What It’s Like in Antarctica – Part 3!
today i share the final part of our journey to antarctica (part of going after our goal to be the youngest married couple to speak professionally on all 7 continents with The Map to Dreaming BIG!)
in case you missed it and want to play catch up or not do what you are really supposed to be doing right now on the internet:
sunday november 29th
this action packed day started with Dallman Bay. we were luckily in the first zodiac group to go out and the weather was perfect (until changing very rapidly within the last 20 minutes out).
we saw humpback whales and i’m not going to lie, i had a moment of panic that one was going to come up from under the boat and capsize us. i am still so relieved that did not happen. look how close they were! later we saw orcas from the boat but i have no high qualities photos to share with you so you will just have to trust me.
one of the guides told us that this whale had a deep cut to its dorsal fin, probably from a ship. it sort of hurt to look at, poor buddy.
though it is awesome to see (and capture) a whale’s tail, you actually don’t want it to happen too soon because it means they are diving deep and won’t be back for a while.
look at that pretty ship with the clear sky!
we bought a GoPro the day before we left and was the best thing we could have brought with us! he captured the penguins swimming under water (video coming soon). so thankful we bought that!
then the weather started changing…it’s astonishing how quickly the weather changes in antarctica. our guides were constantly keeping an eye on and discussing the clouds rolling in through the whole trip. there were also times when we would land and they would tell us “if we tell you to get back to the zodiacs, you move quickly or we could be trapped here!”
the awesomeness of our ship increased when we returned…they were barbecuing some seriously good meat! they made some “asada argentino” and we all started with “choripán” a typical spicy sausage on bread. poor vegetarians but to us carnivores – the smell and taste were mouthwatering!
after full bellies and crossing our fingers that the satellite phone would work, we taught our 7th webinar for The Map to Dreaming BIG in antarctica! HUGE shoutout to my sister for running the slides from arizona and to all of our members for attending!
at $4/minute, this was definitely the most expensive one we have done. ha! so grateful it all worked though because the next day the phone went out until we got back to shore!
we got to see that glacier calve, which means the ice breaks away from the glacier and becomes an iceberg! it created a smaller splash but the bigger ones can create a mini tsunami and be very dangerous if you are near it. for perspective, in the photo below that’s a seal in the right corner!
here we saw what are called “penguin highways” – essentially little roadways they use to get to their nest, water, and elsewhere! i imagined them singing “hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go!”
while we were on the continent of antarctica, we gave another professional speech to our new friends! we wanted to be certain that when we submit the paperwork for being the youngest couple to speak on all 7 continents, there wouldn’t be a snag with us delivering our webinar since we were technically on water (on the boat and not land) while we did it earlier.
my husband and i got to thinking and asked our new friends if they would be interested in hearing a short professional talk. in order for it to be professional, you have to be compensated so they each paid us each a small amount and we delivered part of the keynote we gave earlier in the month to them! hooooooray!
favorite quote “since i didn’t really understand what you do, i didn’t have very high expectations for what this would be. i am actually very impressed. that was really deep in 15 minutes!” hahah!
monday, november 30
before we get into this day, i have to share with you the song we listened to constantly thanks to my musically-superior-friend beki! play it in the background while you read the rest of this because it mentions antarctica…
again, the zodiacs were split and this time we weren’t so lucky with the weather. we were supposed to go out and cruise the icebergs while the other group explored Brown Station in Paradise Bay. this was fun for the first 20 minutes….
then the snow started falling harder and we were still cruising around an hour later. way less fun.
i could no longer feel my feet, my snow pants were soaked and the zodiac driver was not reading a room (or zodiac) because everyone was like this…
finally me and a few others asked if he could take us back to the boat. he obliged and then the rest of the boat went on to the base (which operates seasonally by argentina). my friend mark told me that taylor swift would want me to ‘just shake it off’ and while he meant the snow, this also worked for my mental attitude. i went back to our room and sat in front of the heater for 20 minutes until i could feel my feet again.
i played that song on my phone and eventually got past my bad attitude. this was the only point during the trip where i was uncomfortably freezing and feeling close to miserable. i’d say that’s pretty good!
though i later found out there was sledding (on your booty) on that landing, i stand by my decision to go back and warm up.
we went back out later and thankfully it wasn’t snowing at Foyn Harbor. we saw some beautiful sights!
doesn’t that look like a majestic lion’s side profile?!
here’s how close we were…
on the same zodiac trip, we saw the wreck of the whaling ship “governoren” a norwegian ship that caught fire in 1915. this was how we first saw it and i thought to myself “oh my…what a sturdy mast they made back in the day to still be standing and white!”
turns out a sailboat anchored right next to it just as our boats cruised by. apparently the tourists were even walking on the decrepit ship – what idiots. so dangerous and disrespectful. our crew reported them.
inside the ship:
later this night…i was sitting patiently for dinner (wondering which soup with double fried croutons would be served YUM) when i felt something in my mouth. it’s really creepy when something suddenly appears in your mouth and you haven’t put anything in it. it must have been so cold that day that my filling popped off! isn’t that weird?! thank goodness i had the foresight of needing to share this with you so i snapped a photo…
i read somewhere that some people’s teeth might crack (not really where we were because it was never like -30 degrees f like it can be on the bases) but what! earlier in the week my husband thought he might have broke a little piece off one of his teeth but it was probably a filling too! could also be a shotty dental work too but weird. thankfully there was no pain associated with it falling off in warm or cold weather!
oh AND since we were there in antarctica’s summer, it is 24 hours of daylight!
thanks screenshot of snapchat for proof!
tuesday, december 1
this was our last full day in antarctica! we sailed through the night through the Gerlache straight and part of Bransfield Straight to the South Shetland Islands. there was some rolling with the ship but “sea legs” are a real thing so most of us were sailors by this point and just fine. the expedition leader agustín woke us up (as he did each morning by playing a soft song and then saying “good morning fellow antarcticans”) but this morning he came on at 6am.
he let us know we were entering a fairly shallow entrance of Deception Island.
the navigation of this is tricky because the opening is only 270 meters (885.827 feet) wide and there is a rock in the middle to get around. more than that…it’s actually an active volcano! the last time there was volcanic activity was 1970s.
the captain sailed further into Port Foster, which is a “subdued caldera of Deception Island” according to my notes. we landed at Whaler’s Bay, which is an abandoned whale processing plant complete with a black volcanic sand beach. the whaling station was operated by norway and closed in 1931.
oh, you noticed i’m wearing a dress? oh that old thing? my creative husband had the idea to get an old school penguin tuxedo and pose with some penguins. not going to lie, there was a moment while we were packing that i thought “couldn’t we take up space with more warm clothes?!” that being said, we did pack something way more absurd than formal wear but you will have to wait until christmas to see it!
a big thank you to Ted’s Clothiers located in denver, colorado! they are a family run business and when i talked to chris there, he was so kind and excited for what we had in mind! he was excited to help this come to fruition – not to mention a complete pleasure to work with. my husband kept remarking during his fitting how great it was for a family run shop to still be around 40+ years later and all be so friendly. check them out if you are in the denver area for your tux and suit options!
look at my dapper chap!
doesn’t he look so cozy and warm with his suit coat on??? to say i was cold would be an understatement.
the wind was whipping about and the weather was changing from heavy snow to light snow. perfect weather for a swim, right? polar plunge to the extreme! my husband used to work at special olympics oregon so the polar plunge is something he has done for years but this is a new level!
i still cannot believe we willing ran into antarctic water. my body was trying to suck itself in for warmth. you can’t really see it but i’m wearing a hat with elsa from frozen on it!
here is a video that my friend tom recorded (you will hear him speak estonian!) i say a bad word at the end but it’s an accurate description.
the staff was great and held towels out for us and then had a zodiac waiting to take us back to the ship. the coldest part on us were our toes, they truly went numb and we couldn’t feel them for an almost scary-while. side note – volcanic ash is very hard to remove from wet feet. what a way to end our last landing…or so we thought!
after lunch, there was a surprise announcement that there would be one last landing because wind conditions had dropped in Yankee Harbor. i am a planner and a processor-of-future-events so this threw me for a loop. i was all warm and cozy, relishing having the feeling back in my feet. also, i felt like my last memory being on land in antarctica was extremely satisfactory.
i asked a guide one single question, “are we going to see any different types of penguins on this landing?” when the answer was “no – more gentoo” i realized that i had become desensitized to seeing yet another penguin. i made the right call for me to stay back and enjoy some solitude.
as i sat and stared out the ship’s window, my eyes moved from glacier, to sharp mountain peak to icebergs floating and a wave of feeling so small washed over me. this was the good type of small. the type of small where you look out and you think “wow. this is living. this is life. i am alive.”
later that evening, just around dinner time we started feeling the waves pitch as we started into the dreaded drake’s passage. the anticipation and anxiety knowing that we would eventually have to do it again was less than fun. tom captured a video as we started on the journey before everyone retreated to their rooms to wallow in seasickness. keep your eye on the guy walking to the left of the middle walkway.
i have an intense phobia about vomit (i’m talking like i’ve been to multiple therapists about it) so this was a huge thing for me to survive not once but twice. i ate one roll at dinner and then gave the peace sign to my new friends/husband and retreated into cabin for 30 hours, again. i survived and i feel stronger mentally because of it. i guess exposure therapy really does work – dammit.
wednesday december 2
(took my dramamine and passed out alllllll day)
thursday december 3
since this isn’t this expeditions first time out, they knew what they were doing. we arrived to calm water again – the Beagle Channel, later afternoon on december 3rd. this was so we could pack our things without getting a concussion and enjoy ‘the captain’s dinner.’
there was also a quiz about antarctica, which i am quite proud to say our mighty team won (go team chinstraps!) then there was a bonus round that had nothing to do with antarctica and involved naming songs from (old movies). because our team was aged 40 & under…we moved into second place but i am still proud of us! i am relieved we didn’t lose…
we played a few more rounds of cards with our new besties. what i loved about everyone on this cruise was how well traveled everyone was. we were one of the few people who were returning home instead of continuing on to some type of journey. it was incredible to be surrounded by people doing big things!
after this, we had the opportunity to individually thank the crew and staff, after we received our official certificates saying we ventured to antarctica.
here is a portion of the staff from left to right: frederique (biologist/photographer), lida (assistant expedition leader), agustín (expedition leader – hugs!), sergio (captain), dr. grace (doctor), alejandro (biologist) and then pablo (guide) was next to him!
before the captain’s dinner, we had our final cheers and it was a joyous event. of course i got teary because it was such a moving experience to travel and trek here with everyone.
that night we stayed up way too late dancing (thanks mark for the dance lesson!) because we all knew that in the morning, we would be parting to different parts of the world.
friday december 4
early morning wake up call resulted in a slightly hungover breakfast with our friends before we were allowed to disembark and grab our luggage that was waiting for us on the dock.
this expedition far exceeded anything i could have imagined. as i reflect on this after being back for a little less than a week, i am feeling more confident in who i am, proud of myself and in awe of the planet we live on. i am so grateful to be in love with a wonderful person who i get to travel through life together.
it seems surreal that this trip has already come and gone. i wouldn’t call this trip to antarctica life changing…i would call it life enhancing. life affirming. for that, i know antarctica (and the people and penguins we met) will always be in a deep part of my soul.
i find that writing helps me process my feelings and emotions – so thank you for reading and sharing!