Monday, July 1, 2024

Antarctica 2023 ✈ Day 4: Elephant Point • Deception Island

Antarctica had always felt like a distant and unreachable bucket list destination, not just because of its geographical location, but more so because it is so expensive. Honestly, I never thought it'd be possible for me to check off this bucket list item but we decided to make this trip happen and celebrated our 10th anniversary with an extraordinary adventure to the end of the earth - Antarctica! I am so grateful for the opportunity to finally step foot on my 7th continent and to experience this incredible journey with our moms.

13D12N Antarctica Cruise - Oceanwide Basecamp Expedition
30 November 2023: Orne Harbour & Danco Island
1 December 2023: Paradise Bay & Lemaire Channel
2 December 2023: Pleneau & Petermann Island
3 December 2023: Port Lockroy & Damoy Point
4 December 2023: Cuverville Island
5-7 December 2023: Drake Passage & Disembarkation

28 November 2023 (Tues): Day 4 - Elephant Point & Deception Island

After spending the last 2.5 days on the sea and surviving the Drake Passage, we are finally stepping foot on land today! Our stop for the day is the South Shetland Islands, not quite in Antarctica Peninsula yet but we're excited nonetheless! P.S. Our route on this trip is very dependent on weather conditions, so I suppose the rough conditions on the Drake Passage may have slowed us down a lil.

Morning call was at 6.45am and breakfast was served at 7am. We spotted the staffs on the zodiacs scouting out the landing sites as we were getting ready. Our room was strategically located right next to the shell doors so we were able to stalk the staff in the zodiacs from our room's portholes.

Geared up for our first zodiac cruise & landing. We weren't sure how warm to dress as this was our first excursion so we were experimenting with what we brought and were overprepared. 
Special thanks to Penny for borrowing us the orange parka, waterproof pant, and gortex gloves! 

Here's the list of everything I wore during our excursions in Antarctica. In case you haven't noticed, yes I love Uniqlo and all my Heattech stuffs worked perfect. It was actually not that cold coz it was summer in Antarctica. The temperature was between 0 - 6°C while we were there.
Important tip...all outerwear (parka, rain pants, muck boots, gloves) must be waterproof!

It's finally go time! This was when we realized how convenient the location of our rooms were, which was right next to the zodiac boarding area. That means we only had to walk 20 steps in our bulky outfits and muck boots to get to the shell door, while others with fancy rooms on deck 7 had to walk up and down the stairs at least twice every day. =P Expensive isn't always better...haha!

We packed some extra socks, gloves, ski goggles, hand warmers in the dry bag but found out quickly that they were not necessary at all, so we didn't bother bringing the dry bag after this. 

I didn't take any photos of our zodiac boarding process (only took videos). We had to tag out with our name tags, step into a bin with disinfectant water to clean our boots, then use the sailor's grip to hold the arm of the seaman by the door and the expedition staff on the zodiac to board. P.S Both hands should be free. Thankfully, the sea wasn't rough which made boarding the zodiac very easy. 

Each zodiac had about 10 passengers. We started off with a zodiac cruise with Jerry for about an hour before swapping for a landing at Elephant Point. Our first wildlife sighting was pretty intense as we spotted few birds eating an animal (looked like baby seal). We also saw a lot of elephant seals on the shore...they were huge!

After cruising for an hour, it was our turn to land. Spotted the seals hanging out around the landing area, seemingly unbothered by our existence.

We were given the option to walk/hike across the snow to the other side to see more wildlife. 3 of us walked through some snow while mom opted to stay put and had a close encounter with a penguin. 

Elephant Point was filled with elephant seals of various sizes, from big bulls to the smallest of weaners. Elephant seals move on land by flopping on their bellies, also known as 'galumphing', which is not very graceful with their heavy bodies It was funny watching the seals, especially when the bigger ones bully the smaller ones. We also saw two male seals fighting by flopping their chest on each other and making loud noice to establish!

Time to return to our ship at 10.15am. There a few penguins sending us off to board the zodiac.

Made it back to the ship and once again, I didn't take any photos of the process to get back to the ship. We had to first tag ourselves back in (to make sure everyone was back on the ship), step on the cleaning machine to clean our boots and pants (super easy), and step into the disinfectant water for a final clean. This biosecurity procedure was required every time we get on and off the ship to prevent introduction or spread of organisms and/or diseases in Antarctica.

Buffet lunch at 12.30pm.

After lunch, we were asked to dress warm and head out to the deck as our ship sailed through Neptune's Bellows into Deception Island. Neptune's Bellow is the entrace to the flooded caldera of Deception Island. This narrow entrance to the caldera is juts 230 meters (755ft) wide. Navigating a ship through the bellows can be quite tricky. 

Unfortunately, we couldn't see much as it was snowing pretty heavily but we were glad to see snow!

We were off the ship again at 3pm for our afternoon excursion...landing at Telefon Bay in Deception Island. We were glad that the snowy and misty weather cleared for our landing.

We were given the option to follow the mountain guides to go for a hike or we could hangout around the beach. We chose the latter (which we regretted at that time but we actually didn't miss much).

Spotted this lonely Weddell seal enjoying its solitude all alone in this place devoid of life.

This place reminds me of the Black Sand Beach in Iceland, a rather Mars-like landscape. Other passengers from our ship who went for the hike for a scale of how big this place was.

We spent about an hour here before returning to the ship for a lecture about Deception Island presented by one of the expedition guides, Beth.  It was pretty cool to sail in the caldera of an active volcano in Antarctica, it is not everyday you can come into Deception Island. Spotted Ponant's L'Austral ship in the same area as we were leaving Deception Island.

We went out on the deck to watch as our ship sailed through Neptune's Bellows, much better view now without the snow and mist.

Back in the lounge at 6.30pm for our daily recap by our expedition leader, Adam, to hear the plans for the next day. Another expedition guide, Bill, then gave a funny presentation about our ship.

Buffet dinner at 7.30pm. The dining room was full again now that we are pass the Drak Passage and had a full day of activities. We were pretty impressed with the food options onboard.

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