A Travellerspoint blog

Long Journey Home

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

View 2017 Antarctica on greynomadm's travel map.

The last of the wake-up announcements and off to breakfast. After breakfast we waited in the lounge for the disembarkation call. At 08:00 we were requested to leave the ship, identify our luggage and board the bus. The entire Expedition Staff stood in the wet conditions to bid us safe travel, almost like saying goodbye to family.

A relatively short drive through the city out to the airport. Baggage was checked in and we faced many hours until boarding the aircraft. The flight to Buenos Aires was uneventful but rough with the seat-belt sign on more often than off. Arrival at the domestic terminal was a little confusing as we kept looking for the International Departures. Found out we had a 10 minute walk to Terminal A. Easy when you know.

Terminal A was crowded with limited seating, little air-conditioning and only two food outlets. We managed to grab a seat in the most crowded McDonald's ever experienced. Found a good deal that used of the last of the local currency - great management ??

Tried to enter the secured departure area. Not yet permitted for our flight. Had to hang about until 19:30. Noticed a bunch of people heading into the departure area just after 19:00, joined them and got through to security. We had a long wait with our flight still on page 2 of the Departures Board. With no gate number allocated we stayed in the central area and made frequent trips looking for updates.

Eventually the flight was allocated a gate number and we headed off to Gate 23. It was a long walk almost entirely through parts of duty free outlets. Very strange setup. By the time we boarded the plane we had been on the go for 16 hours with a 14 hour flight to Auckland still to endure.
The aircraft was fully occupied with passengers and more that one piece of carry-on for each. The was lots of shoving to fit more and more gear into those bulging lockers. With a first come, best served approach some people had to find spaces further toward the back. I figured there would be some interesting moves at the far end as they pushed against the tide.

Our arrival in Auckland was at least 30 minutes late. The connection interval to our flight to Sydney had also changed resulting in a close call. By the time we found the transit lounge we were sure we would be catching a later flight. Appears that the flight to Sydney was also running late and with hardly time for a breath we were off on a three hour flight to Sydney.

On arrival we retrieved our luggage and successfully negotiated the automatic passport recognition process, much improved from our first encounter some years ago. Found the Virgin transfer lounge, checked in the luggage and transferred to the domestic departures for our fourth security check. We were both exhausted and travel weary. No more delays just a simple flight to Canberra on a stinking hot day.

The taxi dropped us off and we made a beeline for the door, dumped the luggage and crashed on the bed. Within minutes we were fast asleep. We were so deeply asleep that we didn't hear our neighbour come in and delivered a carton of milk in case we needed it. She was surprised to find our luggage dumped in the lounge room.

Not a lot more to be said, we figured we were in transit a total of close to 40 hours without sleep. Sadly there is no practical way of reducing that travel time to the far flung destinations. This could well be the last of these brutal flights.

There may be subsequent entry in the form of a wash up summary but for now, thanks for following.

Stay healthy and safe.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 20:29 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Drake Passage and Ushuaia

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

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The crossing of the Drake Passage continued in a remarkable calm fashion. It was a subdued day aboard as we were required to focus on the task of packing and preparing to disembark. Various lectures and talks filled in much of the day.

There was a special treat because the passage had been so smooth the Captain took us into the Pacific Ocean on a visit to Cape Horn Island before slipping into the Beagle Channel for the approach to Ushuaia.

To my surprise the very bulky expedition parka compressed down enough to fit the luggage. In line with the excellent organisation throughout the voyage, the method of disembarkation was explained and proved to be very simple and effective. There were donation boxes for unwanted gear and effortless payment of the surprisingly small account balance.

Main luggage to be outside the cabin by 07:00, just before breakfast. Very civilised.

We were secure along side in Ushuaia before dinner, first time there was no rocking of the ship. The evening was spent with the crew in a packed lounge as farewell toasts were made, raffles were drawn and memorabilia auctioned off. Found it difficult to fall asleep without the assistance of the rocking motion.

Just the dreaded flight back to look forward (?) to.

Stay healthy and safe.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 20:26 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

The Drake Passage

Monday, 1 January 2018

View 2017 Antarctica on greynomadm's travel map.

The ship was very quiet this morning, seas calm and not many people around. No line-up for breakfast and very few in the lounge for Part 5 of the BBC Documentary. Scott's talk about the 'Race to the Pole' was better attended and those who were not there missed the most enthralling talk of the expedition. Scott contrasted the two competing parties and their approach to the venture. One party arrived first and returned intact the others all fell victim to the environment and some poor choices.

After lunch the movie was 'Happy Feet' made all the more enjoyable as we were more able to identify the characters. Perfect show for the location. To fill in the balance of the afternoon we had our knowledge of whales enhanced thanks to an excellent talk by John. He concentrated on the two species we'd encountered being the Humpback and the Orcas

The debrief time-slot provided an opportunity for Shayne to present an amazing slide-show of images contributed by the passengers. Dinner marked to end of the day for us as we sailed across the Drake Passage in weather conditions rarely experienced. It was like sailing on a vast lake.

Tomorrow is the last full day of the voyage.

Stay healthy and safe.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 20:24 Archived in Antarctica Comments (0)

Half Moon Island and Deception Island

Sunday, 31 December 2017

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This morning we arrived at Half Moon Island and we are now back in the South Shetlands. I was surprised to see a cargo vessel discharging supplies into a small scale landing craft. The Argentine Cámara Base is located on the island and was being re-opened for the summer. It is only accessible by sea and by long range helicopter; in favourable conditions, there is no airport of any kind.

Conditions were excellent for landing and the Zodiacs were quickly launched. There was an abundance of wildlife ashore comprising mainly chinstrap penguins, Antarctic terns, skuas and kelp gulls. When the explorers returned to the ship the ship set off for Deception Island.

During that short period the weather changed to low cloud, reduced visibility and snow. Our anchorage is in the flooded caldera of a ring of volcanoes. The island provided a safe refuge for sealers and whalers. Remnant equipment of that period still litters the shores. Once again the visitors were greeted by the resident Chinstrap Penguins. The weather didn't improve but the more energetic were rewarded by the discovery of some Weddell Seals and another Leopard Seal.

Back aboard we were treated to an impressive buffet dinner to mark the end of 2017. A crazy 'Black and White' costume party in the lounge was the prelude for a boisterous welcome to the New Year in the Polar Bear Bar. The festivities continued through to the early hours of 2018.

The ship continued on a Northerly course for the Drake Passage and the port of Ushuaia.

Goodbye 2017.
Stay healthy and safe.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 21:47 Archived in Antarctica Comments (0)

Kinnes Cove and Brown Bluff

Saturday, 30 December 2017

View 2017 Antarctica on greynomadm's travel map.

From here on these blog entries are based on my memory, some photos and most importantly on the Daily Expedition Reports written by various members of the expedition team. I will use their factual information and sprinkle some of my observations with that.

In the morning we sailed through the Antarctic Sound with those spectacular tabular icebergs on both sides. The first landing was on Kinnes Island where they were met by hundreds of penguins heading down to the water or making their way up the slopes.

On return to the ship the anchor was weighed and the ship sailed to an anchorage off Brown Bluff. From there the Zodiacs and passengers faced stiff winds and bone-chilling temperatures but were rewarded by thousands of penguins and again the rarely sighted leopard seal.

After dinner joined most of the passengers to view the BBC Documentary "Frozen Planet - Part 4". It felt strange to be going to bed while it was still light. Sunset will not be until after 23:00.

Stay healthy and safe.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 20:56 Archived in Antarctica Comments (0)

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