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  • Writer's pictureKen Murray

Antarctica - Dec 30 - Day 3 - Landing Exploration of Telefon Bay in Deception Island

Today was our first land excursion. Before I get into this, I’ll go over our day.

I awoke at 2:00am and could not fall back to sleep. It must have been the Coke’s I had the evening before. Too much caffeine! Also the ship was rocking a bit more than it had during the day, and I could really feel it in bed. The sun sets around 11:00pm and rises at 3:00am, but between those hours, it never gets dark. It’s like 4 hours of dusk. I got up at 3:00am and went to the Atlas Lounge to write. It was very peaceful and I just missed the sunrise. I cleaned up my travel blog posts, loaded photos, and published them.

At 6:30am, Paula’s Pantry opens up on deck 4. It has coffee and assorted muffins, croissants, pastries, and donuts. I began to enjoy my coffee and donut when Shelly approached me. She had not slept well due to the ship rocking and creaking sounds from the rear of the ship. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, we are in cabin 641 which is the last in the stern of the ship. So we relaxed in the Atlas Lounge until the Porto Restaurant opened for breakfast at 7:30am. This was our first breakfast on the expedition. It’s a buffet with what you would expect, and has an omelet station. Breakfast was decent. Related to the overall food experience, several passengers whom I spoke with were disappointed. They commented that if Atlas sees themselves competing with, for example, a Silversea, then they have to step up their game. I’ll update you on food in later blog posts.

We went back to our cabin for a shower. The shower stall is pretty big with a glass door. It’s got a ceiling shower head, a handheld, and jets that spray from the rear wall. It was a nice experience. We also laid out our base and mid-layers for today’s excursions to Deception Island.

There were two lectures in the morning that we did not attend, one on Antarctica rocks, and the other on wildlife watching. I have to say I have really enjoyed the lectures and workshops. They have been professional, pointed, and energetic. The Expedition Team really has a passion for what they do. There is going to be a guest lecturer during the return who will, time permitting, speak on how to travel safely, learning to read body language, and proper digital security. I’m looking forward to them.

We met Monica, Jonathan, and Jacqueline for lunch. It’s a buffet and includes hot dogs and hamburgers.

Our ship approached Deception Island and we saw the narrow entrance, just 1,640 feet wide, called Neptune's Bellows. Here are a couple photos of us approaching and crossing through Neptune's Bellows:

The excursion for our group was scheduled for around 2:30pm. All passengers are allocated into 4 groups. Shelly and I are in the Penguin Group. The groups are given specific times to meet in the Atlas Lounge before being called for boarding the Zodiac boats. You go ashore with your group. If you’re traveling with family or friends, or made new friends on the ship, you can request to be in the same group. Atlas’ Expedition Team does their best to place you together. Jonathan, Monica, and Jacqueline requested to join the Penguin Group, and were accommodated.

Around 1:45pm, Shelly and I started to suit up for the excursion. It takes some time to get into your base and mid-layers, rain pants, head-covers, etc., so give yourselves some time. We went to the lounge around 2:15pm and were given instructions on how to board and disembark the Zodiac boats. If you want to be in the same boat with your family and friends, make sure you’re together in the lounge.

We were getting hot in our layers, and hadn’t even put our boots and parkas on. We trudged down to the Mud Room on deck 3 and struggled to get geared up. You’re constricted with all the layers, so getting your feet into knee-high boots isn’t easy. You also need to don your bulky parka and life vest. It took 10 to 15 minutes to get all our gear on, and we were really sweating.

It was our turn to board the Zodiac boat. You step through a machine with rotating brushes which does a final cleaning of your boots, then down a short gangway and onto the Zodiac. Expedition Team members are helping all the way, so we felt quite safe.

The Zodiac ride was 5 minutes or so to shore, where we disembarked and set foot on the island. Deception Island is an active volcano that blew its top 10,000 or so years ago. Telefon Bay is in the center, and is surrounded by a ring of mountains and glaciers. It reminds me a bit like the Greek island of Santorini. Deception Island is breathtakingly beautiful. And we were greeted onshore by three penguins and 3 seals.

The weather was great, 35 degrees Fahrenheit with mild wind. I was quite comfortable in my gear, although it was bulky.

We took pictures of the wildlife and the surrounding beauty. Then we walked about ½ mile up a gentle hill to a crater where an Expedition Team member told us about the history of the island.

I estimate that 40 to 50 passengers continued on the guided, 2 mile hike along the hills to the left of the crater. It meandered back to the shore. Shelly and I chose not to take this hike. My left knee is bad and I don’t have the stamina, and Shelly is afraid of heights, so it just wasn’t for us. We headed back to shore, and along the way, Shelly and Jacqueline made some snow angels.

We walked back to the shore, saw a few more penguins and seals, took photos and boarded the Zodiac to go back to the ship.

We were on land for a little more than an hour. You will get wet in the Zodiac, especially your gloves, so bring an extra pair. The drivers are great, but spray is inevitable. And it’s colder in the boat than on land. So make sure you’re zipped up, and have your hood and gloves on. And protect your camera.

The Zodiac pulled up alongside the gangway and we disembarked. It took us 10 minutes to get out of our boots, parka, and life vest. The space is tight so be patient. You are then greeted by team members and given a cup of hot chocolate.

We went back to our cabin, stripped down, and got into nice, dry clothes. We then met friends at the Dome Lounge on deck 7 to watch the other passengers return to the boat, and just generally marvel at the scenes.

At 6:30pm we went to a recap briefing and learned about tomorrow’s excursions. As usual, the Expedition Team was professional, passionate, and fun.

We then went to dinner with Monica, Jonathan, and Jacqueline, and celebrated my 61st birthday. Monica and Jonathan were so kind as to bring a bottle of champagne to share. The restaurant staff brought me a chocolate cake with a candle and sang happy birthday. I also received a signed birthday card from the hotel manager, which was a nice touch. I had a wonderful birthday celebration with Shelly and friends, and in Antarctica. What more could I ask for?

We had a few problems with our cabin steward's performance. Our mini-fridge was not being restocked, and we ran out of toilet paper. Minor problems in the scheme of things, but when you’re paying as much as we did for this trip, you want minor problems managed and resolved. Shelly spoke with Butler Manager Ricardo, and told him what was happening. He managed and resolved our problems, so thanks and kudos to Ricardo.

The sun broke through and winds cleared out most of the clouds. We went to the Dome to watch the sunset at 11:10pm. Some low clouds blocked the sun a bit, but it was still beautiful. We then turned in, looking forward to tomorrow’s adventure at Kinnes Cove and Madder Cliffs in the Antarctic sound.

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