Driving Through Slush, Blocked by Ice

February 1, 2020, Off the Antarctic Peninsula

Actually, it’s called brack, it’s the slushy remains of sea ice melting with bits of glacier ice, growlers, thrown in.  As the ship passes through it makes a sound like “slush”.  Growlers are called growlers because they make a growling sound when scraping the hull of a wooden ship. 

Twice we were turned back because the ship couldn’t make it through the ice.  In Lemaire Channel (which used to be called Kodak Gulch because the mountains crop sharply into the sea) we had to turn back at the entrance.  The captain sent a tender out to take pictures of Amsterdam in the channel.  This was our southernmost point on the journey.  65”02” south on my GPS. In Errera Channel we got in through the south entrance but could not go out the north exit so we turned around to see what it was like going the other way.

When we were in Antarctica five years ago.  It was a few days later in the season.  We did not have ice problems.  I don’t know if it was that few extra days of Antarctic summer or a later spring this year. Last time we saw the area in bright sunlight with blue skies.  This year we saw it in a different light.  The mornings had clouds with some sun breaking through, by afternoon it was overcast with snow and rain making it impossible to see the tops of the mountains.  On Friday the sea in Wilhelmina Bay the sea was dead calm and we could watch whales feed and penguins swim all around us in the glassy water.  In Paradise Harbor we passed by a Chilean station that studies penguin, human interactions.  It is not hard because the station is built in the middle of a penguin colony.  Saturday it was blowing 40 for a while and we opted to watch through the rain streaked windows of “The Crow’s Nest” lounge.  In Charlotte Bay on Saturday we watched whales bubble feeding from a distance.  I am used to being much closer to the whales but judging from the shouts, cheers and delighted squeals there were lots of happy shipmates.

Everyone can have their own cruise and the ship can accommodate many tastes.  On Friday we lingered in Wilhelmina Bay to watch the whales feed.  Peter was giving commentary on the PA system.  The weather was pretty much down to a two-hundred-foot ceiling so we could not see mountains, and the whales were visible feeding through the mist, in other words, if you weren’t specifically looking for something you didn’t see much.  At 4:30 the trivia team players showed up in the Crow’s Nest and wondered when the commentary would stop.  The whale watchers wondered why anyone would play trivia with the show going on outside in the mist.  Thomas, an Assistant Cruise Director, rounded up the trivia teams and led them to the Ocean Bar and everyone was accommodated.  I’m on one of the trivia teams but opted to stay with the whales.  Each of us can have our own cruise.

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