Antarctica - Day 7: Mission Accomplished
Today was the day. Today, I stepped on my seventh continent. After the first few days where the weather was inclement or the landing site was unsafe for me to get off the zodiac, I was wondering if I would achieve my goal of setting foot on all seven continents. It would have been a beautiful scenic cruise, but expensive if I didn’t achieve my goal. There are major cruise lines that go to the very tip of the Antarctic Peninsula for a sightseeing only cruise for a third of the price we paid, but it is my understanding that you aren’t allowed to get off the cruise ship at all (or into a zodiac).
We started the day at Neko Harbour which is the only landing our cruise has the option to do on the Antarctic mainland – all other landings are on islands off the peninsula. The harbour was discovered during a Belgian Antarctic Expedition that stretched from 1897 – 1899. It was named after a floating whale factory ship that used the bay frequently.
The first part of our stop at Neko Harbour was a zodiac ride around the harbor . The water was eerily calm and seemed glasslike. It felt like we were on another planet, I have never seen something so beautiful and still at the same time outside.
There was a plethora of seals as we went all over in the zodiac. One of the first animals we saw was a crabeater seal which even poked its head up to see us.
We also saw a brown skua perched atop an iceberg.
The final sighting before we headed to land was some weddell seals on the same iceberg!
The weddell seals were curious and came over to see our zodiac. They played peek-a-boo diving under the zodiac and came over to the opposite side a few times too!
Then, it was the time to land which required me to get out into a few inches of water, but that is the reason they give us waterproof boots. After a few steps in the water, I was on dry land! I did it. I stepped foot on Continent #7! The cherry on top is that this was the only opportunity to set foot on the mainland, too.
On the way back to the ship, we learned that the Ocean Diamond used to be a drive on, drive off ferry and was converted to a passenger ship in the 1980’s when they literally built a few decks on top of the ferry to modify it to host intrepid travelers voyaging to the paths less traveled.
Our second stop of the day was Paradise Harbour, a protected anchorage, so it was aptly given its name by whalers. I decided to enjoy an afternoon on the ship instead of taking a zodiac out, so I went up onto the observation deck and enjoyed the serenity. It was like I had the whole ship to myself.
After the excursion, we had a BBQ dinner on deck while taking in the fantastic scenery. It was something that sounds like a great idea and the team gets an A for effort, but the food became ice cold before we even got to our table to begin eating it!