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Journal Entries for 2012-11 Antarctica Expedition-Family (Dana)

OVERALL SUMMARY: This was the second Family Trip; a 24-day trip to the Falkland Islands, the South Georgia Islands and the Antarctic on the National Geographic Explorer, with Dana and Marcia. And what a trip it was!!! On Nov 1st, we flew from SNA to EZE (Buenos Aires, Argentina), a 13-hour flight for us, and stayed four days before we were to meet up with the NatGeo group. Dana and Marcia flew from Atlanta to EZE a couple of days later. While we were getting rested from jet lag and waiting for Dana and Marcia, we did some exploring around Buenos Aires (Journals #2-#6).

Then Dana and Marcia (Journal #7-#9) arrived. We went on a tour the next day to Tigre and then the next day we met up with NatGeo group. Actually, this was the Lindblad group. Lindblad and NatGeo combined forces many years ago. Lindblad does the expedition part and NatGeo provides the scientific expertise. Anyway, it's an excellent combination and they have been very successful. We talked to many people on the trip who have been on many expeditions and all the reviews were scored 10+.

We flew with the entire group in a private charter flight to Ushuaia (Journal #10) on Friday, Nov 9th. We went on a catamaran tour of Beagle Channel, including lunch. The Explorer crew was busy getting our cabins and the rest of the ship ready for our arrival. At the airport, we saw the last group waiting to fly back to Buenos Aires. They sure don't waste any time sitting around in port. There we boarded the National Geographic Explorer, an ice-strengthened ship.

We did the trip the reverse of what is shown on the brochure map. We had one day at sea to get accustomed to our new home. There were only 140+ passengers, 85 crew (including 15 National Geographic Specialists) on board. It was easy to meet people. Everybody was extremely friendly and excited.

There were several distinctly different aspects to this trip. One part was the shipboard life. We were waited on hand and foot, literally. It was typical of a cruise ship, but because it was smaller, it was also more personal. The same crew that took care of our cabins, also served us in the dining room. Breakfast and lunch were generally buffet. There was no assigned seating, so we met a lot of people. We got to know most of the other passengers by sight, if not by name. Dinner was served with a menu consisting generally of two meats and a vegetarian dish, always different. We never had the same meal twice. All meals were served at specific times because we were on a schedule.

We'd start the day with breakfast. Then we had either an activity or a presentation in the morning, followed by lunch and sometimes another activity or presentation. There was generally tea served at 4:00pm. Dana and Marcia went to most of these. Carl and I only made it once or twice. Then about 6-6:30pm there were cocktails in the lounge. We rarely missed these and the snacks (potato chips, Fritos, popcorn, etc). This was followed by a half-hour recap. Recap consisted of many different things. Sometimes Jason would present 5-10 minutes of video/photos he'd taken underwater while diving up to 100 feet. Sometimes photos were shown or experiences shared by the specialists. Then there was dinner. By the time dinner was over, about 8-8:30pm, we were ready for shower and bed!!!

Another aspect of this expedition was the people!! We never met anyone onboard that we didn't like. These people love to travel and experience life!! Also we got to know many of the 15 Specialists from National Geographic. There were Bud & Stephanie (Expedition Leaders); Rachel (Assistant Expedition Leader); CT, Eric, Justin (diver), Karen & Michael (Naturalists/Certified Photo Instructors); Don (Global Perspectives Guest Speaker); Jason, Steve & Magnus (Naturalists); Jay & Ralph (National Geographic Photographers); Sarah (Video Chronicler). We got to know each of them a little bit, some more than others. When there was some down time during our transits between landings, these were the people giving the majority of the presentations. We really enjoyed these presentations on the history, wildlife, and geography of this remote region. These specialists were also the ones who drove the Zodiacs, both as ferries to and from the ship and also on our Zodiac cruises. Each had stories to share and knowledge to impart.

Then there were the animals!!! Wow!!! We really enjoyed the wildlife, especially the penguins. They were awesome!! We learned so much!!! The following journals detail our fantastic adventure in the Antarctic!!

Our first landing was New Island, part of the Falkland Islands. We got our first experience with the mudroom, our boots, our new jackets, the dreaded lifejacket and the Zodiacs. The Zodiacs held 10-12 passengers, plus the driver. The trip to shore was usually very short because the ship would come really close to shore. When we got to shore, we'd step off into the cold water, but we wouldn't feel anything. Our boots kept us warm and dry!! We were helped ashore by the friendly crew, who were always there to help. We only had one dry landing (out of about 18 landings). Sometimes the landings were not level beaches and the crew had to get the shovels out and construct steps for us. Once on shore, we were able to discard our lifejackets in bins set up for this purpose.

We saw the Rockhopper penguins on New Island (Journal #11). Then we went to Carcass Island (Journal #12) where we saw Gentoo penguins (and a very few Magellanic penguins). Port Stanley (Journals #13-#15) was the only dry landing on the entire trip.

We had a day at sea on the journey to the South Georgia Islands (Journal #16). Here we saw our first King penguins at King Haakon Bay (Journal #17), but only a few. Mostly the beach was covered with Elephant seals and fur seals. This was also a Shackleton historic site. We saw over 200,000 King penguins at Salisbury Plain (Journal #18). We saw a few King penguins at Stromness Bay (Journal #19) and Grytviken (Shackleton's grave) (Journals #20-#21), but mostly these were Shackleton historic sites. There were thousands of King penguins at Gold Harbor (Journal #22) and hundreds of Macaroni and Gentoo penguins at Cooper Bay (Journal #23).

Then we had two long days at sea before we reached Elephant Island (Journal #24) (a Shackleton historic site with no landing) located on an island off of the Antarctic Peninsula. Our next landing was on Deception Island (Journal #25), which didn't have many penguins, but there were 50 mph katabatic winds with blowing snow!!! Awesome Antarctic weather!!!

We continued cruising southward along the coast of the continent of Antarctica. We made landings at Cuverville Island (Journal #26), Neko Harbor (Journal #27), Booth Island (Journals #28-#29), Petermann Island (Journal #30). Booth Island was unique in that we saw Chinstrap, Gentoo and Adelie penguins. It is unusual to see all three types of penguins in the same area. Mostly, hundreds of Gentoo penguins and their suburban colonies were spread out all over these islands.

We didn't go ashore at the Yalour Islands (Journal #31), but we saw many Adelie penguins on ice floes and many colonies on the hills above us.

We made a landing at Historic Port Lockroy (Journal #32), with Gentoo penguin colonies all around and under the small buildings here. This was a great example of people and penguins living in harmony. Then we cruised in a Zodiac at Mikkelsen Harbor (Journal #33) surrounded by the Gentoo penguins.

Our last landing was at Brown Bluff (Journal #34) in the Antarctic Sound. This was maybe the most amazing place of all. Not only were there thousands of Adelie penguins waiting to go to sea, but also the sea was literally freezing around us!! It started as grease ice and by the time we left was pancake ice.

This was a true Expedition, not a cruise. We didn't know from day-to-day what we were going to be doing. Each landing and zodiac activity was totally weather dependent!! Weather-wise we had a little bit of everything. The average temperature was about 32 deg F. We were well prepared with our red jackets and thermals. The warmest temperature was about 35 deg F and the coldest was 17 deg F. We had some cold, blustery weather with some snow, some great sun-shiny weather and in-between we had some Antarctic weather that was very intimidating. Thank goodness it was summertime. We just couldn't imagine what it would be like during a winter!!! What an amazing trip!!

0001-NatGeo Explorer.jpg

0002-Initial brochure map of NatGeo Trip.jpg

0361-Leaving life vests in bin, New Island, W Falkland Islands.jpg

0411-Rockhopper penguin, New Island, W Falkland Islands.jpg

0652-Staff photo of baby elephant seal on beach, King Haakon Bay, South Georgia.jpg

0743-Thousands of King penguins, Salisbury Plain, South Georgia Islands.jpg

0735-Parent & baby King penguins, Salisbury Plain, South Georgia Islands.jpg

1008-Macaroni penguins on rocks from Zodiac, Cooper Bay, South Georgia Islands.jpg

1189-Returning to Explorer, Deception Island, Antarctic.jpg

1467-Chinstrap penguin, Booth Island, Antarctic.jpg

1598-Sailing through ice, 8pm, Antarctic.jpg

1739-Pinnacle iceberg from Zodiac, Yalour Islands, Antarctic.jpg

1944-Adelie penguins going into water, Brown Bluff, Antarctic.jpg
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