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10. Small Step...

One Giant Leap for An Old Man

sunny 32 °F


A very nice Chinese woman approached me through an interpreter to let me know that she had taken a movie of my Polar Plunge. Here it is:


For some reason she also had a taken a candid shot of me at dinner the night before we flew down here. The question would be: why? It cannot be that I was talking in too loud a voice because I cannot compete with the volume of Chinese speakers. In my best seminar leader and public speaker days, I couldn't produce that.

After dinner last night, Hebridean Sky encountered whales, whales and more whales. Greys and Killers abounded but none were close enough for great photography; that didn’t stop us though.WhaleTailBlue.JPGOrcas3.JPGOrcas1.JPGWhaleTailBye.JPGWhaleTailDripping.JPGOrcas2.JPGWhaleTailYellow.JPG

Up early on our final full day—6:15—we sailed from Bransfield Strait through Neptune’s Bellows before landing at Whaler’s Bay on the southeast side of Deception Island at 8:00.


We are reminded that this is a volcanic caldera as we find thousands of cooked krill at the high water mark of the beach. From 1969 to 1969, the volcano was very active. It has been waiting to erupt again since then.

Deception Island was first charted by Bransfield and Smith in 1828. It was from here that the first sighting of the actual Antarctic Peninsula was made. In 1906, the Norwegians and Chileans placed a factory ship here to harvest whales. It is thought that 3,000 whales were taken by about 150 whalers who lived here. Whale oil prices plunged in 1931 and this station was put out of business. There was a landing strip here which was the origin point for the first flight—by a biplane—to the Peninsula.

The expedition herded us—like cats—in lines for our expedition group photograph and then we broke into groups. There were those who intended to explore the nearby settlement here, those that were kayaking and those who were hiking. I joined the latter group and we headed off across the lunar-like landscape to climb and climb and climb. Niko, our guide, paused at a divine lookout point after we had ascended approximately 100 meters; that was enough for me. Tate and Jake (10 and 15 years young) and their father seemed not the least bit winded. I needed to act my age and be satisfied with making it to this two-thirds point. PaulAtTop.JPGHikersBackDown.JPGHikersContinueOn.JPG

Along with two expedition crew and one other expeditioner—a guy from Qatar—we descended as the more intrepid of our party continued up. Niko said about another 100 meters of altitude but over much steeper terrain.

I was fortunate (The Russell Luck again) to head back down as, once we reached beach level, we were alerted to a leopard seal who had taken up residence. Initially thought to be a female giving birth, wiser heads informed us that it was indeed a male who seemed to be having an arousing dream. His many yawns were spectacular. His spots contribute to his name but his teeth give the moniker “Leopard” credibility.LeopardSealYawnBEST.JPGWhaleBonesZodiacLanding.JPGWhaleBoneBeached.JPG

Stepping over whale bones and the ruins of buildings long abandoned, we returned to the Zodiacs to make our way back to the ship for a noon lunch.

We have been delivered into weather than can only be described as exceptional. The entire cruise has offered us views that the expedition team find hard to recall from their previous trips. With the exception of one-half day, the sun has shown, the winds have been calm to moderate, the sea has been at peace with itself and the temperatures have warmed more than chilled us.

After lunch, one of our expedition guides, the easy-going and amiable AJ, offered up a “Pole to Pole” talk. He has the distinction of having skied to both poles, a remarkable achievement. Should you wish, you can support his next adventure to commemorate Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s 1912 expedition to the South Pole. Check him out at liketobe.org

Scott died on the way back and AJ is setting up a proper memorial service, at his final resting place 120 miles from the Scott’s hut, close to the McMurdo Station on the Ross Sea, scheduled for January 17, 2022. He needs a hundred grand.

Our afternoon landing spot was to be Fort Point but fierce winds motivated a change to Half Moon Island. There, a sheltered bay offers a more peaceful opportunity. Even so, the kayakers were told that there was too much chop for them to go out. So we all, 71 of us, boarded Zodiacs to ferry us to the rocky beach. A Waddell Seal guarded our landing spot. Penguins stood sentry along the first rocky, then snowy, then rocky and then again snowy path toward a Chinstrap rookery. We passed some Gentoos along the way along with a group of nine more seals, all snoozing on cooling snow.


The walk, while flat, was difficult and challenging. The reward at the end of that half-hour was that we were granted an audience with a large rookery. A brow skua hovered over Chinstrap nests, alert for a momentarily unguarded egg. A snowy sheathbill marched up the snowy hill snatching up bits of food (for snowy sheathbills, food is penguin droppings).

As we loitered, Chinstraps passed back and forth, marching from the sea to the top of the hill and back again. Most cared not a bit that we were gathered near their path. Occasionally an unruly tourist would approach rather than remain stationary and cause the penguins stress—but not often.

Our ride back to the ship was bumpy but not too much so. Hot showers await.

We have cocktails and a debriefing at 6:45, the voyage slideshow a part of that, followed by dinner at 7:30. And, of course, we bid the staff a fond farewell as did they to us.



We got to the dining room earlier than normal so that we could snatch up a table of eight. Dianne and Lauren and Bella and Eric and Jake and Tate and I have invited the aforementioned AJ to join us for dinner. He has great stories to tell. When you meet him—and I hope you do—you will be amazed at his adventures. His polar bear cub story is priceless.

Tonight, we pack, departing the Hebridean Sky tomorrow for the long, long journey home.

Posted by paulej4 06:47 Archived in Antarctica

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Wow! What a journey for you and for us.
Thanks for the memories...
Happy travels and Merry Christmas to all!

by ursula terrasi

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