Antarctica Day 3

I got to sleep pretty easily thanks in part to the calm waters of the Beagle Channel but it was largely down to the Profergan. My brain had gone into zombie mode so it was easy to coax it into sleep from there but I was lurched awake at around 11.30pm. That’ll be the Drake Passage then. I did mostly sleep I think but every time there was a particularly large swell I woke up with the immediate thought of, “WE’RE GONNA DIE!”

Every day they’d put a daily schedule up with information on meal times, lectures, and eventually hoped-for zodiac landings etc.

I dramatise for effect. It was actually not too awful, it wasn’t half as bad as I thought it was going to be but apparently, by Drake Passage standards this was fuck all. We’d been blessed by the weather gods. Show me the deity I need to thank for the water not being hell bent on trying to kill us please, and I’ll sacrifice them a penguin.

Sorry guys, not the most interesting photos today given the fact all I did was watch lectures, stare at birds and apply disgusting quantities of food to my facehole. And yes, I definitely went back to get cereal after I’d wolfed this down.

Breakfast was decent, it was a buffet affair. I tentatively introduced a good quantity of food to my stomach and willed it to stay in place. So far so good. The resident geologist, Keith, was giving a lecture on ice and shit in the lounge so we were watching that but I could barely keep my eyes open. Not because what he was saying wasn’t fascinating, it very much was, but between the tablet still very much wrapping my brain up in cotton wool and the broken sleep I was knackered.

Here’s Keith giving us a lecture. In his words he knows about rocks and ice and not much else, but I think what he doesn’t know about rocks and ice aren’t worth knowing.

Add to that the fact my limbs refused to obey me as the boat gently pitched and rolled and I might as well have been ten pints in without the erratic dancing and drooling on my own shoes. Tarrant had taken a different seasickness tablet but it had nicked off with her basic motor functions and she was struggling too. Fuck it. We went back to bed for a couple of hours.

Fun fact: This is what Antarctica would look like with no ice.

By the time lunch came around it’s not like we were hungry, I feel like we’d only just had breakfast, but it’s free food. Well it’s not, we’ve already paid for it, but still. I couldn’t bring myself to turn down the lunch buffet. I justified being an utter, utter glutton by having fruit afterwards because it’s health food init and definitely cancels out the bacon and eggs I applied very liberally to my facehole this morning.

The vast nothingness of the Drake Passage. This would be classed as Drake Lake, not the usual Drake Shake, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

After lunch was the mandatory zodiac briefing and if you didn’t attend you weren’t going to be getting off the ship. Zodiacs are the little rubber boats they use to take you from the G Expedition to the continent. It’s all very exciting. We were told all manner of things such as how to safely get on and off one of these boats, how to put the life jacket on, how… to… stuff and things. It was a very important lecture so obviously I’ve forgotten the vast majority of it and will likely favour a “head first whilst flailing” technique for entering and exiting the zodiacs.

This is Lyn telling us all about birds. She showed us photos and explained how to identify them.

Then we were called down to deck 2 for vacuuming. So this is something else we were told. It’s so fucking important to preserve Antarctica and the animals that live there so we had to present any outerwear that wasn’t brand new so it could be inspected for seeds, and the backpacks we’d be landing with were vacuumed inside and out. Then we were sent off to get the boots we were going to be wearing for the landings, and that was it. We were ready when the continent was.

This is a petrel. It’s got a fuck off big tube on top of its nose. Apologies for the blurry bird photos but they’re fast, unpredictable fuckers and my camera isn’t designed for wildlife.

I was worried that we’d get bored on the Passage and downloaded a couple of books but they keep you busy. That afternoon we went to hear Lyn, the ornithologist, talk about the various seabirds we might be lucky enough to see. It was so interesting. She told us all about gulls, terns and prions, and she explained how seabirds deal with the salinity and the cold of life at sea.

This is an albatross. Also a tubenose but the tubes are less visible.

Obviously their feathers offer insulation and waterproofing (fun cormorant fact: Antarctic cormorants have waterproofing so they don’t literally freeze but their counterparts in say, Shoreham-by-Sea don’t which is why you’ll see them drying their feathers), and their feet are webbed for swimming. Then there are the tubenoses. Petrels and albatross are tubenoses which means they have actual tubes on their beaks with grooves running from tube to the end of their beak to drain off the saltwater.

This is a… painted flappy boi… I have a terrible memory.

We spent quite a bit of time on deck today (when we weren’t napping because naps are life) which is amazing for both bird spotting and putting our newfound knowledge to the test, and quashing any fledgling feelings of nausea. Given the fact the Passage wasn’t too rough, the forecast was still good, and the tablets render me a useless drooling slob I’d decided to try and not take one. Obviously if I turn a fetching shade of green I would rethink that but until then I’d see how I went.

Braving the deck in my well sexy new coat. G Adventures provided us with warm, waterproof parkas which are ours to keep forever. It’ll probably cost me the price of the coat to ship it home.

That evening, just before dinner, we were all invited to the lounge for a free champagne and to be introduced to the Captain and the senior staff. He seemed lovely. I really didn’t need the champagne though, I was doing alright until that point. I thought I might skip dinner until a call went over the PA that a wandering albatross had been spotted, a bird with the longest wingspan in the world, and wildlife is basically the reason we were here so I threw on my nice new coat that they’d given us all for keeps and went up to see it.

As I said, all I fucking did today was eat.

It was pretty fucking cool albeit too far away to get a good photo with my camera, and now I felt much better so I found Tarrant in the dining room and had a bit of food. They really do stuff you like a fois gras goose. Three decent meals a day plus snacks. We’d brought snacks with us but I don’t think we’re going to touch them, they’ll do as hiking snacks when we get back to Ushuaia. I’m going to be a right tubby fucker by the time we return, we’re going to need to go hiking just so I can get my trousers to fit again.

This is Craig, our resident musician. He’s very talented and also hilarious.

So before dinner Mario had told us that due to the water being so (relatively) calm we were making quite good time across the Passage and we might actually sight the South Shetland Islands tomorrow afternoon which is beyond exciting. There’s a 50/50 chance that we might be able to land on them too but conditions are rarely right for this so we’re not to get our hopes up. Yeah nah, too late. Hopes are up. Fingers crossed for excellent weather for the next few days. We crossed the Antarctic Convergence today which Keith had educated us all on in the morning so I guess for all intents and purposes we’ve actually reached the Antarctic.

🇦🇶 The Drake Passage, Antarctica

Stayed at: On board the G Expedition

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