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Published: March 23rd 2020
King PenguinsIn the beginning:
Coming in our next blog.
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
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 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 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….
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
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
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
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 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
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