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Kel and Rob’s Travel Diary

Monday, 19 Dec 2005

Location: Antarctica

MapLast time we updated the page we mentioned that we were off to Antarctica aboard the Ushuaia. We have made it back so an update on the amazing trip is below.

The first 2 days of our Antarctica trip, for Kel, were spent eating and vomiting (damn those Argentinian sea sickness tablets). For Rob, they were spent up on the Bridge and trying to get Kel on deck ("Come on, the fresh air will do you good and it really isn´t that cold once everything is numb and the frost bite sets in!").

As there is nothing much to see on the Drake´s Passage, we did a bit of bird watching and saw Light-mantled Sooty Albatros, Wandering Albatros (largest flying bird in the world - 3.5m wing span) Grey-headed Albatros, Northern Giant Petrels (slightly lost!), Blue Petrels, and Southern Fulmars (and the guy who gave the bird watching lecture thought we were falling asleep!)

On the second day we spotted our first (of many trillion) Iceberg. It may have been small and in the distance, but it was still an amazing moment. Late that afternoon we spotted land - the word went out - tomorrow we walk on "Antarctica". A restless night sleep was had by everyone and when we started grinding through an ice pack at 4 in the morning everyone was up on deck hoping we didn´t have to abandon ship. Unfortuantely it turned out to be óld pack ice´ (over a year old - see photo) and too thick for the Ushuaia to ram through. So we turned around and tried successfully in a different location.

Day 3 - We saw Brown´s Bluff (Shetland Islands) as we climbed into the Zodiac boats (hoping we didn´t fall into the 2 deg water) and jetted off to Shore - land at last! The first steps were amazing - 1000s of penguins nesting and 3 Wedrell seals relaxing in the sun just to top off the setting. If a whale had of swam past if would have been perfect.

Day 4 - 8 - We set foot on a number of islands and bays along the Antarctic Penisula. It was amazing - we will try and let the pictures show how good it was as there is not enough words in the English language to explain it. The wildlife was so curious, if you sat still they walked so close you could almost touch them. The animals we saw over these days were Gentoo, Adelie and Chinstrap Penguins, heaps of birds, Wedrell, Crabeater, Elephant and Leopard seals, Mink whales and the highlight, 2 humpback whales swam around the boat posing for photos!

We also got to visit a number of research stations and for 3 of the landings spend hours sliding down huge hills covered in snow whilst the penguins looked on in amazement at our inability to slide effectively (will show the videos when we get back).

On one of the cloudless days, the chief cooked up an absolute BBQ fiest on the deck. Rob managed to grab one of the rather large cuts of sirloin which he happily devoured before going back for seconds...

On the 8th day we were all rudely awoken to a thunderous sound. Shortly later the evacuate ship alarm came on. I don´t think we have ever moved so fast out of bed and started grabbing all the warm clothes we had and headed for the exit climbing and pushing people out of the way - this is the sort of situation when you no longer have a wife/husband as it is every man and woman for themselves. As we reached the deck and started wildly trying to work out how to release the raft and scanning the horizon for the closest land mass, the captain annouced it was a false alarm and we could all go back to sleep! It turned out that the thunderous sound was just the anchor being released and must have got caught causing it to grind rather loudly.

Day 9 - 10 - Back to Ushuaia, via the Drakes Passage - hence more seasickness for Kelly! You know it is rough when you have to take the mattress off the bed during the night and put it on the ground only for it to slide around the floor whilst you are sleeping on it - and apparently we only experience a ´normal´Drake passage.

Overall, the scenary was beyond our wildest dreams, and we will never EVER experience anything close to this.