One year on

Yesterday,  as I walked from home to the Bellerive village on Hobart’s eastern shore, the wind and the temperature and the sun and the water of the Derwent River plus the vista of Mount Wellington took my mind straight to Ushuaia.  I realised that on this date, on the 17th of November last year,  Le Lyrial a fabulous Ponant small cruise ship sailed into the small hilly city of Ushuaia.Ushuaia.JPG

While we sailed the open and iceberg strewn seas and while we visited various locations on mainland Antarctica and nearby islands, the only colours in the landscape had been whites and greys and blues, punctuated with deep blacks. Only on those colour restricted days did I come to the understanding that I needed to see greens in the landscape; my whole body ached to see and be within natural green colours.  Since sailing from South Georgia, greens in the landscape had been covered with ice and snow. Leading to our return to that southern-most city in South America at the bottom of Argentina, I remember beginning to bore my fellow travellers.  “I need to see green vegetation”, became my refrain.  Many knew that as soon as I left the ship at Ushuaia my first priority was to hug a tree.

I recall the ship sailing from the mountainous seas of the Drake Passage into the relative calm of the Beagle Channel, up which we sailed to Ushuaia. I remember that arrival day with love and affection.

As gently appearing land changed from an indistinct grey-green blur in the distance to sharp crisp edges and solid shapes of dark greens, I watched from my balcony  with supreme happiness.  Once I could clearly see particular trees and shrubs, my whole body sucked in the fresh air and I felt exhilarated by the many green plants that grew onshore.  I had my drug.  Drug of choice.  Intoxicating.

The vistas of Hobart are unlike those around Ushuaia. Their nearby mountains are much higher and topped with snow.  Yesterday our mountain was snow free and hill-sized by comparison. My city is many times larger than Ushuaia. Nevertheless, yesterday I felt they shared a similar feel, a familiar spirit.

In the image below, Google maps shows the cruise ship wharf in Ushuaia.  There are more ships moored in this snapshot than when we stopped there; our ship moored on the left hand side roughly where the ship with the helicopter pad is located.Port.JPG

You may enjoy a rerun of a small selection of photos I took in Ushuaia one year ago.  IMG_4297.JPG









Ushuaia is a long way away in distance and time. My visit seems long ago, yet how wonderful that with a particular weather here in Hobart, I can be reminded and transported back to that special place which returned green coloured landscapes into my life.



Do you want to read more stories of wonderful places?

If you want to read more stories of wonderful places, then go to, and on the right hand side of the Home Page add in your email address and Follow (if you are not already following). Starting next Monday 28th January, a very short series of posts have been scheduled daily. These cover my visit to the remote and isolated glorious Tasman Island ,a tiny place off the south east coast of Tasmania which has restricted public visiting access.


What is left to say? I am writing this postscript on the 17th December roughly one month after The Great Adventure ended; after visiting the Southern Ocean in the vicinity of southern Argentina, South Georgia Island, the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands. Starting at Montevideo capital of Uruguay we sailed south east then south west, and finally north until we arrived back at the southern tip of Argentina at the city of Ushuaia. The map below gives a very rough approximation of the route.Map ArgtoAntarcto Arg with added line.jpgWe were the first Ponant ship to visit the area after winter. While other tourist ships were in the area, the distances are vast and we never saw one while at sea (while I was cruising, a few friends back in Australia were tracking ships online and could see many  dispersed across the general area).  The only vessel we saw during our trip was the Argentine research ship that anchored near us in Half Moon Bay, Livingston Island within the South Shetland Islands.

I strongly recommend Ponant and, in particular, its ship Le Lyrial as a superb way to travel to and from Antarctica. Le Lyrial was the perfect vessel for the trip.IMG_3871




IMG_3880.JPGIt’s capacity to house a maximum of 200 guests is the largest size for an Antarctic bound tourist ship if particular shore excursions are to be permitted. We were able to flexibly visit a range of shores with a competent and highly efficient crew. In addition, our trip along the narrow but spectacular Drygalski Fjord was possible only because of the ship’s comparatively small size.

Le Lyrial was the perfect base for our learning and living. Not yet 4 years old, this ship was in superb condition, and the layout of the functional areas was well thought out and practical. The cabins and the public areas were luxurious.  In this day and age when photographs can mislead, in advance of the trip I wondered whether the spacious seeming cabins would, in fact, be squashy cupboard sized. Not so. The promotional material did not lie. The high quality of housekeeping on Le Lyrial made me severely critical of the practices in some of my hotels later during my extended holiday.  I became used to the perfection, the timeliness of actions, and the unexpected extra offerings that was part of each day and night on the ship.  And I came to want nothing less.

The Expedition Leader, Florence, was super impressive in her passionate love for the polar regions, her experience travelling in and around the Southern and Arctic Oceans, her knowledge of the wildlife that flew or swam past and around us, the regularity and frequency of her briefings and debriefings, and her friendly hands on help with our disembarkation onto shore trips.  The lectures were presented either in French or English and some were given in both languages.  The quality of presentation and content varied but they were always worth attending because I came away with new understandings.

The Captain was amenable to change and was constantly looking for ways to give his guests new and rich experiences. On occasions he met with us or over the public address system provided new information, or he alerted us to a whale or an iceberg on port or starboard side. This had us racing with cameras to enjoy and record the opportunity. Often he would slow the ship or even circle around so we had better views for longer. On the South Shetland Islands the Captain decided to see if the ship could cut its way or nudge its way into a solid plane of sea ice that surrounded an island. Over an hour or so the ship made way while the early evening sun sparkled across the ice and snow.  After we had stopped, when I watched a gangway being lowered to the ice, I was amazed to see a kitchen crew lifting tables out onto the ice, and placing rows on rows of champagne glasses.  Not much later, as I bent over my balcony rail, I watched the pale golden liquid filling each.  And then the Captain invited us down onto the ice for an end of day drink in this pristine environment.  What an extraordinary idea. What an extraordinary achievement.  What a superb way to finish our stay in the Antarctic area.

The Captain’s approach to placing guests’ experience as his first priority permeated through the actions of all staff. Despite my housekeeper starting work at 5.30am and finishing at 9.30pm daily for 10 months of the year, his smile never faltered, his assistance was guaranteed, and his work speed and ethic never diminished. I rewarded him and held him in the highest regard.  The café and restaurant men were equally consistent and able and willing to ‘go the extra mile’. Not only did they remember my name quickly but many remembered which foods or tea or wine or any such combinations I preferred. And they did so for the other 200 guests.  Nothing was too much trouble. In the lounge where gallons of wine, beer and spirits were consumed, the barmen and waiters were second to none.  The professionalism with which the Zodiacs were marshalled and driven by crew and Expedition members, and the safe processes for getting us on and off these inflated craft was always evident.  It was smooth. It was stress free. And then the ride to and from shore was always exhilarating in the most inspiring of ways.IMG_4243.JPGOf course, we had paid a high price to cruise on this ship, but I think we know these days that paying a lot does not always equate with receiving a lot. The only perspective I can have is that the high quality service that I enjoyed, rewarded me for all my past hard work, and offered some sort of balance for the immense number of voluntary hours I have donated to support my paid and other work over the years.  But more importantly than that, I recognised my good fortune and privilege in being able to make this voyage.

There was room for improvement and I noted a few ideas on my evaluation form. However it is essential I say that the trip exceeded my expectations in more ways that I could ever have anticipated.  My nit-picking centred around the following items:  I expected more lectures would be scheduled and that lectures would be presented by seasoned experts; I wished for inexpensive and ‘on tap’ internet access;  French food, as offered, was a limited cuisine and I wished for flavours such as those from Asia, the Middle East and Africa; occasionally foods were overcooked and inedible (but there was always more to choose from); and the free Antarctic jackets were badly designed with unshielded pockets so rain soaked into them.

The purpose of my boarding this ship was to experience some of what Antarctica has to offer. I did this and so much more.  I did this more richly than it is possible to express.  We were told at the beginning and reminded at the end that we would be forever changed by the voyage. Without doubt that is true for me.

I now know I never want to cruise anywhere again because, on board, I feel trapped and want to be able to roam more broadly than one can on a ship. On this basis my idea to travel to Macquarie, Maatsuyker and any other islands around Australia, to travel the sea road in the Alaska Passage, or to travel in the seas of the northern hemisphere are now resolutely no go options.  It is good to know oneself.

I now know I will never travel to Antarctica again because I need to see green and to see trees; there were times I felt a desperate bodily sensation for the great loss of being deprived of plants.  A profound hunger for that life form. On this basis, if it was possible to reach South Georgia Island without cruising or sailing, I would love to revisit because the green tussoc grasses spread widely across the shore edges and sometimes on the hills and mountains.   However that possibility does not exist, so my recent trip is the first and last to that stunningly wonderful island.

Once back in Buenos Aires I felt bereft. For some time I missed the wonderful people I had met on board, and I missed the familiarity of the immense expanses of sea and snow and ice, the seabirds , the penguins, seals and whales, spotted intermittently with our comparatively small pod of red coated travellers.  I didn’t like the urban, industrialised, noise and agitation of the big city despite this being a more familiar type of environment for me.

I now know I need to live and work and travel only in small places, to the greatest extent on land although I am happy to put a toe in the water, and to keep close to plants.  During my three or so weeks in Spain each city had trees and gardens so I was amazed to be surprised when I stepped out of the car on arrival at my Hobart home to see a profusion of plants; greens and pops of floral colours in all directions. It was luscious. Lovely.

I was thrilled in every tissue of my body to have seen and experienced and learnt from parts of the Southern Ocean, South Georgia Island, the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands, but I was delighted to be in the presence of my garden back home.

Here are a few reminder photos of where I travelled.



20181114_200838.jpgI now know more about this world and myself. I am forever changed.  I set out to travel around the world in 58 days. In the end, I cut the trip short and spent only 49 days across 4 continents, touching on 7 countries, and visiting numerous cities and sites. I have come home to digest the diversity offered by those places. The record of my experiences in this blog holds a summary of my memories. My hard drive, with the thousands of photos that did not make it into the blog, will always exist to remind me of some of the world’s most extraordinary places.

I hope that the images and my stories have made you a little more curious about the world and have added, at least, a little value to your life.

18th November 2018 –leaving the ship

This post was published two months ago. I am republishing it with amendments because it helps to close the story of The Great Adventure.

Big day today. Depart from Ushuaia.

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Gorgeous vista from my cabin.  Glorious day.IMG_4389.JPGThe following image is from a postcard and shows a city much larger than I had expected.

From post card

I expected the day would start with farewelling shipboard friends. Then I looked forward to seeing more green trees and plants and grass from the air. I expected to fly on a chartered Aerolineas plane from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires as part of the package.  Then get myself to a new Hotel near the Plaza de Mayo.  Communicate with the world again. That is the short list of how the day should progress.

After travelling so far, The Great Adventure was nearly over.

We had travelled 3451 nautical miles.IMG_4384.JPGI was up around 5.30 am and looked out from the ship. There spread before me rested the small city of Ushuaia, a great many mountains, long stretches of cold waters, and a grand blue sky.  Perhaps those distant mountains were Chile –  I felt certain they were.IMG_4388.JPGOur luggage was to be left outside our cabin rooms by 6am.  But that timing was too difficult for me and later I took my small case down and added it to the collection of super large suitcases before they were offloaded.

I farewelled those who were leaving for the 8am flight (I was on the midday flight), and met the rest of my ‘pack’ for breakfast; the final breakfast.   Before I left my cabin for the last time, sitting looking out over my balcony and trying to relax, I caught a cheeky selfie.IMG_4392.JPG

IMG_4395.JPGWhile waiting for our disembarkation in the lounge, Daphne airdropped some of her photos to our phones. She supplies a Chinese travel blog – her work is brilliant (she had all the best camera gear) and I thought you might enjoy seeing a few more penguins (well more than a few)._D815755.JPG


_D700051.JPGThen it was our turn to leave the ship.  I stepped out and found surprisingly, as a guard of honour, all the naturalists and Expedition team had lined up to say goodbye. It was silly. It was fun. It was moving.  We had all experienced so much together, so that it was with both pleasure and sadness we could say our final goodbyes.

Onto the bus and off to the airport seeing a little more of suburban Ushuaia as we travelled.

Massive wooden beams structured the airport.  An oddity was an alcove with a statue of the Virgin Mary, with flowers and other offerings around.  The extreme light made recording this unexpected airport item, almost impossible.IMG_4408.JPGThe arrival of our Aerolineas plane was delayed but finally after an extraordinary, but transient, storm (complete with a glowing rainbow, the clarity of which I have seldom seen) it arrived.IMG_4406.JPGI tested out the ‘vegetarian’ packed lunch provided by our conveyors to the airport (the plane offered no meals and we were not due to arrive in Buenos Aires until 15.15).  We all laughed before I opened what seemed like a bun. It weighed heavy. I passed it around and the guessing game began. What did it contain?  Lettuce doesn’t weigh much. How puzzling.  Inside was a very wide 1 inch deep round of deep fried, with crispy coating of goodness knows what, something. It might have been dense cheese and potato without much potato.  None of us could work it out and I tried it and – well it had a marvellous taste of fat and salt. As much as I like those flavours I couldn’t, didn’t eat it.  Gross at every level. On the plane later, I smiled when I read the inflight magazine’s special article on what not to eat when you are about to fly and what to eat – saturated fats were not recommended.  Nothing more to be said here, is there.  It’s the little stuff that breaks up the monotony of air terminals.

After the luxury of the Ponant ship, this flight supposedly chartered for us offered economy seats on a normal flight; packed as sardines we were. Reasonably noisy old plane and I wondered if it once belonged to Ansett or TAA – nah, maybe more recent than that. I had a nice enough time – it is one advantage of short legs and learning to cope with any situation.  Had two great people from New Zealand next to me who moved elsewhere to protect the lady’s bad knees from the rude Frenchman in front who wiggled his malfunctioning chair thoughtlessly (the karma for him was that I talked too loudly later when he wanted to sleep, and he was most disgruntled. All the surrounding Australians rolled their eyes not understanding what his problem was. A divide had developed on the ship for all sorts of reasons between the English speakers and the French and it continued.).

I enjoyed looking down at the country and then mostly at the ocean. The way the clouds created shapes on the water seemed crisp like a screen-print.IMG_4410.JPGFor a while I had the run of three seats.  We all know how good that is.  Then another woman, who I knew quite well, came and joined me. We had a great time until we both slept (The flight from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires was about 3 hours). Joan (and Doug) was from Kooyong and played tennis, so we talked about the Davis Cup when it was played there. Then, as we flew over Buenos Aires, I could point out the huge number of clay courts below.

We landed at the domestic airport which is much closer to the centre of Buenos Aires than the international airport.  Some of my new-found friends were heading off home but a few were spending a couple of nights here in BA.  We had a mixed bag of futures.  We had been thrown together so intensely for a fortnight that it was something of a wrench for all to leave.

At the airport I purchased a transfer car to my hotel and my driver, with his crisp white shirt, headed off. The roads are wider and newer than the trip to the city from the international airport, so it was much less stressful for me to travel on these roads.  A bit of fun occurred when I surprised mine and another driver – we were lined up waiting for a street light to change when I exclaimed in my best Spanish – they are my friends in the adjacent car – and so it was a case of happy unexpected Holas between two cars in the middle of a city.  Between people who might never meet again.  One more practice of weaning – from the intensity of the lived experience of the ship.

On massive many laned fly overs, we drove past what looked like the pictures I have seen of favelas in Brazil.  Shonky built residences to make do and survive.  Most were concrete block and perhaps they were finished inside. I will never know. I was surprised at the tiny size of most.

Then into the older part of Buenos Aires. Past wonderful French inspired grand architecture.  The sun was shining, and the city looked great. I could easily get my bearings when I saw street names and felt like I was returning ‘home’.  Well not quite of course, but the familiarity was seductive.  Despite the depressing effects of my coughing cold I was re-energised.  Happy to be in the sun. Happy to see big trees.  Happy.

My hotel for these next two nights is near a church that I visited during my last trip. It rings the time on the hour for most of the day (but not all the night) and next morning I heard the bells play out music. An unexpected bonus.

After settling in, I subwayed off to my favourite vegetable meal location but, of course, it was shut. I began walking back towards my hotel and entered an old-style restaurant Los 36 Billares (Billiards – but I saw no sign of a billiard table).  A bronze plaque on the wall informed me this restaurant was declared a Site of Cultural Interest and had been established in 1894.  Its internal and external structure reflected a very wealthy 1894 and the feeling was of old world, but smart.  Wood panelled walls had intricate, beautifully crafted wooden inserts creating pictures of grapes and leaves.  Italian inspired food range on offer; my gnocchi in tomato sauce with herbs seemed all home-made and made on order (each gnocchi ‘pillow’ was different in a rough sort of way but still refined and melt in the mouth). It was an extraordinarily good and fresh meal.  After a fortnight of free Champagne (not sparkling wine but varieties of Champagne) and endless wonderful cocktails (okay so I let my hair down) having to buy a drink was a shock. I ordered something I had never experienced, and it was refreshing but way too strong, so I did the unusual and left some behind (I am on all sorts of drugs to get rid of this cold!). The drink was called a Ferroviario and I would have it again in a flash if I could. The ingredients were Cinzano Rosso with Fernet (another aperitif) and soda – with an old-fashioned soda pump bottle supplied for me to top up as I wished. Marvellous.

An early collapse into bed ended what had been a long and emotional day. At the end of a rich and complex fortnight.

17th November 2018 – into Ushuaia

A new day and a new beginning.  That was my attitude even if my body was not quite ready for it.

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Woke around 5.30 and realised the extensive rock and roll had stopped so assumed that we had started into the Beagle Channel. We had left the mountainous seas of the Drake Passage.  Could see mountains in the distance.IMG_4277.JPG

IMG_4278.JPGFeel very weak after a day without meals but better rested and believe that all the poisonous chemicals I have been taking are having some effect.  Went down to breakfast. Neil joined me, and we did a debrief on what we thought of this trip as it comes to an end.  While having breakfast not only could I see solid Argentinian land on my right (with lots of snow-capped mountains), but I had Argentinian islands up close on the left.  Back in the cabin I could see green trees and I am very happy. Its 9.15am and we have a ship group disembarkation chat in a short while. We can get off into Ushuaia this arvo and then return to sleep on the ship.  I am so weak not sure what I will do.  May try to sleep all morning to prepare myself.

At the disembarkation presentation so many people came up to me to check how I was; including people I didn’t know that they knew I had a bad cold.  When ill, this is really lovely because generally I was feeling so down and it was warming to think others had noticed.  Last night I was raging to myself that I had been foolish to book onwards to Spain and then Japan.  How could I have been so thoughtless.  What on earth made me think I wanted to not be at home and travel again.  Then I lay thinking about the consequences of cancelling forward bookings, returning home early and not continuing. But if my head wasn’t already done in by sleep deprivation and a bad cold, that really was too much.  It seemed easier to continue.  Despite being weak this morning it has already been suggested to me that when I get off at Ushuaia this afternoon (and hug a tree) I may get all my can-do energy back.  Oh – now a phone call has come through from reception; Miss strong French accent tells me there is someone who would like to talk to me.  Sure, I said. Its Peter here. I have some Fisherman’s Friend lozenges if you would like.  That’s really kind. Yes please.  And up he brings a packet of peppermint flavoured soothe-the-throat fresh mints.

Its almost 11.30am and there are now buildings lining the occasional shoreline stretch of what otherwise looks like impenetrable forest.  I wonder if they travel to and from Ushuaia by boat – no sign of roads. A medium sized yacht sailed past a while back.

Onshore looks like cold temperate forest sometimes on rocky hills and then a more Alpine vegetation on the slopes of nearby partially snow-covered mountains.IMG_4287.JPG

IMG_4288.JPGI believe the maximum temperature will be 9 degrees today but, with wind-chill, I imagine dressing for 5 degrees might be the smart option.  Yes.  I am feeling excited that I can get off soon, and that it will be possible to stay off in less than 24 hours. Hallelujah.  I was never sea sick even amidst very rough seas. I was mostly happy with the onshore options. I had low expectations of getting decent vegan food and they were met.

And then I could see Ushuaia edged by high peaks with their snow stripes.IMG_4290.JPG

IMG_4293.JPGWe arrived into port at Ushuaia smoothly with little breeze and around 2-2.30pm we were free to leave the ship.IMG_4297.JPGWe poured off the ship without passports armed only with our room/cabin card.  There were no immigration or customs procedures and we loved the process and wished the rest of the world was so relaxed.  Or perhaps common sense prevails:  who in their right mind would be drug or arms running from Montevideo to Ushuaia via Antarctica!  That’s right. No-one.

I eschewed the plans of others to take a mini tourist train in the Tierra Del Fuego national park. Instead off on my own I had a pleasant afternoon wandering the streets but with most time spent at a colossal museum housed in the old prison (which was built to house convicts in the 1890s).  One gaol cell display space was devoted to historic gaols in Australia – couldn’t work out why.  Maybe Port Arthur for the convict link but the others???IMG_4314.JPG

IMG_4319.JPGThe method for shackling prisoners was something I had not previously seen.IMG_4328.JPGSome of the museum had been repaired or cleaned up but other parts were in original disintegrating condition. Very illuminating.IMG_4347.JPG

IMG_4349.JPGWithin the very large museum complex was an art gallery holding large penguin sculptures.  These were creative and fun to look for.  Examples include:IMG_4333.JPG


IMG_4329.JPGIMG_4336.JPGMy great ‘take away’ from the museum was that Ushuaia is at the bottom of an island which is at the bottom of Argentina.IMG_4323.JPG






IMG_4327.JPGIt wasn’t cold outside around town although cool.  We are located at 54 degrees south compared to Tasmania’s 42 degrees south so that needs to be taken in to account. I wore only a t-shirt and my normal non-Antarctic jacket and was comfortable.

After I left the museum I wandered along the streets of Ushuaia and heard most languages except Spanish; this is a serious tourist town with people waiting for cruise ships to take them south.

Walls decorated with mural art added life to the urban environment.IMG_4301.JPGSome museums were shut.  No surprises there.IMG_4304.JPG

IMG_4302.JPGSnowy mountains punctuated the landscape in the distance whereever I looked.  Marvellous crisp profiles.IMG_4305.JPG



IMG_4355.JPGThe architecture is a mix. I liked the look of the older corrugated iron buildings with their coloured walls.IMG_4354.JPG

IMG_4357.JPGMostly I think of Ushuaia as the dandelion capital. Spring had sprung these golden flowers in every nook and cranny. Luxuriating.IMG_4310.JPGAs I walked into the centre of town, children were everywhere. I first noticed some playing chess.IMG_4363.JPGThen I saw different stalls lining the street edges all devoted to some game or learning for children to get involved with. At  another corner, loud pop music filled a vacant block;  food was offered for dancing children. The colourful church attracted my attention.IMG_4366.JPG

IMG_4369.JPGInside a service was being held with children attached to parents. Obviously the focus was children that day.  Apart from the bright happy colours, the highlight in this building was a superb stained glass window near the entrance.IMG_4371.JPG

IMG_4372.JPGThen I plodded along the wharf.  It wasn’t the city that interested me, only the mountains.IMG_4375.JPG



IMG_4383.JPGBack to the ship for the last time.IMG_4381.JPG

IMG_4379.JPGI have coughed my way around Ushuaia and now I am very tired. As much I would like to kick on tonight with everyone for the last night together, I may eat dinner and then disappear.  But then – I can’t be trusted to make a decision and stick to it. Tomorrow morning, we must be out of our cabins permanently by 8am so I want to get some catch up sleep before then.

16th November 2018 – at sea

Spent an awful night sitting in a sea of pillows propped up so I could doze and then wake and cough. Visited the on-board doctor and, for the cold, came away with syrup and antibiotics. While there I was put on a face-covering inhaler with some drug within to help me breathe. I am required to return this evening for another 15 minutes of same.  But the downside of the visit was finding my blood pressure was more than excessively high.  I explained about the white coat syndrome, but the doctor was worried; I was given an injection (during 6-9 metre seas and the nurse got the vein first go – very impressed) to reduce the reading. Thankfully it did reduce but not really low enough, so this will be re-examined this evening and maybe tablets in addition to those I already take, will be given to me.  Since that visit I have dozed.  Now heartily sick of being sick and thought I would record that morning situation (for my own benefit- terrible reading for anyone else).

By the way, Megan would have enjoyed one aspect of the experience; the doctor joked at the end.  He said, ’Go off and get, I prescribe for you, a few glasses of whisky’.

The return visit late this afternoon to the doctors worked out well. Blood pressure all normal and everyone happy. I returned to my cabin and slept and slept – between waking caused by the excessively rough seas.  You could not, not roll in the bed as the ship swayed through the Southern Ocean.

I didn’t access the daily program –too ill. Of course, others were not as inactive as I.

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Three lectures were presented and I could have learnt a great deal, so I am sorry to have missed them.  And the same can be said for the Recap session given by the Expedition Team – they were always worth listening to.

The route we cruised  from the start to the finish, along South Georgia Island specifically, and the path at the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands are shown in these two maps provided by Ponant;

Ship sailing route

Route from Antarctica to Ushuaia


15th November 2018 –Half Moon Bay

Afternoon excursion

From Deception Island we sailed off towards Livingston Island within the South Shetland Islands, and specifically to Half Moon Bay.  Seven species of birds breed on this island, so we were hopeful that such activity might be visible when we land.20181115_144358.jpgI watched the naturalists land and create pathways through the snow.20181115_145503

20181115_145512A small glacier emptied into the Bay onto thick sheet sea ice to the right of the landing spot.20181115_145949Later when early groups were making their way ashore, a large red-hulled ship came into the Bay. I suspect it was Argentinian come to monitor its outpost on shore (one roof of the building in the photo below displays the Argentinian flag).20181115_144941


20181115_145508I did not go ashore. After days of landings, the process of layering up and being bulky and inflexible has become second nature. That wasn’t my reason. I have a cold and with a sore throat, dry cough (which the asthma inhaler will kill), increased sensitivity to light, related mild headache and general malaise I went to bed.  If I get hungry, I will get room service. Anyway, tonight will be the first without alcohol, and that’s how I plan to continue regardless of health.  I have enjoyed all the fun I have had, but now my body is suffering. The old message is once again clear – only put in what is good for me. Of course, I realise this cold may have something to do with the incessant cougher in the next cabin – no doubt the air conditioning has spread his germs.

Earlier today I found I had made a true friendly connection when I had a knock on the door and Susan from Oklahoma had brought me sachets of powders that support the immune system. Orange flavoured with B vitamin, and operating something like Berocca tablets.  It was very satisfying to be visited and we watched some whales together from my balcony for a bit.

I didn’t have the (mental) energy to take photos of Livingston Island’s rocky mountains and hills as we departed. I lay in bed and watched them as we passed by.  They continued to be striking, startling, stunning and sensational. The consistency of the dramatic majesty of each peak, each hill, each shoreline remains undeniable. To some extent I was beginning to see them as all the same – I realised that without familiar frequent knowledge each would be unidentifiable in the future.

I have missed the Recap session this evening.  Perhaps if I leave my cabin tomorrow others can fill me in on what I missed. Without doubt I want to hear about their experiences on land in the sparkling sun on pristine snow today.

After 6pm, the crew heaved the anchor at Half Moon Bay and we circled around the ship marked H41 with its deep red hull, before heading for the Nelson Strait and out into the Drake Passage.

The expectation is that we will reach Ushuaia, at the southern tip of Argentina, on Saturday around 2pm – that’s around 18 hours before I thought we were due in.  Should we have done and seen more in Antarctica – have we got our money’s worth? Will this mean we can reclaim our passports and go ashore on Saturday, sleep overnight on the ship and then fly back to Buenos Aires on the Sunday? Is this a practical decision to cope with a dead body on board and anticipated paper work? I will never know.

Now at nearly 8pm the sea is an easy 2-3 metre swell.  It seems we may be lucky with the seas and the weather as we head north.  Currently we are sailing passed a few South Shetland Island islands and a few rocks (I wonder what the scientific definition of island is – when does a rock become an island?). I imagine this will be our last land until we reach the Beagle Channel close to Argentina and see more islands.

I have mixed feelings. I am sad that the good aspects of our daily routine are coming to an end. I am sad that The Great Adventure is virtually over. However, I am desperate to see forever sun. More than that, I am desperate to see green trees, grass and other plant life.  The silvers, the greys and the whites have been stunningly beautiful, but I need more colour in my life.

15th November 2018 – Leaving the caldera of Deception Island

The crew up anchored from Telephone Bay within Deception Island late morning. As we sailed from Telephone Bay, from my starboard side cabin I could see two research bases on the caldera’s shore – one belonging to Argentina and another to Spain.  Refer to some of the dark shapes near water level to the right of the striped hill in the first photo below. These are some of the buildings.20181115_112603.jpg


20181115_113634.jpgThen in sunlight we sailed through the entrance and out to sea.  A completely different experience to the snowed-out view on arrival.20181115_113719.jpgOn the horizon, the glow of snow-covered mountains on the Antarctic peninsula were faintly visible.20181115_114104.jpgThe entrance to the caldera is small and difficult to see from the ocean.  These photos two below indicate the large scale of this environment and how challenging sailing would be in bad weather, and in the days before GPS and satellites.20181115_120202.jpg

20181115_120202 with arrow.jpgSuddenly many Fin and Humpback whales were in front of and beside the ship.  We circled for half an hour watching them blow and arc through the water.  In a sunlit sparkling sea with blue skies above.  Magical.20181115_120736.jpg


15th November 2018 –Arriving at Deception Island

Morning excursion

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As I lay dozing around 6.40 am, the Captain alerted us that in 15 minutes we would be at Deception Island and passing into the caldera.20181115_100339.jpgPerhaps we might see something, he suggested. I pulled the curtains to a snowy whiteout.20181115_064216.jpgI didn’t hold much hope to see land, but the entrance to the caldera is only 200 metres wide so in time I was able to see the cliffs from my starboard cabin reasonably clearly as we entered.  Ride through the narrow ‘gateway’ into the caldera with me here.

We travelled a bit further and differently than I expected.  The air was white with snowflakes either drifting or being driven.  The distances were softened and then the edges of this mountainous world were obliterated.20181115_072322.jpg

20181115_073027.jpgThe landscape appeared like soft graphite pencil sketches. The video I took from through my cabin window (the balcony rail is layered with snow), which has the melodic voice over of our Expedition Leader, contains some sort of internal error and cannot be turned into a video that can be uploaded. I have taken some stills from the video and include them here. These reinforce the pencil grey softness of the landscape.  The dark dots across the images are snow-flakes.Deception Island caldera shores 1

Deception Island caldera shores 2.JPG

Deception Island caldera shores 3

Deception Island caldera shores 4The plan was to turn right/north and anchor in Whalers Bay.  When the Captain next spoke, our ship had anchored in Telephone Bay because another ship sat at anchor in Whalers.  Our expectations of visiting a Chinstrap Penguin colony and lots of whaler social history artefacts were gone.  Nevertheless, embarkations in this Bay went ahead.  One lone seal and one lone penguin with some large birds clustered on the snow (probably some sort of albatross), were all I could see from the ship.  The black moving ‘dot’ on shore is the seal.Lone elephant seal.JPGOnce on land, everyone trekked uphill through the snow either to the left and then went behind a hill and down the other side making a circuit, or to the right and finished higher up on a steep mountainous hill. With changing visibility levels, the views were limited or extensive from moment to moment.  The intense glare from the glowing white snow and the almost neon quality light, required sunglasses even though the sun could not penetrate this snowy cloud cover.20181115_094729.jpg


20181115_094749.jpgThe great white southern land has been a reality. To travel here in February would be to see another view of this land. As Verity and Noel read this blog post, I suspect the images I am showing must be a surprise and dramatically different from the views and experience they had at a different time of year.

Not only is this a great white land, it is place of a great white sky and great silver sea.  A place of endless stark white, soft greys and the occasional browns.

And then the sun came out and the snow was pulsing white.  The last group to land benefited from the new light.

Deception Island is an active volcano which has erupted at regular intervals in the past but is long past due having its next.  We were informed the international protocol is that if the volcano did start to erupt while we were onshore, the ship is duty bound to leave us and sail immediately.  We were also told that sometimes sulphur steam rises and that you can put your hands in the ground/sand and find it is warmer there.  With the thick layer of snow this morning there was no sign of such heat.  This is a location which offers much in clear weather and would be worth a visit another time.

14th November 2018 –Wilhelmina Bay in the evening

Even at dinner we sensed we had arrived in a beautiful place; this was  the serene Wilhelmina Bay. It soon became evident the Captain was taking the ship for a scenic navigation around the Bay.  This is an important breeding ground for cetaceans such as Humpback and Minke whales and we hoped to see some.  After this morning’s wonderful encounter with the curious Minke Whale, I wanted to see what treats we might have in store this evening.  We had spotted a Minke whale during dinner, but I wanted more – of course.

We are now settled into a smooth cruise around Wilhelmina Bay and the wonders are clear – no whales. I did see one frantic penguin on an ice sheet trying to run to the other side in fear of us maybe.  But the spectacle was the sun on the landscape.  Not to believed. Never to be forgotten.  You can gather some idea from this video, and this video and this video.

Then the Captain had an idea and broadcast it.  He wanted to see how the ship would go pushing a path through solid sea ice towards land – a little way.  The ship made some considerable progress and at 9.30 at night – with lots of light for ages to come – the activity continued. Madness. Fabulous.20181114_203640.jpg



20181114_210128.jpgNow I see there has been a landing party on the ice – flags are in hand and they may be deciding whether to let us all off.  The tenacity with which the Captain and the Expedition Leader try to find new experiences for us is second to none.  Passion and devotion.  I can only sing the praises of Ponant.  For virtually everything.

Ahh the enterprise. The ideas. The action.  A table has been set up on the thick sea ice and a drinks waiter is emptying Champagne into dozens of flutes that have been laid out row upon row.  We, the passengers, are being called out onto the ice systematically in our colour groups.  Brilliant. Fantastic.  Marvellous.  Everyone freshly showered, dry, warm and clean are donning the barely dirties and damp leggings, thermals, jackets, beanies, gloves and neck protection and plunging out into a ‘balmy’ summer evening in the Antarctic – where the wind is the softest breeze at 4km/hr, and the water is silky and almost still.  Inspired.  Well done Ponant!  Tomorrow night we will have left Antarctica and be on route to Argentina, so this is a perfect ‘night cap’ for the whole trip.20181114_213813.jpg

20181114_215022.jpgSuperb end to the day.