February 9, 2006
Antarctic Cruise Day 4
The Plan: Stop at Port Lockroy in the LeMaire Channel of the Antarctic Peninsula for another zodiac landing.
Once again, I had to get up early. I had been staying out late every night, so sleep had been firmly placed on the back burner till the end of the cruise. I figured that even after the big last-minute discount I got, I still was spending a lot more money per day during the cruise than I would be spending normally, so I wanted to make the most of it.
After moving all night long, we docked in the LeMaire Channel this morning. Unlike yesterday, my group was the first to step on the land today, so we had to leave early. The drill was basically the same as yesterday: take a zodiac to the shore and look at penguins, only this time they were gentoos.
When we disembarked, I noticed a that a few things were different from yesterday. For starters, the area cordoned off for humans to walk in was much smaller this time around. I was told that this was because the penguins were closer to the shore than normal, and we didn't want to destroy their habitat. The other thing I noticed was that there were a lot of dead penguins on the ground. Apparently, half of the chicks had been lost in the last few weeks because it was so warm. Penguins have a thick coat of feathers and a lot of blubber to protect them from the extreme cold of Antarctica, but when it gets warm, it's common for them to overheat and die. You wouldn't believe how many of the ship's passengers I talked to were joyous that the weather was so comfortable for them to walk around in, yet they didn't even seem to realize that the same weather killed half the penguins in the rookery.
The LeMaire Channel must be a popular spot because there were two private yachts and a Russian ship anchored there at the same time as us. I can only imagine what an adventure it must be to sail around the world and chill out in Antarctica for a month or two.
This afternoon, I watched a movie about Shackleton, the great antarctic explorer. He failed to reach the south pole in his first expedition with Scott, and when Scott and Amundson both reached the pole in the same year, Shackleton decided to try to cross the entire continent on foot. Unfortunately, his ship got stuck in the ice during a terrible storm. His crew somehow managed to drag their lifeboats to open waters and sail to Elephant Island. Once at the island, Shackleton sailed with five of his men in a lifeboat over 800 miles through antarctic waters to South Georgia, but the whaling base he was hoping to reach was on the other side of the island. He had to hike over a mountain chain to reach the base, and he attempted to get back to the rest of his crew on Elephant Island four times before succeeding. When he got there, he found that everyone in his party had survived the harsh antarctic winter in a shack made out of the other lifeboats. In all, Shackleton and his team were gone for over three years. It's one of the greatest stories of adventure I've ever heard.
I also tried my hand at carpet bowling this afternoon. It's similar to boche ball, but it's played inside. The balls are weighted on one side, so you have to roll them on their "track." Being from a country where the game is popular, Craig easily beat everyone else, but it still was a fun time. Maybe it's something that could be played around the office on Friday afternoons.
Today was Lisa from New Zealand's birthday, so a bunch of us went to the Seven Seas Restaurant to celebrate with her. When the staff noticed us toasting to her birthday, they brought out a big cake and sang to her. Someone at a table nearby bought us all a bottle of wine, too. Tonight I learned that during your birthday is a very good time to be on a cruise ship.
The photo album for this entry is here.