2/21 - 3/3 - Antarctica!!
We sailed the Lyubov Orlova out of Ushuaia for an amazing 10 day trip to Antarctica.The ship was actually named after a Russian actress & all of the Russian staff were great!They even did some traditional Russian singing & dancing for us!The expedition was run by Quark and their staff was also wonderful and very knowledgeable. During the 4 days of hell passing through the Drake passage (well actually only 3 days of hell - 2 on the way down & only 1 on the way back - Thank God our first day on the Drake on the way home was the best day they had had all season!) as well as during our landings & zodiac cruises they filled us in on facts about the wildlife, the history and the geology of the continent of Antarctica.We were so drugged up from our seasick meds we don't remember much but one amazing thing is that the continent doubles in size every winter due to the sea ice that forms all around it.It is also the coldest, windiest, and driest place on earth!
We had a total of 11 landings/zodiac cruises in the Antarctic area.Our first stop was on Barrientos, one of the Aitcho Islands in the South Shetland Islands.We also went to Whaler's Bay in Deception Island (home of an active volcano where many people took a polar plunge but we decided to stay sane, dry & warm!).We cruised around Trinity Island & Mikkelsen Harbor, stopped at Danco Island in the blowing snow and walked on the Antarctic Peninsula at Neko Harbor.We saw a couple of baby Gentoo penguin chicks at Jougla Point & sent out postcards at Port Lockroy, an official Antarctic post office. (But since the last postal boat had already left no one will be receiving the postcards until after November!)We had 4 days of glorious sunshine & blue skies while we sailed through the famous Lemaire Channel, cruised around Pleneau Island and Waddington Bay.We also stepped foot on Cape Tuxson (our second continental landing) and landed on Petermann Island and Useful Island.Our last outing was a zodiac cruise around the Melchiors Islands.We were supposed to see some humpback whales around there but they seemed to be on vacation that day.In total, our wildlife experience included seeing thousands of Gentoo penguins (they may be on their way to taking over the world!) as well as some Adelie and Chinstrap penguins.We did see some humpback whales & Minke whales & even a male Orca whale w/ 2 females from the ship as well.We also saw fur seals, leopard seals, weddell seals and even a crabeater seal.There were also a variety of birds including Antarctic Terns, Petrels, Kelp gulls, Snowy Sheathbills, Blue-eyed cormorants, Prions & Skuas, in addition to the many varieties of the famous Albatross.When we were almost back to Ushuaia some Peele's dolphins came and played alongside our ship.
The people on board were wonderful & they came from 24 different countries.The food was gourmet - appetizer, soup, main course & dessert for lunch & dinner along with cakes at tea time!They actually made a penguin out of meringue & chocolate sauce - needless to say we all put on some pounds, I think!JAll in all it was an amazing voyage and an incredible experience to explore the seventh continent with an official human population of zero.The wildlife, iceburgs, magestic snow capped mountains, glaciers and stunning cold crystal clear vastness were images that we will remember forever.