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Tuesday, January 23: Antarctic Sound
By the time Joann Stock's lecture was over, we had entered the Antarctic Sound. Joinville Island lay twenty miles to our starboard side and the Antarctic Peninsula was a similar distance to port.
A convergence of surface currents over downwelling water had created a swath of slush ice that was only a few dozen yards across, but it appeared to run the width of the sound.
People on the observation deck felt compelled to identify what the strangely carved icebergs resembled to them, the way they assign tangible forms to cumulus clouds.
It was like a big, icy Rorschach inkblot test.
Suddenly our quiet contemplation was broken by a shout, and I caught a brief glimpse of a large, gray object splashing into the water on the other side of the bow from where I was standing. A Minke Whale had just leaped out of the water, not 30 yards from the bow of the ship. It did not grace us with a second leap.
This Crabeater Seal appeared to have just eaten a very bloody meal.
We approached the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Ahead of us in the sound we could see the red hull and white superstructure of a Royal Navy Antarctic Research vessel. The large, white code A33 was easily visible on her side. People strained to read her name through their binoculars. We slowly gained on the ship. As we passed her, we could read the name Hesperides on her stern.
One of the blue tabular icebergs that the ship passed had a huge archway carved all the way through to the other side. Other icebergs farther away could be seen through the hole in the berg.
Debbie and I got extremely cold sitting on the observation deck as we cruised through the Antarctic Sound in the late afternoon. I was wearing gloves with no fingertips to make it easier to operate the controls of my cameras. My fingertips were aching from the cold.
We went downstairs into the observation lounge and ordered a couple of Irish Coffees for warmth and stimulation. We sipped on the coffee, whiskey, sugar, and cream as the ship passed out of the Antarctic Sound and entered the Bransfield Strait, which lies between the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands.
Dinner that evening was presented as the Shackelton Dinner.
Dave Fletcher dressed up in typical turn-of-the-previous-century Antarctic explorer clothing and was waiting at the entrance to the Marco Polo Restaurant to pose for photos with the passengers as they arrived for dinner.
The sun set after 10:00. P.M., and the sky never got really dark that night as we sailed down the Gerlache Strait.
Map of the Antarctic Peninsula.
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