Ever wonder what it's like to join an Antarctic Expedition? In part 2 of our "Letters from Antarctica" series, Quark expedition team member Simon Bottomley shares his daily diary reflections from the Dec 19, 2014 sailing of the Ocean Diamond. Read to discover what day-to-day adventures you can expect from your Antarctic vacation.
24 Dec 2014 - Christmas Eve
Antarctica can be so contrary. You never know what she'll do next.
Today, Christmas Eve, we were given cause for a wonderful celebration. Like a child seeing the first flakes of snow from the bedroom window, we awoke with clear skies, calm waters and full sunshine. We could hardly contain our excitement with the prospect of cruising around Foyn Harbour.
It was hot and the perfect conditions got even better when we heard the call of 'Whales o'clock'. To be able to watch the group of humpbacks from a Zodiac perspective was such a treat. What a way to start our holiday celebrations with a full program of skiing, kayaking and breathtaking cruising enjoying these giants of the sea along with turns busying themselves from their nests on Guvemeren.
But it didn't stop there. After lunch, on Christmas Eve, in glorious conditions, we stepped foot onto the Antarctic Continent itself at Orne where we had our first encounter with the happiest of penguins, the constantly smiling chinstraps. Can anything be more uplifting than that? Our climbers made their ascent to the peak of Spigot while the kayakers glided through glassy waters and a few of our well-balanced guests opted to test drive our stand-up paddleboards.
I know Father Christmas will visit everyone on this special night, but a group of intrepid campers on Ronge? Whether or not his SATNAV will be able to get a fix on their solitary location would indeed be a challenge but as far as a Christmas gift goes this one could not be more unique.
From challenge to ecstasy in 24 hours. That is what Antarctica will give you.
25 Dec 2014 - Christmas Day
Christmas Day is about giving and receiving.
Since we left Ushuaia our guests have given understanding for the immense power that Antarctic holds within, love for the beauty that is ever present and passion for the need to protect such an untouched realm of our planet.
In return today Antarctica gave us a stocking full of gifts beyond our dreams.
A calm day began in Neko Harbour with humpback whale sightings before breakfast, and perfect waters for the kayak team. Weddell seals welcomed our climbers to Bananarama where climbers were treated to views of minke whales and a very large carving from the glacier. The slightly more grounded guests had the joy of seeing gentoo penguins and hunting leopard seals cruising the bay and resting on ice.
On a return journey before lunch a minke whale decided that a Zodiac was going to be its new 'best friend'. After introducing itself by breaking the surface within a few meters of delighted passengers with belly rolls, gliding underneath and displaying wonderfully playful behavior, it decided it didn't want its new friend to leave the area. It followed the Zodiac, crossing its bows, swimming and circling under, behind, and into open water to gently race the Zodiac on the starboard side. The minke won the race, and followed back to the Ocean Diamond where it continued to delight even after the last Zodiac was lifted out of the water.
Words will never do this wonderful gift justice.
Anytime at Almirante Brown is special and visually so appealing with the contrast of colorful huts, rusting colors and gentoo penguins. Out on the ice flow we were treated with resting Weddell and fur seals along with spectacular views of glacier walls.
Next, polar plunge time!!!
Where better to enjoy a truly physical Antarctic experience than here, and on Christmas Day.
Our guests embraced the opportunity like never before. I do not remember a queue from one end of the Deck 3 corridor to the top of the stairs. Whether in costume or regular dress, everyone launched themselves with genuine enthusiasm to embrace Antarctica in the most intimate way.
Throughout the afternoon our catering and restaurant team were working hard to give us a wonderful deck BBQ as the finale to a simply extraordinary Christmas Day.
We give and through giving we receive. Today our 'cups runneth over' with the generosity from a kingdom which we can only hope looks kindly on us. There is a spirit here onboard and it has been recognised and showered with wonderful gifts throughout the day which will be cherished for years to come.
On this Christmas Day we have been truly blessed.