You know when you’re on an expedition cruise in Antarctica when you get a wake-up call by your expedition leader at 6 am! “Gooooood morninggg, it is a lovely day with a bit of wind. Within 30 minutes we are about the head into the Lemaire Channel. The views outside are beautiful. When you join us on deck, please dress warm, current temperature is -5°C.”
Waking up in Antarctica
Those wake-up calls are the best! Even though it’s an early start, you will never get disappointed by the stunning views of the Antarctic Peninsula. Usually you can join the breakfast buffet right away. But today is slightly different than a ‘typical’ day on this expedition. We are approaching Lemaire Channel, probably the most famous channel at the Antarctic Peninsula. And therefore it’s worth to get dressed quickly and head outside on deck to admire the natural beauty of this epic place.
A privilege of having a balcony suite is that you can check the views and stand outside for a breath of fresh air right when you wake up. Those views make you want to go to the top deck and soak in the 180° panorama as soon as you can.
Admiring Lemaire Channel
After getting dressed in several layers of thermals, thick socks, gloves and a beanie, I finally head up to deck 8. As a reward for getting up so early we all get a nice hot chocolate to keep us warm. The wind coming through the channel is strong and extremely cold. Some people even have difficulties standing still as the wind is blowing so hard. After a while we reach the channel and you immediately feel the wind getting weaker, making it a lot more comfortable to stay out on deck.
It’s early in the season and the narrow Lemaire Channel is still covered with lots of snow. It’s a breathtaking place. I watch how penguins make their way up to exposed patches of rock to build their nests. Some of the glaciers on port side are calving and the sounds make you shiver. Icebergs floating in the channel make it a heavy task for the captain to manoeuvre through the narrow strait.
Time for breakfast
After standing out on deck for a while it is time to warm up and enjoy the breakfast buffet! While having breakfast we sail passed huge icebergs and even see penguins swimming alongside the vessel. Can life get any better? During breakfast we get the announcement that the weather has changed and we are not able to make a landing at the site we were planned to go. Instead of doing a shore landing, the expedition leader informs us we will do a zodiac cruise and get the possibility to see icebergs up close!
The best zodiac cruise ever
This zodiac cruise is an amazing alternative! From up close, the colours of the icebergs are incredibly bright blue. Other pieces of ice are so clear, which I’ve been told are very old pieces of glacier ice. While cruising along the icebergs we suddenly notice something on a piece of ice. It’s an Elephant seal pup, drifing around all alone. It’s too skinny for his age and probably abandoned by its mother. Our guide tells us it’s very rare to see a baby seal all by it self here on this location. We are very lucky to have spotted it!
Changing plans, again
During lunch, the ship starts making its way to Petermann Island. Unfortunately the bay is full of ice and we are unable to use the zodiacs to get on shore there. But in the meantime the weather has improved and we head back to the site we were supposed to visit this morning!
The zodiac cruise to the landing site is beautiful. The water is so clear you can easily see all the way down to the bottom. Once ashore, we have several hours to explore. I realy enjoy sitting in the snow and watching the Gentoo penguins going back and forth. Gliding downhill on their bellies, while struggling to get back uphill. We also see the group of skiers come down, making it look so easy! For sure that is something you must try if you are an experienced skier.
Our evening dinner today is a great surprise. We get a real Antarctic style barbeque out on deck, and the weather even spoils us with some snow! Mulled wine is served and there’s even a pig on the grill. While enjoying this fantastic feast we cruise once more through the Lemaire Channel. Our last chance to take in that beautiful view. I never thought I would enjoy a barbeque in Antarctica this much. I feel truly privileged to be here.
Despite all the changes during the day we got to experience true Antarctica. When you’re on an expedition cruise plans can be altered at any moment due to wind, weather and ice conditions. This is why Antarctica is so unique from other destinations. You just have to go with the flow and see where the adventure takes you.