Polar Cruising: A typical day onboard
Tuesday, 22nd July 2014
Travelling by small ship in some of the most isolated environments on the planet combines adventure with home comforts. In a place where nature rules, no two days are the same on a polar voyage – some days will entail substantial time at sea whilst others will be non-stop adventure. This diary excerpt from an Antarctic voyage gives just a taste of what’s possible…
06:30 Wake up call
The gentle tones of our Expedition Leader announce the start of another new day in Antarctica. We’re anchored at 64°S, and it’s just 2°C, with a light breeze making it feel slightly cooler. A big hot breakfast is in order to fuel up for the day ahead.
09:00 Kayaking with penguins
Time to layer up in thermals, fleeces, gloves and hat, before heading to the mud room to add the outer layers. Those of us kayaking squeeze into our dry-suits and before we know it are paddling noisily through brash ice. Pausing to take in the majestic scenery, a group of penguins suddenly porpoise out of the water close to us – it almost looks like they can fly!
Hmm, I was only going to have a light lunch but all that exercise has made me hungry. I think I’ll take advantage of the hot buffet options…all of them!
14:00 Change of plans…
Our afternoon shore landing has been aborted due to strong winds and rough seas. Safety comes first! Instead we’re treated to a fascinating presentation from our on-board historian, giving us the background on those legendary explorers who travelled through this region long before us – even more impressive when we can see the environment they faced first-hand.
16:00 Zodiac cruise
Whilst we were learning about polar exploration, our trusty Captain did some exploring of his own… Around the headland we’ve found the calmer waters of a sheltered bay, where icebergs of all shapes and sizes have calved off a vast glacier. Ideal chance to hop into the Zodiacs for a closer look, and we’re treated to the sight of a leopard seal lounging on the ice.
18:30 Briefing & dinner
During our daily briefing, our Expedition Leader explains in detail why we couldn’t go ahead with the planned landing this afternoon, and fills us in on tomorrow’s proposed route – always subject to change of course! This evening we have the chance to go ashore at last, so a delicious dinner is wolfed down before we pull on all those extra layers again.
20:30 Going ashore
Long hours of daylight means our adventures aren’t yet over – a late landing provides the opportunity to come face to face with a lazy Weddell seal, before picking our way through a colony of Adélie penguins to reach the remains of a stone hut built by Norwegian explorers back in 1903. We head back to the ship, bathed in the pink glow of the lowering sun.
After a celebratory nightcap with my fellow-passengers – already firm friends – it’s off to bed for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow’s plans include a chilling Polar Plunge and a BBQ on deck!
01:00 Whale watching
So much for an early night; suddenly the call comes out, a pod of orcas sighted just off the starboard side. Some roll over and go back to sleep, but I find the lure of killer whales impossible to ignore – and standing in my pyjamas in Antarctica, under the midnight sun, I know I made the right decision.