Last night’s voyage was challenging, to say the least, but exciting. We had left the safety of the coastline of the Antarctic peninsular to head down towards the Antarctic Circle through the open water of the treacherous Southern Ocean.
The Antarctic Circle is a parallel of latitude on the surface of the earth at 66 33’7 South. At approximately 1,615 miles from the South Pole the area encloses about 8% of the earth’s surface and encompasses almost all of continental Antarctica. It marks the northern limit of the area in which the sun does not rise on the summer solstice (21st June), or set on the winter solstice (22st December). Continuous night or day can increase from one day at the Antarctic Circle, to six months at the South Pole. At the moment we are seeing about 16 hour days.
To pass the time the ship’s historian Woody told us stories of the early explorers who first sailed this far south and were to eventually discover Antarctica. Many of these brave souls were never to return. Which was not to be our fate however. Unlike them we have a steel ship, warmer clothing and GPS!
As we approached the Circle we all gathered on deck ready to celebrate.
When the time came we sang songs, danced about in the driving snow and wind, and popped a bottle of champagne.
Even “King Neptune and his helper penguins” appeared on deck to help us celebrate - in full costume - he doused the worthy in sea water, conducted the “kissing of the fish” ceremony, and made the stamp of Neptune on any offered forehead. All good fun.
After lunch we found a suitably calm area of sea amongst the many icebergs to moor and board the Zodiacs once again and cruise around for a couple of hours through the sea ice. We saw plenty of Weddell and crab-eater seals on the ice flow and some really beautiful icebergs and blue ice arches.
The ice arches are carved out of the icebergs by the sea water and were usually only temporary structures until they crash spectacularly into the sea. We got as close to them as we dared.
We then returned to the ship - now having drifted many miles away, so needing GPS to navigate through all the floating icebergs - to warm up and have our daily debriefing before dinner and a wildlife show.
A fun, but exhausting, day.