(This guest post is from Sharon - our Client Services guru - who traveled on the Polar Star on a Antarctica Circle trip from Feb 4 - 15, 2010.)
Forget the steam rising from the sea in the caldera, forget the Weddell seals chilling out on the beach, or a few penguins courting, forget the kelp gulls and their chick, or the graveyard and whaler's detritus. After 5 voyages to Antarctica, I finally succumbed to the insanity of the Polar plunge at Deception Island.
I stripped off my clothing and after hamming for the many cameras went into the water. It was a bit too shallow to dive head first into the icy water, so I took one more step and found myself over my head in salty cold water! I swam back to where I could stand and rushed for the warmth of the pit that had been dug by the shore ( most ship don't dig one anymore). Hot water and hard volcanic pebbles greeted my cold body. As I dried off my skin felt tight and papery. The worst was getting my feet clean of pebbles.
The amazing thing about this voyage was that there were several passengers that plunged at almost every landing site - not just at the balmy waters of Deception Island (2 degrees Celsius)! We even had a skinny dipper below the Antarctic Circle.
Our final landing - Half Moon Island was sunny and again void of snow in most places. The Chinstrap penguins that made their rock nests in October or November in the only area of the island that wasn't covered in snow are now hopping from rock to rock as they return to the rookery with bellies full for the chicks they are feeding. These chicks are especially messy with guano coating their feathers! More then any we have seen on our other landings - I'm sure they are looking forward to that first polar plunge almost as much as I did.
Then it was back into the Drake - Our luck held and we enjoyed Drake Lake the whole way back to Ushuaia. Again, the ship treated us to a detour. The morning of our second day in the Drake an iceberg was spotted and the ship changed course to sail by it. To our delight there were about 30 Chinstrap penguins on top. We circum-navigated the berg, and then waited for the wind to pick up enough to bring us some birds for watching. Around the Horn we were treated to one last Wandering Albatros to welcome us home. I'm already dreaming of my trip back next month.