far south - #222 Antarctica reached 

[2014.09.01 | Antarctica | 3 comments]

Antarctica. Cold, rejecting, hostile to life. Dream destination for somebody who wanted to be an explorer as a child. The heroes of the childhood: Amundsen, Scott, Shackleton. Logbooks and expedition reports instead of comics. Together with an adventures woman I stand in the harbor of Ushuaia. Not an old shabby sailing ship is waiting for us, a big modern cruise ship  is on the quay. Welcome at the gangway “you’re the two germans!” – “um, so why?”. Broad grin; “We have 166 Chinese and you guys”. Cultural adventure on top.
First of all: modern arctic “expedtions” cruises are as comparable to the old expeditions as a donkey cart with the latest model of $GermanPremiumCarCompany. The biggest challenge is to keep the all evening 3 course meal (shrimp cocktail instead of scurvy!) where it belongs. It was not always working.
Instead of months - or even years – at sea, we spend only 15 days (all inclusive and always cared) on board. At the end we’ll be 7 times ashore. For not getting bored: cruise program. Fortunately they left the Fun professionals at home and got some real pros aboard. Geologist, photographer, historian, ornithologist, biologist – it’s lecture time. Of course, a bit traditional: Captains Dinner, BBQ on deck, live music night, costume party and original – of course! – Chinese karaoke. Mandatory sessions: emergency exercise, safety drill, biosecurity including vacuuming cloths and equipment and disinfect footwear.
Ashore on Zodiacs. Hundreds of penguins, wild tumult on the beach, tight small groups, loud scream of the young for food, loud scream of the old against attackers, industrious nest building, apathetic brooding, tired stretching, vigorously arguing, affectionate welcome, creaking radio, rushing outboard, too fast back aboard.
Another beach, another colony, the camera is clicking on the tripod. A few meters further, some penguins inspecting my stuff. I move slowly closer. Eventually the discover me, thinkof me as interesting, moving towards me. One starts pecking my jacket, then the back of my hand, then my fingers. Attacked by wild Penguins in Antarctica. I can’t stop smiling.
Experienced Vladimir at the outboard. He reliably finds the interesting places. A leopard seal less than 10 meters from the boat. In his mouth a penguin, he throws his head back and forth, so he pulls the feathers over his head – literally. 5 minutes later we circle around a floe, a leopard seal on it, asleep. We come close, very close. The animal raises tired its head, examined the clicking cameras half asleep, yawning photogenic and goes back to sleep. The next floe, the next leopard seal. Again we get closer without any signs of disturbing the animal. “Humpback Whale” creaks the radio, Vladimir turns the boat, opens the throttle. To other Zodiacs mark where we aim to. In front of them a floats a dark spot in the water. Now and then a fountain hisses high. We wait for what everyone is waiting here: the majestic descent, topped by the high rise fluke. The moment comes, is over much too fast, but burns deep in the brain. The shiny, smooth black surface of the fluke, water beads off, the gentle arc in which the fluke rises from the water, the moment in which it seemingly weightless pointing skywards, the consummate elegance when the fluke finally cuts into the water and the slight curl which remains on the surface. Vladimirs radio creaks, we must return to the ship. All begging and bothering does not help, the captain called.
Evening at the bar. I fished a piece of ice in Paradise Bay. From the glacier. Dark, old, crystal clear. A whiskey with thousand years old ice, a must. Use on your own risk, the bartender accepts no responsibility for the quality of ice. Also on your own risk: the extended stay in the bar. The original Chinese Karaoke system is running and the singer – let’s stay polite – has endeavors within its means. Good thing there are only Chines songs, so could easily skip the session. For everybody’s sake.
South Georgia. The last stop of the trip. Here – in more detail in Grytviken – ended Shackleton’s heroic rescue ride, here ended his life, here he was laid to rest. Of course a visit at the grave, of course I pose for a photo. Founded in 1904 and left more or less in 1966 Grytviken tells a rusty story of the local whaling history. Thousands of whales were hunted, cut up, processed and shipped. Today they only catch tourists. Museum, post office, gift shop. The main sales seems to be Royal Family Devotionals, very British. Maybe the hand full of British official’s need resistant supply of “Royal Baby – collector’s edition” cups for being a valid part of the Empire. Anyway, more fascinating is what happens in the other bays of the island. For here, here there is a truly royal family, the king penguins. Tens, no, hundreds of thousands small dots line the shore. We go ashore and are in the midst of a huge King Penguin colony. Again, wild tumult, loud screaming, little brown chicks vying for attention of the almost one meter high adults, skuas flying low in search of easy victims, seals sleeping nearby, giant elephant seals arguing beside, a gigantic sea of black and yellow heads… each second, every direction deserves attention, everywhere fascinating, constantly. In between, I lose my eyes for a few seconds on the horizon, the screaming sounds dull away, my head cannot believe where I am, what I see, what I experience. Over and Over again.

 

Henry says: "The temperature range is quite comfortable and there is some real snow under the hooves! Also the salad buffet was great, but the whiskey selection at the bar sucks. Not even one single malt! Hello?!?! And to be honest. Hundreds of kilometers on a shaking boat without any elk woman (okay, there was a cute bug aboard), just to see for a handful of minutes some flightless birds being too stupid to walk onto the beach without falling over. I don’t know. And no green stuff anywhere. And the grass shit growing on South Georgia Island is only good enough for the dumb reindeers living there and missing one boat after the other. Nice, but nothing for life."

 

skeptical king penguin is skeptical. stormy start first time ashore fu*#%$ bad weather clear opinion. enough complaining An iceberg? Grit your teeth and get to it! hard attacked Bosscrew most important lever exhibition Vladimir. Humpback Whales light and ice together hide and seek alerted icy guess. BBQ Paradise Bay. brown skua low level flying little Punk most stylish guy Polar plunge. at relaxing at the dentist at work Humpback Whale if somebody will explain me 3 course at the dinner Oh, look a glass full yellow liquid and the winner is... golden penguin you can make name tags in between Grytviken the expedition crew Grytviken will be take some years the grave of Sir Ernest - Henry Shackleton sunrise on South Georgia Island. typical Kingpenguin seals no beer belly here! a sea I'm trying extreme hard chicks to the centre protected from elephant seals but they can fight bad weather a very big THANK YOU Good

 

Due to reasons™ the video of my Antarctica visit will be publieshed later. Thank you for your patience...#

 

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