Saturday, May 22, 2010

Joy and Graham on travelling to Antarctica.

Joy and Graham on travelling to Antarctica.

Our intrepid travellers had an adventure of a life time. Heading into turbulent waters in any kind of ship is always a venture into the unknown but they headed there on a 72m boat called the Polar Pioneer. This mid sized boat rolled and pitched with the heavy seas that are normally experienced at that part of the world. Despite the rustic Spartan conditions they loved every minute of their journey.
The fifty one passengers were lovingly cared for by the twenty four Russian sailors, two young English Chefs, and six leaders who were all experts in their fields.
The fellow passengers were happy good sorts from every part of the world. You could talk freely to anyone you liked. No cell phones, no newspapers, no TV. It was wonderful.
Mixing and mingling at dinner time was great. Chatting to a different dinner guest every night meant that they got to know everyone on board.
Joy’s biggest pre trip fear was sea sickness. They had special watch type relief bands that worked their magic. Pressing the panic button on them did wonders for relieving the stress and bad feelings. No wonder they called her the Bionic Woman. Having one of these was just wonderful. But alas it was not all a picnic. One poor lady passenger fell down a stairway and had to be evacuated at considerable effort.
Just as well they had a great doctor on board to attend to such events.
Getting to the various land areas on Zodiacs such as Falklands, South Georgia, King George Island and even a live moving ice berg was a buzz. Climbing onto an iceberg was cool. Getting up close with penguins was amazing. The male penguins were not so friendly but the ladies managed to control their fear. The penguins think humans are just another penguin and come right up to you to chat in their own language. Of course being kitted out in multiple layers of wet weather gear would make it hard for the birds to tell the different sexes apart.
Luckily the breading season had passed so meeting the seals was permitted. It would have been real hard to get all that gear off in any case.

Down at South Georgia Island most of the party walked over the hill to the whaling station where Sir Ernest Shackleton traversed the island on his epic escape from his ill fated expedition. Despite the swirling mists and nasty drops the guides lead them cleverly and expertly over the track by making use of hand held GPS units.
The whaling station is fascinating to see. The authorities demolished the buildings that sheltered the machinery so a lot of it is now silently decaying.
Elephant Island where Shackleton’s crew spent many miserable months waiting for rescue is a dangerous place to visit. The winds whistle down and around the sea and only the most skilled of sailors familiar with handling zodiacs in these conditions can ensure you return alive.
On the peninsular there is a Chilean settlement right next door to the Russian station. For those of us who enjoy our comforts one can only wonder at how the poor soles who man the stations cope.
So, despite a few hiccups with travel along the way and coming up close to the international situation that prevails down in those parts of the world our intrepid adventures went, saw for themselves, and returned with great memories and a wonderful story to tell.

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