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31st December 2009
Back in Argentina, we spent a few days in Ushuaia, the most southerly city in the world. It was founded as a penal colony and the prison, now a museum, shows the harsh conditions of the past. The old prison steam train (Tren del Fin del Mundo) carries tourists along the valley to the Tierra del Fuego National Park.
The history of the indigenous people from this area is particularly interesting as they traveled for long periods of time in large bark canoes completely naked rubbing their skin with seal fat to keep warm. In the National Park, large mounds of their shells can still be seen along the coastline.
The National Park is close to Ushuaia and has many wonderful walking trails. We spent two days there and were lucky enough to spot a red fox and woodpeckers.
31st December 2009
To view where we anchored in Antartctica in Google Earth click (and open) : Antarctica
If you need to download Google Earth click: Google Earth
For the pictures click: Pictures
29th December 2009
Click here for a slideshow of kayaking in the Antartic.
28th December 2009
After 2 years of planning and saving we finally embarked on our Christmas voyage to the Antarctic peninsula.
The weather and waves were kind to us as we crossed the infamous Drake Passage. The Polar Pioneer with 51 passengers made good time and in 2 days we were able to make a landing on one of the islands of the South Shetland group. We were greeted by colonies of noisy Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins who carried on as usual, some guarding eggs on rocky nest while the curious ones walked right up close for a better look. We were lucky enough to glimpse a chick when its parent stood to change position, and 2 juveniles practicing the ritual of mating. On each return to the ship we had to carefully scrub the penguin poo off our boots before we were allowed back inside.
In more sheltered waters we were able to have many kayak excursions of 2 to 3 hours to see close up the huge ice bergs, ice cliffs, glaciers and wildlife. We soon got used to donning all the warm clothing and dry suits before each outing. We saw many humpback whales from the ship but the highlight was seeing one close to the kayak. It was always cold, sometimes with an icy wind blowing and snow falling.
One evening we were treated to a barbecue on the back deck surrounded by snowy mountains. Those brave enough had the opportunity to sleep one night ashore out in the open on the Antarctic ice while the ship moved away to more sheltered waters. What magnificent surroundings we had. During the night we were joined by a few penguins and 2 seals. The sun never set.
After a lovely Christmas lunch aboard ship inside the caldera of the Deception Island volcano, we began the 2 day journey back across the Drake Passage. Our Russian captain looked at the weather chart and warned us of what was ahead – ¨big waves, rock and roll, sleep on floor¨. The sea doors were closed and we were confined to the inside of the ship. We could only watch from the bridge as huge waves crashed over the bow. Many passengers lost their lunch. It was a great relief to finally spot Cape Horn and return to the more sheltered waters of the Beagle Channel.
16th December 2009
To all our family and friends, Merry Christmas from the end of the world.
16th December 2009
From Puerto Natales we went by bus to Punta Arenas where we visited the penguin colony of Otway Sound.
We boarded the Mare Australis for a 5 day expedition to Ushuaia, sailing down the Straits of Magellan, through the fjords of Tierra del Fuego and the Beagle Channel to Cape Horn. We had many opportunities to go ashore by zodiac. The weather and sea conditions were perfect.
On a shore trip to Pia Glacier, whiskey with glacier ice was waiting for us. That evening the boat sailed down Glacier Alley. As we passed by German Glacier we were served German beer and sausages. A short time later we passed French Glacier and out came the champagne and cheese. Passing the Italian Glacier we had red wine and pizza, and the Holland Glacier it was Dutch beer and potato croquettes.
10th December 2009
Before we set off for 8 days hiking in the Torres del Paine National Park, we were warned that the Patagonia weather can change in an instant and that strong gusts of cold wind can come out of nowhere to blow someone over. The forecast is always the same – variable!
We were fortunate to have perfect weather.
We camped in some amazing places, the mountain scenery breathtaking.
01st December 2009
From Puerto Montt we sailed south on the weekly Navimag cargo ferry for 4 days between the islands of southern Chile to Puerto Natales.
At first we had calm conditions and enjoyed great food and wine. On the 2nd day we reached the open ocean and were seasick for the next 12 hours. We woke to a better 3rd day back inside the fjords with an hour ashore visiting little Puerto Edén, then right up close to the Pio XI glacier (the largest in South America).
What a wonderful experience it was and we were sorry to have to disembark in Puerto Natales. We were free to walk all over the ship, including the bridge. The weather was crazy, sun, snow, wind, hail, rain all within hours and cold.