Although I slept better than I thought I would, a night of camping (especially in Antarctica) doesn’t exactly yield a ton of restful sleep. I awoke just before 6 a.m. and was definitely ready to head back to the ship. We first had to fill in our “graves”, since otherwise they can trap any penguins that might be so inclined as to wander into them.
I was extremely excited to get back to the ship without having met Mr. Yum-Yum. After relieving my bladder I wanted nothing more than to shower and nap, but the Antarctic gods weren’t having it. The announcement over the intercom informed us that we would soon be heading through the Lemaire Channel, and bartender Ian assured me that this wasn’t something I’d want to miss. He was right.
The Lemaire Channel is a very narrow waterway and, we were told, a challenge for any ship’s captain and crew. By the time I reached the bridge, we were well on our way into the channel and the captain was indeed looking very attentive. Everyone else was making sure to stay out of his way.
The sun started to peak out of the clouds so I made my way to the outer decks. Suddenly I no longer cared about showering or napping. I was too distracted by the mountains towering over us as we passed, the ice crystals floating effortlessly on the calm waters and the pristine white snow and ice sparkling in the sun.
We headed back inside to have breakfast and were treated to a story about Australia Day by Wayne, one of the Aussies on the ship. Being American and never having been to Australia, I was in the dark about the holiday. In short, Australia Day is celebrated as that country’s national holiday, marking the anniversary of the first ship to sail into Sydney Harbour on January 26, 1788. Wayne told us of how he was the descendant of one of the first criminals to be shipped off to Australia, apparently sentenced for stealing a cow.
The afternoon entailed another landing, this time at an Argentine base station. There wasn’t much wildlife to see – by this point 20 or 30 penguins wandering about had become a common occurrence – so we began a hike up to Paradise Bay to check out the view. This was possibly the first time we had what I could describe as glorious weather. Between the sunshine and the hike, we were able to strip off our jackets and top two fleece layers and bask in the warmth, which in our minds felt more like Florida than the Antarctic. A couple of the staff members even got down to T-shirts. The hike was well worth the effort.
Our descent down the hill took a lot less effort, since some of the visitors before us had paved a sledding path in the snow. This would be the first of our two sledding excursions. I had trouble staying in the path and eventually veered off, forming my own new sledding track. I also made it a point to stop and say hello to some of the penguins on my way back to the ship.
Unfortunately I was one of the last to board a zodiac and return to the ship, and my hankering for a nap was now back in full force, so I headed to our cabin and ultimately missed the first event of Australia Day – the polar plunge. A jump in the plunge pool as we had done back on Day 4 was apparently a short-cut to becoming an honorary Ozzy, and I missed my chance. To be honest though, I had woken up with a cold that morning and was far more interested in staying warm and half asleep.
I made up for it by wedging my way into the Ozzy table at the dinner barbecue. Most OneOcean excursions attempt (weather permitting!) to have an outdoor barbecue – this time the staff decided it would coincide nicely with Australia Day since that’s how they do it down under. There was plenty of meat to go around, Australian music blasting onto the deck (some good, some not so much) and Glühwein to keep us warm. I was surprised to see that the Australians were familiar with the spiced hot wine, which I had always thought was purely a German and Austrian custom. The music was broken up intermittently by toasts, Chad’s usual dinner announcement and chants of “OZZY OZZY OZZY!! OI OI OI!!”
Dinner was followed up in the bar with more drinks, more stories of Australia Day and more chants of “OZZY OZZY OZZY! OI OI OI!!” I had already figured out by this point that Australians are some of my favorite people and that their warmth and friendliness combined with their warped sense of humor has me very excited to spend a month there towards the end of my trip.
I tried to keep up with them, but before the day was out my sniffles had started getting the better of me so I decided to turn in. Before I could make it all the way to my pillow, however, I peaked out of my porthole to find another stunning sunset.
Facts about Day 8:
– Latitude: 65°06.7’S, longitude: 64°02.1’W
– Sunrise: 4:08 a.m., sunset: 10:49 p.m.
– Air/water temperature: +2°C/36°F, +0.2°C/32°F
– Wildlife spotted: Gentoo penguins; petrels (Southern Giant, Southern Fulmar, Snow, Cape (Pintado)); Wilson’s storm petrels; Antarctic shags; South Polar skuas; kelp gulls; Antarctic terns; snowy sheathbills; whales (humpback, Antarctic Minke, Killer (Orca) Type B); seals (Weddell, Leopard, Antarctic Fur)