We navigated to a passage, which was just indescribable, but ill try. A large bay with probably 10 table icebergs, each are about the size of a football field and range in height from 20 feet to some size I cant even guess – let’s just say large, and countless smaller chunks – probably too many to count – and they are not trivial. Snow covered mountains and glaciers all around us. Every sense that you have is working overtime.
You just have to remember that the Antarctic is about 5 million square kilometers of ice and snow and it’s a continent. Very different than the arctic which has limited snow and is not a continent on it’s own. The Antarctic is just snow and glaciers and that’s about it. It is surrounded by water but only on the outside of the continent and no water inside. It also has among the highest winds in the world.
So we disembarked to go on a zodiac ride for about an hour around the bay. As I said, eye dropping. A little choppy, but not too much. So we dodged inside and outside of icebergs on the zodiac. After the ride was complete, we went onto land where we were met by hundreds of penguins. Totally fearless, just doing their thing. They get close to us but again, all guests are mature enough to let them have right-of-way and they just scoot past us. More penguins than you can imagine in this most beautiful surroundings of glaciers, bergs and a great pretty slippery and steep hill that we climbed to get a panoramic view. All in all, we spent about 2 hours on land taking pictures of these incredible surrounds and our hosts, the penguins helped since they are so photogenic.
We then departed that island around noon and we did something that made the trip – full stop. I can go home now.
The ship was headed to our next destination and we hit a roadblock. Seriously, a roadblock. The entire passage was full of ice covered in snow. In the Antarctica, the winds get horrible. As discussed, yesterday, the winds hit 70-80 miles per hour – hurricane category 1 winds. When the wind picks up – so does the loose ice on the water. It gets together and creates an obstacle that can not be altered by even this massive icebreaker. One day the passage can be clear and the next, its not passible. Really is totally unpredictable. The crew do a great job explaining all this to guests two times per day in a gathering with presentations. The captain alters destinations based on that days knowledge of the passageway.
I wont be able to give you the kind of feeling I felt, but Paula and I went up to the bridge since it is fully open to guests as crazy as that sounds. 20 guests were there while the Captain and his crew were managing the boat under power. Let me get to the point – we used the ice breaking design of the ship to break about 5 miles of tightly packed ice – 3 or 5 feet thick. Imagine that the ship is grinding, breaking and dodging the passage with all sorts of scratching noises. I have to also say that you feel the ship bend. Really, you feel it bend. Its pretty uncomfortable, but it is Incredible! I could not believe my eyes. Nobody will ever see that again – never. This ship is a fucking icebreaker and we used it as one. The ship weaves away from the giant pieces but 3-5 foot solid ice is no problem. When navigating on this ship, you get used to lots of turns and aggressively angled maneuvers to avoid iceberg obstacles. That happens all the time, but to break thick ice, that is a bit scary.
Paula and I were witnessing the captain and his aids in their wheelhouse, literally. The captain was definitely focused and every so often cracked a joke to loosen the anxiety and astonishment of the guests.
The captain kept driving along his path and hit another roadblock that was possibly 10-foot thick ice so he went another way to get to our final landing position 3 hours later. Again, we ended up in a full sheet of ice and the captain lodged the ship into it and we had dinner literally stuck into the ice. No need for anchors. Just the nose lodged into the thick ice.
When it was time to leave at 9 pm to haul out to our next location, the captain turned the ship around by breaking the ice we were lodged in and did a full circle by cracking 5-10 foot ice. I’m still in shock.
Can’t explain, sorry. Just can’t explain how I feel. We are in the most beautiful surroundings with blue snow and ice, huge bergs and a ship that dodges and weaves the entire time at sea.
Never in my life will I ever see this again.