chilling feet

chilling feet

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Antarctica By Boat

(Antarctica and it's vast landscapes - not the two
tiny zodiacs with around twenty people in them)
I have mentioned before how amazingly mobile my wife's job can be. It's truly amazing in every sense of the word. Sometimes we travel just for fun but she has worked it out so that usually when we travel she is work-cationing. Is it too late to go back and become an emergency medicine physician? Maybe. And besides most of the places she goes/we go as I tag along, are often places where only one doc is needed. So even if I were a physician I would be coming along in other various roles just as I do now. In the case of this trip, I come along simply as a passenger. It's not a bad way to go, and there are certainly worse options. It does confirm the job title I gave myself when we were opening a bank account a few years ago in New Zealand. When the lady asked me my job title I floundered a little on how to describe my role of an unemployed husband following my wife around the world. She said, "You're a man of leisure then?" And something about the way a Kiwi says the word leisure sounds way better. "Yes ma'am, I am a man of leisure." Do I love that the title is ambiguous and perhaps even misleading? Yes. So, as an international man of leisure, I write this post about one of the best ways to spend time in said profession - on a cruise boat in the Antarctic waters. 

(Some beautiful Crabeater Seals laying out on some ice. One is as curious about us as we were about it)

(I like this photo as it shows the thick ice, algae,
and a bunch of Adelie penguins - some of the first
I have ever seen. Such cute little fellas)
A few years back Sarah applied for a job working as a doctor for a cruise boat company called Quark. They take passengers on expeditions to the wonderfully hard to reach wonders of the Arctic and Antarctic waters. By clicking on this line you can read about one of the three posts I wrote describing our Arctic trip (warning as there are amazing photos of polar bears!). We had a fantastic trip and had been looking forward to any other adventures we might be able to make possible through such spectacular opportunities to travel in the vast areas near either of the poles. As we were finishing our time at the South Pole, Sarah started looking into this seasons possible trips through Quark and applied for a few. Long story short, she landed three trips to the waters just off Antarctic Peninsula! She packed her bags and headed off for the first two, and as her companion I was granted access to joining her for the third and longest of her expeditions. For anyone who asked why we would go back to Antarctica after having lived at the South Pole (click here for the first of many South Pole posts), this post should quell any more questions. While on this note though, I can safely say the experiences I have had in the Arctic and Antarctic have only made me want to visit both of them again and again.  Each trip misses animals on the list of those we both want to see. Every trip takes us somewhere we have never been but misses some other wondrous island or historically charged spot we have not managed to make it to yet. Why again? I think the pictures will do most of the talking. If anyone is still not convinced just ask me and I'll come talk to you.

(Some Gentoo chicks just hanging out and waiting for a parent to bring back a meal)

(Notice the one penguin who looks different?
That is a King Penguin!)
The trip was a blast! We saw penguins (Adelies, Gentoos, Chinstraps, and one King penguin), whales (mostly lots of Humpbacks, but also two Minke whales - no Orcas for me but Sarah did see some on her first two trips), seals (so many Crabeaters, Fur seals, Leopard seals, a few elephant seals, and some Wedell seals), and so many different kinds of Antarctic birds. I think instead of writing a long post attempting to describe the wonders of this trip, I will simply share some of the photos. Hopefully there will be an official story through one of the Guideposts magazines I can share later about some of the experiences we had with the animals, but for now I'll keep it short and sweet. The whales stole the show! We had some Humpbacks who decided to just come up one day and give us about a fifteen minute investigation. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! Such enormous creatures just gently lazing on the surface, peering up at us through the water with the massive eyes. Such a fun time! Pictures!!   

(Sometimes the formations of icebergs are just as beautiful as anything else)

(One of the highlights was visiting Vernadsky
station. Super fun to be hosted by such friendly
folks)
We also were able to make several landings to old stations, abandoned whaling stations, and even a station still in use for scientific research. These were certainly fantastic experiences as well. After wintering-over at the South Pole, it was unique to see how other people have lived or are living at their stations in other parts of the Antarctic. The coastal stations are quite different from one 800 miles inland. Really neat to note the differences and similarities. More pictures!! These are just some of the best we took. Hundreds more of course.
(No caption necessary)
(Sarah driving a zodiac. She's so cool)
(Penguin highway! Ruts in the ice caused by continuous penguin trekking up and down the ice. Pretty fun to watch them awkwardly make their way up and down these paths)
(The up close experience with the Humpback whales. That's me taking a video in the front of the boat - wowsers!)
(So many penguins!!)
(I did not ask this guy to come and jump up on a rock and pose, but it happened right in front of me)
(Fur seals play and spar at an old abandoned whaling station)
(Sarah stops to take some pics of remnants left over from the whaling station. Thank goodness this time of history is mostly over. It still happens but not in the same way as before)
(A still shot from the video I took of the two humpback whales just inches from my face. Sarah was unfortunately not in one of the three boats that had this amazing experience, but she has had several encounters I was absent for... so I feel bad but not too bad)
(Such dignity, beauty, and wonderful curiosity. I am so glad these gentle giants are more free than they used to be to roam the seas free of the dangers of a whaling industry. They are still recovering but are on their way. After this experience it was heart wrenching to consider them coming up to investigate our boats only to be harpooned and drug ashore. This should not be the fate of any whale)

(One of the few abandoned stations we visited)
(My first ever Leopard Seal!!!!! Wow. No wonder the penguin in Happy Feet was so afraid of these guys. This seal was huge and it was probably not a full grown leopard seal at all!)
(The defining moment of the trip - when two Humpback whales decided to make our day by spending time with us. The photo with us in the boat shows just how close they really were)