1:00 PM: We attempt to cross the Lemaire Channel, also known as Kodak Valley for its photogenic nature, but alas, there is too much ice blocking the way. Strong northern winds are blowing all the ice floats into the channel, so it’s all filled up for now.
3:00 PM: After turning around, we set out to Port Charcot instead, where we try to get good shots of seals on the icebergs and floats. There’s a lot of ice floating around in the company of some truly majestic iceberg structures.
We also have a true Antarctica “experience” by getting stuck in a sea of ice floats. In an attempt to get closer to a crabeater seal, we move our Zodiac through some of the ice. While the clear path from our boat stays open for about 5 minutes, ice debris quickly fills in after that. At this point, there’s not much to worry about because we’re only 20 feet in from the edge of open water. After lingering for a few more moments, more ice has filled in behind us and we’re now 40 – 50 feet away from open water.
Sensing that it’s a good time to exit, we attempt to use a small iceberg in front of our zodiac to help pave the way and push debris out of the way. This method works for about 10 feet, before some ice jams up the motor. Miguel, our fearless Zodiac driver, tries to dislodge the ice with an oar. When that fails, he places both feet in the water to push out the ice. We boat passengers also move toward one side and start jumping up and down in an attempt to help dislodge the ice. Eventually, we have success and we’re on our merry way again.
However, we do still need to make our way through more ice to make it back to the ship – and we see that most of the paths are blocked by at least a few large chunks of ice. At this point, we hear someone on the walkie saying “Don’t go near the ice”. Whoops, a bit late for that. One of the other Zodiacs tries to help pave a path to us, but to no avail. We haven’t panicked yet – the worst case scenario is that we have to get towed by the ship. Vlad, in another Zodiac, points out a clearing behind us and ten minutes of navigating later, we’re free!
We find out later that three other Zodiacs had to get towed back by the ship before us, so we feel a little better about our adventure in Port Charcot.
6:30 PM: After a nice, hot shower after our hours-long adventure, Andrew presented a lecture on climate change, global warming and global cooling, which was quite informative.
7:30 PM: A surprise for tonight – a BBQ up on deck 5 outside with lots of great comfort food like ribs, chicken and baked potatoes!