Antarctica 2008 travel blog

The bright blue showing through the fissures didn't really translate to film.

The zodiacs for the advance team are headed off to the landing...

Regulations limit to a maximum of 100 people on land at a...

Check the ice in the water.

Penguins on the rocks

This is how they nest. (photo by Helen)

HALT!! This is a penguin crossing. They always have the right of...

Hanging out alone

Sheltering against the rocks

These are whale bones

This is how they kept all of us the required distance from...

They look so awkward waddling along

Here you get both the nesting penguins, and a glimpse of our...

They're just hanging out.

How cute is this guy??!! (photo by Helen)

One group boarding the zodiac as we're returning

Helen with some of the impeccably dressed, phenomenal men we affectionately called...

This was taken at about 11:15pm on New Year's Eve

This was taken at about 11:45pm on New Year's Eve

This was taken at about 11:45pm on New Year's Eve The set...

This has been a pretty easy day hanging out until our zodiac expedition to Port Lockeroy. This is the first time we'd actually get to land. We were one of the latest groups out for this launch, so we were watching from the sidelines for much of the day. The weather was again alternating snow and rain. At lunch yesterday following the penguin lecture (and the silly questions which followed), we sat around trying to come up with the dumbest questions possible.

When Veronica ran into the "Penguin Guy" later, she deadpanned,"So, now what is it that we bring to feed the penguins?". He and the two crew members with him looked stunned as he started lecturing her about why not to feed the penguins. She stopped him to explain that she was kidding, and tell about the questions we'd come up with. So they ran through them:"Can I buy a penguin? How much do they cost? The smaller ones are cheaper aren't they, and easier to get through customs too? How often do they fall into the Zodiacs? If they do can we keep them? Doesn't 'finders keepers' apply to penguins too? etc."

When our launch time arrived, we were assembled into groups of 12, told to roll-up our waterproof pants so that they wouldn't get mucky, then we zipped up our required red Antarctica parkas, added our hats and gloves, then made our way down 2 decks to the launch area where they ran us through the life vest assembly line. Our orders are to have anything loose in our right hand since the vests go on over your left arm, then your head. Then they take the belt around the back and lock it in on the right side.

It was a fairly quick trip across to the landing site. Once we got there, it was a bit muddy from the weather we've had. When the advance team goes over to prep for our landings, they put up cone and string barriers to keep us from getting too close to the penguins and their nests. There are also team members stationed around the observation area to help you in any unsteady spots, run traffic control so that the penguins always get the right of way. They also have all of our lecturing scientists stationed around to explain what we're seeing and answer our questions.

It seems that most of the crew has dual roles. They have their "day" jobs, plus their responsibilities during the zodiac landings. So, the spa manager may be strapping us into life jackets, while the fitness instructor is part of the crew at the landing site, and some of the housekeeping folks are "boot masters" scrubbing our boots down before we head back to the ship.

I just cannot explain how magnificent it is out here. The ice and thelight are simply incredible. Some if the "baby" burgs look as though they've been lit from below with blue neon. Really amazing! We keep hearing the pops and groans of the ice calving, but it never seems to happen where we can see it.

The penguins remind me of old slapstick comedy. They're so clumsy and awkward waddling by on land that I'm amazed they can get anywhere, but they're really graceful and efficient underwater. We were glad we weren't in the last zodiac groups, since we needed to shower and get dressed up for New Year's Eve.

We looked very sharp, had a lovely dinner together, and then headed for the multiple parties onboard. The "Six Pack" were without a doubt the most sharply dressed men on the ship. I got a great photo of some of them with Helen at dinner.

The disco party in the Charleston club wasn't hopping yet, so we went to the larger party in the Ambassador for the free champagne and balloon drop at midnight. After that, a huge group of us headed back to the disco party and danced well into the morning. It was a strange thing to be ducking out of the party to take more photos since it was still light outside. We got some great shots that night.

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