ANTARCTICA CRUISING – DAY 2

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ANTARCTICA CRUISING – DAY 2

Today has begun with much better weather than yesterday.  there are some dry snow flurries but by 9:30 AM they have pretty much ceased and the sea is calm, but it’s still overcast outside.  Meanwhile, we are going by some pretty large glaciers and icebergs. This one looks like large sugar cubes cut out of the ice, but the cracks are all natural:

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Summer temperature on the outside deck appears to be in the mid 30’s Fahrenheit as Kal is able to go outside with just a T-shirt, top shirt and a sweatshirt, plus a scarf – and to stay outside for 10-15 minutes at a time.

The indigo blue tint you sometimes see on icebergs and glaciers is actually an optical illusion.  All the ice is white, but sometimes due to weather conditions ultra-violet rays filter out the red color of the spectrum, so the iceberg or glacier appears blue to the eye. These photos were taken on our 2011 trip to Antarctica – weather conditions this year were not good enough while we were there to get good “blue ice” photos.

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This morning a group of research scientists from Palmer Station, the American research station in Antarctica, has come on board to talk with the passengers about their research down here.  The talk has to do with ecosystems and climate change and the impact of climate change on living organisms in the Antarctic region.  Palmer Station has 40-45 people on it during the summer months (now) and about 12-15 people during the winter months.  People with different skills come to Palmer for various lengths of time, from 2-10 months, to make up the research team.

The personnel apparently changes constantly. One of the staff members has a sticker on the door to his room at the Station that reads, “If you’re here – you’re not all there.” Last year a young woman with her hair in braids was among the panel of speakers, and Nina noticed she was knitting.  During the Q&A Nina asked her not about the Antarctic, not about the research being done; she asked her what she was knitting.  Well, today that woman is the Manager of Palmer Station and she was again on board (and still with braided hair), and she told Nina she still gets kidded about the woman who asked her about her knitting….

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LAST YEAR, Carolyn was knitting on stage!!! SOCKS!!!

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Nina has already asked her about next January…. Nina wants to apply for a couple of months next Antarctic summer to be a chef – she says I can drive a truck.  Oy vey….

We were told that the speakers actually look forward to coming on board this ship to talk to and meet the passengers.  They come from the Station to the ship on a zodiac and arrive here in a frozen state, and the first question they are asked is, “What do you want first – coffee or a hot shower?”  When they leave, the ship sends back with them several cases of fresh fruits and vegetables because it’s a long way to the nearest supermarket.  Nice gesture and most appreciated by the Palmer people, I’m sure. 

Actually, when we were in Punta Arenas we picked up about 3 scientists from Palmer Station, and they have been serving as on-board lecturers about the birds and mammals (mainly penguins, seals, porpoises, whales) of Antarctica; how governments share Antarctica (by international treaty Antarctica belongs to no nation but to the world) and cooperate in research; and the history of explorations to Antarctica and the South Pole.  The great thing is that there are so many activities on board from which to choose, that if you missed a lecture you wanted to hear, you can listen to it later that day or night in your cabin via the ship’s own broadcast TV station. Neat-o.

As I am blogging this, an iceberg comes floating by the port (left) side of the ship, bobbing up and down in the water – I call it the Bobbing Berg.  What you can see of an iceberg is generally about 10% of its total size, and that’s the part that floats above water. Last year this one floated close enough to the ship to photograph, and when I photographed it from the 11th floor of the ship, the top of the iceberg was at about eye level.  That made it about 11 stories above water, which is about 100-120 feet high; the other 900-1,000 feet of the berg in the photo are UNDER THE WATER.  Also, even though you are looking at a small photo, keep in mind that out here things are generally MUCH, MUCH LARGER than they appear.

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When the group from Palmer Station was done with their talk, it was time for them to disembark. Disembark to where?  Onto an iceberg?  Well, kind of….they all get into a zodiac, wearing their orange survival gear, and the zodiac carries them off into the Antarctic wilderness.  Here’s a video of the Palmer Station people leaving our ship this morning…….

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There is so much wildlife in Antarctica that it’s impossible to describe it all in a blog.  But we have seen different kinds of whales, dozens of kinds of birds, sea lions, orcas …… and, of course, penguins.  This photo is fuzzy but it shows penguins diving and playing in the ocean.

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NEWS FLASH ! !

The captain has just advised us that there are two storms approaching, one to where we are, which will hit tomorrow, and one on the way to our next stop, the Falkland Islands, which we are scheduled to visit in 3 days.  Because of this he has decided to cancel our last day of cruising in the Antarctic and head immediately toward the Falklands in order to escape the storm due tomorrow.  We will be passing a few of the sites we were originally scheduled to see, such as the volcano caldera that is Deception Island in the South Shetland Islands, but we will only slow down when cruising by them as the storm is projected to have winds across the deck of 70 MPH and waves of 19+ feet – in other words, a rough ride in any event but a real “shaker” if we get caught. 

I wonder whether or how we will be making up the extra day…..

THE MORNING AFTER……

It was a bit “bumpy” last night, but about 4 AM the big waves started hitting.  We are on the 6th floor all the way at the port side, forward end of the ship, so whenever the anchor goes up or down we hear it REALLY LOUD. When the big waves hit, the smashed against our portholes (luckily we sleep with the windows closed) , but we were told that people on the outside deck one floor up got soaked by waves and salt water that actually landed on the ship’s Promenade Deck on the 7th Floor. (7th floor is really the 3rd floor and our floor 6 is really the 2nd floor, since the ship starts with the 4th floor). There were times when it looked exactly like a washing machine outside the porthole.  

The water has been quite bumpy all day, the air temperature maybe 2 or 3 degrees Centigrade (35-36 degrees Fahrenheit), NOT INCLUDING WIND CHILL.  A good day for staying inside and drinking lots of warm stuff……

It’s now about 9 PM – the captain announced that he had gotten permission from the Falkland Islands authorities to anchor in the harbor tonight, even though we aren’t due until morning, so that we will not have to spend the night on the ship on the open seas but can use the Port Stanley Harbor to give us a “rock ‘n roll”-free night.  So tomorrow the Falklands……

      

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