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Letters From Antarctica – Diary from a Polar Expedition part 1

2 min read

Ever wonder what it's like to join an Antarctic Expedition? In this 4 part 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.

Quark Expeditions Team members welcome guests aboard

22 Dec 2014

After welcoming our guests onboard we said farewell to Ushuaia and set sail with great excitement and anticipation for our Christmas adventure into Antarctica.

By nightfall the Drake let us know we had entered its waters. But it was not "an intolerable tempest" as described by Drake himself, and by morning it had lost any sense of the anger that can lie within.

iceberg sighting

As always our first morning is packed with events such as the mandatory IAATO, safety and bio-security briefings, climb-ski and kayak equipment distribution and the inevitable wrestling match with rubber boots.

After lunch we started our educational program with “Whales” by our resident marine biologist Nick, “Birds of the Antarctic Peninsula” by biologist Fabrice, followed by an introduction to “Antarctic Photography” by photography guide Dave. But with all that information to absorb we still managed to find time to look within and relax with some yoga.

And still the Drake was sleeping.

Our captain Oleg welcomed everyone onboard after which we learnt about the man who, whether pirate or pioneer, gave his name to our passage to Antarctica, along with information on what lay well below us, the Antarctic Convergence and its wealth of provisions which we had crossed at around 3pm, announcing we had truly entered Antarctic waters.

Sailing further south overnight towards our eagerly anticipated first destination of Half Moon Island we wonder if the 'Drake Lake' will continue or is it simply playing with us, lulling us into a false sense of security. I think not, after all it's Christmas!! and the Drake would not be that rude as to want to disrupt this special time.

23 Dec 2014

On every expedition voyage into Antarctica the golden rule is to expect the unexpected.

Today was one of those days. A storm had been following us down throughout the Drake and had caught us up. We hoped that by afternoon we would sail out of it but the high winds, waves and snow just kept with us.


Deck 6 received a dusting of snow, enough for guests to create a hand crafted selection of Antarctic wildlife snow figures. Seals, whales, penguins and of course, the traditional snowman.

Our first landing at Half Moon Island was just not going to happen so we continued our journey south and hoped it would allow us to find shelter to attempt an alternative. As we approached Deception Island all of a sudden the sky started to open up, the snow moved away and we received word from the bridge that we were going to pass through Neptune's Bellows and enter Deception Island's vast crater.

Captain Oleg guided us through the 'gates' and we were treated to a full view of one of the most spectacular places in the Antarctic. As we cruised around Port Foster we learnt about the history of this historical but notorious landmark.

On our departure just as we headed into the Bransfield Straight a pair of humpback whales came to greet us on our port side. A very unexpected treat to have our first siting of these magnificent creatures and as if by request they stayed with us for enough time for everyone to enjoy such a special moment.

From a morning which started with a hint of disappointment we were treated with a golden consolation prize. Always expect the unexpected – you never know what pleasures might be waiting further along the way.

Check out the next installment in this 4 part series!

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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