Stepping on a Fish

Sunday 25 February 2024­ – I had sort of expected the skipper to put the hammer down again overnight, but he didn’t.  I suppose this might have had to do with the need to steer around icebergs and going ahead full steam probably militates against the necessary manoeuverability, as the skipper of the Titanic found out, of course. Our transit was utterly calm, to the point where I was actually able to practise my balancing by standing on one leg whilst cleaning my teeth. Sorry if this is oversharing, but it’s a normal accompaniment to my morning toilette which hitherto had not been possible on this cruise.

Calm it might have been, but the weather outside hardly looked inviting – cold, misty and, for the first time on this expedition, snowing, slightly but tellingly. Temperatures we were told, stood around -1°C. I tried a photo from the top deck but it was just a sea of grey. Jane managed a nice shot of a passing iceberg with some Adelie penguins on it.

We waved, but they ignored us. Bastards.

The plan for the morning was for a Zodiac cruise – so just get on the RIB and potter about. We were just off a small group of islands called Salmon, Trout, Mackerel and Flounder – the Fish Islands.

To start with, it appeared that what was on offer, photographically speaking, was just some more spectacular Antarctic scenery.

Fortunately, the snow that had been falling cleared up and we got a nice clear view when we came across some Adelie penguins

who were prepared to set themselves up for their close-ups.

While there was a lot of the usual spectacular scenery to gawp at

it gradually became clear that a landing was planned, which had not been on the original schedule.  Some exploratory work had been done and a couple of sites identified as possible landing points.  Our buddy Zodiac and we made ground on Mackerel Island.

where there was a small colony of Adelie penguins.

The backdrop was spectacular

and, after some while with the penguins (giving me the chance for some video of their antics), it was time to leave.

This was another illustration of the possible excitement of expedition cruising, as getting our Zodiac off the rocks it was on was non-trivial and again proved the value of the buddy system among the RIB drivers.  Several passengers from the other Zodiac combined and eventually got us off and away, but some got their boots full of water and one chap actually lost his footing and fell in to the icy waters, which must have been very uncomfortable. Of course we waited whilst the other RIB got clear and then we all hastened back to the ship in increasingly cold winds, thanking our luck that we’d had the opportunities we did.

Once everyone was back on board, the skipper set off southwards, with the objective of reaching the Antarctic Circle, which we did at around 5.30 this afternoon.

Despite fearsome winds, there was a party atmosphere on the bow of the boat, with music, staff in fancy dress and hot chocolate laced with rum and whipped cream.

People were invited to “kiss the fish”.  I don’t know why.

It wasn’t always a popular proposition.

What was popular was getting a photo in a frame especially created by Ursula, one of the scientist guides on the expedition.

After everyone had calmed down a bit, we all went for dinner, but not before Pippa had explained what was likely to happen tomorrow.  Thing is, we’d crossed the Circle at the first attempt, so didn’t need the day set aside for a second go; instead we could go exploring.

So we continue to head South.

Tomorrow, we should, if all goes according to plan, visit a now-defunct British research station at Detaille Island and take a Zodiac cruise around Hanusse Bay.

The weather forecast looks great – very light winds.

I’m daring to think we might have another great day.  Here’s hoping….



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