The following morning was a true sleep in – there was no wake up call at all, but the first announcement actually came from the Captain saying that the staff were going to conduct a drill which I assume is mandatory throughout the year. I used it as an opportunity to get up as it was already 10:00 AM.
The whole ship was freezing and you couldn’t get comfortable. Shane said it is because the warmer you are the worse sea sickness will hit you. If that is the case, I don’t think it needed to be that cold as people were walking around with their full yellow jackets. I didn’t have my jacket on, but the draft definitely made my feet cold. While we were sitting in the lounge, the door to the aft viewing deck kept swinging open and we eventually gave up trying to close it. It persisted throughout the day, so the lounge wasn’t really conducive to using for a long period of time.
To warm up, we headed back to our cabin to watch one of the lectures that was occurring on the 5th floor on the TV as it was screened over the internal system. This presentation was from our Ornithology lecturer on penguins in Antarctica. It was quite informative in that we learned a lot about the various penguins, including those that we did not see like the King and Emperor Penguins, but the sea sickness medicine kicked in and I dozed off for a bit.
We then went down to grab some lunch before heading back to the room to watch the streaming of our Glaciologist’s final talk on the history of the formation of the Earth with a specific focus on Antarctica. It was fantastic, informative lecture in that we basically were walked through the lifespan of the Earth as it relates to a 24 hour clock. Humans take up only 8 minutes of that clock!
After a brief afternoon tea in the very cold lounge, I made my way up to the 5th Floor for our penultimate “Daily Recap and Briefing” where we learned that one of the pistons needed to be replaced to fix our engine the previous day, a bit about how the boat works, how emergency injuries are addressed on boats in remote locations that don’t have a proper doctor on board and the weather for the Drake Passage, which hasn’t too bad once again.
The briefing then turned into an auction to benefit Penguin Watch, an organization that tracks penguin breeding habits and helps inform legislation to ensure that humans do not damage their environment, at least as it relates to Antarctica. One of the more recent accomplishments was the expansion of “no fishing limits” to provide penguins and whales with enough krill to successfully live and reproduce. The auction raised over $5000 with some items being etched glasses, a patchwork penguin that one of the Quark staff made, the flag that was sailing on the front of the ship for our journey, a watercolor painting of our voyage map and one hour “driving the boat”. The latter two items went for $1000+!
At dinner, the dessert was “Baked Antarctica” which the staff paraded around the dining room before our favorite waiter, Mel, sang “Leaving on a Jetplane” with the rest of the wait staff and chefs singing in the background. It was a bittersweet reminder that our two week voyage to the seventh continent was coming to an end.
When we returned to our cabins, I skipped the “How Big Is It” Antarctic trivia and hit the sack as the ship was rocking somewhat significantly.
Our final day started with “choco-holic breakfast” which is exactly what it sounds like. In addition to the typical breakfast fare, we ate everything from warm chocolate brownies to chocolate chip muffins to hot chocolate. My sweet tooth was very happy. We then decided to head up to the aft lounge, which was much warmer as someone fixed the door. The whole ship was warmer, actually! Unfortunately, the coffee machine in the lounge was still broken (it had been on and off working for the last 5 or 6 days), so we just sat and reflected on the previous two weeks. There was a parallel lecture going on about the history of Antarctic exploration, but I decided to skip it as most of the previous history lectures were things that I could watch a documentary on and get deeper visual context, something I will 100% do upon my return to New York. After about an hour, we headed back to our room to begin packing our bags while we had the free time.
When we were wrapping up our trip, there was a fundraiser for Penguin Watch, a non-profit which tracks penguin colonies with cameras installed at various known breeding locations. The staff members donated all the items and some things like the flag that hung on the ship, the ability to steer the ship & an illustrated version of the journey map went for around $1,000 each! While the charity is a fantastic one, I decided this a screenshot of the route we took is as good a memory of the places I've been as any.
The last night of the trip concluded with a Voyage Slideshow which was put together by the ship's photographer and summarized the overall experience of the trip.
It was hard to believe that our Antarctic voyage was over. Over five years in the making with multiple cancelations over three years, it was over. I achieved my goal of traveling to all 7 continents and was able to do it alongside my Dad and brother.