Classic Antarctica Trip Log (27 Dec, 2017 - 8 Jan, 2018) - Sunday, Dec 31

Sunday, December 31: Antarctica Sound, New Year's Eve
January 2018

"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art-write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself." Neil Gaiman. An unusual New Year wish, and wonderful, hence its inclusion today. Greatest surprise for me is being in Antarctica on an expedition ship, and early this morning we found ourselves in the Antarctic Sound, surrounded by thousands of icebergs. ‘Le Lyrial’ slows down as we find a way through this labyrinth of ice, in a scene beautiful beyond description. Agustin Ullmann, Expedition Leader, last evening shared with our guests that we would be landing at Brown Bluff, then showed a picture of this big brown bluff, in a perfectly timed bit of humor. Plenty of snow overnight, however, has rendered it a big white bluff, with a myriad icebergs separating the shore from our ship.

The team were off by 6:30 a.m. to scout the landing. Just magnificent, with no wind and gently falling snow. The Bridge commented on a 2 meter tidal difference between the beginning and end of our proposed landing, creating challenges for the Zodiac drivers as the approaches are extremely rocky. Once again, witnessing guests approaching an Antarctic shore for the first time, with Penguins aplenty, icebergs in all directions, seabirds overhead and a landscape like no other is heart-warming. Most guests were snapping away at Penguins before the Zodiacs landed, incredulous at the proximity of these emblematic little birds in tuxedos. Today, we were fortunate to see large breeding colonies of Gentoo and Adelie Penguins with small chicks, and some rather out of place Chinstraps. To see three species of Penguin on the very first landing, along with a large Leopard Seal on the nearby ice floe makes for a very auspicious start to this Antarctic expedition. The Leopard Seal looked extremely well-fed, no doubt feasting on the abundant Penguins hereabouts. In the cliffs above, breed Snow Petrels, Cape Petrels, Kelp Gulls and Skuas-keen eyes and binoculars required to view them with any ease. Interesting to note how many guests are carrying phones as primary cameras now. During the 4 hours on shore, the water level dropped by 2 meters, and the temperature rose 5 degrees Centigrade, from 1-6 C. Many icebergs broke or rolled during our sojourn ashore, reminding all of the dangers of approaching icebergs too closely with a Zodiac.

During the afternoon, guests were taken on Zodiacs amongst the icebergs around Goudin Island. The guests enjoyed incredible sightings of Weddell, Leopard and Crabeater Seals, 3 species of Penguin, and 3 species of Seal recorded today. In mirror calm conditions, and pleasant temperatures this Antarctic masterpiece presented an utterly appropriate end to 2017.

It was gratifying watching happy, smiling faces returning from the Zodiac cruise-clearly today's activities have been a fantastic "starter" for these guests' Classic Antarctica expedition. This navigation through a maze of icebergs practically all day has been sensational with so many flat-topped tabular examples about the ship. The crew displaying special skill in unloading and loading the Zodiacs. Early this morning the first Zodiacs were deployed with the ship still in motion, and indeed after the Zodiac cruise this afternoon the last Zodiacs go "on the hook" with the vessel already moving off towards our next destination. For those unfamiliar with expedition ships, the Zodiacs are stored on the very top of the ship, and lowered/raised by crane, hence the term on the hook. During the afternoon, ten Zodiacs, plus two twin-engine safety boats were in the water for the entire operation. The 60 horsepower, four-stroke Mariner engines with electric trim rendering great service. How they cope with being exploded to life in these frigid temperatures is interesting.

A fun Recaps/Precaps was had with Patri presenting on Penguin behavior, before Agustin explained our landings tomorrow at Half-moon Island, and Deception Island. The kitchen served a glorious New Year's Eve dinner for everyone on board in Le Celeste restaurant, before the music began in various venues on board in preparation for midnight. Wishing you all a wonderful, safe, blessed 2018.

Click Here to read 'Monday, January 1: Halfmoon and Deception Islands, New Year's Day'