So refreshed! I have tried 6 times to get to the Orcadas (South Orkney Islands) and this this is only the second time I¹ve made it. It was a short visit, but at least this was the first time in almost a year since I¹ve seen anything that resembles Antarctica. Our approach is extraordinary, strange reflections of light amongst the fog and snow portrays the illusion of land when a tabular iceberg over 3 kilometres long looms into view. Everyone on the bridge scrambled to various navigational equipment and charts in disbelief, thinking for a moment ³where are we?² as we weren¹t due to see land yet. We had to change course numerous times to dodge these monoliths that have likely sailed up from from the Weddell sea. Lunch time felt lively once again as the dining room windows were filled with the silent jagged figures of icebergs floating by, much more exciting than the open sea we¹ve had for the last day and a half. The Orcadas faded into view, barley visible in the slurry of rain and snow. But it felt like the Antarctic, everything was covered in snow and ice, and even small islands had glaciers pouring off them. It might have been considered a cold and gloomy day, but it was zesty and immediately made me feel better than I¹ve felt in months! Adelie penguins porpoised in the water and we hopped in our zodiacs and zipped to shore with glee! the South Orkneys (or Orcadas if you go by the Argentinian name) seem to have the same weather all the time, people who dislike the cold find this place to be depressing and hostile, but getting out here was exactly what I needed. Geology, Seismology and meteorological studies are big here, and definitely not boring as a tidal waves have been experienced here situated on the edge of the Scotia plate. This station was established by the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition in 1904 and has been continually maintained by the Argentines ever since, making it the oldest station in the Antarctic. It was a short visit but it looked like most people were ready to head out.
Now I think we are being particularly ambitious. Our short stop in the Orcadas is because we are now on our way towards Elephant Island, meaning another full day at sea. I¹ve managed to see this place with my own eyes twice out of countless expeditions, but now there is even talk of landing. When will that luck run out? Landing where Shackleton¹s men spent four months, surviving on penguins and seals, even though the place has changed beyond recognition having happened nearly 100 years ago, would be very cool.
The night was full of celebrations as we marvelled in experiencing the antarctic and finally had a break from being at sea so much. There are two lounges on the ship, but the smaller one has more of a community atmosphere and was packed. I¹m always amazed by the drinking going on here, to watch people deal with hangovers multiple time a week, some every day, I don¹t see how it¹s worth it. I suppose I¹m lucky that alcohol has little effect on my brain¹s pleasure centre, otherwise I can¹t help but think my liver would be pickled by now. We went down to the crew bar in the depths of the ship, to give a go at karaoke. I sang great balls of fire, and greased lightning, and sadly being the only sober person there was the only staff member who had the courage to participate. That surprised me a little, you¹d think there would be some immediate benefits to drinking, why can¹t people come out of their shell and have fun? The rest of the crew was enthusiastically going for it, it¹s a big part of their culture in the Philippines. It was fun, but being the only participant among the staff team it wasn¹t the most interactive experience I¹ve had.
I was going to write some kind of conclusion but now I see yummy snacks in the lounge, Oooooo! Dumplings and yummy rolls, with plum sauce, one of the staff is going to make an announcement about how great the icebergs are to clear out the lounge, then we will descend upon the buffet, hehehehe...