Silver Explorer, Antarctica: Day 6 – The Polar Plunge & Vodka At A Remote Outpost

Day 6 – The Polar Plunge & Vodka At A Remote Outpost

Polar Plungers. © 2013 Ray
Polar Plungers jumping into  30°F (-1°C) seas. These two, and nearly 50 others who plunged, received a certificate afterward.

An Antarctic cruise on Silver Explorer is no place for naps — or even sleep. Sure, you can rest if you want to, but there are two things that may keep you from slipping into slumber.

The first is the length of the day. I’m not sure when the sun rises and sets, but the times would be of no consequence. It does not get dark. The curtains in our suite can darken the room when we’re ready to catch some Z’s, but it’s too tempting to walk out onto our veranda — at 2 p.m. or 2 a.m., to admire the sunny scenery.

The second thing that will curb your desire to doze is the quality (and quantity) of the activities offered. All excursions are offered on a complimentary basis, so the cost of participating need not be a consideration. Should you want to nap, however, you’d need to ask yourself, “What do I miss?” For me, the answer is nothing. I want to experience it all, with one possible exception that I will get to in just a moment.

I’ve enjoyed the hiking, the rigorous climb yesterday, wildlife observation, zodiac excursions — and much more. What impresses me is that although we are only midway through our voyage, we have had a range of rich experiences. You’ve heard of super foods? Well, this may be the super cruise. The experiences are concentrated and come at us several times daily, thoroughly nutritious for the spirit and soul.

Aside from scenic cruising, whale spotting and the like, we’ve had at least two off-the-ship excursions each day that we have been in Antarctica. From hikes to climbs to peering at penguins and zipping around on zodiacs, we experience new adventures, and peak experiences, frequently.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Lemaire Channel, the first time this season that Silver Explorer was able to make it through. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

This morning, we transited the Lemaire Channel, a first for the season, said Kara, Silver Explorer’s Expedition Team Leader. The cruise was exceptionally scenic with Silver Explorer parting chunks of ice as we plowed through the channel at slow speeds.

The activity I did not do? The Polar Plunge. Call me a wimp. I’m okay with that. Nearly 50 others were not wimps. They plunged. Consider the setting and the courage it took. With Silver Explorer anchored, a zodiac was secured at the gangway so that it functioned as a floating platform. Wearing nothing more than bathing suits, one at a time, the plungers jumped into the sea, which was a teeth-chattering 30°F (-1°C) this morning, with a 24°F (-4°C) air temperature.

Descriptions from those who dove? “Horrifyingly cold.” “Like a thousand tiny bee stings.” One Asian couple could say nothing at all — in English or in their native language — they only giggled at one another.

In the afternoon, we boarded zodiacs to visit Vernadsky Station, a research station operated by the government of the Ukraine. About 20 people are stationed here in this remote outpost. They came last April and will return to the Ukraine next April. The researchers gave us guided tours, ending with visits to the research station’s bar and the world’s southernmost souvenir shop.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Vernadsky Station, a Ukrainian research station. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

We were told that researchers at this station discovered the hole in the ozone, but perhaps that was when it was a British station (in 1996, the Brits sold the research station to the Ukrainians for £1). The Ukrainian researchers make a pretty mean vodka, which we could purchase for $3 a shot. Those who wished could also send postcards to friends and family for the cost of the card and postage. Kara, our expedition team leader, said she sent one from here, and it arrived at her home back in Fairbanks, Alaska, a year later, through Kiev.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Welcome to Vernadsky Station. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

All in all, it was another great day in Antarctica. Only two full days remaining before we begin our return across the Drake Passage on Thursday evening and back to Ushuaia. I plan to suck up all that I can between now and then. Who knows when, and if, I will get here again? One thing is certain, I’m certainly glad I made it here once in my life.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
A long way from home. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
The ‘hospital’ at Vernadsky Station. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
At Vernadsky Station. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Shots of vodka for US$3 each at Vernadsky Station. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Sending postcards home from Vernadsky Station. Delivery time may be up to one year. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Shopping at the world’s southernmost souvenir shop. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Belly up to the bar at Vernadsky Station. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Skuas dining. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Leaving our marks at Vernadsky Station. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Refreshments at the evening’s Recap & Briefing. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
The view from our stateroom on deck 7. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising through fields of ice. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Last night, shades of blue on the mountains ahead. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
DAYPORTARRIVEDEPART
December 12 Ushuaia, ArgentinaCharter flight from Buenos Aires; Embark Silver Explorer5:00 PM
December 13Sailing The Drake Passage
December 14Crossing The Drake, Day 2
December 15Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 16Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 17Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 18Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 19Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 20Sailing the Drake Passage, Redux
December 21Sailing the Drake Passage
December 22Ushuaia, Argentina8:00 AMDisembark Silver Explorer; return charter flight to Buenos Aires.
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