Monday, July 1, 2024

Antarctica 2023 ✈ Day 5: Portal Point • Foyn Harbour • Camping

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

29 November 2023 (Wed): Day 4 - Portal Point & Foyn Harbour

Day 5 of our cruise and we finally made it to Antarctica Peninsula!

Buffet breakfast with a view at 7am. The breakfast options were pretty good, but what ended up on my plate were my own not! I was actually excited to see instant noodles!

Ready and excited for our first landing in the Antarctica Peninsula! After yesterday's experience, we decided to ditch the dry bag and carried only minimal stuffs that fit in our pockets. 

Our group departed at 8.30am and started off with a zodiac cruise before swappping over for landing at Portal Point. We shared the zodiac with a group of solo female travelers, they were pretty cool. Juan was our expedition guide for our zodiac cruise this morning. P.S. We don't get to choose our expedition guide (zodiac driver) and it just depends on who's at the shell door when we board. After going with several guides throughout our trip, Juan was definitely our favorite.

We spotted a humpback whale within 5 minutes but this whale was sleeping and kept teasing us with its breathe for a good 30 minutes. Spot the small dots on the snow hill, they are the group doing the landing first. 

Our patience paid off when the whale finally fluked! We were all very excited with our first whale sighting on the zodiac! It was definitely worth getting my iPhone 15 Pro Max for the 5x zoom. =P

We then continued our zodiac cruise for another 30 minutes and saw some cool icebergs...

...hikers up in the mountain and kayakers kayaking through icebergs. These were the first group of people doing these activities. P.S. All passengers get to take part in the free activities (camping, kayaking, mountaineering) at least once during the expedition. There were 2 sessions each day.

It was our turn for landing at 9.45am. The staff had the snowshoes laid out at the landing point for us to put on as we would be walking/hiking in snow. Glad we practiced how to put it on during the briefing 2 days ago as it was definitely harder to put them on in the snow. 

P.S. While some cruises charge extra for snowshoeing activity, Oceanwide provides snowshoes without any charges whenever we land at sites with snow, which made walking in snow so much easier. It was quite a lot of work for the staff to have to take out, keep, and clean these snowshoes so we definitely appreciated this benefit on our cruise!

We were excited to finally step foot on Antarctica Peninsula for the first time! We were also informed that this would be our camping site tonight...yes on this patch of snow. :)

We had 1hr 15min for this landing and hiked along the red poles to get to the other side where we would be picked up. Even though we felt like we were walking like ducks in the snowshoes, we felt more comfortable walking in it after awhile. It would have been impossible to hike without a snowshoe coz we would keep sinking into the snow if we only had our muck boots. The snowshoe helped to spread our weight to a wider surface to avoid us from sinking into the snow.

Spotted the mountaineers hiking down.

It was very thoughtful for the staff to provide this flag and helped to take photos, to mark our first landing on this new continent for all of us. The other Alabama family on our cruise brought their own flag as this was their 7th continent as a family, so I conveniently borrowed their flag for a photo to celebrate stepping foot on my 7th continent. =) 

Spotted two seals lazing around.

Good timing to return to the ship at 11.15am as it was snowing harder.

Successful morning with sighting of humpback whale, icebergs, and stepping foot on my 7th continent!

Buffet lunch at 12pm. We figured out that we can avoid standing in line by going to the dining room 2 minutes before the scheduled time (instead of waiting for the announcement). Kiasu max...hahaha!

Our afternoon activity started at 2.15pm with a zodiac cruise at Foyn Harbour. Our expedition guide for this zodiac cruise was Beth. It was snowing quite a good bit but that doesn't stop us from going out to explore. This is why it was super important to have waterproof outerwear coz you definitely don't want to be cold and wet.

We explored the shipwreck of the Governoren - a whaling vessel that had succumbed to flames and ran aground in Foyn Harbor.

As if it wasn't cold enough in this 3°C snowy weather, we were cruising through icebergs for 2 hours. Ice ice baby too cold...brrrrrr!

Interesting icebergs shapes...what 'animals' do you see?

These penguins were just standing there enjoying the snow. They were obviously not!

Did the falling snow add a layer of enchantment to the icy landscape? Or did it turn us into popsicles? One of the guy on our zodiac didn't have waterproof gloves and was cold and wet. Luckily another zodiac came to the rescue with an extra pair of globes and hand warmer.

We were ready to get back to the warmth of our ship after navigating through icebergs in freezing water for 2 hours. We were scheduled for camping tonight so we had to dry off all our gear.

Daily recap at 6.15pm...a preview of where we were heading the next day and looks like another good weather day. :)

Buffet dinner at 7pm.

Went out on the deck at 8pm to check out the weather and mentally prepare ourselves for the camping. We weren't sure if our camping activity would be cancelled due to the snow but glad to see the snow has stopped and the sun is out!

We were the first group of campers for the camping activity. The staff prepared a list of recommended camping gear, and also laid out the sleeping bag & bivvy at the zodiac boarding area. Camping was the activity we were most excited (and worried) about as we had no idea how it'd be like. We put on all our warm gears, brushed our teeth, went to the toilet, and collected our camping gear (black bags) at the shell door before boarding the zodiac. 

A quick 5 minute zodiac ride to our 'campsite' for the night. 

Made it to our campsite at Portal Point at 8.45pm. We first had to hike up the snow with our camping gear to the campsite. Even thought the camping gear was not heavy (just bulky), we didn't have a snowshoe which made hike more challenging. There was no way mom was able to do the hike carrying her gear so hubby helped to carry my mom's gear up while I carried my own gear on one hand and supported mom with my other hand. Hence not video/photo of the hike. 

The staff showed us the portable toilet, where to dig our pit, asked us to drop our personal belongings on the tarp, and pick up a shovel to start digging. Yes, we are sleeping on snow with just a bivvy and sleeping bag without a tent. The hole was important to help block the winds. 

It took us 40 minutes to dig two 'queen size beds'. Both of us were doing double duty helping the moms as well so this was quite a workout to warm us up. Found out that we were digging the hard way as it would have been easier to use the shovel to dig out the snow in blocks instead of digging it like dirt. I joked that we were digging our own 'graves'!! It took another 20 minutes for us to figure out how to put the bivvy/sleeping bag together while trying not to get anything wet. 

After all the hard work, we were finally done at 10.45pm and pretty exhausted at this point!The staff, Saskia, walked around to help everyone take photos and made sure everyone was good and cozy. 

Time to enjoy the night in our new 'bedroom' in Antarctica with amazing view of giant icebergs floating in the bay. The glaciers around us were the perfect backdrop for our overnight experience here. We took off our boots and outer wear, stored them in the dry bag and snuggled into the sleeping bag. P.S. It remained bright all night and we stayed warm in the bivvy/sleeping bag. 

After a decent 5 hours of sleep, we woke up at 3.45am to pretty strong winds...brrr! We couldn't feel the wind in the pit but definitely felt it as soon as we got out of our comyfy sleeping bag. We put on all our outerwear as fast as we could while trying to duck in our pit to avoid the wind. We quickly packed our bags and camping gear, and had to fill up both pits back to the way it was. It was an early morning workout, and grateful that our neighbor helped us out with our double duty.

Our Antarctica camping adventure was not over yet. The wind had blown big pieces of ice in the small bay where we landed last night, and had blocked the entrance. Therefore, we had to walk all the way to the other side of the bay for the zodiac to pick us up. Our early morning workout continued with a hike through the snow. Even though it was only about a 10 min 'walk' to the bay, it felt much longer walking in the snow with the wind blasting. Thankful that hubby helped to carry my mom's camping gear, while I helped mom through the hike.

We waited for about 30 min for the zodiac coz they sent only 2 zodiacs to pick us up and there were about 45 of us. We found out later that it took longer for the zodiac to return and pick us up because they had to reposition the ship to block the wind to unload the first group of campers from the zodiacs. We finally boarded our windy zodiac ride to return to the ship at 4.50am. We dropped off our camping gear at deck 8, got a quick snack and some juice in the lounge, then went to bed for a little more sleep before another busy day ahead. 

Camping out in the cold was obviously not as comfortable as sleeping on a bed in the ship (duh), but it's not everyday that we get to camp out on the snow in Antarctica. This was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I'm glad we got to experience. All the hardwork and adventrues that came with it made it even more memorable. :)

No comments: