Back on the boat, after the camping night, we had just enough time to arrange our gear, have lunch and get ready for the day ahead. Life on an expedition boat is not easy and we are far from relaxing cruises in the Caribbean. While some campers take a nap, I take on me. There is no question that I miss a crumb of this exceptional trip to Antarctica. And all the same, it is necessary to celebrate Christmas in Antarctica in due form and not while sleeping!
This time we arrived at Danco Island, a favorite spot of our team leader. We quickly understand why. But first, it's the landing. Like every day, we do our Antarctic ritual. I wear my leggings, several pairs of socks, underpants, sweater, sweater, fleece, coat, and two pairs of gloves. I also wear a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, boots, lip balm, camera in a waterproof pouch, water bottle, life jacket.
The first of the queue will first set foot on the ground, while the others will go on a cruise. We disinfect all our boots and we embark, always very excited to the idea of new adventures. The crossing is short this time. A small hike awaits us to discover the Danco Island. With sticks in hand, I launch for the assault of the hill.
I'm not someone very used to hiking and I keep plummeting in the snow. It is a complicated exercise and my friends are already far ahead of me, but I do not give up and I continue slowly, making me the promise to arrive at the top. That morning, the funny thing is that we have to cross penguin highways.
The colony of penguins are at the top of the hill. By force of passage, these small animals have dug real trenches in the snow that they use to go up and down from the colony to the sea. Our little hike crosses these highways and we can observe their ride very closely.
They go up and down at full speed, break their faces and leave again. When it comes to crossing, they are very clever and they always hold their right. As for us, we cross without damaging their highways and especially by leaving them the priority and more than 5m between us.
The last climb is difficult. Without my sticks, I think I would not have succeeded. Still, it was worth it. Danco Island is a small island that looks like an ice cream cone and, at the top, at the top of the ice ball, the 360 degree view is sublime. Few have made the climb and we enjoy the places without being disturbed by the neighbor.
The wind blows very hard and sweeps the surrounding powder. I struggle with the wind and taking pictures is not easy. Despite the scathing cold that beats my face, I keep my head up to admire the view. The weather is iron gray and the horizon is lost in the mist. At that moment, looking in the distance, I understand why it was believed that the earth was flat.
The sun is not there, but the reflections on the water are incredible and make the landscape even more surreal and the immensity even greater. In the distance I can see small yellow silhouettes fighting against the wind. It is better to go slowly and stop from time to time to meditate, to admire and live the moment. Danco Island will definitely be one of my favorite memories of this trip.
It's time to embark on the cruise. The atmosphere of the end of the world is still present from the stern of the boat. The horizon disappears, and the gray and blue sky and icebergs are surreal. Reflections in the water and icebergs with the most extravagant forms make the eye jump madly from one point to another, not knowing or nodding.
We also have some nice animal encounters with birds and seals with the last ones just sleeping and lounging on the ice floe and looking like big sausages. In the afternoon, we visit our first Antarctic base, Almirante Brown, in Paradise Bay. It is an Argentine scientific base built in 1951 and still active today in summer.
We could not enter the premises, but it is impressive to find such a paraphernalia at the end of the world. When the tourist ships do not come, the atmosphere must be peaceful, but very lonely. Like the morning, we have to climb a hill. Once again, the view is splendid and perched on our little rock, we are all amazed by the 360 degree view of the bay.
I see the horizon far away, the icebergs, the base so small below and the penguins. After taking a break for a special Christmas photo from the end of the world, we embark again for a cruise. Our extraordinary guide takes us to nice corners, stops his boat for us to take beautiful photos. We also take this opportunity to collect clear ice chips, which are probably around 10,000 years old.
That night is Christmas Eve and the cooks have prepared a special meal. Unfortunately, the passengers of the boat are mostly American and the Christmas meal disappoints me a little. Fortunately, champagne and wine flows. After the nut roast meal and listening to a humorous Christmas story, I eclipse in a room to enjoy homemade cocktails.
It's my second Christmas away from the family. I thought a lot about them that day. I would have liked to share this moment with them, because it was a unique Christmas that I am not ready to forget.
Every day in Antarctica seems to be more incredible than the previous one. Every landscape is more sublime. Each adventure is more unique. Antarctica reserves to all its adventurers many surprises. The days merge and we lose the notion of time aboard the cruise. Each day brings a lot of new surprises, but faithfully I follow the routine of the cruise.
We all let ourselves be carried by calls to the loudspeaker, alarm clocks, meals, expeditions, conferences, evenings with friends. There is nothing to organize, nothing to do, just get up, open my eyes and fully experience the adventure. After three intense months on the road, it's a well deserved and enjoyable rest. It will be very hard to leave the boat. The sun sets on the bay and tomorrow is 25th December.
The awakening is difficult after the night before, but we can all look forward to seeing what a Christmas in Antarctica will look like. It must be said that Santa Claus lives on the opposite side of the planet and we do not really expect gifts at the foot of the tree. Yet everyone is in a very good mood that morning and everyone is ready to live a unique and memorable Christmas.
The Christmas decorations have invaded the cabin doors and the crew is wearing Christmas hats. The decor is set, there is more to discover what the white continent has in store for us that day. The weather is nice, but the wind has increased. So we could not go to Useful Island (the place names in Antarctica are really crazy) as originally planned, but we were able to shelter a bit in Wilhelmina Bay.
It is time to go on a cruise in search of whales. We had searched in every nook and cranny of the bay, but there is not a shadow of a whale on the horizon. I see only icebergs with extravagant shapes and a beautiful landscape under the sun of Antarctica. We go back empty-handed and the boat sails to our next stop.
Before lunch, on the deck, I take a last look at the beautiful bay. And in the distance, I see a whale diving, as if to mock or say goodbye. In the afternoon, we disembark at Neko Harbor, supposed to be a magical place. The sun is shining and the wind is still there. A new hike awaits us.
Seeing the little yellow dots above me that seem to be walking on a ledge, I'm almost discouraged. But no, I will not give up like that. I will do all the possible activities of this trip. The climb is finally a little easier than I imagined, despite the wind and the snow. In passing, I say hello to a colony of penguins, before going to admire the view of the bay.
The wind blows very hard, the ground is slippery and the team recommends that we sit on the ledge so as not to be swept away. This is well worth the adrenaline shot, because the view is once again sublime. The bay and the surrounding mountains shine under the bright sun and the ship anchored in the middle seems very small.
There are huge icebergs-cliffs that surround the entire bay and fall into the water in beautiful blue turquoises. The white continent is not necessarily all white and shows us a spectacle enchanted with colors of gray, blue, black, and yellow. And to top it off, a halo surrounds the sun. This phenomenon is called a parhelion and is quite rare.
After a short tanning session under the hot Antarctic sun, it was time to embark on a cruise to discover the surroundings. As we left the bank, we saw a seal with strange behavior. In the middle of penguins, the seal, well installed on the beach, was contorting itself to rise always higher and to climb the hill.
After watching them for a few minutes, we went to meet crabeater seals, a kind of seal that we had not seen yet and which were resting quietly on the ice pack. And suddenly, our driver sees the tails of several whales. Whales move quickly to another corner of the bay diving regularly. Neither one nor two, we follow them at full speed. If the whales escaped that morning, we will not miss our opportunity this time.
We find ourselves in a small cove, where we patiently wait for the whales to come out. The wait is short and six whales begin to play and do a ballet around us. There are six Minke whales diving and dancing around us. They are so close that it would be enough to bend over to touch them.
Some of us are afraid that they will hit and capsize us. But whales are smarter than that and not at all malignant. They just play. We admire their tails, their flanks, their heads as close as possible and I shed a small tear in front of the beauty and the grandeur of nature.
To see a real whale is always a touching moment. To see a whale so closely is a unique, incredible, indescribable moment. After a good ten minutes, the whales leave us to go to other adventures. We remain stuck on the spot, unable to believe in our luck and what we have just experienced. It only remains for us to shout for joy and to make high-five congratulations.
We managed to live our moment of intimacy with the whales and we will never forget it. It's with a smile that we return to the ships, too excited to realize that we are soaked and shivering with cold. On our return and telling our story, we met some green faces of jealousy. Unfortunately, it's the game of luck.
That night, we had to have a barbecue on the deck of the boat, but it was too cold because of the wind. So we had a nice dinner (accompanied by a handmade hat competition and a chocolate buffet) inside. A splendid sunset closed this beautiful day. There were no gifts under the tree this morning, but Antarctica gave us the best Christmas present with the gift of nature in all its forms. It was a December 25 that we will never forget!