Cruise to Antarctica and Sydney

Sydney

Day 50 - Saturday, February 25th - Sydney:  The ship sailed into Sydney Harbour (Port Jackson), the largest natural harbor in the world, around 7:30 and the scenery was spectacular.  Sydney was established in 1788 by a Brit named Arthur Phillip, but the area had been populated by Aboriginals for over 30,000 years.  The Harbour Bridge (the Coathanger) that we sailed under was built in 1932 and is the world's widest bridge.  Both it and the Opera House were not popular when first constructed, but today they are the best known landmarks in Sydney.  We took many pictures of both as we sailed in.  The Amsterdam docked in Darling Harbour and we left the ship about 10:00.  Instead of x-ray machines at customs in the terminal they have dogs that are sniffing bags--mostly for food, seeds, etc. as Australia is very strict about what can come into the country.  A free shuttle took us from the terminal to the Marriott near Circular Quay.  We located the hotel we'll be staying at tomorrow, then spent several hours exploring the Royal Botanic Gardens that border the harbor.  We walked to see Mrs. Macquarie's chair with its great views of the area.  We were lucky to have a sunny day, but were pretty warm after hours of walking around.  We went back to the ship in time to get ready for dinner and had our last meal with Lillian.  We skipped the show, finished packing and went to bed early.

Sunday, February 26th - Sydney:  Disembarkation went smoothly.  Because only about 300 of us were leaving the ship in Sydney we could stay in our cabins as late as 9:30.  We had a nice breakfast in the dining room and left the ship around 9:00.      It was a short cab ride to the Sir Stamford Hotel near Circular Quay where we dropped off our luggage.  We were walking along Alfred St. when we heard someone yelling "Barbara, Barbara!"  It was our trivia teammate Francine from Montreal, who was on the upper level of a Hop On Hop Off tour bus.  We walked over and said goodbye again--we hope we keep in touch with her.  She speaks English, French and Spanish, which was very helpful in answering trivia questions.  We went to the area known as The Rocks. which is the small area where the city of Sydney began (current Sydney's population is about 4.5 million people).  There is a large market area, mostly crafts, where we browsed.  We went to a Starbucks for an iced drink,  went online and watched the video of Anne on the Channel 4 News a few weeks ago--fun!  The internet on the ship was too slow to  watch it.  Today is overcast and cooler than yesterday, but the humidity is still high.  We were able to get in our room a little after noon and relaxed for a few hours.  The room seems huge after seven weeks in the cabin on the ship.  Instead of another four course dinner that we've had for 50 days, we went to an Italian restaurant in The Rocks and had a pepperoni pizza.  Everything is expensive here, so we'll eat less and spend less.  Today we drank the last bottle of wine we bought in South America, a nice Chilean cabernet.

Monday, February 27th - Sydney to Hobart:  We took the Sydney Opera House Tour at 9:00 and learned the interesting story of this iconic building.  The story is that the Danish architect, Jorn Utzon, submitted a rough plan for the 1956 opera house design competition which was put in the trash but later reconsidered.  Other plans submitted were mostly boxy, boring buildings.  Construction was started in 1957 and completed in 1973.  After the tour we returned to the hotel and took a cab to the airport for our flight to Hobart.  The hotel, thankfully, is storing our overweight bag (souvenirs and heavy Tiffany votives from HAL) so we don't have to haul it to Hobart.  Barbara had quite a conversation with a man sitting next to her in the gate area.  He appeared to be in his 80s and made a cell phone call to someone he called his "darling love" and other affectionate names.  After the call, when he found we were making our first visit to Hobart, he offered us the use of his car!  Barbara said thank you, but of course we couldn't, and then as he was suggesting things for us to see in Tasmania, she learned a lot about him.  He said he was born into a life of privilege, had gone to a boarding school in Sydney, then went to Oxford.  He is a professor of history and said he still lectures occasionally.  Before we boarded the plane he gave us his card in case we changed our mind about borrowing his car.  When we're back home we plan to google Dr. David Mitchell of Dynnynre, Tasmania, the most trusting person we've met in some time.  Our Virgin Australia flight left Sydney about an hour late and it was a bumpy ride, but the airport in Hobart is small and it didn't take long to claim our luggage and go by cab to our hotel.

Click here for photos of Sydney.

Sea Days to Sydney

Day 46 - Tuesday, February 21st - Sea Day:  There was no Monday this week as we crossed the International Date Line and sailed from Sunday right into Fat Tuesday.  The Mardi Gras party up on the Lido deck was probably the best ship party we've been to.  The food was great--lobster, huge shrimp, oysters, jambalaya and all different kinds of New Orleans drinks.  They flew people from New Orleans to Pago Pago just for the party.  The entire staff seemed to be working the party, and it was fun figuring out who was who in their costumes.  The parade wasn't much, but the spirit of Mardi Gras was in the air with the beads, coins, etc.  Barbara had her fortune told for the first time ever--the gal used tarot cards but never referred to them specifically.  She told her that in ten years she would be traveling with family and have a granddaughter!   We stayed a couple of hours, which was longer than we expected.  This crowd may be old, but they still know how to party.  There was a lady in her nineties who was all dressed up, wearing a mask, and dancing when we left.

Day 47 - Wednesday, February 22nd - Sea Day:  Our cruise days are coming to an end, but we're ready to get off the ship.  People are getting on one another's nerves.  We heard that at trivia a lady was kicked off a team because she wasn't contributing.  Lillian told us at dinner that someone told her that she should find a corner for herself at the Mardi Gras party so she and her scooter weren't so much in the way.  We can't imagine what some of these people will be like after 112 days.  

Day 48 - Thursday, February 23rd - Sea Day:  Tonight was our last formal night.  The Holland America President and CEO, Stein Kruse, is aboard and we saw him at the champagne reception.  After dinner we went to see the Kent Dancers, a sister/brother pair from Melbourne, who were very good.  We played one last game of "Name That Tune" trivia at 9:15 and didn't do too badly.

Day 49 - Friday, February 24th - Sea Day: Today was very busy with laundry, packing, a disembarkation lecture and two last trivia games with our team of six.  We exchanged email addresses with several people and hope to keep in touch.  Llllian has been saying for days that she is going to "miss us, miss us, miss us."  Paul introduced us the other day to the lady he's been spending his time with on the cruise and said she is his sister.  We're so confused!  The captain made a slight detour to take us to the volcanic Lord Howe Islands, a World Heritage site.  The Pyramid is about 1,800 feet high.

Click here for photos of our sea days between American Samoa and Sydney.

American Samoa

Day 43 - Friday, February 17th - Sea Day:  We were up early and had two loads of laundry done by 8:15 and spent the rest of the morning working on our blog.  The internet service has been pretty fast lately, but we still only go online every 3-4 days to check emails, etc.  We unsubscribed to many of our business emails before we left home but have a whole other batch that we're now getting.  Tonight we went to the show because it sounded unusual: a mind reader named Graham Jolley performed.  We need to  do some research when we get home to find out how he does the tricks.  He asked us to picture a geometric figure inside another, and gave his answer--a triangle in a circle (Barbara pictured this, but not Jay).  Then he asked us to imagine an even number between 50 and 100, and again, Barbara imagined the number he said (68), but Jay did not.  It's very mysterious.

Day 44 - Saturday, February 18th - Sea Day: Breakfast in the dining room was not the most pleasant experience.  We were seated with the couple from FL who brought everything from home but the kitchen sink (we mentioned them earlier in the blog).  Today she was commenting on someone's bad hairdo, and Jay remarked back in the cabin that she, who was being so critical, had hair that looked like she had put her finger in a light socket.   Sometimes we think the passengers are more entertaining than the paid entertainment.  This afternoon while Jay played trivia, Barbara went to the Guest Talent Show and was pleasantly surprised that some fellow passengers are pretty talented.  Tonight's show featured Mario D'Andrea, who sang and played guitar.  He was very good and did a variety of songs, including some by Chuck Berry and Tom Jones.

Day 45 - Sunday, February 19th - American Samoa:  Our shore excursion "A Taste of Samoan Village Life" started in the port town of Pago Pago, which has about 4,000 people.  The island is called Tutuila and only has one hospital, although there are two McDonalds, a KFC and a Carl's Jr.  There are many churches on the island--we saw pentecostal and Seven Day Adventist churches and Jonathan, our local guide, said the people are very religious   Sundays are for attending church, eating and sleeping.  He said they don't even swim on Sundays.  They made an exception to give tours for our ship, which because of our change in schedule due to previous bad weather was here on Sunday instead of Saturday.  We made a stop for some pretty scenery along the ocean and also stopped at a golf course.  Our final stop was at a place set up to demonstrate how Samoans lived long ago and the many traditions that still exist today.  They showed us how they cooked food on an open fire and then let us sample various foods they eat.  They served breadfruit dipped in coconut milk (okay but bland), spinach cooked with taro and coconut milk, banana, lamb, chicken, and tuna cooked in coconut milk.  It was all quite tasty.  The men do the cooking and the women take care of the children.  There was also a short program of singing and dancing.  We had just boarded our colorful little bus with wooden seats when it started to pour.  It rained really hard for about ten minutes and then stopped.  The heavy rain started again just about the time we got to the ship, so shopping for souvenirs along the dock was a pretty soggy experience.  We enjoyed American Samoa and thought it looked more prosperous than Tahiti.  One custom the two islands have in common is that they bury their dead in their yards (there are no cemeteries in American Samoa).  Property is passed down from generation to generation and our guide could't tell us how much the average house costs because he said they are never sold.  Tonight's show featured Marty Brill, a comedy writer who once wrote for Merv Griffin.  He had some very funny lines but others missed the mark.

Click here for photos of American Samoa

Tahiti

Day 38 - Sunday, February 12th - Sea Day:  We attended a lecture this morning on things to do and see in Papeete, Tahiti.  Other than that, we didn't do much besides trivia and a little gambling.  The blog hopefully got published this afternoon and we sent some emails.  We're amazed how quickly the sea days fly by--thought we'd spend hours reading by the pool or out on the deck, but that hasn't happened.  We heard at the afternoon session of trivia how bad things were with the tenders returning to the ship from Easter Island.  Some had to wait two hours when they suspended tender operations.  Apparently a man fainted, hit his head on a rock and was bleeding profusely.  He was rushed to the ship on a tender as its only passenger.  This is the third serious incident we've heard of regarding our fellow cruisers.  Previously, a woman was hit by a bus on our first stop in Dominica and was hospitalized there, and a gal broke her ankle in Recife and is hobbling around with a cane.  We were lucky yesterday to get back to the ship in 50 minutes after our tour, as today we heard about people waiting a long time out in the sun.  The tender crew worked hard for many hours.  Two of them caught Barbara and kept her from falling on her butt getting on the tender at Easter Island.  On the positive side, we're enjoying some of the wine we bought in South America.  Tonight we had a glass of the cabernet from Uruguay and it's pretty good.

Day 39 - Monday, February 13th - Sea Day:  This morning we went to hear Revell Carr's lecture on "Terra Australis No Longer Incognita."  Aristotle was one of the first who thought there was a huge, habitable continent where Antarctica lies.   Revell told us about all the many explorers who attempted to find this place.  It was finally James Cook, who made three voyages around the world before he was killed by natives in Hawaii,  who got close enough to realize that the continent is cold and white and is not suitable for most humans.  We tried the Pinnacle Grill tonight, where you pay an additional fee for dinner.  The service was impeccable and the food was good, but not as good as Capital Grille or Ruth's Chris.  Barbara's head is feeling weird, so she didn't totally appreciate the special dinner.

Day 40 - Tuesday, February 14th - Sea Day:  Happy Valentine's Day!  There is a dance tonight called the "Hearts and Flowers Ball" and the ship is all decorated in red and pink with lots of hearts.  We went to dinner on this formal night and lobster was on the menu again.  The lobster, crab and escargot are quite good and have been on the menu 3 or 4 times.  The fish is always very good as are the desserts.  Beef, pork and chicken are not as good.  We gained another hour tonight and went to bed soon after dinner.

Day 41 - Wednesday, February 15th - Sea Day:  Today we were invited to a Mariner Society Brunch where champagne was served along with some very good food.  Jay had an excellent filet and Barbara liked the salmon.  Tonight while we were eating dinner we saw dolphins frolicking quite a distance away but got a picture of them.

Day 42 - Thursday, February 16th - Tahiti:  We went on a shore excursion today called "In the Footsteps of Gauguin."  Our guide was terrific and very frank about the Tahitian people and the economy.  Things are tough, as tourism is their main industry and not many people are coming.  They charge cruise ships huge fees, so only 3 or 4 ships a month come here.  The guide said there are two seasons, hot and hotter, and that this is the end of the hotter part.  We remember the heat and humidity from our visit in 2007, and it sure hasn't changed.  Our bus was air-conditioned, as was our first stop, the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands.  It's an interesting  history--the Polynesians came from SE Asia and traveled in small boats across the Pacific to inhabit many islands, including Hawaii, Easter Island and the Society Islands that Tahiti belongs to.  After this stop we went to a sacred place called Marae Aruhurahu that was located in a lush, pretty valley.  Our last stop was the Paul Gauguin Museum, which contains none of his art, as it is not air-conditioned, is very open and has no security.  Gauguin had a very interesting life and abandoned his wife (thankfully she came from a wealthy family) and five children and came to live in the islands and paint.  Unlike the Mormon, Catholic, Protestant and other missionaries who came over the years to convert the "heathens," Gauguin is known for transmitting SDS among the population.  The houses here along the beautiful Pacific are very modest, as the rich people have built homes up on the hills.  The average person does not have AC and heat in houses is not needed.  Our guide says alcoholism is a big problem here.  French gendarmes come from France for two year stints, and our guide says that is good, because otherwise relatives might be arresting each other.  We did some shopping at the local marketplace before returning to the ship.  It rained hard when we were on the bus coming back to Papeete and it started raining hard again about 2:00 and continued the rest of the day.  We had dinner, then visited the Polynesian BBQ on the Lido Deck before turning in early.  We have turned our clocks back one hour for about 5 nights now.  If we do it much longer, Jay is going to be getting up before we go to bed!  We're including two pictures that were taken awhile ago--our core trivia team and dinner table mates Paul and Lillian.

Click here for photos of Tahiti.

Easter Island

Day 34 - Wednesday, February 8th - Sea Day:  The seas are much calmer today and temps are in the 60s.  We didn't go to any lectures today, but we did play trivia.  Since there's not much to report, we'll indulge in a little shipboard gossip.  Our table mate Lillian has gone on several world cruises, and knows a lot of other passengers aboard.  Jay and I noticed this gal whose cabin is right down the hall from us, and we've seen her mostly from the rear, with an older man usually on her arm.  We speculated that he was her father, because he looked quite old and she looked very shapely and had nice legs.  Lillian told us they were married, and that the gal is in her 80s!  She wears her hair long, almost down to her waist.  The other day we got a look at her face, and oy vey, she's had a few plastic surgeries too many.  Lillian says her husband is a retired plastic surgeon and has practiced on her.  The strange thing about these frequent cruisers is that they don't seem to like each other.  There's almost a sub-culture on the ship of this group of people.  Tonight was another formal night with a Captain Bligh theme, so we took a picture of our dining room stewards with our fellow diners Paul and Lillian.  The movie today is, of course, "Mutiny on the Bounty."

Day 35 - Thursday, February 9th - Sea Day:  The captain sat at the table next to us in the Lido this morning, and when he asked how we were, we asked him to confirm how bad things were on Monday, our roughest day.  He said the weather was 9 or 10 on the Beaufort Scale with swells of 25 feet.  We're somewhat surprised to see him about the ship as there has been some of the GI sickness and also a cough that has given some passengers problems.  Thankfully we've been feeling well for the most part (Barbara's head is the same--no better, no worse).  After breakfast Barbara went to the spa to see if she could get a haircut and Violetta from Macedonia (recommended by Lillian and Francine) was open right then.  The cost was a reasonable $35 before tip and she did a nice job. Violetta is a young gal who has been doing hair for five years on cruise ships and the job has made it possible for her to see a lot of the world.  At 11:00 we attended Revell Carr's lecture on the three voyages James Cook made to the parts of the world we're visiting.  The temps are back up in the 70s so we'll have to sit out by the pool one of these days.  We went to the show tonight and heard a funny comedian, Jeff Nease.

Day 36 - Friday, February 10th - Sea Day:  We went to breakfast in the dining room this morning and were seated with two very nice couples.  The Australian couple told us how they couldn't stand Rupert Murdoch (we've heard from others that his mother is a lovely person and lives in Australia).  The other couple was interesting--she is from Budapest and escaped to Austria in 1956 after the statue of Stalin was toppled.  Her husband at the time was one of the revolutionaries.  Now she and the fellow she's with (he's from Pittsburgh, she's from Pacifica CA) commute to see each other.  We did spend some time by the pool today and Jay enjoyed the hot tub.

Day 37 - Saturday, February 11th - Easter Island:  The ship dropped anchor today in Anakena Cove.  The swells were too strong for us to go to the usual place near Hanga Roa, the main town.  There is no dock on Easter Island for cruise ships.  Our shore excursion was scheduled for 12:30, but we had a hearty breakfast in the dining room (skipping lunch) and went ashore a little after 10:00.  The locals had tables of souvenirs displayed near the tender area, so we did our shopping right away.   There is a group of five Moai statues right near this pretty beach.  The statues are located all around the edges of the island, always with their backs to the ocean.  When the tour started, our van that held about 12 (they put only 7 of us in it), took us to another site where there are 15 Moai.  Our local guide told us that the history of Easter Island has been lost and they don't know exactly why the Moai were carved and placed, but they think their purpose was to protect the island and the people.  Our next stop was the quarry, where they think most of the Moai, which are made of volcanic basalt rock, were carved.  There are 887 statues, and about half of them remain in the quarry, including the largest.  He is lying down and is estimated to weigh 82 tons.  The other statues are up to 18 feet tall and weigh several tons each.  There are theories but no one knows for certain how the carved statues were moved from the quarry.  It is estimated that each statue took 4-5 people a year to carve.  From the quarry we went into the town of Hanga Roa and visited another group of Moai, one of which is the only one to have the eyes, made of shells, restored.  The statues have been carbon-dated from 1100-1680 AD.  Inter-tribal wars were responsible for many statues being toppled in the past and a tsunami caused by the 9.5 earthquake in Chile in 1960 moved and damaged many of them.  Easter Island covers 63 square miles and has a population of around 3,800.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and most of the island lies within the Rapa Nui National Park. The nearest inhabited places are Chile, about 2,200 miles to the east, and Pitcairn Island, about 1,300 miles to the west.  The population of the island at one point was down to 36--in 1862 Peruvian slave traders took many of the islanders and when they were returned from Peru it was with illnesses such as smallpox.  Chile annexed the island in 1888.  Today was beautiful (low 80s but a nice breeze) and we're glad to have visited this remote place.  The tender ride back to the ship was like a roller coaster, so the ship was three hours late in leaving as all the tenders weren't back until 7:30.  We showered before dinner to remove the fine layer of red dust that covered us.

Click here for Easter Island photos.

Ushuaia, Punta Arenas and Perito Mareno Glacier

Day 29 - Friday, February 3rd - Ushuaia, Argentina:  We arrived in the port of Ushuaia during the night and were ashore by 7:30.  This city of about 50,000 residents claims to be the southernmost city in the world.  They have an average of 30 days of totally sunny skies a year with an average temperature in the summer of around 50, in the winter around 30.  We took a four-hour excursion to the Tierra del Fuego National Park.  Ferdinand Magellan reached this area in 1520 and named the area Patagonia, which means "big feet," referring to the large protective shoes the natives wore.   He also named the largest of the group of islands south of the Magellan Strait Tierra del Fuego, or "Land of Fire."  The park is in Argentina, but the nearby mountains are in Chile and are the southern end of the Andes.  We stopped at several scenic places and also a Visitor's Center in the park.  We drove along the Pan Am highway that one can drive all the way to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, about 11,000 miles away.  We went to the end of the highway and took pictures of the historic sign.  A penal colony that was off the east coast of Tierra del Fuego maintained a narrow gauge railway in this area, part of which goes through the park.  Our possible shore excursion to Antarctica is tomorrow so in the afternoon we took the clothes we'll be wearing to be sanitized and shoes and bags vacuumed.  They want to do everything they can to keep foreign plants and animals from being introduced to the Antarctic.  We left Ushuaia about 3:00 and headed up the Beagle Channel toward Punta Arenas.  The captain announced that a big storm is approaching this area and we'll be spending an extra day in Punta Arenas.

Click here for photos of Ushuaia


Day 30 - Saturday, February 4th - Punta Arenas, Chile:  This town is on the Strait of Magellan and when we left the ship at 8:30 it was very windy and chilly.  We tendered ashore, got on a bus and arrived at the airport in about 1/2 hour. (There is a replica of Magellan's ship on the strait on the way to the airport--it's unbelievable that they could have gone exploring in that tiny vessel).  About 10:00 the authorities who approve the plane trips to Antarctica said we could not fly there, as there were strong crosswinds on the gravel runway where we were to land.  There was a downpour of rain and hail while we were waiting to get on the chartered jet for Plan B, which everyone understood would happen if the non-refundable trip to Antarctica wasn't possible.  We flew to the town of El Calafate (also very windy and cool) in Argentina, where we boarded a bus for a 50 mile drive to the Perito Mareno Glacier.  It was a long bus ride, as the road was very curvy, but the scenery was very diverse from the flat steppe area where we saw ranches with sheep and horses to the mountainous areas where the glaciers were.  We followed along the largest lake in this country, Lake Argentina, which is a very pretty color and has icebergs in it that have broken off the glaciers.  The glacier was impressive, but the weather during our couple of hours in the Los Glaciares National Park was cool and drizzly.  Mt. Fitz Roy, the much photographed mountain, is in the northern part of this park, but we couldn't go there in a day. The lady behind us on the bus whined and complained about Plan B almost all the way back to the ship.   We had 45 minutes in El Calafate before we flew back to Punta Arenas, and we spent it wisely by going to a bar with Pat and Bill, retired teachers from Seattle.  Wish we could spend more time with them instead of listening to the whiney little lady on the bus who wore her pink earmuffs all day (13 1/2 hours).  We got back on the ship about 10:00.  We're disappointed that we couldn't set foot on Antarctica, but we're glad we saw so much when were were cruising there for three days.  We hope we don't miss Easter Island because of more bad weather ahead.

Day 31 - Sunday, February 5th - Punta Arenas, Chile:  Punta Arenas has a population of about 110,000 and is Chile's southernmost city.  It was pouring while we were having breakfast, so we waited until the sun came out before we went ashore in the tender.  It was still very windy and it alternated between rain and sun most of the day.  We walked around the area near the pier, got some souvenirs and went to the supermarket to buy some Chilean wine.  Another cruiser in line behind us had a cartful of wine--she told us we could bring as much as we wanted on board but no liquor.  We came in second at trivia this afternoon and had a nice dinner with Lillian.  She's quite concerned with Paul's activities, as he had a "date" tonight and wasn't with us for dinner.  The captain gave us a revised itinerary based on the latest weather forecasts.  We will not be cruising the Chilean fjords, but hope to be at Easter Island by February 11th.  We'll miss the port of New Caledonia, but a lot of passengers are happy that they haven't cut Easter Island (yet).  The captain said the next two sea days could be rough.  We hope we have some good sea legs after 31 days.  There is a big Super Bowl party in the main lounge tonight, but since the game didn't start until 8:30, we decided to watch it in our cabin.  Our satellite feed is from ESPN and we are missing the best part--the commercials.  We don't really care who wins and won't watch the entire game.

Day 32 - Monday, February 6th - Sea Day:  The rocky motion woke us up early.  Jay went up to the Lido and watched dishes sliding around and crashing.  Barbara was going to stay in bed and avoid walking around, but a wine bottle and glass fell over on the desk, so she had to get up to save the wine.  We washed two loads of laundry this morning, played trivia and went to the dining room for lunch.  The dining room stewards are amazing--that they can bring you coffee or even pour water and serve meals on these rough seas is incredible.  The captain said we were in a strong gale with winds close to 60 mph.  After lunch we participated in the slot tournament.  Jay qualified for the finals tomorrow.  We had dinner in the dining room and went to our cabin right after dinner.  There was no show because of the weather conditions.

Day 33 - Tuesday, February 7th - Sea Day:  The seas aren't quite as rough today--the swells were only 16-20 feet (didn't hear what they were yesterday) and the winds were down to 40 mph. The sun was out today and we saw lots of blue skies.   We went to see the presentation of things to do on Easter Island which was followed by a lecture by Revell Carr, whom Walter Cronkite called "one of the world's outstanding maritime historians."   He talked about the explorers Dampier and Roggeveen.   The Dutch explorer Roogeveen was the first European to land on Easter Island, and he named it for the day he landed.  The slot tournament final was this afternoon and Jay was one of the six finalists.  Alas, he did not win the $500 prize but the five runners-up got t-shirts.  After dinner we went to a program by three English musicians called The Grace Trio.  They sang a great selection of songs.  After the program we played "Name That Tune Trivia."  Ted and Helena from Toronto, who win every time, asked if they could join us.  We won, of course, and they credited us for a few answers.  We got back to our cabin to hear the caucus and primary votes in MN, CO and MO being counted.  Thought that Romney may have had the nomination sewed up, but sounds like it's not over yet.

Click here for photos of Punta Arenas and Perito Mareno Glacier

The White Continent

Day 24 - Sunday, January 29th - Sea Day:  What a busy day at sea--we worked on our blog this morning, then attended a lecture by John Splettstoesser (MN born) who gave us an overview of Antarctica.  He had some great slides.  Next was trivia, lunch and a lecture by Bob Hofman, who studied at the U of M and has a PhD in biology.  Bob talked about marine mammals and birds.  After his lecture we played another game of trivia, followed by a short rest before dinner.  After dinner we went to see a show (haven't gone to any for some time) featuring the Divas of Motown.  We ended the day with a session of "Name That Tune" trivia that we should have skipped.

Day 25 - Monday, January 30th - Sea Day:  About 7:00 this morning we passed between Elephant Island (which was starboard and covered in fog) and Clarence Island (on the port side).  At 10:00 we heard John Splettstoesser's lecture on ice and climate change.  Following him was Bob Hofman, who talked about the Antarctic Treaty System and expanded on how climate change is causing the glaciers to recede.   Our ship was required to submit an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) and as soon as we were south of 60° everyone on the ship was considered an expeditioneer.  Nobody owns Antarctica, but seven countries have "claims" to parts to it:  Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the U.K.  The temperature at 61° South and 54° West was about 34°, but it was very chilly on the promenade deck because of a strong wind.  At noon we started seeing icebergs and sea ice.  By 3:00 pm we were in Hope Bay and could see the Argentine Esperanza Station and its large colony of Adelie penguins (described as a "busy penguin metropolis").  Jay could smell the penguin excrement, but Barbara still has no sense of smell.  The Esperanza Station was established in 1952 and is the site of the first human birth in Antarctica--Emilio Marcos de Palma born on 1/7/1978.  This is our 25th day on the cruise, so we are halfway to Sydney.  The time has really flown by.

Day 26 - Tuesday, January 31st - Sea Day:  The weather today was perfect, and we spent a long time on the bow of the ship taking in the spectacular scenery.  We're sailing the Gerlache Strait, and saw lots of penguins, especially at the Chilean station, where two people on top of a building waved to us.  We also saw several seals (crabeaters?) going by on chunks of ice and some penguins that were swimming, but they didn't come out of the water far enough for us to get a good look.  The sun rose at 4:26 am and set at 10:23 pm.  The temperature around 11:30 when we were at 64° S and 62° W was 39° and there was very little wind.  Although the weather was great, the hot chocolate in the Crow's Nest when we came back inside was appreciated.  This was our second day of sailing along the Antarctic Peninsula, and we'll have a third day tomorrow.  Tonight was another formal night with the Ice Blue Winter Ball starting at 10:00.  All the fresh air today tired us out, and we turned in early.  The satellite TV is not working this far south, so we'll have to wait until tomorrow for the condensed NY Times to see who won the FL primary.  Some interesting facts we've learned about Antarctica:

  1. If it were a country, it would be the second largest in the world in size (after Russia) at 6,591,027 square miles.
  2. The lowest temperature in the world ever recorded was -128.6° F at Vostok Station on 7/21/83.
  3. The highest elevation is 16,050 feet (Mount Vinson).
  4. The largest glacier in the world is Lambert Glacier, which is 60 miles wide and 250 miles long.
  5. One of the largest icebergs to break off the Antarctic ice shelf was 183 miles long and 23 miles wide.
  6. The population of the continent is about 4,000 in the summer and 1,000 in the winter.
  7. It is the only place in the world where the Emperor penguin lives.


Day 27 - Wednesday, February 1st - Sea Day:  This morning eight research scientists (five men and three women) from the U.S. Palmer Station on Anvers Island boarded our ship from zodiacs.  They gave a presentation and then answered questions.  They are doing research on the local environment, biology, geology, etc.  The U.S. also has a station at the South Pole, where they have a 10-meter diameter antenna that can view the same point in space 24 hours a day because of its location, and another called McMurdo that is accessible by airplane from Christchurch, New Zealand.  The Palmer Station is 1,800 miles from the South Pole.  Five of the scientists are staying with us on the ship until we reach Punta Arenas, Chile.  In answer to a question from a passenger, we heard that measuring climate change is important to these scientists, and they are frustrated that there are "intelligent people disseminating incorrect information" back home.  At Palmer Station, the air temperature has gone up 6° C since they started measuring it 50 years ago.  They are concerned because the penguin population is dwindling as the warmer temperature means they have less food.  More large ice shelfs have broken off in the past decade, too.  After the talk we went out on deck and then to the Crow's Nest, where we saw two humpback whales in front of the ship.   Our schedule indicated we would be cruising the Wilhelm Archipelago this afternoon, but the captain said a storm was coming from the northwest and that he was going to sail across the Drake passage as quickly as he could.

Day 28 - Thursday, February 2nd - Sea Day:  The ship was really rocking and rolling when we woke up this morning.  No one was allowed out on the decks.  The captain and his wife were getting coffee when we walked by the Explorations Cafe and he talked to us for awhile.  He said the sea swells were about 16 feet and winds about 50-55 mph.  Temperatures were in the 40s.  He was happy with his decision to head north, and we did leave the rocky seas around 3:00 pm.  There were a lot of people attending the lectures in spite of the difficulty in walking around the ship.  At 10:00 our ice captain, Dick Taylor (retired USCG who advises our captain on ice conditions and makes recommendations) talked about ice-breaking ships in Antarctica, Lake Superior and the Arctic.  At 11:00 Warren Salinger talked about Chile and why it's the most modern country in South America.  At 2:00 John Splettsstoesser, who now lives in Waconia, talked about the team from the U of M that came to the interior of Antarctica for 3 months in 1961-2 for geological research.  They lived in tents and got around the area on engine-powered toboggans.  He said they couldn't shower for the entire time and that they smelled really bad, but that after two weeks the odor levels off.  Before the lectures started we had a chance to talk to Bob Hofman and Warren Salinger, and they answered some of our questions about Antarctica.  The speakers are all very approachable.  We avoided Cape Horn today and are entering the Beagle Channel.  The four of us (Paul, Lillian and the two of us are still together) had dinner in the Italian restaurant tonight and watched the small boat carrying the Chilean pilot come alongside and drop him off.

Click here for photos of the Antarctic

© Jay Deitch 2015