Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Antarctica, My Heroes


I imagine if Willie Nelson had been on board the Akademik Ioffe he would have had another hit. This one centered around the certifiably insane “Polar Plungers” and I would have been more than happy to be his Quincy Jones.



Plunger Fans On a nice sunny but freezing Antarctica morning, along with a few others I stand on the outside of the Akademik Ioffe cheering on fellow passengers.




They are making the most of their Antarctic experience and maybe proving their lack of sanity in the process.

From shrieks and shivering panting to back flips and underwater swimming, these crazy dare devils delight and entertain us.


Senior PlungerAlong the way I have found new heroes, ones without hats or boots!








Saturday, May 28, 2011

Antarctica, Cold, Cool And Fun


Think of being in one of the coldest areas on the planet and what we are experiencing this afternoon is one of the last things you would think about.

Thanks to the hard work of the on board hotel staff, we are having an Outdoor Barbeque in Antarctica! And to literally top it all off our unofficial cruise director, Val, has laid down a challenge. We have to come up with the “coolest” hats we can for the event.



Trash Hat I head right for the trash can.








Grilled Chicken Mingling on the aft deck as the sweet smell of barbeque chicken, steak and sausages fill the cold Antarctica air, I am delighted to see fellow passengers have reached for higher grounds to top things off.



From a yellow submarine hat, to one that is made out of sea sick bags there is a lot of talent at 64 degrees south.

Four contestants end up in a crowd participation vote for a bottle of house. For our guests from Port Lockroy, who did take a bath today, The Penguin Man is a favorite but he is not able to muster a win.


See It The fun continues once the "BBQ After Party" begins inside the bar.

There we are entertained by a fun magician.





The Hostess At the right moment, Val climbs the bar counter to get our attention.

A treat awaits as a new music beat permeates the air.





An Antarctic Stripper Next, it's a bit of adult entertainment Antarctica style as a yellow parka comes off and the dance moves begin.



Crazy Guys The fun seems non stop.






Thanks to the generosity of two fellow passengers, Carlton and Rose a few of us even get to take a stab at the art of magic. Our first, second and third attempt at it goes down real smooth.



Carlton's Vodka After all, how difficult should it be for a couple of “Wild and Crazy Guys” to make a liter or so of Vodka disappear?






Thursday, May 26, 2011

Antarctica, Port Lockroy


Located on Goudier Island, visiting Port Lockroy gives a glimpse of daily living in Antarctica and a nonchalant welcome by the couple hundreds or so black and white locals.

About four months out of the year the island is also occupied by four to nine temporary volunteer locals.


Port Lockory Museum Port Lockroy is a natural harbor that was once a British military base in the 1960's.

Today, it  is operated as a museum and spring time residence.




From here, The Antarctic Heritage Trust does work to clean up other former British locations that are an eye sore to the pristine area.


64S63W At 64 degrees south and 63 degrees west I take a seat in the snow.

Being properly dressed I am not worried about freezing my tush off.






Antartic Sled Nearby, a sled and other remnants from early human life are on display.



Sheathbill Prior to entering the museum I am greeted by the local scavenger, a Sheathbill.




The Sheathbill is content to clean up the mess around here even if it involves stealing an egg or two in the process.

Inside the museum, I get a quick confirmation that all along my personal hygiene has been on the right track. Due to the lack of rainfall here along with the process for collecting water, in the 1960's it was not uncommon to wait 9 days to take a shower.


Take A Bath Aren't you glad I use Dial?






Bacon In A Can Feeling Hungry?

How about some sliced bacon in the can or tasty kidney pudding?






Heinz Did you say you would like mayonnaise that looks like mustard on the side?

Some Heinz, coming right up!






Port Lockory Bed Munchkin Bed


Go ahead, take a nap.


Bath Tub Seeing the decor and items on the display, I cannot image life being too comfortable here in the darkness winter. 

A four month spring time visit would be more to my liking.


Although, I am told the showering cycle has been reduced to about four days. Maybe I can adjust.

Headed back to the Ioffe, I discover we are in for another pleasant surprise and the weather is nice enough that it might all work out just right.




Antarctica, Oh Behave



Austin Powers YBY

Spring time on Jougla Point would make “The International Man Of Mystery” very proud as there is a whole lot of “shag” going on.





And who’s responsible for all this shagging? You guessed it, The Blue Eyed Shags.

With nests built on shared grounds, from a distance they can be easily be mistaken for gentoo penguins.



Shared Rock Shared Rock




CAN 006 However, all doubt should be vanished when you see one take flight.





The Blue Eyed Shag is the only member of the Cormorant family that resides on the Antarctic continent proper as far south as 68 degrees.

Although they normally breed between August and October, here some late or second chance courtship is still going on in early December.



Shagging Yeah, Shag, Yeah!










Monday, May 23, 2011

Antarctica, Black And White Criminals


Nice Rock In the bitter cold on Jougla Point, I am just mere feet away watching crimes that I am helpless to do anything about.






Lets Rock Although this situation involves individuals with similar motives, I am not sure if it has yet risen to the level of organized crime.





Rock Criminal However, it seems to me that Cut, Clarity, Color or Carat means nothing to this gang. It is just all about “The Rock” and impressing the girl's.



I don't think I'll be of much help to the police in solving these crimes as the participants all looked alike and fit the same bill.

“Yes, officer they were all dressed in black and white, about three foot tall and walked with a funny waddle.” 

But can you blame them?




Nesting Penguin After all, a rock is a girl's best friend!






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Friday, May 20, 2011

Antarctica, Jougla Point


A short time after lunch we are boarding zodiacs for our afternoon outing. Groups of us will take turns visiting Port Lockroy and nearby Jougla Point on Goudier Island.



Jougla Point My group first visits a very very windy and cold Jougla Point.






I spend the start of my time there with one of the expedition leaders, Damien, who has a wealth of information about the area.



Sleeping Duo From him, I also learn about the various types of sea ice as we watch a seal frantically waving hello to us.







Blue Eye Inflight Blue Eyed Shag



Here there are several colonies of gentoo penguins, blue eyed shags and kelp gulls. They are busy with spring time activities which become very interesting to watch.

At one time, this area had an active whaling industry at Jougla Point.


Whale Bone Today, some of the sad artifacts including giant now gray whale bones remain scattered along the shoreline.








Thursday, May 19, 2011

Antarctica, A Local Visitor


Since boarding the Akademik Ioffe it has been a part of our breakfast, lunch or dinner routine to have some type of speech or demonstration from one of our expedition leaders.


Ioffe Meal Anchored just of Goudier Island, our lunch today comes with a special treat.

We have a local visitor.




Niki, is a part of a group of volunteers with The Antarctic Heritage Trust that spends about four months out of the year living in Antarctica. At this point, I am envious.

In a few hours we will get to visit Niki's humble abode as we take a zodiac trip to Port Lockroy.




Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Antarctica, Paradise Harbor


Although it is Spring in Antarctica not all areas of the continent have received the memo. We get first hand confirmation of this as our first zodiac landing of the day is canceled.


PH Hills After many attempts the Ioffe finds it's path time and time again blocked by sea ice as it tries to navigate into Paradise Harbor.




Not only is the sea ice a reminder of our current location but also the bitter cold howling winds. Even with the sun shining only a few of us brave being out on the deck of the Ioffe.


Don & J I am so bundled up even my roommate John is not sure who's behind the yellow parka and black face mask.







PH Port Akademik Ioffe Paradise Harbor



Only an occasional relief from the wind or by finding shelter can I get a glimpse of the scenery.


Argentine Station More gorgeous pristine white landscape and another scientific research center in the distance.





I think most of us our glad the zodiac landing has been canceled. It might have been quite miserably under these conditions.

Time to edit some photos, maybe.




Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cruising, Carnival Valor 60 Seconds On A Roll


Being on a cruise would hardly be the place one would think to discover suppressed talents or the lack thereof.


Carnival Squatting One afternoon, I get the opportunity to do so with a challenge.

With support from a small crowd, “You Can Do It”, I rise to the task before me.





With encouragement from a small crowd, I rise to the task before me. I quickly get on the roll but despite the moral encouragement I begin to suck. In the end, I wasn't worth squat and come up short.

Nevertheless, I proudly represented the Great State of Florida, defended the Gator Nation and learned some important things about myself all while having fun!




Saturday, May 14, 2011

Grand Cayman, 7 Mile Beach


After about two days of sailing from Miami, the Carnival Valor comes to a stop just offshore from George Town, Grand Cayman.


GCM Carnival Valor Anchored Our first port of call is within striking distance but it will take a little effort on our part to get there.





A tendering process puts us ashore where we discover most of the town is still asleep. There is a time difference between the ship's time and Cayman's time.

We have pre-arranged a trip to Stingray City with Captain Marvin and have arrived at the office about an hour too early.

I take the opportunity to walk around the “two block by two block” downtown and I learn a little bit about the island's history.


GCM Bus Passenger A short local bus ride from here for about $2 and you can spend some time at the world famous 7 Mile Beach.







GCM Beach Nap Tiki Beach Along 7 Mile



A nice beach with “tourist prices” although there are areas where you relax and enjoy free tropical breezes. Our visit there happens after our trip to Stingray City.

From near Tiki Beach at 7 Mile, we flag down one of the many mini buses headed back to town which turns out to be a nice local experience.


GCM Wowballs In town, I am intrigued by the chance to walk on water so we make a stop at WOWBALLS.

Most are failing trying to repeat the miracle so my idea is squashed.



Seeing local fishermen nearby arriving with the fresh catches of the day, I think I stand a better chance feeding thousands with a few small fish and bread.


GCM Fresh Catch Fresh Catch







Along the waterfront vendors are on “island time”setting up for the day as we walk by many empty stalls. On a nearby wall a few birds enjoy the meat of coconuts, no doubt left behind by naive island visitors.

Like true Islanders, birds know it's the best part of the coconut.



GCM Long Line A lengthy line awaits us to reboard the ship and we quickly adopt an island mentality.

Sitting in the shade, we cool off with a cold local brew or two.



Being among the last to board the last tender back to the Valor with no worries, I feel reconnected to my island roots.

Thanks, Cayman!



Grand Cayman, Stingray City



GCM Waterfront We are ashore in Grand Cayman too early for our 8:30am tour with Captain Marvin to Stingray City.




We have pre-arranged this tour online on our own prior to leaving on our Carnival cruise. This saves us a few bucks or more over Carnival prices. Depending on which dock you are tendered to, Captain Marvin's office is no more than a ten to fifteen walk.

Capt Marvin's:


GCM George Town Around 9am we are loaded on buses from the office area and head to our launch spot about a twenty minute drive away.



Our driver and coincidentally our boat captain today is Denver as in Colorado. I get a laugh from him and fellow passengers when I tell him I am Dallas from Texas.

As we pull away from the marina we are told to look ashore and wave to an elderly gentleman taking in the scenery with a few others. It is none other than Captain Marvin, himself. About 80 years old and still going strong.

Since the sun is still heating up the day, the tropical breeze still has a chill to it as we accelerate down the channel passing some beautiful sea front homes.


GCM Home I am going to have to work a little harder if I am ever going to own one of these million dollar plus estates that happen to be property tax free.



The breeze on my face becomes warmer and the seas are beginning to sparkle as we approach Stingray City.

A daily crowd of visitors have already arrived and from the level of excitement and laughter I can tell they are already enjoying their adventure.




GCM Gaint Stingray Stingray City



The water is so inviting and crystal clear than huge stingrays can be seen lazily swimming just below the surface. The crew offers us snorkel equipment but I can tell for this experience they won't be needed.

Off the back of the anchored boat we jump into chest high water that decreases to our waistline as we move away. It's our group's turn for excitement and laughter as the boat's crew shares a few stingrays and information with us.

Did you know the females rule the stingray world or that their stingers are defense mechanism?


GCM Hugging Stingray I am not sure if I believe in the “kissing one” will bring you seven years good luck but I give it a try.




Maybe stingrays feel the same way because someone in another group ends up with a huge hickey on his back.

We are allow to touch and hold the stingrays although holding them takes a few tries for some of the people from Texas.

For feeding, we are given pieces of squid and told to hold them like an ice cream under the water. I now know what a piece of dust feels like when a Hoover passes over it. It really sucks!

Back on board the boat we head to a nearby area for snorkeling and chance upon a tail-less stingray that we are told was born that way. Seeing turtles, a barracuda and colorful tropical fish are the icing on the cake for a pretty cool adventure.



GCm Daydreaming Sailing back to the marina, I am day dreaming under the warm tropical sun.

I am beginning to make myself a believer in the seven year luck thing.



A Powerball ticket and tax free island real estate might just be in my future.




Antarctica, A Whale Of A Surprise



Iceberg Building Around 9:30pm an announcement is made from the bridge.

I am excited just from the tone alone in the announcer's voice.




CAN 009 A pair of humpback whales have been seen of the bow of the Ioffe.





The temperatures have fallen again so I dress warm, grab my best photo equipment and head to the bridge.

In the distance, I can see  two shiny black objects occasionally break the surface as pieces of ice and icebergs float by.



CAN 037 Columns  of water vapor rise into the air and it becomes easier to spot them.




The Ioffe has gone into a run silent, run deep mode as it is safely maneuvered behind our surfacing visitors.


CAN 052 We are still a good distance away when a back arches and then begins to descend.






CAN 120 Soon a V-shaped tail rises in the air touched by the sun's golden rays before it fades from the surface.




Earlier in our expedition we learned that humpback whales can remain submerged for up to 45 minutes. I am hoping this evening this will not be the case.

Apparently, this pair is feeding and the food supply is not too deep as they soon resurface. This time we are so much closer that I can clearly see a blow hole.



Humpback Back Humpback Whale




CAN 124 The Captain has done a nice job maneuvering the Ioffe as we are now getting great views.







The Dripping Tail Humpback Whale Dripping Tail



After about twenty minutes of watching these magnificent creatures the Ioffe is set on course for our next destination, Paradise Harbor.