A Walk on the Beach
09 January 2015 | 65 54'S:62 52'W, Antarctic Peninsual
We are making our way north now in the second half of the trip. Twice we have been blocked from using a preferred anchorage because of still-frozen sea ice, and the "preferred anchorages" are few and far between. While nice looking coves of moderate anchoring depth are relatively plentiful, most are either with excessive risk of becoming embayed or even crushed by drifting icebergs, or have hard rock bottoms that an anchor cannot bite into. Two days ago we sailed (motored) until 2am because of this, but the so-called night sailing was not a problem because it was not very dark.
We have had more opportunities to kayak, which is quite nice to get this silent connection to nature. It is with some fear though, because a fall here, in water constantly teeming with ice chunks, can be life threatening, even though we wear cumbersome survival suits and are shadowed by the dinghy. We went to shore near our anchorage for a beach walk, and had an entertaining time taking funny photos around ice blocks, studying the krill and kelp in the tidal pools, and listening up close to the seals snore.
I would love to make modest overland excursions, climb some hills or ridges by ski, but there is little that constitutes "moderate" here. The vast majority of the shoreline is steep-to glacier ice, requiring ice climbing gear just to get off of the dinghy, followed by numerous crevasses and avalanche danger. We met up with an Australian ski-mountaineering party whose guide was limping with a blown out knee, victim of an avalanche one day earlier.
On January 6, the Orthadox Christmas, we were at the Ukrainian Vernadsky Station, where celebration was in full swing. This former British research station was immaculate, and even included a quaint pub, where we met with the Australian adventurers, the crew of a French yacht, and several Russian and Ukrainians. We have also stopped at the British Port Lockroy (southernmost post office in the world), and an Argentinian (dour) and Chilean (warm welcome) station as well. Our Natural Habitats guide, John, somewhat rolls his eyes at these station stops, saying we are on a wildlife exploration tour, but actually the penguin population at these stations is abundant (and quite a stench).
All is well, only a few more days left!