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Monday, March 28, 2011

Antarctica, Our First Zodiac Tour

 

If our tour only involved drifting around for three hours I would have been happy. The scenery alone speaks volume to nature's fantastic beauty here. However, today we have a little icing on the cake as our zodiac driver is none other than Lynn our Expedition Leader.

 

Other Zodiac I am sure the passengers on the other zodiacs feel just as fortunate.

Quark has put together a great group of people for this expedition.

 

 

 

 

 

Weird Shape Iceberg

 

 

Leaving the Ioffe behind we are soon having close up encounters with weird shaped but spectacular icebergs.

 

 

Red Buildings Next a landscape dotted with red square one story buildings comes into sight.

We are looking at an unoccupied Argentina scientific station.

 

 

 

 

Antarctic Green In areas where the snow has melted, vegetation has started to grow. Gentoo penguins and gulls find refuge in these areas that are signs of the coming Spring and Summer.

 

 

This refuge can be welcoming especially for baby penguins as we are told at one time seventeen of them where discovered in the stomach of a seal.

 

 

Tranquil Waters As we venture inside of Nicholas Bay the water becomes tranquil and smooth as glass.

 

 

 

 

The surrounding snow covered mountains and glaciers reflect peacefully on the unbroken water surface. Penguins and seals enjoy the afternoon on floating icebergs, mostly undisturbed by our presence.

 

 

Leo Seal Relaxing Seal

 

Later we come across an iceberg so huge it seems stuck in the bay. Above the surface it is bright white with areas of dazzling blues and a pillar of ice that reaches skyward. At some point, this iceberg will reshape itself and may be liberated once it is broken down into smaller pieces.

 

 

Field Of Ice Nicholas Bay Leaving the stranded iceberg , we approach a towering glacier.

Here the sea becomes covered with pieces of floating ice.

 

 

At one point we are fortunate to witness a section of one glacier fall into the sea. Minutes later while drifting encompassed by ice we experience a gentle rolling motion beneath us from the fallen glacier.

Although there are other zodiacs around we seem to be in our own world. One that I am thoroughly enjoying and reluctant to leave. The time passes too quickly and soon we are back in queue to board the Ioffe.

 

Ioffe Nicholas Harbor The routine has become standard.

It does not take long before the Ioffe is sailing us to our next Antarctic adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Antarctica, A 3 Hour Tour, A 3 Hour Tour

 

 

Zodiac Ride As we set out on our 3 Hour Tour the weather is getting nice and I have no fear of being stranded on a deserted island.

 

 

 

There is no Skipper, Gilligan, Professor, Ginger or Mary Ann. What a shame!

 

Aussie's Peter And Sue Nonetheless, there is Aussie’s Peter and Sue, Peter from Germany, An Expedition Leader and The Bahamian too.

 

 

 

 

The weather is unbelievably warm with crystal clear rich blue skies above and calm winds. Aboard a zodiac we get close up views of icebergs and glaciers that add to our already amazing Antarctic experience.

 

 

 Towering Ice Towering Icebergs

 

 

 

Argentina StationWe are in Nicholas Bay home to one of the many scientific stations in Antarctica.

Most are active only during the Spring and Summer months.

 

Today, the absence of an Argentine flag tells us this one is currently unoccupied.

 

 

 

Face Vegetation Facial Rock Vegetation

 

 

With the warming weather isolated areas of green vegetation can be seen growing on the rocky coastline. Nearby as the snow is slowly melting, a colony of penguins have gathered on a rock soaking up a few sun ray's.

 

 

Penguins Nicholas Bay Gentoo Penguins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcoming Seal Cruising by icebergs occasionally we spot a seal or two relaxing. Often, they raise their heads to welcome us and express curiosity as we approach for a closer look.

 

 

 

 

 NH Huge Glacier Nicholas Bay Glacier

 

 

 

Nicholas Bay With the protection of surrounding mountains and towering glaciers the water becomes even calmer.

The surface produces a nice reflective view.

 

 

 

 

 

Field Of Ice Nicholas Bay Here, the zodiac glides through fields of ice that have made their way down from the hundred plus year old glaciers.

 

 

 

We are fortunate at one point to witness a piece of a glacier fall into the bay. Moments later we sense it's effect on the bay as the water takes on a gentle rolling motion. Up closer the ride would have been a little more interesting.

 

Gliding Zodiac In some areas of the bay, Lynn our zodiac driver turns off the engine and allows our boat to just drift along.

 

 

 

 

The peacefulness and arresting beauty takes my breath away. Dipping my hand in the refreshingly cold water returns my breathing as I retrieve what could be a thousand year or older piece of ice.

 

 

Nesting Bird Continuing our tour brings us along a shoreline where birds are nesting in an area with more vegetation.

 

 

 

Although the vegetation is just ground cover it adds a nice tropical mix to the surrounding scenery.

 

 

 

Awesome Iceberg Nicholas Bay As we make our way back to the Akademik Ioffe, we come within mere feet of  spectacular icebergs.

 

 

 

 

 

Towering Iceberg Towering white with awesome shapes above the water and shades of brilliant blues just beneath the surface.

 

 

 

Finding a reasonable size broken off from one of these monstrous works of nature, it is hauled into the zodiac.

Later this afternoon we will get to taste a piece of our captured treasure, complimented maybe by a fine scotch or beverage of our choosing.

 

 

Drink Ice Ice For The Drinks

 

 

Approaching the Akademik Ioffe it is hard to believe our 3 Hour Tour is over. Waiting our turn to board, I am thinking I could spend a few good months deserted here even if it is just with Thurston Howell, The Third.

 

 

 

 

Antarctica, A Floridian On Ice

 

Sea Of Ice Somewhere far from the Miami Heat, I find myself quietly drifting in a sea of ice. Close by, I can hear only breathing and small chatter.

 

 

However, in the distance a grumbling can be heard that is soon followed by a crashing sound.

 

 

Falling Glacier Falling Pieces Of Glacier

 

 

NH Huge Glacier I am sitting in a zodiac in Nicholas Bay, Antarctica.

Here, along with fellow explorers I witness some of nature’s ice beauty and awesomeness.

 

 

As part of a thousand plus year old glacier falls into the ocean the small chatter turns to woos and excitement.

 

 

Antarctic Gull Nicholas Bay Even birds are thrilled by this action as it means an opportunity for feeding time.

 

 

 

 

At our distance the falling pieces creates a peaceful rolling motion on the sea beneath us. So gentle that the surface of the water is not even disturbed. If not for the limitation of time, it is a scenery one could enjoy forever under the warming sun and clear blue skies.

Soon the zodiac motor comes to life and we are off exploring more of Nicholas Bay. What my cameras do not capture my mind does and I hope it lasts a lifetime. Another wonderful and amazing experience in Antarctica.

 

 

Blue Sea Of Ice Antarctic Floating Ice And Icebergs

 

 

 

 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cruising, Carnival Valor Western Caribbean

 

It is cruise day and I arrive home from work just in time to get a hair cut, mail a letter and stop by the bank before heading to the Port Of Miami.

 

Premier Parking LotI have pre-arranged parking less than two miles away. For a total of $64 (7 days) my parking is covered.

This is much better than the $20 per day plus tax at the port.

 

 

Arriving at Premier (www.premierparkingusa.com) we unload our luggage and then are given some brief instructions.

 

 

Premier Parking With a sticky and bright yellow smiley face, in less than twenty minutes we are on our way.

It’s a short ride to our cruise ship, the Carnival Valor.

 

 

 

About 1pm our ten bags in various shapes and sizes are unloaded at the cruise ship terminal. The porter is very helpful and assures us that they will make it to our cabin.

 

 

Security Line Looking at the boarding line in front of us I think our bags will make it there long before we do.

 

 

 

 

Although having “Pre-Registered” online, the boarding process still seems painfully and frustratingly sl..ooo..ww.

I keep getting reminded to be patient but I refuse. There's a buffet nearby that’s been waiting months for me!

After two sets of picture taking and letting two wheelchairs with twenty or so able body family members in tow cut in line, an hour and a half later we step on board the Valor.

 

 

 

On Vacation Our annual Spring Break Family Vacation has begun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buffet View A quick visit to our cabin and the reunion I have waited months for begins.

I savor each one of my new family members as I take in beautiful views of Biscayne Bay.

 

 

 

Our reunion is short lived in more ways than one as it is soon time for the mandatory safety briefing.

 

It is nice that all we have to do is (without life jackets) assembly at our muster station and listen to the barely audible in English only announcements.

 

 

Safety Briefing Gathering at muster station.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some time after 5:30pm the Valor pulls away from the dock and we are headed for Grand Cayman.

 

 

 

 Water Slide Carnival Valor Sailing Away From Miami

 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Antarctica, Icebergs Up Close And Personal

 

On clear days while crossing the North Atlantic I have seen many icebergs off the coast of Greenland but it has always been from at least 30,000 feet at a speed of over 500 miles per hour.

 

 

Ioffe Icebergs Bridge View This afternoon I am at sea level onboard the Akademik Ioffe as it is navigating a field of icebergs.

 

 

 

 

Ioffe Aft View Icebergs I feel like …

I'm the king of the world

as we cruise by these fantastic natural pieces of artwork.

 

 

 

Soon the Ioffe drops anchor and we are off on an afternoon zodiac tour. I have the good fortune to be on a zodiac driven by Lynn our expedition leader who shares her iceberg knowledge with us.

 

 

Up Close Our tour brings us up close and personal to these works of nature that may have taken thousands of year to create.

 

 

 

 

 

Aqua Blue Pool Iceberg Aqua Blue Pool

 

 

It is mesmerizing being so close to some of these icebergs that I almost want to dive into the aqua blue pool that is created inside some of them.

I imagine for most people like myself icebergs are thought about in a negative way because of the titanic type destruction they can cause.  However, today my mind is changing.

 

 

Iceberg Building I think so would Rose’s if she had a chance to experience them like we are doing this afternoon.

 

 

 

Jack, I want you to draw me an iceberg like you did your French girls and the Eiffel Tower …

 

 

Blue Sea Of Icebergs A Field Of Icebergs

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Antarctica, A Gentoo Nation

 

Being in Antarctica at the beginning of December, we are starting to experience the warming effects of spring. It is in the 40's as we make our landing at Nelson Bay where Gentoo penguins are starting their migration here.

 

 

Gentoo Nation At the top of a hill where the snow has started to melt, a small colony is forming.

The snow here now has an orange brown color to it and is smelly.

 

 

 

 

PenguinsTalking There is a bit of penguin conversation going on as I watch from afar.

Interpreting, I hear  … “Hey, who’s going to clean up this mess”.

 

 

 

 

 

Filthy Penguins Most of the penguins in this area are covered in filth and it is easy to spot the ones that have just arrived or returned from a nearby swim.

 

 

 

The Gentoo Nation is taking shape but I am afraid it will take a strong stomach to stand the stench when the Nation is at full strength.

 

 

CAN 013 Hail To The Gentoos

 

 

 

 

Antarctica, No Head Planting

 

 

Nelson Bay Landing Nelson Bay Landing

 

 

 

Digging Out Passenger Arriving at Nelson Bay, I quickly see one reason to give snow shoeing a try.

 

 

 

 

 

Damien, one the expedition staff members is in the process of digging out one of the passengers who is stuck knee deep in the snow.

 

 

Confession Damien later tells us that his concern was more about losing the boot than the stuck passenger.

 

 

 

 

With the coming of summer he figures sooner or later she would be rescued by a passing ship. He jokingly tells us that Quark does offer a “Stuck Passenger Rescue Supplement”.

 

 

 

Six Feet Of Snow Walls Of Melting Snow

 

 

It is about in the 40's with crystal clear skies and serene winds as I get instructions from Damien on fitting and using snow shoes. He somewhat promises that they will prevent us from head-planting as we trek around in the snow.

 

 

Snow Shoes In a pair of fashionably red ones, I am on my way conquering the snow beneath my feet.

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering how exhausting it was sinking up to my knees on Half Moon Bay yesterday, I am glad this seems to be working.

 

 

Frighten Penguins Initially, I stay on the path as I take in another set of gorgeous views.

 

 

 

 

 

A fellow snow shoer is off in the distance navigating foreign terrain but scares off a colony of penguins in the process.

I remain still to give them the right of way should our paths cross.

 

 

Shoeless Trekkers Continuing  on my exploration, I leave the beaten path to give way to shoeless trekkers and my victory over the snow is short lived.

 

 

 

 

Somewhere at the bottom of two feet of snow is a “Ruby Red” shoe, I guess I am not in Kansas anymore.

 

 

Blue Reflection Recovering my shoe, a beautiful blue color reflects back at me from two to three feet below the surface.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Cool Gentoo 

 

 

Refitted, I return to following “The White Snow Road”. I am not off to see the Wizard, I am off to see one “Cool Gentoo”.