Antarctica, The Final Episode

Read part one and part two about visiting Antarctica.

Breaking The Ice

One of the coolest parts of the trip for me was seeing the ice. It was still early in the summer, and a lot of the ice hadn’t yet melted. In fact, none of the expedition staff had ever seen that much ice. The Vavilov had a reinforced hull, and plowed through the brash ice like a hot knife through butter:

The other amazing thing about the ice were the colors! I got a taste of the amazing blues I’d see when I hiked the Perito Moreno glacier in Calafate, but some of the blues and whites were absolutely stunning.

Who Lives in Antarctica

We stopped at two bases. Vernadsky Station is a Ukrainian research base with 13 guys. They hadn’t seen anybody else since the last boats came through there in March. They were stoked to see us, and particularly stoked to see the women on our trip. This was the place where the intrepid scientists there first noticed global warming. The guys here were super friendly, even making surprisingly good homebrew and doing vodka shots with us at their bar.Shooting Ukrainian Homebrew
Shooting Ukrainian homebrew

The second base was called Port Lockroy. It’s a British station with four people stationed there for six months at a time. I couldn’t believe people actually lived there – it looked more like a museum showing how people lived there back in the day. It had a gift shop, several museumy-like rooms, and one big room where all four people slept. There were no showers – people showered on passing ships (and there are none in the winter). I asked them what they did during the day, and their tasks were:

port lockroy
Port Lockroy was old school

Seemed like it would be a fascinating experience, but it also seemed like there wasn’t a hell of a lot to do!

Deception Island

We hit Deception Island on the last day before heading back across the Drake to Argentina. Deception Island was an abandoned sealing and whaling base that was run by Norwegians. It was my favorite excursion for several reasons.abandoned boat
Abandoned whaling boat

First, we landed in the driving snow. The sky was overcast but the sun was barely shining through the haze. Everybody was bundled up, and the uniformity of the rented pants and jackets made it seem like everybody was wearing a space suit. The combination of obscured sun, the snow, the spacesuits, the abandoned buildings and boats, and the absence of tons of penguins made Deception Island seem like another planet. sun
Another planet

Second, there was a lot of talk about the natural hot springs at Deception Island. A couple of staff members dug a hole down to the hot springs, and a few of us brave (or crazy) passengers geared down and jumped in. The water was actually quite warm compared to how cold it felt when standing in my boxers in the driving wind and snow!hot springs

And finally, before the swim, I completed a Crossfit workout in Antarctica. The nerdiest video I’ve made in my life (of said workout) is forthcoming :)

Rounding Cape Horn

On our way back, the Drake was pretty mild, though the second was the roughest of them all. A few guests prayed to the porcelain gods, but I just slept for much of the time.

We rounded Cape Horn, getting within three nautical miles thanks to some deft negotiations with the Chileans by Carolina, an Argentine staff member. This was closer than any of the staff had ever been, which was pretty awesome. The Horn is the southernmost part of South America and was a major trade route until the Panama Canal opened. The winds, waves, currents, and icebergs make it treacherous, and many ships were wrecked here. Though, as usual, it was fairly calm when we rounded it. cape horn
Three nautical miles from Cape Horn

The Food

A couple of people have asked me about the food on the ship. Here’s what it was: pretty tasty, and friggin plentiful. There were 5 meals: breakfast, lunch, tea time, happy hour, and dinner. Cakes, pies, cookies, etc were served at all but breakfast. At lunch and dinner there were always veggie, fish, and meat options. Being vegan on the ship would’ve involved bringing a lot of one’s own food. But if you weren’t vegan, you definitely wouldn’t go hungry.

One More Thing

There was an amazing photographer named Jordan Manley on the ship, who took some incredible time lapse videos on the ship. It’s pretty incredible:

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