Antarctic Expedition Ships and Zodiac Etiquette

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February 21st 2020
Published: March 23rd 2020
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King PenguinsKing PenguinsKing Penguins

Coming in our next blog.
In the beginning:

Our most recent blog was an example of how we just could not wait to share our experiences. We simply could not help ourselves and wanted to jump into our trip to tell you about the breath-taking Falkland Islands and show you some penguins, which are so amazingly cute. It was also an attempt to capture your interest so that you will continue to read along. Okay…mission accomplished (or so we think).

At this point, we will take a quick step back now and tell you about the beginning of our trip and our orientation to life at sea. All told, we were gone a little over three weeks. Three weeks on a ship might seem lengthy, but we would let you know it went by blazingly fast. Included in our journey were “sailing days.” It takes a ship a while to get from point A to point B in this part of the world, so it was the norm to spend two days and sometimes a bit more just sailing along. We want to give you an idea of what life is like when you take one this fantastic trip.

Other than the wildlife
Boarding the ZodiacsBoarding the ZodiacsBoarding the Zodiacs

Gangway from boat.
and raw beauty, the greatest thing about this trip was meeting interesting and amazing people. We guess traveling to the 7th Continent draws the unique and quirky and certainly all of you know we fit into that group extremely well. Well, we met “our tribe” on this journey. We had the pleasure to meet and get to know some wonderfully interesting people and it was a fantastic to share this experience with them.

We vowed to meet as many people on the ship as we could. With three weeks and 199 guests, certainly we would have ample opportunities. As you know we love meeting new people and we wanted to know their stories. Early on every time we entered the dining hall, we looked for new people to talk with……and we loved it. It was an adventure! We did well in the beginning and met a great number of people. By week two we found ourselves drifting back to a group of people who had become friends. Three of the people we hung out with the most were actually at our breakfast table at the hotel in Buenos Aires. This was even before we flew the four hours to
Zooming around in ZodiacsZooming around in ZodiacsZooming around in Zodiacs

Riding the Southern Ocean
Ushuaia. Even in week three we drifted off to meet new people, but we were beginning to give up because we found a group of people we truly enjoyed and missed them when we were sitting with others. Yes, we are already in email contact with our new friends and feel like they will be in our lives for years to come and possibly travel with them in the future. You know who you are!... UK, Canada, New Hampshire, Japan, Australia. We miss you.

The Epic Adventure Begins

Ushuaia is a small city on the water surrounded by mountains with wicked winds. Proclaimed the southernmost city in the world. Grab your map if you are unfamiliar with this location and you’ll find it the tiny little southern tip of Argentina. It is more of a town than a city with restaurants and quaint shops targeting people who have come to Argentina to hike and enjoy the raw beauty this country has to offer. In the couple of hours we had before boarding the ship, we felt like we had seen most of the town.

As our ship pulled out of Ushuaia, we enjoyed a stunning sunset and
The Mud Room LockersThe Mud Room LockersThe Mud Room Lockers

Yellow is the in color.
we began to think of the next few weeks traveling to The Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and all the other stops in Antarctica that were coming. We were facing 4,068 nautical miles of sailing. Quark runs a slick operation and kept us very busy. There was a predictable schedule and they made sure you could be alone and have quiet time if that was your thing or join in the many, many educational lectures given by their team of professionals. An amazing group of people. We quickly acclimated to the ship as it was easy to navigate the vessel because it is really not that big in comparison to those huge warm water ships with 3000 plus people.

The Mud Room

After the safety briefing on deck in our muster station, orientation to life vest and evacuation equipment, they passed out our stunning bright yellow jackets…. Which we get to keep!... and the muck boots we can use while zodiacing (I think we just made up a word) around the polar region. We were a stylish group. The yellow coats were actually two-in-one affairs. When all layered up we looked like the Michelin man but who cares….
Bow of our ShipBow of our ShipBow of our Ship

Ocean Endeavor
We were really warm… sometimes too warm… but better hot than cold.

We want to formally introduce you to the mud room. It is a vital part of every polar expedition ship. Rows of lockers where we can store boots, coats, life vest, gloves and any other items needed. We are the most recent 199 guest to these lands and we were divided into four groups; albatross, penguins, seals and whales. In the beginning it seemed to take forever to dress ourselves for the elements but quickly we were pros. They played great music in the mud room so certainly that helped as we moved to the beat of the music in preparation for departure. Everyone was happy and dancing in line waiting to be loaded onto the zodiacs.

Regulations are in place that when we have landings only 100 people can land at a time to protect the environment. Call it environmental crowd control. We are inspected carefully to make sure we don’t take particles of anything from island to island. They need to keep the environment clean and pure of natural flora and fauna. Think this is a big deal? Yes it is as we were
Muck BootsMuck BootsMuck Boots

Stylish & Warm
told of stories on how different species were introduced with horrific results.

On the South Georgia Islands, rats were inadvertently introduced and proliferated as they had no natural enemies in this part of the world. The end result was devastation of the South Georgian Pepin. The rats would eat their eggs. Recently a couple of decades of great work has resulted in the eradication of the rats and sure enough, the Pepins have begun to flourish again and we got to see them!

We need to be “bio secure” before leaving the ship. We are taught to rinse off and scrub our muck boots with brushes and paper clips, we pull small pebbles and grains of sand out of the ridges in our boots, we check each piece of Velcro on our coats and pants to check for seed and twigs that don’t belong. We are expected to wash off the penguin poo from our clothes from one island to the next. FYI: penguin poo smells really bad. You wouldn’t think that you could get the poo on your pants as you’re not rolling around in that muck (except for one person on the ship who was looking
Amazing chefsAmazing chefsAmazing chefs

Excellent quality foods.
for a great photo), but somehow you could. It’s a rather unique smell and….oh well….enough of that….

Landing days we were called to the mud room by group and loaded into a zodiac. Two groups would go ashore first while two groups took a zodiac cruise looking at icebergs, seals, whales, penguins, abandoned whaling stations by sea. It was great fun.. a real adventure. Then the landing group would cruise and the cruising group would land. The result is great fun for all.

What to wear:

Tip#1: Dressing for a polar region. Always…..dress….warm. Wool and fleece are your friends and cotton can kill you. Most of the time you will see us layered up like it is -100 degrees – that was not the case. We traveled in zodiacs close to the water and it was not unheard of to get splashed by a wave. These jackets are waterproof to keep you dry and we wear Gortex waterproof pants. Getting wet in a cold environment is the most miserable thing that can happen. Staying dry is the goal. We were fortunate and we didn’t get splashed much, we did get sprayed almost all the time, but you
Ocean EndeavorOcean EndeavorOcean Endeavor

Our home away from home
really don’t feel it. These coats are amazing. (We are ready for winter in Ohio now.. ha ha… just a little joke for our family).

Remember you’ll be out in cold, windy weather for three or four hours. Proper layering is king. Thermal undergarments… layered. Fleece… layered… socks… multiple layers… gloves… carry spares in case they get wet. Hand warmers in your gloves for the really cold days. Fortunately, we only had a couple of those. And of course a good dry bag. This is a must.

Zodiac Etiquette

Tip#2: Don’t be a jerk.

Our first zodiac ride was full of excitement and a bit of trepidation. We weren’t used to riding in these vehicles yet and the swells in the ocean looked ominous. We entered from the gangway of the ship. We’d watched them lower a dozen zodiacs from the top deck of our ship into the water by crane. It is a lot of work for the crew to prepare for our outings each day. We watched our guides head to shore to scope out our landing site and prepare, lots of work goes into creating a safe environment for the wildlife as well as creating a safe environment for a bunch of eager people dressed in yellow and black.

Tip #3: When entering the zodiac put your camera away, shut up, listen, take guidance from the experienced crew!

The water is cold, and a misstep might mean you take a swim. Ok, we are making it a bit dramatic…. All of that is true but everyone did well we’re told no one has fallen in… although on the rough sea days we did learn that a wave can slap you around a bit while you are standing on the gangway. We only saw this happen once and they ran to change clothes and come back for more! We are a hardy group. Seriously, don’t worry… you are dry almost all the time. It sounds much worse than it is. Know why? Because you listen to the guides and dress warm!

These zodiac holds 12 people but fortunately they only put 10 of us in. Our layers of clothing take up a lot of space. Not to mention dry bags full of camera equipment and spare gloves.

Listen to the driver. They will balance the zodiac and place you where needed. There is a rope to hang on to if wanted. The advice we were given was to lean in a touch instead of back in case you hit a wave you’ll fall forward. Good advice. Those zodiacs can go fast and some of the crew were gearing up for the Indy 500 or a Formula 1 race….. no just kidding… or are we?

When we stopped for wildlife viewing you can stand up in the zodiac… with permission. You can kneel on the floor… with permission. Be kind and courteous of others. Don’t block their view… some didn’t understand this as well as others but in our 19 zodiac rides we only had one person on one ride we wanted to toss overboard because they stood up too long and block others from taking photos. There might have been one other that we wanted to throw overboard but it didn’t have anything to do with zodiac etiquette. Those who were with us most certainly know who this is. Out of 199 people plus crew and staff we only ran into 2 we weren’t in love with. Not bad odds. An amazing group of people.

The meals were
Speeding along the seasSpeeding along the seasSpeeding along the seas

These go much faster than you would expect.
wonderfully well-prepared and presented, the Nautilus Lounge hosted incredibly educational lectures, the staff so friendly, the guides marvelous and our ship mates were fabulous….what more could you ask for?

Our other two Antarctic blogs in case you have missed them:

Antarctica with Quark Expeditions!

Bountiful Birds, The Big Battle and a TravelBlog Reunion

Additional photos below
Photos: 37, Displayed: 30


These fellows in our next blogThese fellows in our next blog
These fellows in our next blog

Surrounded by King penguins

Our new friend from Canada
Sue and PaulSue and Paul
Sue and Paul

Our new friends from the U.K.
Rosemary and NealeRosemary and Neale
Rosemary and Neale

Our new friends from Australia.
Julian ready for paddle boarding Julian ready for paddle boarding
Julian ready for paddle boarding

Our new friend from Canada
Dave on deckDave on deck
Dave on deck

Wandering outside
20 Zodiacs ready for action20 Zodiacs ready for action
20 Zodiacs ready for action

stored on the top deck
Paul, Sue & KortneyPaul, Sue & Kortney
Paul, Sue & Kortney

New friends from Australia & U.K.

23rd March 2020

And then there were just you two
I can feel the excitement...the cool air in your nostrils...the icy draughts seeking to find that one spot where you have not layered tight...the anticipation as zodiacs are lowered...the sideways smiles of your new found friends in shared experience. And when all was done there were just you two saying over and over what a buzz...what out-of-world fun. Looking forward to the next instalment.
23rd March 2020

And then there were just two
As you say it was out-of-world fun. Daily amazement. Frosty at times and always enchanting. Wish you had been there it is your kind of trip. So many photos so little time.
23rd March 2020

Interesting stuff.
It sounds like you had quite a trip. The dressing up reminds me of Lapland, it was a new ritual. And 'cotton is rotten' as cyclists say!
23rd March 2020

Minnesota Review
Great update. Send more. Enjoyed the read and the pictures. One question: if I ever find myself on a Zodiac in the Antarctic.....Where do they stow the sea sick bags? ( Dan laughing that I would ever find myself on a Zodiac on any ocean....)
23rd March 2020

Minnesota Review
Dennis, glad you are following along and that your sense of humor hasn't left you. A zodiac ride in the Antarctic is very seductive so don't rule it out. I would worry more about the ship than the zodiac... details on that later.
23rd March 2020

Vivid Description!
Felt like I was on the trip wit you. Burning question.: How did you pee with all that clothing? Did they have porta potties somewhere? Food looks great too. This looks to become one of your favorite trips and a look back in time for Merry Jo too. Miss you guys.
23rd March 2020

Vivid Description!
This is absolutely one of the top, top trips. We are still absorbing the entire experience. They would take you back to the ship early if you needed to pee so you would dehydrate before landings.
23rd March 2020

In Awe.
Beautiful MJ-- So lovely to see that you are still alive and adventurous! Just what the doctor ordered. I am working from home amid COVID-19 concerns and the EQ that we had in SLC last week. It is a breath of fresh air to read your blog. xoxo, Stephanie
23rd March 2020

In Awe
Stephanie, great hearing from you and appreciate the comment. Yes until I take my last breath I will try to live life to the fullest and add a pinch of adventure when we can. Stay healthy and keep in touch.
24th March 2020
King Penguins

Would love to see these guys live one day!
24th March 2020
King Penguins

You must go see these. So amazing. More to come.
24th March 2020
Ushuaia, Argentina

same picture
We have made a picture of this sign exactly 11 years ago - have to admit that the surrounding trees have grown quite a bit :-):
24th March 2020
Ushuaia, Argentina

Same picture
Yes, we all take photos at these iconic locations.
24th March 2020

What an Adventure!
You are much more brave that we are with the ride in the open ocean! So much to experience and learn.... Thanks for sharing.
24th March 2020

What an Adventure!
Thanks for reading and commenting. I will email you to catch up. It was an adventure. The zodiac was a breeze although I had some trepidation in the beginning.
26th March 2020

Well done!
Congrats on making it to the 7th!!!! What an unbelievable journey! So many of us may never get there, but we can enjoy the postings of those that do! Sounds like Quark is well organized and how fun to have fellow TB blogger Cranster lead it!! Oh and there’s always that one guy that breaks zodiac etiquette!!! I know him well. He was on my Gorilla trek in Rwanda, lol. Having made it back home safe and sound and not marooned due to the pandemic, I hope you have even more time to reflect on your epic trip!!
26th March 2020

Well done!
My 2nd trip and Dave's first... who knows maybe more in the future. It was an unbelievable journey. Quark is exceptional. We are reflecting and absorbing on all that we experienced. Check in and let us know what you are up to. MJ
27th March 2020

Oh Heck Yeah!
Wow, what a fun read this was. Great humor, great pictures, amazing descriptions. I like that you tried to meet as many people as possible (and know that you did), but understand having a core group. Looking forward to the next blog.
27th March 2020

Oh Heck Yeah!
Wish you'd been with us Chef! It was an amazing trip. Quark really does know what they are doing. I would recommend them. Penguins, penguins and penguins coming very soon.
27th March 2020

A breath of fresh air!
Yes, literally! When we are all emerged in the nightmare of the Covid-19, I needed this for a relief in my mind. I am glad that I waited a bit longer to read it...just timely MJ! Ushuaia - I heard so many times from so many people that it became an icon in my mind. Perhaps a non-descriptive town as you have described, but the feeling that it is the last frontier of our lovely planet, I romanticize every time I hear about it. Environmental security - I am so happy they are protective of the environment when disembarking the passengers. I don't know when human race will be responsible enough to protect what we have one and only one! Thermal Layers - Tell me about it! Don't we all know this here in Tundra-land in Canada!!! MJ, I was surprised to see your portrait without a monkey are brave. Last but not the least - "Yes, we are already in email contact with our new friends and feel like they will be in our lives for years to come and possibly travel with them in the future. You know who you are!... UK, Canada, New Hampshire, Japan, Australia. J We miss you." I have been fortunate enough to be in that list and I miss you!!! Will eagerly wait for the next episode!!
27th March 2020

A breath of fresh air!
Tab, thanks for following along and commenting. I recently sent you an email. I was pleased with the biosecurity they made us follow and the serious attitude they took in keeping this piece of the world pristine. Yes, I'm sure you understand layers. It was good odd going out in the cold and being warm. Evidentially, I've never had the right clothing for cold climates. We miss you also.... when people connect it last a lifetime.
28th March 2020

Life on Board
Really interesting to read about how life was like on board the ship, and Zodiac Etiquette, thank you MJ and Dave ? It makes me want to down tools right now and take the expedition! Well, at least once these new days we are currently living in are over...! Glad there were only 2 out of the 199 you didn't get to love, I imagine exactly what kind of types they were! And I'm so pleased to read about all the protective measures they take, for visitors and for local wildlife. It was similar last year when I visited the Galapagos. Looking forward to reading your next! ?
28th March 2020

Life on board
I'm glad to hear they were as cautious on Galapagos. We need to continue to care for the few pristine places that remain. I hope you take this trip in the future.... it was wonderful. Thanks for commenting.
28th March 2020

Trip of a Lifetime
In my book, making it to Antarctica would certainly be the trip of a lifetime! And, to reach your 7th continent is extraordinary too so congratulations!! Everything you saw and did sounds so amazing. I see that visiting the Antarctic was in a way is a very painstaking experience when you think about the logistics involved, cleaning of equipment, clothes, boots and such, thoughtfully placing people in the zodiacs for balance, etc. I really appreciate you sharing all these details of your amazing experience and thanks for the great photos!
29th March 2020

Trip of a Lifetime
It is always a pleasure to hear from those following along. Yes, this trip was a dandy. Once you get the hang of cleaning the gear it doesn't take long. We want to preserve this place of natural beauty. Actually, this was Dave's 7th continent. I had been in 1989 and it was the 2nd continent I'd traveled to. An amazing place. MJ
29th March 2020
Zooming around in Zodiacs

Nice to read about Antarctica
i really enjoy reading about your Antarctica travels. Personally I'd love to go there to see the remains of the old whaling stations. Also the nature of course. Good to hear that they take such great measures to protect the environment. /Ake
29th March 2020
Zooming around in Zodiacs

Nice to read about Antarctica
We cannot recommend this trip enough. It was spectacular. The Whaling stations were very interesting. An amazing part of the world.
14th October 2020

Artic Adventure
Really interesting blog to hear what it is like on the ship. I can't wait to continue to read more of your artic adventure!!
15th October 2020

Arctic Adventure
We thought we might get tired of a ship after 3 weeks but an expedition ship has so much to offer. Great lectures.

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