Cruising to Antarctica & South America: Check Out All the Photos

NOTE:  A collage of photos from Antarctica and South America isposted below.  High resolution photographs from Antarctica are posted in the Antarctica Gallery.  Also check out the complete Photo AlbumFor information and photos from  other trips visit our Travel Page.  

Monday, January 25 – Well, the storm Captain Kent cautioned us about worsened. He decided to depart Antarctica a day early and we raced across the Drake Passage toward Cape Horn on Saturday (January 23) ahead of the storm, and a day ahead of schedule.  The Captain advised those who suffer from motion sickness to take whatever remedies they have -- bracelet, patch, or pill – by mid-day so the medication would take effect by the time we reached open ocean and possible rough seas that evening. (Don’t forget, you can always see what we see from the ship through the Star Princess Bridge Cam, and scroll down for a map of our planned cruise schedule through Antarctica.)


But, I’m getting ahead of the story. We arrived at our first position in Antarctica, Elephant

Island, in the afternoon on Thursday, January, 21. After hours of cruising in the fog, the sky brightened and we could finally see the snow covered peaks on the island, along with a steady parade of icebergs of all sizes and shapes.  (Scroll down to see photos.)  Air and water temperatures were just above freezing for the entire period we were in Antarctica and in the Drake Passage.  For an incredible account of another cruise to Elephant Island, read about Sir Ernest Shackleton.


We looked forward to the next day.


I proclaimed Friday, January 22 to be “iceberg day.”  We were scheduled to cruise Admiralty Bay through “Iceberg Alley “ and the Antarctic Sound where we were to visit the Esperanza Base and pick up a scientist who would have provided an expert’s perspective on this part of Antarctica.  Didn’t happen. Because of weather, wind, and ice conditions, and I heard also because of a boat issue at the Esperanza station, we headed toward Deception Island, which was not on the schedule until Sunday, January 24.  Deception Island is volcanic and the geothermal nature of the place makes it a little warmer than surrounding areas and, consequently, has less accumulated snow and ice than her parts of Antarctica.  It is the home for inestimable numbers of nesting penguins, which could not be seen with the naked eye, but do show up in highly enlarged photos.  One note on penguins. Their nesting areas smell really bad.  We passed fairly close to a large nesting area on Friday and encountered an unforgettable and somewhat nauseating aroma.  I can only describe it as putrid sweet.  We learned that the large brown stains on the ground and ice in colonies were penguin excrement and the birds pretty much wallow in it full time.  Think about that the next time you see a cute, cuddly penguin.  One of the lecturers on board told us that these brown poop stains were visible by satellite and are now being used to track penguin movements, so to speak.


After leaving Deception Island we headed down the Gerlache Straight and, as the sun began to set around 11 p.m., the skies cleared and afforded incredible views of the surrounding area, and the mountains and glaciers ahead that we would see up close the next day. At our latitude during this period, about 65 degrees south, the light of the sun could be seen throughout the night on both Friday and Saturday.


Saturday, January 23 was the day we saw what we came to Antarctica to see. The skies were generally clear and the frequent periods of sun and blue skies made for indescribable views of the water, mountains, floating ice, and glaciers.  We saw a Holland America cruise ship that afforded some perspective in perceiving the huge size of the mountains and glaciers that were the backdrop behind the ship.  As we entered the very narrow Neumaier Channel, we saw, and overtook, a single-masted sail boat with two people aboard.  We wondered who in their right minds would be out in such a tiny boat where even a small piece of ice breaking off a glacier could generate a wave that would surely sink them.  They could just have been two people from a nearby research station out for a day sail – or were they truly insane individuals circumnavigating the globe in a small boat.


It was in the Neumaier Channel where I believe we had the most dramatic views. It is not possible to capture the immensity of what we saw on photographs, but many of us tried.  I was in the right place at the right time to photograph an avalanche occurring just as we passed.  I am posting one photograph below, but I was lucky enough to get three good shots and I will compose them into a set showing the avalanche in three stages when I return home.  The avalanche was accompanied by a loud roar that initially led some of us to think that a piece of ice had broken off a glacier.


After leaving the Neumaier Channel, we cruised part of Andvord Bay and then to Paradise Harbor where we could see two research stations on the shore in the distance.  One of them appeared to be at the base of a glacier and we questioned the wisdom of the decision to locate there. I overheard someone saying that researchers residing at these stations are told to head uphill fast if they hear an unfamiliar loud crashing noise—in the event this is the sound of large piece of falling ice that might generate a tsunami-like wave that could swamp a station on the shore.


Andvord Bay and Paradise Harbor were not on our cruise schedule, but, because we had already been to Deception Island, we did not need to backtrack and had some time to cruise these additional locations before heading away from Antarctica. We made our Antarctic exit by way of the Bismarck Straight and through the Drake Passage to Cape Horn ahead of the storm.  By dinner time Saturday Antarctica was behind us.  During the night we encountered moderate seas and winds – but not the 40 to 50 knot winds and seas up to 35 feet we might have faced if we got entangled in the storm.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010 – Our position is now south and east of the Falkland Islands, some 1,350 miles from Buenos Aires and about 400 miles from our first encounter with the Antarctic Peninsula, Elephant Island. We have been at sea for just over three days and we apparently outran the storm to our west.  Today we have been sailing in and out of fog banks.


Our Captain, William Kent, plans to arrive at Elephant Island at about 4 p.m. tomorrow.  This is where our Antarctic journey really begins.  In the meantime we pass the time at lectures about Antarctica, participating in wine tastings, slot machine tournaments at the casino, watching chefs compete in fruit carving demonstrations, going to the movies and production shows, and, of course, eating.  We meet up with friends daily for tea at 3:30 p.m. to compare notes on our activities.  

The food is really good on board. I ate a lamb shank yesterday that was about the best I’ve ever had.  I am trying to work out enough in the gym each day to burn off in calories the equivalent of one meal per day.  Others just eat.  Seemingly some people are packing away their weight in food each day – as if they fear no additional meals will be served.  I saw a tiny woman earlier today carrying a plate of pastries almost as large as she was, or so it seemed. 


Most of the passengers have traded their shorts and t-shirts in for long pants and sweatshirts as the midday temperature only made it up to about 45 degrees.  I am clinging to my shorts for one more day, or at least until the sun goes down.  Being in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is summer, and the days are becoming longer as we head farther south.  Sunset tonight will be about 9 p.m. and the sun will rise tomorrow morning at 4:56 a.m.


At his welcome aboard reception last night, the Captain Kent cautioned that we may have to retreat from Antarctica sooner than scheduled because of a storm brewing near New Zealand that may head our way later in the week.  We shall keep you updated on that.  In addition to the ship’s captain we also have someone on board called an “ice captain,” in our case, Captain Bob. Captain Bob, and several other skilled mariners, will be on the bridge for most of the time we are in Antarctica to help plot the best courses to avoid ice and foul weather.  The various captains all remind us that each Antarctic cruise is different because the courses and destinations are largely determined by the weather.


We met an Australian couple in the hot tub yesterday, John and Allison, who were taking four consecutive South America and Antarctic Cruises – 58 days in all.  John is a retired meteorologist and he said because of course and schedule changes due to the weather, it would almost be as if they were taking four separate cruises.   John also told us that on the cruise immediately prior to the one on which he embarked in Valparaiso, passengers were restricted to their cabins for an entire day because of severe weather rounding Cape Horn.

Casino Report:  Way Up


About Our Ship


Our ship is Princess Cruise Line’s Star Princess. She is 951 feet long and 118 feet wide. She weighs in fully loaded at 109,000 tons and was built in 2002.  Star Princess has a cruising speed of 22.5 knots.  We are carrying 2,517 passengers and a crew of about 1,100.  Passengers are from 42 countries with about 1,250 of us residing in the United States.  There are sizable contingencies from the UK, Australia, Argentina, Japan and Canada.  Fuel on large ships like this is measured in tons, not gallons, and the Star Princess has a fuel capacity of 2,649 tons.  I don’t have the arithmetic skills to convert that easily to gallons but is a huge amount.  If anyone wants to convert that to gallons, or look up fuel consumption and estimate daily fuel consumption per passenger, that would be of interest to me.  Just send that information to us through the Contact Page.


Monday, January 18,2009 -- Greetings from the Atlantic Ocean, east of the coast of South America about 1,200 miles north of the Antarctic Peninsula.   We are just completing our first 24 hours at sea and we have two more days to go before we encounter the Antarctic Convergence Zone, an area where warm and cold water meet.  Here the weather and waves are unpredictable.  It is also where we will slow down as we look out for the first signs of icebergs.

The Captain just reported that we are at full  speed to avoid a "massive" storm to our west.  The extent to which this storm will affect our course is uncertain.  We are experiencing modest swells now. That of course could change later.

Some good news to report:  I am currently "up" at the casino.

Remember, you can see where we are in almost real time during our cruise from the Bridge Cam on the Star Princess. You can  alsolearn about our ship, the Star Princess.

For information and photos from our other trips
visit our Travel Page

Our Route through the Antarctic Peninsula

January 21: Elephant Island

More Photos

Go to our 
Photo Album to see full size photos from our entire trip.