Antarctica…February 7, 2018…Rough seas update…A most unusual experience on an ice floe in the Polar Circle…Spectacular…

Both of us are raising a glass in celebration of this special occasion.

The Drake Passage continued to be rough, requiring we hold onto walls and railings when we walk throughout the ship with a degree of added difficulty while maneuvering in the cabin, especially in the bathroom and shower. Last night, the buffet where the 12 of us has dined together on most occasions was closed, and we had no choice but to eat in the main dining room.

I couldn’t resist lying down for this pose. How fun it was! We loved the sofa and a champagne bar on an ice floe in the Polar Circle.

Today, it’s settled down, and all dining areas will be open. However, this morning the ship continued to bob, occasionally jerk, and lurch from side to side. We haven’t heard anything from the bridge about the size of the swells or the speed of the winds, both of which we anticipate have been reasonably high.

Tom with icebergs in the background sitting on the sofa on the ice floe.

We’ve weathered it well with nary a moment of seasickness for which we’re incredibly grateful. Many passengers had no choice but to wear the seasickness patches or take medication to avert the uncomfortable sensations attributed to getting sick at sea.  But surprisingly, many passengers had no ill effects like us.

The wine steward, Laurent, served us French champagne.

Later today, we’ll arrive in Ushuaia, where the ship will spend the night. This afternoon, we’ll pack, leaving out enough clothing to get us through the next 24 hours. We’re baffled as to why the ship designated tonight as a “dress up” night when everyone needs to have their baggage ready for pickup around 10:00 or 11:00 pm. As a result, we’ll be casual tonight as usual.

It was fun to hold up our US flag on the ice floe.

Now, as the cruise winds down, I’m feeling a little sad to see it end. Without a doubt, this ranks in my top three experiences since we began traveling the world in October 2012. It’s an expensive once-in-a-lifetime adventure leaving us with photos, stories, and videos we’ll always regard as treasured memories.

The bar was set up on the ice floe earlier in the day, so everything was set and ready to go by the time we arrived.

We’re thrilled to be heading to Africa next since many other locations could be anticlimactic after this incredible experience. Africa won’t disappoint, and I expect we’ll handle the transition with ease, even with the vast difference in weather conditions. It will be hot for a while longer in South Africa during their hot and humid summer months. 

Tom was holding the “I crossed the Polar Circle” sign while sitting on the sofa.

Fortunately, we’ll have air conditioning in the bedroom, and we’ll spend most of our days outdoors on the veranda. As excited as we’ve been during this outstanding cruise, a slight tinge of excitement impacted me, knowing on February 11th, we’ll arrive in Mpumalanga, Nelspruit/Kruger, albeit very tired after the long flight with layovers, to commence the 90-minute drive to Marloth Park.

Both of us are holding the “I crossed the Polar Circle” sign.

We still have many Antarctic photos and videos we’ve yet to share. We will attempt to wrap them up while in Buenos Aires during our final two days in Palermo Soho while we reorganize our packing, get laundry done (we only hand-washed underwear on the cruise) and get ready upcoming long flight.

The sun was setting on the icy waters.

Tonight, we booked a table for 10 in the buffet for our final meal with our group of new friends.  We all prefer to dine in the buffet where the options are many and the food more appealing for all of us than in the main dining room with limited menu options. 

There is exquisite scenery at every turn.

Overall, Tom hasn’t been thrilled with the food (picky eater), but I found it suitable for my diet and don’t complain. As for food photos, I’ve yet to show many when food was the last thing on my mind during this adventure.

The sun was reflecting on the sea during daylight hours.

Today, we’re excited to share the photos of one of the most enjoyable events during the cruise, drinking French champagne, once again after a Zodiac boat ride, but this time, in the Arctic Circle on an ice floe, not while in the Zodiac as we shared a few days ago. This theatrical event left all of us reeling with sheer delight over the irony of the situation.

It was fascinating to see how the ship and Zodiac boats maneuvered through the ice-filled waters.

Who stands on an ice floe, sipping champagne? What an exquisite touch added to this magnificent cruise! We’re all still talking about it, along with all the other exceptional experiences we’ve had during this past almost 17 days and 16 nights.

Icebergs often develop into artistic designs.

Since we’ll be getting off the ship before 8 am tomorrow, this afternoon, we hope to have time to prepare tomorrow’s post with the “final expenses” to upload around our usual earlier time of the day automatically. We’ll be adding “favorite photos” in the two or three posts we’ll prepare in Buenos Aires.

A single Crabcatcher Seal on an ice floe.

If, for some reason, we can’t get tomorrow’s post done today, we’ll finish it once we arrive in Palermo later in the day. In other words, there will be a post tomorrow, but at this point, the exact time is up for grabs.

It has been exciting to see wildlife sunning on ice floes.
My knee has greatly improved after the ship’s doctor provided excellent medical care, and we’re both feeling well and ready to tackle this next leg of our journey.
Another Crabcathcer Seal was lounging on an ice floe.

Stay well. Stay happy and please, stay tuned for more. 

Photo from one year ago today, February 7, 2017:
A white sand beach in Dover, Tasmania. For more photos, please click here.

Antarctica – February 4, 2018…A rare opportunity for travelers…We’re in the Polar Circle..Paradise Bay nd Pleneau…

This is where we are now, the Polar Circle. The ship hosted an outdoor barbecue today. It was outstanding! Soon, we’ll be boarding the Zodiacs again to explore this area.

What can we say? There are no words to describe the joy we felt this morning as we crossed into the Polar Circle, heading as far south as this ship is allowed in these waters as the sea heaved up and down congested in ice. This incredible experience has left us reeling in awe and love with this mysterious place, Antarctica.

The deep blue in the iceberg is due to crevices in the ice.

There are no hotels, no restaurants, no tourist traps, and no roads or highways. There is ice, ocean, and wildlife only accessible by sea or air, with only a handful of visitors allowed to enter each year (around 37,000) and a mere 30,000 worldwide allowed to step onto its islands and glaciers to partake of its majestic beauty, Antarctica.

We’d never have been satisfied to embark on one of the “cruising only,” non-expedition type cruises that the other 30,000 passengers experience. These numbers aren’t exact but estimated since the records we could find online don’t break it down for “cruising only.
Pristine landscape in Antarctica.

It wouldn’t have been enough for us to “cruise by.” Getting up close and personal with the wildlife and the terrain has changed us, as we’ve changed in many ways over these past 5¼ years since we began our journey.

Each iceberg has its distinct shape and design, a product of nature.

Do we feel lucky? Ah, we’re beyond such a flippant perception of good fortune befalling upon one’s head. We worked hard for this.  We sacrificed a lot to be here. We scrimped. We saved. We lived frugally. 

Two years ago, we booked this cruise knowing it wasn’t within the realm of our usual budget, and we’d have to tighten our belts to make it happen. 
Many icebergs create spectacular shapes, portals, and openings.

And, we did. Living a life of perpetual travel requires us to pick and choose what matters most to us carefully. Our decisions may not appeal to the average traveler. 

A closer view of the above photo.

Many travelers seek to fulfill their objectives of visiting specific sites when they arrive at their preferred destination. Often, they have only one or two weeks to accomplish this. And, once they do, they’re content and satisfied. We get this. 

During each maneuver in the Zodiac, the scene becomes more unique.

Had I traveled more in our old lives, we’d have felt the same way…see and do as much as possible, in a limited period, going home from the vacation/holiday to face a precise routine. 

They have to unpack, do laundry, clean the refrigerator, and head to the market, the health club, and ultimately, if applicable, the office or another place of employment. 

At times, we all talked about how unreal it is to be in this magical place.

On the few occasions we were able to travel, we experienced all of these. But, now, it’s different. We feel no sense of urgency other than to catch a flight, board a cruise and get ourselves to or from the following location. 

At times, the water was calm and almost still.

Instead, we embrace the moment, longing for nothing, remembering everything emblazoned in our hearts and minds, or from the simple task of checking one of our previous posts now numbering at 2015 posts as of today. 

How we got here baffles us. It baffles us in the same way as this morning at 6:40 am when our captain announced over the loudspeaker in our cabin that we’d all better look outside “where the big show was going on.”

When we spotted this massive ten-story circle, we all squealed with delight, knowing we’d be able to get closer.

We’re in the Polar Circle, for an ice show one can only imagine.  We grabbed the two cameras and began taking photos of the spectacular display. Oh, Mother Nature, what glorious gifts you have bestowed upon us. 

Today, we share only a handful of photos from a stockpile into the 1000’s that in itself has kept us busy trying to determine which we can use to share with you here, based on the limitations of the Wi-Fi connection in this remote part of the world.
Tom, who’s always seen images in clouds, did the same with the icebergs, seeing a face here.
Our main photo was taken this morning standing on our veranda.  The remaining images are from yesterday morning and afternoon visits to Paradise Bay on foot and Pleneau when we were on a Zodiac boat with friends Marg and Steve as the four of us toured together with a fabulous naturalist, Marie, who drove the boat and explained details to us as to the sightings we encountered.
We’ll continue to do our best to keep it all sorted out based on our previous day’s location and the current day. Thank you for sharing this experience with us.
We had to keep our distance from this delicate structure which would be a disaster for us in the small boat, where it to collapse near us.

P.S. As I prepare this post today, we can hear the roar of the ship cutting through the ice as we head toward the Drake Passage on our way back to civilization. Wow!

              Photo from one year ago today, February 4, 2017:
At first glance at the Huon Valley Visitors Centre, we thought these were baguettes, big and small, when in fact, they were rolling pins. For more photos, please click here.