Sunrise: 03:18 | Sunset: 22:45
Note: the actual writing of this journal happens onboard Hurtigruten's MS Midnatsol ship the same day, but published later
Early in the morning about 4:45 am, i was woken up by the announcement that said the weather looks so good that they would try to pass the Lemaire Channel, and the view was amazing, passengers are welcome to go out and enjoy the view.
I was half woken and pushed myself to got up and ran to deck-6. And she was more than right, the sun was the brightest so far we’ve had on the boat, and the view was amazing as we entered the Lemaire Channel. I took pictures and videos as we entering the channel, and back to my room, about to rest myself a bit before another announcement came that said there were ice sheets ahead of us and it was a beautiful sight. I went again outside to deck-6 and witness the most spectacular view i had ever witnessed so far. The spread of ice sheets stretched before the ship, with the sun shone so bright and i cried. Literally cried. I didn’t know why i did, but when i saw the view i just got so emotional and i cried. It was simply beautiful, so beautiful it made me vulnerable, meaningless, and grateful at the same time. That was the first for me to feel all of them at the same time.
The deck was so full as everyone tried to be on the front edge of the boat to see the icesheet. But, since the ice-sheet was so thick, followed by unpredictable weather change just an hour afterwards (sunshine so bright changed to gusting wind at 20m/s in just an hour), plan B was activated. To Dorian Bay we went.
The plan on the sheet (the landing and other activities) was no longer valid, except for the presentations, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even one of the presentation time was shifted to accommodate the new landing time. The landing was estimated in the afternoon, so in the morning the only activity was presentation about science project in The Antarctica.
About Dorian Bay
Before i talk more about the presentation, i’d like to tell more about the Dorian Bay. There were two huts belong to Chile and British government. The first one is closed to the visitor, and the other one once an active shelter during the summer, but now an open museum. In the inside of the hut
(Damoy Hut) we can see what life is like back in the 1950. We can enter but it’s limited (10 visitors at a time) considering the building capacity. Inside we can see all the detail of the shelter to imagine what's life look like on base.
Back to the presentation, i had to admit i fell asleep several time, not because the presentation wasn’t interesting, but since i hadn’t had good sleep last night. That, combined to the frenzy morning calling about entering Lemaire Channel. The presentations outlined what researches do out there in Antarctica. And there are 4000 researchers/scientists working/writing about Antarctica. And some of them are significant. Especially about the hole in the ozone layer in Antarctica (it’s true). And the impact of the global warming towards ice in Antarctica.
Just right before lunch, i heard the announcement saying that since the plan B was activated, the landing time will start at 11:30 for the first 3 group. My turn was at 13:00 and i couldn’t get more excited. Although i waited patiently for the “continental landing” - which so far hasn't happened yet. One of the reason to be excited for early landing is that usually landing decision was based on the weather especially the winds. So usually, the first group to land has the perfect weather. As time goes by, the weather can change so fast, the later groups are not guaranteed good weather.
At scheduled landing session on 13:00, we went to Dorian Bay and i saw a group of gentoo penguins swam on the sea from the rubber boat. I’ve never seen penguin swim from a closer look, so it was so interesting to watch them closely.
Another colonies spread near the landing site, and from there, i hiked to the top to see the port Lockroy (where the southern most post office was located), also, at that time visit at the hut was cancelled since there were so many penguins breed/hatch their egg nearby the hut.
A further walk to the other side of the island brought me to another bay, where i can see chinstrap penguins and a seal do about their business. But after about an hour, i was hit by gusting wind. What a short time for a weather change, huh?! I hurried myself and back to the rubber boat to bring me to the ship. The wind was getting stronger and it was snowy as well. See? That’s why i don’t want to be on a later group.
After that, i celebrated the landing by having 3pm snacks and hot vegetable soup provided every afternoon. Later on, i also got to watch a pair of whale passing by our ship!!
At 5 pm we had a guests from Port Lockroy (Antarctic heritage trust), a british owned trust that dedicated to preserve history about people, environment in Antarctica. They also do some research there. They will be there for the next four months (during the summer) and they hop onboard our ship MS Midnatsol to give some explanations about what the trust is doing in Antarctica and gain some funds by selling postcards, coins, hats and other merchandises. The funds will go to support their activities, researches.
They also explain how they live. The water they are having are dropped by the ship and limited (read: they don’t go to bath that often), the electricity is coming from the solar panel, they don’t have wifi but they have satellite communication channel (i really don’t know what that is), but she said it is limited and not a wifi. They have 2 boats visits per day during the summer. After the Q&A session I bought 4 postcards for my friends and family and gave it to them for further handling.
After dinner buffet, i attended a presentation session called “How i and the bird survived so far in antarctica” by Delphin. I love tom’s storytelling skills, but i love Delphin’s slide and the systematic and structured content.
During the presentation, he explained about the difference between penguins and human survival in Antarctica and he tried to insert his own experience surviving Antarctica. As a wildlife biologist, he had several researches in north pole and south pole especially in Antarctica, where he is part of 8 french male-scientist who were sent to Antarctica and studied various researches including penguins.
In penguins, their physiology allow them to survive harsh cold temperature and the sea conditions, for example on how does bird can survive on the sea and consume sea water? The are equipped with:
2. Thick Fur
3. and they also have behavioural mechanism to protect them from winter (in penguins). Such as gathering as a group. It is said, that the temperature in the core or inside the colony can be up to 40 degree celcius, and that is why sometime during the “mass hugs”, penguin break the hugs and squeaking heads-up.
Different from penguins though, human does not have physiology protection against extreme condition, although we have engineered things to protect ourselves. However, Antarctica is not an easy place to live because of the following factors to name a few:
- extreme weather
- isolated place/area
- limited facility
So quoting Alain Bombard, a french biologist who reach the other side of Atlantic ocean for65 days, lost 25kgs and suffered from severe anemia is: "Castaways don’t die of starvation and dehydration, but dies from despair". The factor that prevent human to be safe out there in the sea is not the water, it’s the human psychology, spirit.
So it was an interesting presentation of the comparison of how bird and us (human) survival system in Antarctica (or isolated place). And it is nice to acknowledge that to human, often times it’s not all about the logistics that play major part in our survivals in remote area, but it is more on the psychology part.
At the 6 pm briefing about the next day plan (25 nov 2018), we were told that after twice trying to have continental landing at Neko harbour and base brown, we will try the third landing at the Orne Harbour, so it seems like the last attempts giving we only have another day before making turns back to north to the drake passage and back to Ushuaia.
So i went bed sleeping hoping the weather would eventually be on our side.