This is a recap of our expedition cruise to Antarctica.
As with all good “snowbirds” Bob and Angie flew south the day after Christmas headed for the ‘warm climate’ of South America. Our air schedule had us leaving Richmond at 7:30 PM for Atlanta. For our fifth consecutive flight, our plane left on time and I thought this was a positive sign. We even landed in Atlanta 10 minutes early. Yea Yea. At this point in our trip was the apex with a “Hurry Up and Wait” itinerary looking us square in the face. From this point, we encountered the following delays: 1) scheduled airport gate unavailable as previous plane using the gate was having troubles; 2) new gate assignment had a defective ‘jet way’; 3) planes had to then be de-iced because of a few snowflakes; 4) slow clean up crew in Lima; and 5) then a baggage handler’s strike in Buenos Aires. While all these delays occurred, Angie and I arrived on schedule to the Hilton Hotel in Buenos Aires.
With a ‘wake up call set for 3 AM, we received a telephone call at 10:30 PM to “check on the time we wanted a wake up call. What the heck is this operator talking about”? 3 AM came soon enough. Viking had representatives in the hotel on passenger coaches at the loading dock, and throughout the ship to assist us in checking in. Both Angie and I passed the submarine test for agility to take part in this ship excursion. The Viking Polaris is a fantastic ship. There are only 378 passengers which makes it easier to meet and greet other passengers. An example of this occurred when Angie met someone who she knew while she worked at the County. The food is great and the ship personnel are helpful and friendly. Well, it’s time for bed as we have very little time to sleep on the planes. By the way, the temperature in Ushuaia is 40 degrees.
#2 Hello from the Drake’s Passage,
After two days of touring in the town of Ushuaia (known “ as the end of the world”), the Viking Polaris set sail for Antarctica via the Beagle Canal and the Magellan Strait. During the ship’s time in the Beagle Canal, the Andes Mountains slid into the waters of the Canal (by this I mean there is no cliff just a gentle slope of land into the sea). What a sight considering that the Andes Mountain rise to about15,000 feet above sea level in some places. Exiting the Beagle Canal the Polaris came to the Drake Passage. Considered one of the roughest waterways in the world, Drake did not disappoint – 30 knot winds and 10 foot swells made for a rock and roll night sailing. Luckily, the Passage calmed down by morning and the ship was able to cruise at 20 knots till we entered Antarctica by passing through the Antarctica Circle. By naval lore, when anyone crosses the Circle for the first time, they must be dunked in the ocean. Angie and I were first timers but bypassed the dunking by proxy to someone who would take the Antarctic Plunge in the frigedarium. We had a leisurely Sunday, Bob took in a lecture and Angie was able to get a manicure. Our fun began at 7:00 when we started to dress for our outing on the Special Operations Boat. We were so bundled up from head to foot that we waddled down the hall and to the boat. The outing took us close to the glaciers and gave us a chance to see the gentoo penquins and a humpback whale. This was a 45 minute excursion. We wish you all a happy New Year. We celebrated by going to dinner at Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant with new travel friends, Wanda and Charles. During the evening we mingled with many interesting people and drinks were complimentary. At midnight there was a countdown and then the ship blasted the horn.
As the New Year brings fabulous expeditions in Antarctica, Angie and I rode in a Special Operations Boat from Polaris to search for animals dwelling in the sea or on the shore line. A humpback whale breached the surface; gentoo penquins skipped the water’s surface for food; and a petrol scavenger gliding in the wind. The mountain tops were covered with glaciers that took millions of years to form a natural beauty that cannot be described, only viewed. On the Polaris there are about 50 scientists or researchers who explain every aspect of what is being seen by the ‘tourists’ on the ship. A glacieologist lectured about the creation of glaciers and mentioned that in parts of Antarctica, there is less that a foot of snow per year while on the western side of the continent the wind currents cause many feet of snow. A glacier comes from new snow compacting old snow and the dryness of the air creates expulsion of air trapped in the snow. Whoa – nature is amazing.
Now a word about the Polaris and the Viking brand. The ship holds 378 passengers and a crew of about 100. Commissioned in December, 2022, the design of this “Expedition Ship” allows close up viewing experiences as well as permission to do land tours. The staterooms are large; the public areas have are plentiful with a library loaded with books; quite areas to lounge, read, and rest; and hidden rooms to relax. Food is good and a Viking benefit of complimentary beer or wine with lunch and dinner. Oh did I mention that the Polaris has a woman captain.
Angie and I went on a Zodiak tour that landed us on the rocky shore line of the continent. We had to dress in heavy layers of clothing as the temperature was a balmy 34 degrees with no wind. Sliding ashore, we had to detour around a male walrus napping on the beach. Our tour took us ‘polling’ the snow trails to view some housing the early explorers built over 100 years ago. Next we viewed several gentoo Colonies (including some birds that were exiled from the main group). The rules of the continent require that you MUST stay at least 10 feet from any animal; no littering; and keep cleaning your clothing, including boots, from contaminating the land. This place is amazing. Returning to the ship, Polaris relocated to the Hidden Bay where a Special Operations Boat took us within touching range of many icebergs. Unbelievable – the powerful existence of these bergs are awesome. To finish the day, we went to a lecture on Isotopes from a PHD scientist. Dinner had muscles in a garlic sauce. Hope everyone has a good day and message you all soon.
#4 We are home now – it was a grueling two-day journey back from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires to Dallas to Virginia. Travel is great getting to your destination and returning home can be challenging.