Saturday, January 14, 2012

Merry Christmas! (December 25, 2011)

This is my second Christmas morning spent in the Antarctic and I just love it!  Never really have to worry about whether it will be a white Christmas :o)  Last night was a big celebration as in most countries Christmas Eve is the time to celebrate with family and friends.  Most people dressed up and we had a wonderful Christmas dinner.  Wine flowed freely and it was hard to even hear each other at the table for conversations and merriment filled the air.

People often ask "Don't you miss Christmas?" My answer is that I have never "missed" a Christmas, I have one every year!  The truth is, that after being on the ship for near 20 days the people I work with are like my family and the guests my friends.  I had Christmas with 100 people this year!  The trip had been one for the record books in terms of wildlife and weather; everyone was so happy making for a most merry Christmas.

In Antarctica, Santa drives a zodiac, not a sleigh.
Paula and I exchanged presents this morning before heading out;  Christmas morning found us at Deception Island.  This was really a spectacular morning, it was the first time I had ever been to Deception Island when the sun was shining.  The sun was out and a fresh dusting of snow covered this volcanic island.  We anchored in Whalers Bay and hiked up to Neptune's Window to take in the full view.  By the time we hiked back the guests were stripping down to their bathing suits to do a Christmas Polar Plunge.  It was soooo cold this morning, the coldest morning yet at about 28 degrees with 20 knot winds.  It didn't want to take off my gloves, let alone my clothes to jump into the ocean, which was a balmy 33 degrees itself.  So I watched from shore and laughed and cheered as guests sprinted into the near frozen sea.  

After spending Christmas morning at Deception we sailed north to another island in the South Shetlands called Half Moon Island.  As we sailed all of the One Ocean staff as well as Paula and I did our secret Santa around the Christmas tree in the lobby.  It was really fun to watch everyone open their gifts...and then scramble to get dressed for our next excursion!  

Macaroni penguin
This was to be the final penguin count of the season for Paula and I.    We arrived at Half Moon to bright sun, clear skies, and winds nearing 30 knots (~34 mph).  The zodiac ride was bumpy and wet, but we made it ashore.  Half Moon Island is home to about 1,100 pairs of Chinstrap penguins...and one pair of Macaroni penguins.  The guests were thrilled to see chicks for the first time on their voyage.  Though Paula and I had spotted chicks at several sites, none were accessible to the guests.  The chicks at this site were only a few days old and guests were lucky to catch quick glances as the adults were sitting tight on their nests in the cold wind.  It was so windy up on the rocks that I often held onto a big rock so I wouldn't get blown over the edge.  The cold wind also made counting difficult as my eyes kept watering making it very hard to see.
As the winds started gusting to over 45 mph we knew it was time to leave.  We had completed our final count and it was time to sail north through the Drake Passage once again on our way back to Ushuaia.  It was a wonderful Christmas day that ended on a more somber note as we cleaned our gear for the final time and said good bye to Antarctica.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to post any questions and I will do my best to answer when I have internet access!