11 2006, Well what a night! To be offered an opportunity to spend a night on the Antarctica Continent is something really special and rare, and a lot of the support team were given that opportunity last night. A huge thanks to everyone who set up all the tents and toilet facilities. After dinner, and a last visit to the loo on board, we set off in the Zodiacs at around 2130. Karen (the producer), Jack, Tim and Eve were doing an interview with Denise when we arrived and the children are great with Tim being the interviewer, Jack the cameraman, and Eve, the most important of all, holding the microphone. It was a sweet sight with Mum sitting at the entrance of her tent overlooking the bay. I could only participate as Enda gave me his sleeping bag and thermarest, Mike (the shorts) his bag liner, and at the last minute Jerry (the Piper) his down jacket. The tent looked small from the outside, but was actually quite roomy inside and originally Denise, Elaine and I were going to share, but Denise then decided to sleep outside after digging herself her sub-Antarctic bed otherwise known as a hole in the snow. It never grew dark. At around 2230, I set off to climb the hill behind the camp of 12 tents which proved steeper than the eye could see. I was rewarded at the top though with a different view of Port Lockroy which we had visited in the afternoon, and on the other side, a wonderful view over Dorian Bay. When lying in the tent, I could see the rippling water of the bay, could listen to the sounds of the penguins, and when everyone was quiet, the silence. Up the hill, that silence was very beautiful. There was also a green hut there which had been erected by Rick (the Port Lockroy manager) and his friends as an emergency hut and it was lovely inside all stocked up with food supplies and was quite warm. Yesterday morning, as I think I already mentioned, we had visited Ronge island where colonies of Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins were beginning to nest. Penguin pink highways were very visible, these are the paths used by the penguins to go from one part to the other and are deep routes in the snow, pink because of their pooh and humans should not step on them as it would force the penguins to seek a different route and that would entail using a lot of energy actually needed to lay the eggs, incubate them, and then look after the chicks, all valuable information imparted by Sebastian when we arrived at Ronge. It is quite a sight watching the penguins walk up the snowy hills. We then sailed on down to Dorian Bay through the Neumayer Channel and the reflections of landscape on the water were quite phenomenal. When we arrived, we visited Wiencke Island where the Gentoos were actually nesting, and some eggs could be seen when the penguins had the changing of the guard. A lot of noise accompanied this exercise, but what was better in the afternoon was the calm atmosphere and closeness of the penguins. We also visited Port Lockroy and there it was very evident that some penguins have absolutely no fear of humans as they were nesting right under the steps leading up to the museum. Rick and his friends have done a marvellous loving restauration job on the building and Rosemarie nearly got cramps from laughing as she read the old magazines and newspapers - from the 50ties - which were lying around. I was finally able to send all those promised postcards so it will be interesting to see how long it takes for them to arrive. This morning, the captain took us on a special trip through Lemaire Channel which was very beautiful and we reached the southern most point of the trip at 65 degrees 12 minutes South, 64 degrees, 10 minutes West. Now we are heading north again to visit Paradise Bay. There was an outside barbeque for lunch and Ruben and his team were fantastic getting a typical Argentinian rancho barbeque (Asados) ready in time. The steaks were massive, as were the different types of sausages, and other meat like lamb, spare ribs etc.
It is now the 26th and we left Antarctica yesterday afternoon in - yes again - brillant sunshine, after having visited Deception Island where 32 of the group climbed from Baily Head across the volcano (dormant) down to Whaler's Bay where we were waiting with the ship. It took them only 2 hours and 20 minutes and they were back by breakfast which was much faster than the anticipated 4 hours! Whaler's Bay has an area of thermal water, but a bathing basin had to be dug out and the warning went out only in the basis, or you could freeze quite quickly and the body shock from hot to cold could be brutal. There was a biting wind which died down just in time when the bathing session was opened! Last night there the inaugural presentation by the Beyond Endurance Theatre Group of The Knave of Diamonds and it was marvellous. The props, and stage setting were really well done and because the ship was going through a passage of heavy swell, and the actors had a difficult time keeping their feet with the rolling. It all added to the great performance and we had such a great laugh. I must say there has been an amazing amount of culture on board and we even got a Beyond Endurance Crossword prepared by Kate and Jonathan, for breakfast yesterday.
November 28th, Nature has been just too kind to us on the trip and Drake Passage was extremely calm, Jorge said that he has crossed there about 160 times and this was only the 3rd time he had experienced such calm waters, just a bit of a swell but nothing like I had been expecting. We arrived in the Beagle Channel yesterday morning and anchored there until this morning at 1.30 when we set off to berth at Ushuaia. The captain's dinner last night was lovely, followed by the award winning ceremonies of winner of the crossword, winner of the best picture, (I was thrilled to have my nominated picture of Grytviken at dawn selected to the final 4), the best comedian etc etc and then the last party on board went on till all hours. This morning leaving the ship at 0830 hrs was a bit too early for some................
Rosemarie and I walked from Los Acebos to the town centre and then met up with so many from the ship who had a few hours on land before setting off again on the next voyage with 66 passengers from all sorts of countries and the goodbyes were all very emotional and memorable. Imagine walking down Ushuaia's main street today and bumping into a whole load of familiar faces, it was a wonderful feeling. We had a lovely lunch with Konstantin - the ship's doctor - and for me it was a fitting way to close out that section of the journey. I'm now sitting in Los Acebos looking out the window over the Beagle Channel and can see the ship disappear into the distance like a little ant again, and wondering how their trip will be. I will not say that I suffered under "cabin fever" but must admit that I was glad to leave the ship this morning.
Now it is Nov. 30th and we arrived back in Buenos Aires after midnight, and what with waiting for baggage, coming into town and checking in, it wasn't till 3 am this morning that we finally got to bed. Lovely beds! The communal check in yesterday evening went very well and huge thanks to Evelyn and Eileen for organising it so well, it saved a lot of hassle. Blue skies, and sunshine greet us again and this evening we are off to a reception at the Irish Embassy so have to be a bit smarter than up to now, it will be good to dress up again !
Love to all and thanks for your wonderful support and kind words during my journey south.
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