Thursday, June 21, 2012

South America and Antarctica 25 - Neko Harbour and Paradise Bay

Neko Harbour is the first place we've landed that was on the actual continent of Antarctica.

A crew member was nice enough to take our photograph together, there, with penguins in the background to serve as photographic proof of our travels here.

The area hosted a small nesting ground for Gentoo Penguins. But Melony and I decided to hike to the top of the 750 foot vantage point. This is a view from where we began climbing.

As always, terrain looks much flatter in photographs than it does in real life. The area where you see the small red dots on the left is where we started our climb.

From the top, the dots on the left that are people are much smaller.

We took our photographs of each other at the top.

Melony used my camera to take this shot. Here you can see the plastic bag peeking out that I had fastened over my camera to keep it dry. That is relevant at this point because we all chose the easy way down.

Instead of walking, we slid down the steep slope on our backs. I, in my infinite wisdom, decided to zip my camera inside my coat to protect it from being damaged on the slide down. Well, I got to the bottom, pulled it out, and found to my dismay, that the camera had quit working. Seems there was too much condensation from the climb still inside my jacket.

Fortunately, Melony was able to make some movies of folks sliding down the hill. My dead camera is the reason these are all the pictures I have of that landing.

Fortunately for me, by the time of our next outing that afternoon at Paradise Bay, the hair dryer in our room had worked wonders on both lens and camera, and had restored both back to life.

The grey spot in front of the iceberg at middle left is a Zodiac full of people.

Here we see Russ in a howling snowstorm driving his Zodiac, still with his wonderful British accent, but also still without a hat. He took the group before us. When he came in at the end of the outing, his long blond locks were matted and frozen to his head.

The snow came down harder, but we were toasty warm in our cozy red parkas. Charlie Hobbs, our Zodiac driver and also the expedition leader, parked us on a small rocky island for twenty minutes or so of silent experiential appreciation of the place.

We watched birds land and penguins come and go. Listened to waves gently lapping against the rocks. I could feel the stillness of the place in my body. Being there in the middle of all the fantastic scenery of this incredible place, absorbing it the way we did, changed me in a profound way. It was, I have to say, one of the highlights of my trip.

I know that friends and family may look at these pictures and be certain that we have lost our minds. All I can say is that sanity is often overrated. Occasionally, the quiet times enjoyed while sitting in the water during a blizzard are really the best.

All too soon it was over. I snapped this shot of the boat after us coming in all covered with snow. By then my camera lens had taken a direct snowflake hit. But you get the idea.

That night we headed back across the Drake Passage. The first 24 hours were interesting. I remember waking up several times that night and finding myself crashing down from a mid-air high back into our bed. Breakfast the next morning on deck 6 was canceled due to rough seas. But after that it was smooth sailing again.

Continue on to Post 26: Back to Ushuaia, by clicking here.


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