South Shetland Islands, Antarctica – Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Wow. What can I say about yesterday?! We landed on Elephant Island…the small spit of land where Shackleton’s men waited 128 days for his return to rescue them from 2 years on the ice. It’s a difficult landing–and very few people actually get the chance to land. For some of our Zodiac drivers/guides, this was their first time to land. White cliffs and glaciers around. Chinstrap penguins. And then a cruise around the area…blue bergs with caves, penguins claiming rock islands for their nests.
Later we approached the giant iceberg known as B-15d. It calved off the OTHER SIDE of Antarctica in March 2000 and has floated around the continent from about “6 o’clock to 10:30″…counter-clockwise. Now it’s grounded against Clarence Island. It is 29 miles long by 8 miles wide…nautical miles. Which means it’s bigger in “normal” miles (1.15 mile = 1 nautical mile). I couldn’t believe my eyes. The size of it is simply too much to absorb. I stood on the bridge and watched the approach–stunned at the length of it. We also saw 3 varieties of seals (Weddell, Crabeater, Leopard) laying on the bits of ice fallen off around it. We got VERY close.
A few hours later, again standing in the bridge, we got to hear the captain say “Let’s see just how hard 1-year-old sea ice is,” as he steered the ship to break through a short field of ice on the water. A few small bumps, some scrapping noises…and all us tourists racing around the bow to get a good look as we plowed through the ice.
Words cannot describe this experience. The light is unbelievable–crystal clear or eerie. It’s shocking to look out a window and see an iceberg bigger than a house float by. The colors are whites, blues, greens…. Black sand beaches, rocks, penguins steps away who aren’t the least bit concerned.
We eat well on board. We have coffee available 24 hours a day so we can stay awake despite the gentle rocking of the boat. And the sun…it rises now around 3:30 and sets after 9:30. The further south we go, the more sun we’ll get. No real dark night. Just a prolonged sunset that turns into a sun rise.
We feel very very lucky to see this place. Truly lucky.