Early Monday morning we sailed through the Lemaire Channel on the M/V Antarctic Dream. It is a very narrow and scenic channel, but the weather was too foggy to see much of it. The first landing was at Yalour Islands, where we got to see the adÃ©lie penguins, that we had not seen before. In the afternoon we did a zodiac tour among some large icebergs near PlÃ©neau Island. Even after a few days in Antarctica, it was still amazing to see these huge blocks of ice. We even managed to see a leopard seal sleeping peacefully on one of them. In the afternoon we went back through Lemaire Channel, and this time the sky was clear, and the scenery was breathtaking. In the evening we anchoraged at Port Lockroy, the UK base-turned-museum.
On Christmas Day (Tuesday) morning we did a landing at Jougla Point first, watching more penguins, but also some cormorants, a crabeater seal and some large whale bones. Then a zodiac took us to Goudier Island, where Base A of the UK was located. Bransfield House is now Antarctica’s most popular museum (17.000 visitors in 2006/2007). It also has the largest souvenir shop, and since all proceeds go to preservation of Antarctic heretage, I decided to buy an overpriced polar fleece here.
Christmas Day afternoon we tried to get to Enterprise Island, but there was still quite some ice in Wilhelmina Bay. That did not stop our expedition leader, and we moved through the ice until we got stuck, moving back, and trying again. After 5 attempts we had created 400m long canal through the ice, but it was decided to abort there, and move on with the expedition. A white Christmas was basically created by almost completely surrounding the ship by ice. And being on an ice-breaking ship was really cool, since there are not that many ships able to do this in the first place. Before the M/V Antarctic Dream became an Antarctic Expeditions vessel, it served in the Chilean Navy, and therefore has a extra-strenghtened hull. After cocktails in the evening, we had our Christmas dinner with the new friends during the trip, very nice.
Wednesday we arrived at Deception Island, one of the world’s safest natural harbours, even though it is still volcanically active. We did the most difficult landing so far, because it was very windy and we landed on a sandy beach. That meant the waves were getting into the zodiac while we were landing, and I got some icy water into my left boot. Luckily that dried up during the hike onto the hill overlooking Telefon Bay. From the hill we could see the landscape formed by the recent eruptions. The waves hitting the zodiac on the way back were even worse, and this time my right foot got all wet. It is a good thing the hot showers on the ship are working perfectly, since it is the best way to become warm after a cold landing. They would also have come in handy after the planned swim at Pendulum Cove, and everybody was really looking forward to a swim in thermally heated water in the Antarctic. Unfortunately there was still too much ice to reach it.
On Thursday the Drake Passage was quite OK again to the point where an engine room tour was organised. You could really tell the people working there were proud of their work, because everything was very clean. The rest of the day I spent sorting out my photos, making sure to type everything in before I would forget it. Friday morning I got up at 6AM to see Cape Horn, the Southermost point of South America.
On Friday evening the expedition leader gave a recap, and after that we had some cocktails and a large farewell dinner. As had become usual, there was way more food than anyone could eat. Since we already arrived in Ushuaia in the evening, we got off the ship after dinner and went to a few bars. It was early in the morning when we arrived back on the ship, allowing only a few hours of sleep before breakfast and checkout. It was a good end to an amazing trip.