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11. Officially Bi-Polar

Arctic & Antarctic in 2019

overcast 32 °F


Breakfast is from 7:30 until 9:00 but the wakeup call isn’t scheduled until 8:00 as we have an easy morning schedule. Our checked luggage needs to be out by 10:15; we board the Zodiacs at 11:00 for Bellingshausen Station. We wear all our expedition gear, including boots. Once we arrive at the Punta Arenas Airport (our flight is roughly scheduled for a 1:00pm departure) we take them off and put on our own shoes. The snow gear will have to stay on our bodies until we check into the hotel.

The Zodiac from Herbridean Sky to the beach is rougher than we have experienced all week. The weather for us has been, in the words of one of our expedition leaders, “in the top five out of more than a hundred expeditions,” he has experienced. But, today, it is changing. It is windy and that drives the waves up. As we land, Sophie (our skipper on this Zodiac) has to turn us around 180 degrees so that when we beach the stern of the Zodiac isn’t swamped. I was sitting next to her and just before it was my turn to “scooch” up the side of the boat and throw my legs overboard—there is a right and wrong way to do this—a wave hit and gave me my first dose of wet clothes. Nothing too bad, mind you, but rougher than we’ve seen all week.


We shed our life jackets for the final time and stroll up the hill to the Russian Church and then make an obligatory stop in the Russian “gift shop.” My browsing was over in thirty seconds flat—I don’t need or want a Russian hat or t-shirt.

We gather to walk, single file, up the hill and (eventually) across the gravel runway to board our return charter flight. The “replacement” expeditioners who have just arrived on what is now to be our aircraft, hiked single file past us as we had done just a week before.

Today being December 19, it means that their return will be on December 24 so they will be unable to travel home prior to Christmas Day. Wondering who would accept such a schedule, I soon found the answer. Walking past us it becomes clear that the vast majority of this group are Chinese. That will change the dynamic of the ship from primarily English speaking to primarily Chinese speaking. Without the unbelievable weather and without the primary language aboard ship being my native tongue, I suspect the experience will be radically different. I am lucky beyond belief to have been with this group, during this week.

Consider the fact that, according to our flight attendant, out of 30 flights a month, 5 are unable to make the trip. They have a contingency plan and I am delighted that I don’t have to tell you about it because we didn’t have to avail ourselves of it.

For the record, Antarctica 21 is a first-class provider in all respects. If you are planning a journey to this part of the world, I recommend you choose them and the Hebridean Sky. The weather, however, is out of their control.

Upon arrival, I along with others discovered that our luggage was wet. We know what happened: the Zodiac trip from the ship to the beach was over rough water. Waves came over the bow or stern or sides and soaked our luggage. After all the praise I have had for Antarctica 21, I now have a suggestion. Buy some bungy cords and a tarp and cover our bags when you move them between ship and shore. Nobody wants to open their suitcase and find wet clothes inside. I fear that may be what happened to the luggage of the 72 people who went the other direction--to start their cruise today.

Uploading video to this blog became more and more problematic as we went along. That meant that some fun flicks were overlooked. I have posted a couple here as Post Scripts to the journey. Enjoy.

And, finally, just to show you that everything did not go off without a hitch, note that the scotch I had the other day was not the only thing on the rocks.

Posted by paulej4 04:23 Archived in Antarctica

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