Day 271: m/v Plancius – Antarctica – Mar 15th

One added bonus as part of this excursion is that the ship will actually cross through the Antarctic circle of 66o33’44” instead of sailing only around the Antarctic peninsula that spouts out north towards Argentina where most of the ships actually land, and also where most early explorers actually did. And shortly after breakfast we were all around the lounge, champagne in hand to celebrate with a toast as the captain quietly spoke in his heavily accented English, “We have just crossed the polar circle.”!! And to add to the awesomeness of being in the Antarctic circle, a pair of humpback whales decided to give us a nice twirl and dance atop the surface!

Sailing further south for a couple of hours, we have been extremely lucky with the weather as it is the weather that dictates what we can or cannot do. The ice seemed to have cleared out from shore, and we disembarked onto Detaille Island, home to an abandoned British that was left behind in the 1950s. In fact they left so quickly in 1959 that everything remains the same as it was when they did leave, giving us an eerie glimpse of what life was like living in Antarctica back in the 50s. There were still cans of Nestle Instant Coffee, Heinz ketchup and liquor lying around! Lets just say, we can’t imagine it being a very happy time for the researchers! We, on the other hand, were rather happy as this was a very elusive location, as the crew mentioned stopping here maybe once or twice a season as the weather is usually too too bad here to

The island was really a neat experience, and close to the base there was a Weddell seal and a crabeater seal (they actually don’t eat crabs!) laying side by side, and that rarely happens!! The abandoned camp had a very eerie feeling to it, and being able to step back into time to the ‘heyday’ of Antarctic research, the hardships people had to endure in the name of science (but more likely, for territory) was another reminder how much the world has evolved a mere 60 years ago…. And as we drift around the Antarctic ocean and the world, we slowly lose our original sense of society and even more confident that nobody can be sure what will happen in another 60 years when we both reach the upper limits of current mortality expectations.

In the afternoon, as we were setting sail back north we witnessed a spectacle of the most ferocious predator in the Antarctic. It was hard to describe, but from the deck we could see numerous fins and blows from the Orcas, probably numbering a dozen or so wading in and out of the surface like a penguin. After some insightful explanation by the expedition team, we realized it was a group of Orcas hunting a whale by attacking in groups, forcing the whale below the surface and unable to breathe at the surface. It was extremely well orchestrated, and for the next 30minutes we spent circling the Orcas as they dipped up and down along the horizon in a steady rhythm. We only spotted traces of the whale when a fin stuck out of the water bringing up shots of blood, but was quickly wrestled back down by the Orcas. The alpha male Orca had a MASSIVE dorsal fin, showing everyone that he definitely is the boss around here. Not a usual sighting, and being fortunate enough to witness predation happening in nature is not to be expected often.

We retreat to our cabin, still bewildered about the things we visited and witnessed, and a bit humbled to be as comfortable as we were in a location that should be anything but.

Categories: Antarctica | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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