Antarctica – Crossing the Circle at 66′ 33′ S

Wandering about Ushuaia feeling excited about boarding the M/S Expedition to cross to Antarctica, I bought some Lemon, Cointreau and Whiskey flavoured chocolate and decided to save it for later when onboard.

I walked down to the docks and found Rudy and Pete sat on a bench on the sea front, the M/S Expedition ship was there at the dockside waiting, it had been there all day and the previous evening.

We watched members of this new much larger group as they appeared and gathered nearby the coach pickup, I wished it could have stayed as just us three as it worked so well, but of course this would not be possible on this next part of the trip.

A large coach arrived and we were all checked on via our passports and tickets with the trip code on, we were driven the short distance to the gangway leading up to the M/S Expedition. Walking up the plank onto the ship was so exciting.

I noticed a man with lots of camera equipment taking pictures of everything he passed, I had been doing the same and was glad it was not just me, I said so to him and we both laughed at our unfailing devotion to the camera. He turned out to be one of the main photographers for National Geographic.

The crew onboard were a mixture of seamen mostly with outrageously long beards who included: the ships captain, some Russian Ice Navigators, lecturers, Biologists, Naturalists, Historians, Ornothologists, Glaciologists, Marine and Crustation Experts and cooks.

I was shown to my cabin, it was spacious enough with a large porthole which had some waves splashing up against it and a picture of an Adelie Penguin and chick on the wall, I liked it. Just then my room mate came into the cabin, I smiled and said hello, however she was not overly forthcoming on friendliness so I would just have to try my best to get on with her.

We were given a welcome pack of information, there was a ‘no lock’ door policy as they have never had anything stolen and felt that it was far better to not lock doors and maintain that trust.

We were given a lecture and introduced to all of the staff, there was a small gym, a library and amazingly two computers, though of course getting a signal would depend on where we were.

We were instructed to put on life jackets and did a practice drill for life safety that involved going to the designated area and quickly getting in and out of the life boat when ordered to do so to get used to the drill.

The M/S Explorer sank in 2006 and the M/S Expedition is its replacement.

On board we got a wake up call every morning, announcements of landings (you had to be kitted up and ready for these) or any sightings of Whales, penguins or seals out at sea. All of these announcements are piped into every cabin and all over the ship to ensure you do not miss anything.

After a meal I went back to the cabin as we were heading for Drakes Passage.

Diary extract:

A terrible night followed as we hit Drakes passage at around 01:20am and the ship was hurled about in the waves like a cork, it was very difficult staying on the bunk and I got thrown off mine 4 times throughout the night. In the end I tried to sleep with one hand gripped firmly on the edge of the bunk, however as soon as sleep did take over and my grip relaxed off I fell.

Wednesday 3rd March 2010 – Crossing Drakes Passage

Dreadful, just dreadful, we are still rocking against huge waves and I can hear plates smashing downstairs.

I can only describe this as an inescapable living hell!!!! The hours are so long and I just want this to pass, I cannot move off my bunk as I am so sick, but just lay flat here.

We are being blown off course and are now heading WEST instead of SOUTH.

That is all I wrote for the whole of that day, the sickness was grim, my cabin mate barely spoke to me, so we lay on our bunks in silence listening to the sounds of smashing of plates and the waves hitting the ship.

Rudy, who I had trekked around Patagonia with, knocked on the door to see how I was, he was not affected by Drakes at all, though seemed to be the only one, as even the hardened sea staff were all locked up in their cabins. Nothing seemed to affect him whatsoever and I envied him that hardened ability to shrug off such things.

No food could be served as it was too dangerous in the kitchen so we had sandwiches dropped at each cabin, I had very little appetite though due to feeling so queasy.

The night before was so violent and rocky that I truly believed the ship would go over, we were later told that it was rocking 40 degrees both ways, so was indeed being tested by the huge waves. We had been going three days over Drakes Passage waters due to going off course.

I hungrily ate some of the lemon chocolate from Ushuaia which was delicious, I had never tasted such good chocolate before and was grateful that I had some.

I tried to have a shower, but as the ship was still rocking from side to side I had to hang on to a rail and the water went everywhere except in the shower!!! I attempted breakfast as they had started to serve food again, but was too ill to eat it and had to get back to my bunk straightaway, grabbing the handrails along the hallway as I went to stay upright.

I stayed on my bunk for several hours and later got up to attend a lecture on Marine Mammals (Cetaceans) and one on Polar Ice. The ship still rocked and it was difficult not keep being sick and it became a mind over matter game not to throw up.

In the end after trying to get back down the constantly rocking corridor I had to turn back so missed the lectures as I was too sea sick, there had been no sign of Pete, he had been very poorly, about 80% of us were still being affected by Drakes Passage.

The ships co-ordinates were 65′ 33. 518S  60′ 55.579W

Woke up to a calmer sea, my cabin mate was still sleeping, we had very little to say to each other still, which was a shame.

I put my heavy down coat on over my pyjamas and some Wellington boots, grabbed my camera and went through the long corridors then up and out on deck. It was just getting light at 07:00am with an overcast sky, no one was around, it was snowing and so quiet and beautiful and it was then that I saw my first ice bergs floating by, it was a very special moment. Some ice bergs were transparent like giant Foxes glacier mints and others were compacted snow formations striped with blue which is often caused by a crevace in the ice filling up quickly with melt water and freezing before any bubbles can form.

Iceberg about to crack, Antartica 2010 by A.K.

After photographing the icebergs I wandered about the ship to get my bearings a little more and found the gym, it was tiny but worth trying out so I had a quick go on everything whilst looking out at the thick snowflakes through the porthole window.

Antarctica is an ice covered continent with less than 2% of its land free of the ice. The thickest ice in Antarctica is over 15,000 feet, the lowest temperature recorded -88.8’C (-128’F) and rain or snowfall is less than 10 inches of water, this therefore classifies  Antarctica as a Desert.

A large part of the day was taken up in talks about the IAATO and the special protocols that must be followed when visiting this continent. We had to vacuum all of the gear that we would be wearing to rid it of any seeds that could have got stuck in zips or velcro. This is exercise is crucial in order to stop the possible introduction of any alien seeds to Antarctica via the velcro on the clothing.

We were also given instruction on getting on and off the zodiacs, they can be slippery and the sea can rock them about when rough, so it has to be done by gripping the arms of the sea men at elbow height.

Noon position:  64′ 14.0′ S   67′ 49.1′ W

Later on I attended a lecture on the Explorer Shackleton (a favourite of mine) and I ordered a Gin and Tonic and settled down to enjoy the lecture, still trying to fight off the remaining sea sickness from the swaying ship. About a quarter of the way through the lecture, someone shouted ‘Whales” and everyone jumped up and ran to the right side of the ship causing my Gin and Tonic to slide straight off the table and onto the floor, gone.

I cared not as we saw several pods of Killer Whales going by, which was very exciting, though by the time I had run to get my camera they had gone back under the water and slipped away. It was fantastic just to see them though.

Water dripping off Ice formation, Antarctica 2010 by A.K.

I attended the Captains Cocktail evening and had a glass of Champaign, then Chris the Expedition leader gave us a talk on the proposed landings and the attempt at crossing the Antarctic circle, all dependent on the weather of course and that we had lost a day due to Drakes passage so to take each day as it comes, nothing is guaranteed out here, it is left largely to change.

Everyone including all the crew desperately want us to make the crossing, it is why we are all here and there is an air of anticipation.

Later in the day the wind increased causing the ship to rock once more and most of us retired to our bunks to lay down due to sea sickness. What was quite amusing was that the ships Doctor was also quiet sea sick and the poor fellow had to administer anti-sickness injections to people while the ship lurched from side to side causing his chair (which had wheels on bottom of it) to slide about his surgery.

Crossing the Circle 66′ 33′ S

At around 01:15am in the morning the ship got back on course and we crossed the Antarctic Circle at 66′ 33′ S

I still felt sick but got out of my bunk and ran up the corridor in my pyjamas to see if they had done it. Jason, the photographer was sat on a seat in the reception area on his laptop computer and he told me we had crossed it just a few minutes ago, I was 15 minutes out. I was disappointed that I got the timing wrong, but was also delightted that we had crossed into this special area allowing us access to little explored areas.

I photographed the ships co-ordinates on the moving map screen above Jason then sloped off back to bed, the ship was still a bit rocky and it was now approaching 2am

In the early morning we sailed into Crystal Sound, the weather was overcast with sleet and snow but the sea was thankfully now calm.

We were divided into two groups named after seals; the Wedells and the Leopards, I was a Wedell so went in that group to get out onto the Zodiacs.

At 09:30am kitted up and ready to explore I went down to the airing room, this is where we vacuumed everything and where you turn your tag (individual number) on leaving the ship and then again on returning so that you are not left ashore.

This happened to one unfortunate man whose wife turned his tag for him not realising he was not behind her, it was not until later in the evening that she missed him and the ship had to turn back. He was found very upset and shivering on the island they had visited. I wonder if they are still married, especially as it took 8 hours before she even realised he was missing!!!

Male Crab Eater Seal (they often fight for territory) Antarctica 2010 by A.K.

As we step outside we have to dip our booted feet into special disinfectant on leaving and returning back onboard. Getting onto the zodiacs can be slippery but doing the seaman’s grip makes it easy as you are assisted onto the rubber dingy.

It was fantastic out on the zodiac zipping steadily in and out of ice floes and around huge ice bergs, I was amazed at how blue some of the ice was and also at some loose pieces I spotted in the water that were bottle green in colour. We saw Fur Seals sitting on the ice floes and circling above us Kelp Gulls, Antarctic Terns and Southern Fulmars.

Noon Position:  67′.04.8’S  57′.31.0’W

This day we reached our most Southerly point of 67′ 06′ South

We headed back to the ship and disinfected our boots, turned our tags.

Next was Detaille Island for the afternoons landing at 15:00pm

We crossed the ice water to the island and enjoyed watching a colony of fur seals on some rocks and then exploring an old British Hut, which was built in 1956 and then abandoned in 1959. The base was only used during the International Geophysical Year (IGY), the large hut was in remarkably good condition and the contents were left exactly as they were 50 years earlier.

There was food on plates, socks hanging up, written notes with the pen left at desks, it was as though they had all suddenly been zapped away, very eerie, as if we were on the Marie Celeste

The terrain on Detaille Island was tricky to get about in, deep solid ice snow that would give way beneath you every few steps so that your leg would go plunging down up to the thigh and you would then have to pull yourself out of it. Walk on a few steps and the same thing would happen, there must have been a mass of mini crevasses under the snow.

We headed back to the ship on the zodiacs and just before dinner we watched three Humpback Whales bubble netting in the water just metres from the bow of the ship.

Whale tail, Antarctica 2010 by A.K.

Jason was there photographing it as was I and a few others who were determined to try and get a record of it as it happened.

At around 21:30pm the ship crossed back over the circle South to North to the sound of the ships horn and we all celebrated in the polar bar and on the aft deck in a moment of Polar madness. It is a real privilege to cross the circle, very few get to do this and we were all delighted, crew as well, as Chris had explained there were no guarantees due to weather conditions and ice floes.

Prospect Point and Fish islands

In the night the ship sailed North along the Peninsula and the sea was rough making the ship roll and making it difficult to sleep, I got thrown off my bunk again several times and felt violently sick throughout the night

In the morning the sea thank fully became calmer and we approached Prospect Point which was a beautiful area shrouded in a mist of ice bergs, ice cliffs and mountains.

We went through the disinfectant/ tag turning routine then onto the Zodiacs and zipped out across the water to explore this impressive area. Penguins were in little groups everywhere.

Gentoo Penguin chick in ice, Antarctica 2010 by A.K.

There was pristine white snow dotted with rockeries of Diorite with darker angular inclusions making the rock look mottled. On the rockeries were colonies of Adelie Penguins that were moulting, I managed to get some close up images of them.

Adelie Penguin shedding its downy feathers, Antarctica 2010 by A.K.

Noon Position: 66′ 00.2’S    65.20.1’W

Once back on the Expedition we set off to explore another area called Fish Islands. This area was fantastic as it had many forms of coloured ice all whites, blues and greens as well as Cormorant birds playing in the iced water and a colony of moulting Adelie penguins. The weather cleared in the afternoon with clear blue sky and sunshine, making Antarctica look completely different.

The next day was overcast and raining as we approached the Argentine Islands, we were supposed to do a zodiac landing first thing, but as we queued up waiting the crew told us that the sea was too rough for the zodiacs so we could not go anywhere that morning. Instead I went into the library and read about ice and studied a book on penguins.

Later in the morning the ships Captain radioed ahead and we gained permission from the local authorities to dock at Galindez Island where there is a Ukranian research station called Vernadski. This was originally a British base called Faraday named after the famous Physicist.

I first went to Winter Island, which was made up of amazing icy terrain striped with ice algae in pink and green. There was an old hut here which was the origional British base called Wordie House built in 1947, it was built over the site of the British Graham land Expedition (1934-1937) but was swept away by a tidal wave. Wordie house replaced it before being abandoned in 1954 for the larger site on a higher point over on Galindez Island and was sold to the Ukrainians for £1 in 1996 as long as they continued to carry out further research and maintain the place keeping it in good working order.

I enjoyed wandering on this little island, the snow was compact and easier to walk on and I photographed the pick ice algae with water running from it at different angles. I also found lots of bones and seal skins around the place, where the British researchers killed seals and penguins to feed themselves and their dogs.

Inside Wordie hut was axes, clothes, tools, maps, books, tins of sardines and treacle and even a gas mask hanging by a window. Afterwards I watched large birds flying contrasted by the huge slopes of striped ice.

I got a late zodiac with the Scottish Historian Ron Lewis-Smith over to the neighbouring Galindez Island and at the iron bridge up over the rocks photographed more penguins. Inside the Vernandsky station I left a couple of postcards for them to send home, I was told it could take up to a year for the postcards to get to the UK as it depended on a ship that passed by every 10 months or so.

The postcards (sent to my parents and Waitrose as a thank you for allowing me to stand in their freezer) arrived in November so they took 9 months to arrive.

A few of us tried the vodka shots in the base bar, I had two of them and almost fell over, they were extremely strong shots but certainly warmed up the body from the cold.

Deception Island

At around 07:00am as the ship sailed towards Neptune’s Bellows, which leads into Deception Island, there was the most spectacular sunrise, I ran up with my camera to take some pictures, Jason was already up there. He said “amanda, amanda, amanda for this sunset you should have been here 20 minutes ago, where were you?” I laughed and started snapping away at what was left of the still very beautiful sunrise.

Deception island is an interesting place, a circular volcanic island with a gap on the south side where the sea enters and our ship could sail into the crater.

Whalers bay was an old Norwegian Whaling station the most southern in the World and ran from 1919 to 1931 until it was abandoned. Much of it was swept away by a huge mud flow from a volcanic eruption in 1970 including the whalers graveyard, oil tanks and huts.

What is left are some of the oil tanks and a few wooden planks sticking up from the sand, there were plenty of seals dotted about the place and it had an eerie surreal light about it. Deception Island really is the strangest place I have ever experienced.

Old oak barrel staves stuck up in the sand, a short but rocky uphill hike led to Neptunes Window and two members of the Expedition got married on this hilltop with the ceremony conducted by our leader Chris. It was all a bit surreal, but the couple looked very happy in their Antarctic coats on and with the brides veil blowing in the wind, it was all quite magical.

It was very, very cold this day, I had about five layers on and was still feeling it, my hands were freezing and I could not get them warm, even though I had two pairs of gloves on and took it in turns for each hand to warm up in a pocket.

I enjoyed taking photographs of the seals and the eerie area with the boat and bits of wood sticking up randomly. As I walked further up the beach I was dreading doing what I said I would do, to strip down to swimsuit and swim in the sea.

I was already very cold with all the layers on and as I walked up the beach I began dreading the thought of taking even a single layer off, never mind all of them and almost talked myself out of it. However, I had said I would do it and could not back down, as had others from the Expedition, so I psyched myself up for it.

Further up the beach people were already going for it, stripping off and running into the sea, their shrieks confirmed how cold the Antarctic sea was. I spoke to Ian one of the group who was in the process of getting ready to go in, he said “its a case of every man for himself” Taking off the layers felt like a crazy thing to do in itself considering how cold it was, running into the sea was insane, but I did so and it was shockingly cold.

I swam a few strokes and then ran back out, the Expedition doctor stood by watching us and the others in all their expedition gear layers, it was all so surreal and a bit mad.

Out of the water my feet were like frozen blocks, I quickly put my clothes on over the wet swimsuit and was told to get onto a zodiac and get straight back to ship. Those of us that had gone in the sea looked like bedraggled bits of seaweed with our wet hair blowing in the wind.

Back at the ship at 11am I jumped into the shower and set it at cool to luke warm, but the water hurt my skin as I was still so cold. So in the end I got into my bunk and lay in there to warm up.

I was so glad to have swam in the sea, though I had an upset stomach for two days afterwards as I swallowed a lot of the sea water which shocked my stomach as it was so cold. A few people had the same problem, but we had done it so were pleased.

Noon Position: 62’58.0’S    60’24.6’W

After lunch we set off in Zodiacs at 3pm for Half Moon Island set in a bay of Livingstone Island with high ice covered peaks which formed a fantastic photographic backdrop. It was still very windy causing a high chill but the sun shone brighter in the afternoon which made for some great shots.

There were some Elephant seals fighting each other on the landing beach next to an old wooden boat that had been used to carry seal oil across to other islands.

Chinstrap penguins pottered about the island and followed definite trails, if they were on an obvious path you just moved aside to let them by. I photographed the most beautiful seal with the sea reflected in its eyes.

Seal with the sea reflected in its eyes, Antarctica 2010 by A.K.

The views here were fantastic, the snow pristine and with some chinstrap penguins calling from a rockery which was amazing to both witness and photograph.

Colony of Chinstrap Penguins calling, Antarctica 2010 by A.K.

I really enjoyed this little island and made the most of every minute here as we all knew this was to be our last place of visit.

The time here seemed all too short, it was a beautiful little haven and no one wanted to leave it, we all hung on as long as we could before we had to get into the zodiacs back to the ship.

We were all aboard by 17:00 and at 17:45 the M/S Expedition set sail for Drakes Passage once more which would over two days then lead us back to Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel.

Thursday 11th March

I woke up this day knowing straight away that we were already on Drakes Passage as the boat was now rocking from side to side over the large, unruly waves.

The sickness is not good in these circumstances but there is little you can do, it is part of the journey so you must get on with it.

After breakfast I attended a lecture on Killer Whales then spent some time up on deck photographing a Cape Petrel over the rough waves. This bird was fascinating to watch and kept me amused for some time, I was joined by Captain Stuart F. Lawrence, who is totally eccentric but a great old guy and I enjoyed chatting to him. I asked him if he would help me mark out the ships route on a map I had bought, he agreed and said that not only would he mark the route, but that he would sign it.

I finally got a couple of good shots of the Cape petrel and then spotted a Wandering Albatross and photographed that also

Noon position:    59’22.7’S  62’35.0’W     +3′ C

Later some of us had a tour around the engine rooms, the rocking ship and the stifling smell of oil made me feel very sick, Jason lay down on the floor for a while as he also was struggling with the nausea. The engine rooms were well worth seeing though and I am pleased that I got the chance to do it, I passed the laundry room and saw staff hard at work washing and drying clothes. The engine rooms varied greatly and one or two were so noisy that you had to wear earmuffs.

The rest of the day was spent checking through my luggage, labels, etc. ready for Saturday 13th March docking at Ushuaia. Again I went through my usual routine of packing and unpacking and packing again, I could drive myself literally quite mad by doing this and should probably stop it.

At dinner sat with Rudy, Jack and the Australian couple. Pete did not show up as he was too sea sick, in fact I had not seen for the last two or three days. We sat at the table but one by one we left, unable to eat much of the food as the ship was so rough.

Friday 12th March – Drakes Passage and Cape Horn

Got very little sleep as the boat was rocking badly over Drakes Passage in the  night, the winds were very strong at around 40 knots. Over the ship radio the captain announced that we had got special permission to sail closely to Cape Horn, I really wanted to see Cape Horn so grabbed my camera from the draw under the bed and dressed in pink pyjamas, a large overcoat and wellington boots as I made my way to the bridge.

Just trying to get along the corridor was tricky as I was thrown from side to side and had to cling on to the bar to get myself to the stairs.

Once at the bridge, I saw a queasy looking Jason and a handful of others including a smiling Rudy, the only person on the ship who seemed strangely unaffected by the sea sickness of Drakes.

I went to the front window to take some pictures when suddenly a huge wave hit and the ship lurched sharply sideways, throwing all of us on top of each other, a very large heavy Russian man landed on me and hurt my rib, which made me cry out.

People got up off the floor and grabbed the bar once more. Cape Horn had an odd presence about it and was shrouded in a fine mist, which lifted just long enough for me to get some images of the landmark.

Ian Beer was looking across sympathetically at me as he could see how green I was with the rocking boat, he told me later that he would have tried to comfort me had he not felt so sick himself.

As soon as I got my images I got out of there and made my way unsteadily back down stairs through the long hallways and back to by cabin, where my cabin mate was laying flat out also looking rather the worse for wear with all the commotion of the rocking ship.

My diary for this day was only two lines long as I was too sick to write.

I spent the rest of the day laying on the bunk for a bit, I also tried to find Jason and speak to him about the offer he made to me of going out on a photo shoot in Ushuaia, but could not find him anywhere.

At lunch I sat with Rudy, Jack, the Australian couple and a chatty lady who started talking about a book she was reading, it sounded so good I decided that I would have to get it out of the library when I get home. No sign of Pete or Jason.

In the afternoon the rocking subsided and the ship glided onto calmer waters then into the Beagle Channel, the sun shone and I enjoyed running about the decks taking photos of the passing landscapes and the oncoming view of Ushuaia

Noon position:   54’48.6’S   68’18.1’W

At dinner it was the same crowd of us at the table except this time Pete joined us which was lovely for the last meal of us all together. I liked our little group; we always enjoyed entertaining, lighthearted conversations.

The light was just fading to dusk and the lights of Ushuaia where we were now docked shone brightly in the blueish evening sky, again I took some pictures and one of us all sat at the table.

No sign of Jason still, I really needed to speak to him to see if he was still happy to meet me the next day. Our table group shared some wine and compared deserts, a thing we always seemed to do by ritual as we always tended to pick different deserts from each other.

I really enjoyed looking out of the window and watch not only the lights but also the people passing by the dock area, we had not seen any other people for some time and it was fun watching them walk by. Although I already missed the penguins and the space of the polar regions that we had just been to.

I left the table and searched the ship for Jason, no sign.

Eventually I saw him talking to Jared, I did not want to disturb him but at the same time, needed to know what I was joining them on aphotographic shoot next day in Ushuaia with him and Anna.

I went across and asked him what was happening and he said it was still all on, I told him my flight time 16:00 and he told me to ‘stay glued to him or Anna’ the next morning when disembarked from the ship.

I was pleased it was still all on as it had taken me until now to find him and confirm that I could go.

There was a final meeting in the main lounge area where we had an overview of the trip by Chris and were given certificates for those of us mad enough to go in the sea back at Deception island. They were fantastic certificates and we also got on for Crossing the Polar Circle, both of which will be great keep sakes.

We applauded all the staff who had looked after us, including all of the chefs who came out and all sang us a farewell song, it was all rather emotional. I stood with my favourite ships person Captain Stuart F. Lawrence and enjoyed the whole thing.

I went to my bunk that evening feeling a mixture of emotions, sad that the adventure was over and that I would not see these people again, but also excited about the photographic shoot with Jason and Anna next day.

Ushuaia

Breakfast was strange on this last, everyone was distracted as we knew we were all going to disembark and catch flights out of Ushuaia, the city known as the End of the World, it felt like it to me to have to be going back to normality after this fantastically unique experience.

I hugged Pete and Rudy, it all seemed very hurried and chaotic, people wandered over randomly and we all wished each other luck, it was nice to see them off, I felt sad to be going.

As I walked down the stairs after breakfast I looked out of one of the portholes (left) for the last time and chatted to Captain Stuart F. Lawrence, he was leaving the ship too and heading back to Plymouth. The doctor, Chris, crew and ice captain though would all be heading back out to Antarctica one more time, they were not looking forward to heading through Drakes Passage again!

Captain Stuart and I watched the coaches drive into the dockyard and pull up beside the M/S Expedition.

I went to the cabin, grabbed my things, said a polite goodbye to my cabin mate and headed down through the ship then out and along the gangway.

I was looking for Jason and Anna the whole time but could not see them, I also had been told that I had to get on coach C, my luggage was taken and put on it.

On solid ground, I hugged and said thank you to all the crew who were there to see us all off, they were good, straight forward people and I liked them very much, I said that I would try and get to the Arctic on the M/S Explorer also, so would hopefully one day will get the chance to meet them again if they were on duty for the North as well as the South.

I watched the chaos of people scattering in different directions ferrying their luggage and saying their goodbyes. As the coach started to go I suddenly caught sight of Jason in the Docking yard unfolding a huge blanket and putting his things into it, it was too late; I could not get off the coach as my luggage was on it, nor could I ring him as I did not have a phone with me ( I left it at home due to kit weight).

How frustrating. I felt that I had missed out on a unique opportunity and was inwardly kicking myself for not having dug my heels in and waited for him, rather than simply following orders and getting on the designated coach.

The coach dropped us off at a hotel where we were told to store our bags in a room in the basement.

I then stood outside the hotel in the street waiting, with the faintest of hopes that Jason and Anna would show up, I knew it was a very slim chance though, it was now raining and they had no idea where I was as the coaches were dropping at various different places.

Still it rained and still I waited, standing there like a little sentry guard loyally waiting.

After about half an hour a lady from the trip came out for a cigarette, she was chatty and friendly and advised me to wait a little longer then give up. I agreed with her and was sorry that I did not know her name to say thank you properly.

So I waited, as I was about to give up due to being rather cold and damp from the fine morning rain, a four wheel drive came zooming up towards us and out jumped Jason as it screeched to a halt. He said: “what part of stick to Anna like glue did you not understand? We have been to five different places looking for you…” “sorry Jason” I said, I felt bad that I had not stuck to the plan, but also pleased that he had come to find me; I was going with them after all, brilliant.

I jumped into the vehicle and off we zoomed, the rain came down in a grey mist but I did not care, this was a brilliant opportunity to shoot with one of National Geographics top photographers. We drove out of Ushuaia, the female driver was good natured and would stop anywhere Jason asked so that he could take pictures, Anna spent much of her time in his jumbled camera bag putting lenses onto camera bodies.

We stopped at all sorts of places going out of Ushuaia, I enjoyed the view of the city as it got further and further into the distance and took many pictures, I also watched Jason and tried to learn and see how he took his pictures. He took his time, never rushed a shot, he would think about it, then shoot a few images off at once. Jason lives by a simple rule: get the whole shot in the frame, do not crop your images, they lose quality, aim, shoot and get the picture you are aiming for in the shot. He shoots in RAW and send his images to National Geographic as stock, as they are, so they have to be right.

We then headed to a grassy track that led to a wooded area, it was absolutely beautiful and here Jason and I spotted Magellanic Woodpeckers and started photographing them as we crept nearer to the trees they were in. Then we were extremely lucky to see two grey foxes running along a track up into the woods, and later two more. We photographed everything along with an abundance of fungi, mosses and lichens, it was a haven for photography and we relished every minute of it. Anna chatted to the driver, while Jason and I explored the woods individually, we stayed a good couple of hours, Anna said about the rain and jason replied: “oh, has it been raining?” he had been so engrossed in his work, he had not even been aware of it getting heavier, I grinned as I felt much the same.

Time was getting on though and I felt a little apprehensive as we marched off down the track, got back into the vehicle and started a drive further out of Ushuaia, I started to worry about making it to the airport for my flight to Buenos Aires.

The rain took care of it for me as it started to stream down in a heavy torrent, Jason finally said okay turn around, we need to head back to Ushuaia, the rain is too heavy for photography now.

I was relieved to say the least as I knew had we continued away from Ushuaia I would have been cutting it very fine time wise to make my flight. It had been lovely, a real pleasure for me and to see the woodpeckers and the grey foxes was an added bonus.

We stopped at Hotel Ushuaia where Jason and Anna where staying and they sorted out their bags while I looked in the reception area and photographed the new list of names for the next GAP Adventures trip. It was a strange, nostalgic feeling to read it, not so long ago it had been Rudy, Peter and Amanda on that list, just us three for the Patagonian adventure camping trip, this list was much longer and I was pleased once again for the tiny group that we had been.

I then went outside and photographed some giant Daisies, Jason and Anna then came out and took me to the hotel where my luggage was stored, on the way we stopped and photographed some graffiti.

At the hotel I gave a tip to the driver and hugged both Jason and Anna, I felt so very privileged to have had that time with them and still do.

The flight to Buenos Aires was good, though turbulent and I got across the city via a taxi

Got up early 05:30am and checked all my luggage, re-packing as usual and writing out labels ready for the journey home before going to breakfast.

After breakfast I ordered a taxi across the city to the airport, it was interesting to see Buenos Aires in daylight, passing wide bridges, ghettos, tall skyscrapers, washing hung out, parks, etc. I had agreed a rate but still the driver tried to command more money, I argued with him and won.

I took over 20,000 images in Patagonia and the Antarctic.

If you would like to see a gallery of the images please go to:

www.amanda-king-akimages.com/

Thanks for reading this blog 🙂

 

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