Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands Trip Log (12 - 28 Dec 2017) – Sunday, Dec 24

Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands Trip Log (12 - 28 Dec 2017) – Sunday, Dec 24
January 2018
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Many guests left their curtains open last evening (far less chance of bird strikes here than South Georgia) to enjoy the constantly falling snow. Snow has not stopped falling since we arrived at Whaler's Bay yesterday, and what an incredible experience to see the snow accumulating on our decks and balconies. With two hours of what would be called twilight between midnight and 2:27 a.m., the scene beyond the windows is surreal. The expedition ship moved from Whaler's Bay in Deception Island, between the South Shetlands and Antarctic Peninsula, southwards to Cuverville Island. In beautiful weather, we anchored off Cuverville, situated at the northern end of the Errera Channel, just off the west coast of Graham Land. Named by Belgian de Gerlache in 1898 after a vice Admiral in the French Navy, and home to a wealth of breeding birds. This tiny island finds itself in a wonderland of mountains, glaciers and icebergs between Ronge Island and the Antarctic Peninsula. Guests were given opportunity to take a steep hike in deep snow, up to a high vantage point, and see colonies of nesting Gentoo Penguins. Many took the vigorous hike option first, whilst others remained closer to the landing site and breeding penguins. Icebergs regularly broke up or rolled over in the bay, highlighting the dangers of being close to these behemoths in a Zodiac. The nearby glacier producing sounds like distant artillery as the ice cracked, and we saw two significant avalanches of snow. Temperatures were almost balmy for this part of the world, with no wind, our guests could not have imagined a finer scene. One Thai Chi master set up a video camera and filmed himself going through a class of one, penguins and icebergs behind, and was regularly photographed by passing guests. En route back to ‘Le Lyrial,’ Zodiac tours through the icebergs were taken, to everyone's delight.

Our Captain then deftly steered the ship through the Errera Channel, a very narrow body of water and choked with icebergs. The water depth hereabouts is 460 feet (140 meters), so icebergs are probably resting on the sea bottom, but move with changing tides. As a result a Zodiac is sent off to scout the passage, and conditions vary almost daily. In this area known as the Antarctic Alps, guests were out on decks still deep with last night's snow, marvelling at their surroundings. On an ocean as calm as a millpond with icebergs all about us, the scene is impossible to capture on camera. A Zodiac travelled alongside to photograph and video ‘Le Lyrial’ in this breathtaking scene. Minke Whales, the smallest of the Baleen Whales swam alongside the ship.

Over lunch, ‘Le Lyrial’ ventured into Paradise Bay, utterly appropriately named on account of the staggering visual beauty of the place. Humpback Whales surface close to the ship, and penguins swimming about us makes for a truly magical scene on these calm waters. Islands protecting us from the weather patterns of the Drake, and the Peninsula protecting us from the winds and gyre of the Weddell Sea. The afternoon was spent at the old Almirante Brown Argentinian station in Paradise Bay. The location affords guests the opportunity to walk up the hill behind the unused station, offering the most breathtaking views over this Antarctic jewel. Many guests chose to slide back down the hill, proving that it is never too late to have a happy childhood. The atmosphere heightened by Christmas Eve and the most gorgeous weather. The visit was rounded off with a Zodiac tour, which included a surprise "bar boat" stop offering champagne. Having said this before, operators in Antarctica dream of offering their guests days like these-utter magic. Whales entertaining us on all sides, penguins porpoising through calm, flat seas. Cherry on the top being that this is our proper Antarctic landing-the dream fulfilled of standing on Antarctica.

The Expedition Team led the guests in singing Christmas carols before dinner. The Young Explorers joined us, Bradley (guest) played the piano beautifully. Captain Le Rouzic graciously joined us, and led Jingle Bells in French. A thoroughly good time was had by all, with a special feeling of fellowship and camaraderie on Christmas Eve. Everyone enjoyed dinner in Le Celeste restaurant, and the kitchen produced a magnificent evening meal, accompanied by the staff singing songs. As if this day could get any better, ‘Le Lyrial’ sailed through the Lemaire Channel after dinner. Known by various names like Fujichrome Fjord, Kodachrome Alley; this 7-mile channel deserves its reputation as one of the most photographed spots in Antarctica. With perfect reflections on calm waters, the mountains and glaciers plunge into the ocean, creating a quite indescribable kaleidoscope of grandeur. As Sassoon so significantly wrote-Measure life not by the number of breaths one takes, but rather by the number of times life takes your breath away. I believe Christmas Eve 2017 will be seared forever into the minds of every guest on board, as one of their life highlights.

Click here to read 'Monday, December 25: Christmas Day Exploring Salpetriere Bay and Port Charcot'

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