POS: 64*53,5 S 62*52.3 W
COG: Drifting at Paradise bay.
WND: NW 0 - 1 bft
Were it not for the electric blue of the glacial ice, Antarctica would be a monochrome world. Black volcanic rock finds itself permanently covered in powdery white snow where low rocky islands gently undulate between spiky mountains and sharp cliffs. This is a land forged by fire, living in ice.
My first Drake Passage was mercifully calm. Although the swell from distant weather caused some rolling, the winds remained light enough to find my sea legs again and reacquaint myself with the galley dishes before they started flying about. We spent the crossing accompanied by graceful albatrosses, the occasional whale and, eventually, the joyous
splashing of penguins enjoying their swims.
After five days, we sighted the South Shetland Islands. While not quite the Antarctic continent proper, they are below the convergence and provided me with the first glimpse of an Antarctic landscape. A first landing at Barrientos Island revealed the endearing friendliness of so many penguins, who waddle haplessly between humans as though no different. For me, it was time to learn the efficient routine required to get people to and from the ship safely and without delay, and a
chance for a zodiac driving lesson from the bosun. The ship's guides, who are well learned in Antarctic wildlife, brief us all on the many measures taken to protect the pristine environment here, which include disinfecting our boots before and after landing, and not sitting or placing bags down at any time once ashore.
Continuing south-west, the first ice was spotted. An iceberg six miles away was found to be 70m tall from a sextant sighting, an immense floating fortress drifting silently on a hazy horizon. We occasionally heard the violent rumble of distant glaciers shedding huge pieces of ice, the moment of creation for these lifeless ice castles. While they were a distant spectacle then, icebergs would soon become a regular obstacle in the navigation of the ship.
A day at Deception Island was spent exploring the abandoned whaling and research station at Whaler's Bay in a thin fog, the weather providing a spooky backdrop to this relic of Antarctica's earliest explorers. Later, we crossed the Bransfield Strait close hauled with courses, topsails and top gallants set on a sunny afternoon that felt more like days spent in
the trade winds than the cold southern ocean.
Already many landings later, we are currently returning Northwards through the Lemaire Channel. The gentle crackle of brash ice accompanies the churn of the engine as Europa slides gracefully between the steep cliffs of the historic waterway, her crew and guests tiny spectators of an awesome landscape. There is simply too much variety to describe fully the staggering beauty of the Southern continent. I have never seen a landscape worth comparing it to.
Matti Borchardt-Hume 03.02.2023
A Deckhand's First Impressions of Antarctica