Antarctic New Year in the Midnight Sun
Last day of the year. In previous years, the issue of December 31 was rather what am I going to dress tonight? or what are we going to eat for the New Years Eve? And here today, I will walk on the Antarctic! On the program for the first landing is the Aitcho Islands, a small archipelago in the North of the Antarctic Peninsula.
But before disembarking, I have to put on my heavy off-road gear. I wear long-sleeved sweatshirt, polar fleece, anorak, boots, double pair of socks, pants, lined and waterproof over-pants. I also wear gloves, hat, scarf, not forgetting of course sunscreen, camera, and sunglasses with a beautiful orange life jacket to complete.
Here we go! Distributed in groups, we head to the mainland. And it's fun! The black sand beach is approaching and we are here. I finally set foot on the white continent! And that's my first surprise. Antarctica! I imagined it like a huge piece of ice all white. And in fact not at all. The beach is all black. It is very rocky, with many rocky peaks and green too, with whole places covered with moss. That's wonderful.
We are welcomed by the first gentoo penguins of the trip. They waddle quietly, continuing to go about their business without paying attention to us. We also see our first seals and first sea lions. It's amazing to be able to approach all these animals so closely. Never driven out by man, they are not afraid of us.
After a short walk in the snow to climb a hill, we have a breathtaking view of an incredible panorama. It is rocky peaks as far as the eye can see. The black sand beaches are half covered by snow with a dark blue and milky sea. There are green reflections on the stones covered with moss. It's magical, perhaps one of the most beautiful landscapes ever seen in my life. We really feel that we are in another world.
It is so virgin and immaculate. I'm wondering if I really have the right to be in a place like this. Antarctica remains one of the only places in the world completely untouched by human pollution. Of course we take a lot of precautions to leave no trace of our passage. Nevertheless, our arrival leaves inevitably traces.
Guilt or not, I savor in any case the exceptional chance to be here. We get back on the boat for a nice hot chocolate and a good shower to warm up. And the day is not over. Tonight is the New Years Eve! And where were you for the New Year last year? At a friend's house in New York or in Sydney or at a party in Paris! And here I find the opportunity to rebound.
At least from next time I can say that I spent the New Year in Antarctica! And it is true that this eve was one of the most exceptional of my life. For the evening dress, it was not quite that. I wear jeans, black tee-shirt with long sleeves, and sandals with hiking socks. But it does not matter. I'm in Antarctica!
For the New Year's Eve meal is the skewers of shrimp, pork and chicken. We rush to the bar to start the evening with the bartender. From plastic balloons, glitter masks and flower necklaces, everything is there to warm up the atmosphere. For now it is rather, how to say, a little cold.
We distribute masks and necklaces to lift people up from their chairs. The meal is over and it's time to dance! Fortunately, there are also the young guys from the staff, guides and drivers, who join us to party. It is almost midnight, but it is difficult to realize. Outside it is still day. The sun is of course not there, but the light is very clear.
It's like being late in the day. The captain arrives for the final count with champagne and wish Happy new year! That's it, we're in the New Year. Celebrating the new year in broad daylight is really amazing. And Antarctica is the only place in the world where we can do it.
The majority of passengers go to bed after midnight, but the best are left. Worried at the beginning of the trip to be the only young to want to party, I finally found good evening companions. Alcohol flows afloat all night. I take full advantage of this exceptional moment. Every new year has always been a special moment for me.
It was hard to get up in this morning of January 1 aboard the cruise. At least I am entitled to a little sleep, with a breakfast at 8:30, instead of 7:30. But the magical spectacle of icebergs all around the boat and a good bowl of coffee quickly dispel the fog of this morning hangover.
As soon as the breakfast is over, it is time to prepare for a landing on the Cuverville Island, inhabited by many gentoo penguin colonies. I head to the reception desk of the boat. There is nothing like fresh air to recover from a night, and here I am again walking on the white continent.
Thousands of Gentoo penguins roam as far as the eye can see, on the beach and on the rocks. The instruction is not to approach them within 5 meters so as not to disturb them, but here it is difficult. They are really everywhere. The key is to walk slowly, and make sure we give them priority when there is one who is about to cross in front of us. Here it is not a priority for pedestrians, but priority for penguins.
The best way to observe them quietly is to sit on a piece of rock, do not move and let them approach. It's really great to see animals that are not afraid of humans. And they are even curious. While going about their business, looking for small pebbles, they go to the sea. They come back, discuss or peck at their neighbor. They do not hesitate to come to see us, certainly wondering where these large animals come out in groups. For a moment, I even wonder who the animal is and who is watching who. One of them approaches me to the point of almost touching me. I reach out, but he will not come further.
We get back on the boat for lunch, and then land at Neko Harbor. There are again the Gentoo penguins. But we do not get tired of it. They are so endearing and fascinating to watch. And the setting is completely breathtaking. The boat must carefully cross a half-frozen water dotted with pieces of ice.
It is hard to find the words to describe the beauty of the landscape that leaves me speechless. And as for the photos, they only give a tiny view of reality. We climb in the powder snow to admire the view. We will not be far from an hour slumped together on the rocks to enjoy the happiness of this incredible show. There is a perfectly translucent sea of ice dotted with icebergs, in which the snowy mountains and a majestic glacier are reflected.
And back on the beach, the bartender is waiting for us with bottles of champagne! Cheers! We drink in the middle of penguins and icebergs! I have to pinch myself to believe it. It's really the best January 1 of my life!