Archive | January 2015

Port Charcot, Petermann Island and Mikkelsen Harbour

After boarding the ship again early that morning from sleeping out Al Fresco, we all went and had a much welcomed warm shower, hot cup of coffee and nourishing breakfast. The ship pulled up anchors once again and we set off through the scenic Lemaire Channel which is also known as ‘Kodak Gap’ because it is such a well photographed location, forming the passage between the mainland and Booth Island.

We arrived at Pleneau Island at Port Charcot. We were nearing the end of our journey south into Antarctica before we would have to turn around and head back north again, so even though we were exhausted from the lack of sleep, we knew we should take the opportunity to go ashore once again. Donning the snowshoes, we put ourselves through our paces and embarked on yet another fairly steep slope whilst exploring the surroundings. As usual we were greeted by a group of Gentoo and Adelie penguins.

me and the flag

Petermann Island, the most southerly point of our journey.

After returning to the ship and whilst eating lunch, we sailed on to Petermann Island. This was a significant day for us because it marked the most southerly point of our journey. We went ashore and stood united as the first team of breast cancer survivors in the UAE and possibly the world to go to the ends of the earth. This was our second last day. Tomorrow would mark our last day of activities before we would have to head back to civilization. The ship turned around and we sailed through the night back through the Lemaire Channel in a northerly direction, slowly heading back home again.

sitting on an iceberg

Mikkelsen Harbour!

We rose early the next morning ready to take on the day and all that it had to offer us since this was our last opportunity to go on land. Some team members chose to go kayaking again since our last attempt was cut short. I chose to go ashore with the zodiac again and spend more time with the penguins on D’Hainaut Island in Mikkelsen Harbour on the southern side of Trinity Island. The sightseeing was breathtaking and along the way we were graced with the presence of a Minke whale and her calf. The other part of our group who was on another zodiac had a close encounter with a Leopard seal that kept on swimming underneath and around their boat, sticking it’s head out and looking as though it wanted to jump into the zodiac at any moment.  We all saw a large group of Weddell seals languishing on an iceberg and took the opportunity to stop and study them more closely while everybody took full advantage of the photo op.

an iceberg

Yet more gorgeous scenery.

That afternoon we set sail up through the Gerlache Strait and through the Southern Bransfield Strait. It was a very cold but lovely sunny afternoon and we joined the crew on the top deck with a cup of hot chocolate. While we were there we were visited by a another group of humpback whales. Once they’d decided to move on, I decided to beat a hasty retreat inside, as I was really feeling the cold by that time, which no amount of hot chocolate could even remotely touch.

 

This entry was posted on January 27, 2015.

Port Lockroy and camping out El fresco!

After pulling up anchors again and sailing through the night, we awoke to another spectacular day and passed through the beautiful Neumayer Channel,  where we reached Dorian Bay with a planned landing on Damoy Point.

Strapping on the snowshoes again, we went for a long morning hike, led by one of the guides. We hiked up to the ‘ski way’ where the British Antarctic survey teams used to land their planes when transporting staff and freight. At the same time we enjoyed breathtaking views from the ridge while we were up there.

In the afternoon after returning to the ship and freshening and resting up, we all split up to enjoy various activities of our choice. I chose to visit a large colony of Gentoo penguins on Jougla Point, followed by a stop at the British Base at Port Lockroy, which was complete with a souvenir shop and a post office. Some of us decided to send a post card back home to our loved ones. It’s not everyday that you get to send a post card from the most southerly and probably one of the most remote post offices in the world. Other passengers took the opportunity to go back out on the kayaks again. I chose to stay on board the ship after our outing to spare my energy. I was still feeling somewhat worn out by the mountaineering the day before and besides, I didn’t enjoy the kayaking as much as others due to the fact that I was constantly afraid we’d fall into the water. There I was letting fear stand in the way of having a good time. That however was one of the lessons I walked away from this expedition with…to not let fear stand in the way of achieving your goals and experiencing and living life to the fullest. Back then however, I sat in the observation lounge in the sun, sipping on a cup of Earl Grey tea, enjoying the gorgeous scenery and nibbling on ginger biscuits. Compared to yesterday…bliss!!

Later that afternoon we were offered the opportunity to really take in the lovely surroundings, by going zodiac cruising around the area  with a brief landing on a think layer of sea ice.

camping out

Our beds for the night on the iceberg.

Later that evening, we enjoyed a lovely barbeque on the deck of the ship. We were joined by guests from Port Lockroy who were from the HMS Protector. Our group however, didn’t have time to socialize much, as we hurried back to our cabins to get ready for camping out El fresco on Lefevre Point, Doumer Island. With backpacks crammed to the hilt, we set off on the zodiacs. After landing, we huddled around our guide, Andrew who was to stay the night with us on the iceberg. We all had to create a shallow cradle for ourselves in the snow that we would be sleeping in. All that would be protecting us from the elements was two thermal mats and two thermal sleeping bags.

Whilst following specific instructions on how to lay the mats down and put one sleeping bag inside the other, I was particularly grateful for the fact that I had decided not to eat or drink too much before leaving for our camp out. Our guide informed us that there would be a toilet available, but it would be a simple and rustic set up to say the least, not to mention that fact that in order to relieve yourself you had to pull your pants down! In that cold…no sireee, I wouldn’t be using that loo. Even if I needed it, I decided that I would somehow hold it in until we got back to the ship the next morning. We all slept in pairs and I slept with a fellow South African. One of our team mates had brought along a small Christmas tree and we had a little ceremony where we all hung a bauble with a persons name on it that we knew, that had lost their battle to breast cancer. It was a somber and somewhat emotional experience, but at the same time it was cathartic and comforting, knowing that we were honoring those who no longer had a voice.

camping out 2

A quick photo before hunkering down for a very cold night!

While setting up camp, we were also paid an unexpected visit by a Gentoo penguin who boldly enough proceeded to waddle through our campsite as if to exercise quality control. We then settled down to go to sleep. Before climbing into our sleeping bags, we had to strip off our top layers that were protecting us from the elements because we were warned that we would become too hot inside the sleeping bags if we didn’t shed some clothing. To say it was cold was the understatement of the century. I quickly ripped off my Gortex jacket and pants and, gasping for breath from the cold leapt into my sleeping bags, only to discover that they were somewhat more tricky to zip up than expected. I cursed under my breath as I grappled with the zips until I finally got them closed. I then proceeded to shake and shiver inside the sleeping bags that to me, just didn’t seem to be warming up what was now my frozen, jangly bones. Eventually I pulled my thermal and Gortex jackets into my sleeping bags with me and covered myself with them as best I could. I then started to warm up and surprisingly, went to sleep. Others didn’t have quite such a peaceful night and some even had to get up to use the toilet. Thank heaven I didn’t have to. The next morning after packing up camp again, we were all somewhat relieved and happy to be returning to the ship.

One thing I was really looking forward to, being in Antarctica was seeing all the beautiful stars. I think in the winter despite the brutal cold and snow, the views of the heavens must be spectacular. Being there in the summer however, it never got dark. It was perpetual daylight and none of us ever got to see one solitary star.

This entry was posted on January 22, 2015.

Mountaineering!

The moment of truth had finally arrived and we were getting ready to go mountaineering. Putting my protective gear on, I wondered whether I had perhaps bitten off more than I could chew. We had been warned that once we were out there and tethered to the rope and busy climbing, there was no turning back.

Leaving the ship and boarding the zodiac, my emotions were swinging like a pendulum between excitement and nervousness. When we finally arrived and got off the zodiac to go ashore, my heart was beating out of my chest. It was a steep mountain. One that we would have to climb in a zigzag pattern in order to prevent falling down the slope. We were all briefed on the do’s and don’ts, like keeping the rope rigid between you and the person in front of you. The group that made it to the top first would be given naming rights to the mountain. This just added extra pressure which didn’t go down well with me.

We were then issued with ice-axes and various other equipment all fastened to a belt that we tied around our waists. We were then split into two groups, so there were 7-8 of us tethered to a rope. I took some deep breathes and prayed to God, asking him to help me to the top. Keeping our ice axes in hand and with our snowshoes on, we set off.

The first part of the mountain was a gentle gradient and so we had no problem scaling it. The tricky bit came right after that, as the slope became progressively steeper and steeper. Once we were on the steepest incline, it was about 400m in that I just couldn’t seem to catch my breath and get on top of it, My muscles were burning and my lungs felt like they were on fire. I could taste blood. I realized that I would have to stop if I had any hope or prayer of making it to the top. I felt bad and embarrassed as I shouted stop. Three of my team mates who were in front of me passed the message on to each other which reached our lead climber in the front. They stopped pretty much straight away, much to my relief. Being very patient with me, I felt bad as I realized that I was holding them all back and at the same time putting our naming rights at risk. Half way up, and I shouted for everybody to stop again. By this time team members were asking me if I was okay. I knew at that point that they had over estimated how fit and strong I was. I had too! If I wasn’t tethered to that rope with them, I would have opted out and not continued to the top, but there was no way I could do that now. I had to dig deeper than I ever had done before and make this work…make it to the top. I had to use my ice axe several times as I nearly toppled down from sheer exhaustion. I stumbled and panted on, stopping several more times. As we were approaching the summit and we had stopped once again, the other group passed us. The team leader of the other group shouted, ‘It’s better not to keep stopping the whole time…it only makes it worse. Just keep it going and find a rhythm!’

I felt like shouting back at him, ‘You try going through what I’ve been through and see if you can do this you clueless @#$$!’

I held my tongue however, because at this point I knew that I had no room to talk. I had just sacrificed our naming rights to the mountain and probably ruined the experience for my entire team. At that point, the tears started streaming down my cheeks. I quickly wiped them away as I didn’t want anybody to see me as a weakling. It was most likely way too late for that, but I still had my pride. I dug into my pocket and took out two small photo’s that I had put in my pocket before leaving the ship. One was of my mum and the other, my three girls. After staring at them for a few seconds I looked to the top of the mountain that was so near, and yet seemed so far and I saw them at the top. My mum was shouting, ‘Come on angel, you can do this.’  My girls did what they always did when I was training at home. They shouted ‘Come on mom you can do this…you’ve come so far, don’t stop now!’

Mountaineering

Proudly displaying my countries flag after reaching the summit.

Putting the photo’s back in my pocket, we set off again. Despite the fact that at any moment I might collapse, I kept on putting one foot in front of the other. I was determined that I would make it to the top for my loved ones, if not for myself. Upon finally arriving at the top, a huge sense of relief and accomplishment flooded me. I may not have made it to the top first, but in hindsight the most important thing is that I tried and achieved my goal in the end.

mountaineering 2

Taking a moment to reflect before heading back down again.

It was then time for photo’s as well as a few minutes of silence, just to savor the moment and pay tribute to why we had undertaken to do this in the first place. At the end of the day, we all had our own reasons for being there and we paid homage to that. After gathering ourselves, we embarked on the journey back down again. I walked down with a huge grin on my face. I had done it…I had achieved what I’d set out to do from the very beginning. I had climbed that mountain…pushed through all the struggles and made it to the top.

The mountain was subsequently named ‘Pink Ribbon Peak’.

Perfect.

 

 

This entry was posted on January 18, 2015.

Snowshoeing!

After sailing through the night, we woke up to yet another beautiful sunny day. In between all the frenzy of activities on land, we had been learning a lot about the wildlife and geology of Antarctica. Since setting sail, we had already seen many bird species and had even been visited by a group of dolphins as well as Humpback whales. We had also been told by staff members that we were very lucky indeed to have experienced the good weather that we had so far. They explained that there had been expeditions in the past where passengers had not been able to get off the ship for days at a time once reaching Antarctica due to awful and challenging weather conditions.

Me and Frida

Travelling through the Errera Channel.

After breakfast, we were just on time to reach the outside deck again as we sailed through the breathtaking Errera Channel. Everywhere we looked on all sides, we were surrounded by large, imposing and majestically beautiful snow capped mountains. Shortly after passing through the channel, we arrived at Water Boat Point. After lathering on sunscreen and throwing on all the protective layers necessary, we excitedly boarded the zodiacs to go on land for snowshoeing. Once on land, we put our snowshoes on over our wellington boots and set off on a moderately steep but very pleasant climb. Once we reached the top of the hill, we turned around to look down at the M/V Plancius docked far down below on the water, that was mirror-like in it’s calm and serene state. Absolutely stunning…it gave me the opportunity to stop and catch my breath and savor the moment, realizing how lucky and privileged I was to be there, and just to observe the heart stopping scenery. One of my team mates described it as such breathtaking beauty that is was impossible to capture on camera.

After making our way down again, we boarded the zodiacs again for a brief journey to the Presidente Gabriel Gonzalez Videla Chilean base, which is a research station today that amongst other things, monitors the ice cap movements, water and weather conditions. Right after struggling off the zodiacs and balancing perilously on sharp rocks to arrive on land, we were greeted once again by a huge colony of Gentoo penguins and together with that, a pungent whiff of their excrement. Mmm, that one I couldn’t get over it was so strong and after taking a few photo’s, I was relieved to go inside the research station itself to meet the personnel that worked there, who were men from both the Navy and Air Force. One of the men working there soon revealed to us that his mother was also fighting breast cancer. After talking to him, he expressed his gratitude at our words of encouragement, hope and support. While exploring the base, we came across a section of it that had been turned into a museum which was quite an eye opener for all of us. In the 1800’s and early 1900’s, researchers and explorers had to endure great hardship for the cause with no heating or everyday luxuries that we are all used to today. They lived in cold and very austere conditions which was more than enough for me personally to really appreciate the sacrifice that these men made, and how grateful we should all be for what we have.

Me on chilean base

At the Videla Gonzalez Chilean base and research station.

On the base was a small souvenir shop where we all obtained a certificate  for achieving a landing on the continent of Antarctica. Today it has it’s pride of place on the wall above my desk.

After saying goodbye, we returned to the ship to rest and enjoy the amazing views that Paradise Bay was boasting. Soon it was time for lunch. We were due to go mountaineering in the afternoon. The big moment was finally on top of us. This is what many of us had trained for many months and travelled thousands of miles to achieve…the crowning glory of all our efforts and what our hearts most desired. Just to make it to the top of the mountain. At lunch I had an extra helping of carbohydrates in a last ditch effort to try and give my body the fuel it needed. This was it…in a few hours it was crunch time.

This entry was posted on January 14, 2015.

Traveling further into the pristine wilderness

Not long after lunch, we passed through Neptune’s Bellow’s as we arrived at Deception Island where the ship threw down it’s anchors. This was an especially exciting day for us. Although we had already been off the ship to kayak, this was to be memorable because we were about to set foot on the Antarctic continent for the very first time.

Ship

Photo taken from the outside deck on the front of the M/V Plancius.

The ship had issued us all with Wellington (gum) boots and as part of respecting the Antarctic treaty, we had to dip the soles of our shoes in large shallow tubs that had a special solution in them, located at the entrance/exit where we left to go ashore and return to ship. This was also part of the effort to prevent cross contamination.

After putting all our warm protective layers on we donned our life jackets, clocked out, dipped out boots and boarded the zodiacs to go and explore Deception Island. This is an Island that was once an active volcano and so is made up in large part of volcanic ash. Climbing off the zodiac was a very special moment for all of us. We were all acutely aware of the fact that we had just made modern day history by being the first group of breast cancer survivors to set foot on the Antarctic continent. It was a thrilling prospect. The sand on the beach was charcoal grey. Exploring the Island we were quickly greeted by a group of Chinstrap penguins. It was too cute for words to witness how really adorable they were waddling around and fussing over each other. They are real busy bodies and some of them stopped and looked at us as if to size us up in microscopic detail. Others couldn’t have cared less and just carried on with their daily activities. We were told not to approach them and try to touch them because as cute as they appear, they have also been known to be rather unpredictable and snap at people. They have very sharp beaks and can do some real damage. What we also very quickly realized is that penguin droppings absolutely reek. It’s an almost overwhelming smell and takes some getting used to, but that is rapidly overshadowed by how much character they exhibit.

The snow in Antarctica is not very compact and as a result, one tends to fall through it leaving a bid gaping hole. We were told that it was very important to cover the hole back up again because the penguins can fall into the hole and are not able to get out again. They can die of starvation, trapped and helpless.

Our day on Deception Island just happened to coincide with International Mountain day and so to honor that, we took a hike up Neptune’s Window to take some photo’s with the official banner that we had, recognizing the occasion. On the way up it started to snow. I got so excited as this was the first active snow fall I had ever experienced in my life. After reaching the top of the mountain and taking photo’s, it was time to descend again. On our way back across the beach, some of the team members took complete leave of their senses and decided to take a polar dip. They had put their bathing costumes on underneath all their layers, so stripping all their layers off, six of them made a mad dash into the shallow waters of the sea. The rest of us all stood there and cheered them on as they ran straight back out again…their eyes wide from the shock of the cold water looking like deer caught in head lights. We all waited with towels to throw around their now very shivery bodies. I was not going to participate in that. I’m not one for swimming much in the first place, never mind taking a dip in absolutely freezing waters.

Me onboard

Me onboard the ship.

Once everyone was dressed again we all climbed back into the zodiacs and, saying goodbye to Deception Island made our way back to the ship to gear ourselves up for the next chapter of our expedition.

 

This entry was posted on January 11, 2015.

Our 1st day in Antarctica!

On the morning of our first official day in Antarctica, we awoke to the usual announcement by one of the staff members over the intercom system that it was time to rise and shine and that breakfast would be served in half an hour. Looking out of our port hole we were relieved to see that it was a spectacularly sunny day outside, and gathering in the restaurant for a healthy breakfast we excitedly discussed the days events ahead.

Before any landings on shore were allowed to take place, all passengers were taken down to where we were all allocated a clock card that we had to swipe through the electronic system each time we exited and entered the ship again. Due to the fact that we would be making many stops and landings, this was just to make sure that no passenger ever got left behind somewhere.

Back in the observation lounge we found out that our group would be the first to go kayaking that morning, whilst other groups would go snow shoeing. The staff onboard had to ensure that everybody got a chance to do all activities in the week that we would be out there. I was glad that I was a guest and not a member of staff at that point because boy oh boy, they had a mean juggling act to perform throughout the entire expedition. We were told that because the continent of Antarctica was still considered a pristine environment, that there was a strict rule about cross contamination. We were all instructed to fetch all our clothes, boots and any other kit that we had brought along with us from our cabins and bring them up to the observation lounge. We then all had to use vacuum cleaners and attempt to get our clothes, hiking boots and other kit free from potential contaminants such as pollen etc.

It was then down to the kit room in the ship which is a massive room where they keep all the equipment which we obtained for our kayaking excursion. We put on thermal underwear and any other warm clothes possible, and then proceeded to squeeze into the neoprene suits (dry suits), spray skirt, waterproof booties and life jackets. Not one of my most flattering fashion moments but hey, it was safety above everything else. I soon realized that from the time anybody boards the ship to the time that they disembark at the end of the expedition, their vanity has to take a back seat. There’s no room for trying to look pretty. This was not like any other cruise…it was truly down to business on this ship.

Kayaking

My rowing partner and I getting ready to hit the water.

Kayaking 2

Other team members preparing themselves.

Once we were all kitted up, we went onto the outside deck towards the back of the ship where we were instructed on how to row and steer the kayaks. We all soon realized that these kayaks were nothing like what we’d trained in and it took a while for us to get the hang of them. The arduous task of lowering the kayaks into the water then began. With the help of our instructor Louise, we all worked as a team, lowering the kayaks using ropes down the side of the ship and into the water, where another staff member in a zodiac was already waiting on the water to receive them. The man on the zodiac would them use the ropes to tie the kayaks together until there was a long row of kayaks behind him. It was a back breaking task and used half our energy reserves before we’d even started, but once that was done we could board the zodiac, where we rode out onto the water about 50 meters away from the ship to start our activities. I was nervous. My main fear was falling into the water. We had the dry suits on but even with that, you would for sure feel it if you fell into that sub zero temperature water. Slithering slowly and awkwardly, we all eventually made it onto our tandem kayaks. I felt relieved to be rowing with a team mate and not on my own, but she absolutely finished off my nerves because she seemed to think she was invincible and was whipping around taking photo’s, rocking the kayak from side to side while doing so. After telling her to settle down, we both started to row. I was in front and so had the job of steering. Just as we really started to enjoy ourselves and get the hang of things, we all noticed that it had started to snow, the wind had picked up and the water was becoming choppy. The instructor Louise radioed in for a weather update and with that, found out that we had to head back to the ship. With our tails between our legs we headed back and once again, began the tedious process of getting all the kayaks back on board the ship again, pulling on the ropes with all our might.

Feeling like an exhausted beached whale, I struggled out of my dry suit and after a shower, was relieved to be feeling human again. We enjoyed a much needed lunch while we set sail once again for Deception Island and onto yet another adventure.

This entry was posted on January 8, 2015.

Calmer waters

A day and a half after leaving Ushuaia, it at last started to become smoother sailing. Sea sickness patches had kicked in, nausea abated while most passengers had finally made it up to the observation deck. With that, the Drakes Passage was renamed ‘Vomits Passage’. There were still sea sickness bags hanging from all the railings throughout the ship, just in case somebody experienced an unfortunate relapse and couldn’t make it to the bathroom on time. To be honest, that made me feel even worse. It was a constant reminder of the nauseating journey that we had only just emerged from. We quickly discovered that the food on board was very good, much like in a restaurant or on board any other cruise ship. It turned out that a few of our team members were vegetarian and weren’t too impressed with the cuisine, but vegetarianism aside, it was delicious. Once we all had one or two proper meals down the hatchet, we were feeling much better and had at last found our sea legs.

Until such time that we arrived in Antarctica, it was just a matter of keeping ourselves busy. We soon learnt that all the staff members on board were also experts in their respective fields, from geology right through to bird life, and they kept us occupied by imparting their invaluable knowledge to us. It was incredibly interesting to learn about the animal and bird wildlife in Antarctica as well as the land and movement of the ice bergs and sheets, and that’s not forgetting the incredible history of Antarctica together with it’s explorers.

On the late afternoon of our second day of sailing, a very exciting announcement was made from the captain on the bridge. He said, “Ladies and gentlemen, if you go out onto the deck of the ship and look into the distance, you will see the very first iceberg appearing on the horizon…welcome to Antarctica everybody!’

1st iceberg

One of the first icebergs we saw on our entry to Antarctica.

With that, everybody leapt to their feet. People were frantically grabbing for their jackets, hats and gloves and while throwing them on, made a mad dash for the door leading to the front outside deck. This was my first time actually being outside in the open in Antarctica and it was frigidly cold. What I noticed immediately afterwards was how crystal clean the air was. It was like lung nectar or breathing in the best champagne in the world. Taking some deep breaths, I savored my surroundings while jostling with everybody else for a front row seat to catch site of that much coveted iceberg. It was a beautiful day with very clear and bright blue skies. The air was so clean and without any pollution that even though the iceberg was still quite a way away, we could see it clearly as small as it was in the beginning. We all stood out there and from the start there was so much elation and excitement at the prospect of the first iceberg, that there was much chatting and laughing between everyone, but about 45 minutes later as we drew closer and closer to it, there was profound silence. All that could be heard was the constant clicking from the shutters of everybody’s cameras as a record amount of photo’s were being taken. Drawing up to it and sailing past it, you could’ve heard a pin drop. Shivers went down my spine as I stood there and admired this incredible sculpture that mother nature had created. With it’s unique shape and stunning array of shades of blue, it sparkled as though there were millions of diamonds on the surface of it as the suns rays hit it from all angles. I was so in awe of the beauty before me that I felt like I could never open my eyes wide enough…be present enough to truly appreciate the majesty of it all.

After all the excitement had subsided and we had passed yet a few more icebergs, we all gathered in the dining room for a hearty supper and then retired to get a good nights sleep. Dream land proved elusive for me however as I was so excited for the next day and the great surprises that it would undoubtedly bring along with it.

This entry was posted on January 6, 2015.

The dreaded Drakes Passage

team mates

The whole team in Tierra del Fuego National Park. Little did we know what was ahead of us!

By the time 3:00am rolled around, I was also rolling around in my bunk bed. The ship was pitching and rolling so much that looking out of our porthole, the waves were completely submerging it at times. I would slide down my bed till my feet hit the foot of the bed, and then slide back up again till my head hit the headboard. Some of my room mates found it soothing, almost like being massaged to sleep. Most of us didn’t however. By the time morning arrived and it was time to get up for breakfast, one of my room mates was well on her way to being sea sick. I was still okay and feeling a little dizzy, I went to the bathroom as I thought that having a shower would perhaps make me feel a bit better. I got no further than having a pee. As I was getting ready to turn the shower tap on, a wave of nausea suddenly hit me. Turning the tap off again, I quickly finished up in the bathroom and made a bee line for my bunk bed, picking up a sea sickness bag along the way. Lying down and breathing deeply didn’t help…I would have to use the bag. So I joined ranks with my fellow team mate and was out of commission, confined to my bed with a knot in my stomach…my own sea sickness bags lined up on my bed next to me. Lying there on the bed between dry heaving and desperate gulps of water including a sea sickness tablet that didn’t stay down for very long, I wondered if we were the only one’s that were so sick. Did it so happen that we were amongst the weak? Not possible surely. One thing I did know for sure is that all of the women that had taken on this expedition were very strong and determined people. I lay there feeling like I was in the throes of chemotherapy all over again. I remember I kept on repeating to myself, ‘I so didn’t sign up for this.’

My two other room mates and fellow team members decided that the best plan of action was to go upstairs to the observation lounge to try and prevent themselves from falling into the same sea sickness pit. I would’ve done exactly the same thing, but one of them came back down again and took on the role of Florence Nightingale. She went around to all the team members cabins, handing out sea sickness bags and working with the onboard doctor, eventually handing out medicated sea sickness patches which were like small round plasters that were placed on the skin just behind the ear. What a life saver this plaster was and what a life saver my team mate was! She really came through for us.

As the medication started to kick in and I began to feel better which was about 2 hours afterwards, I decided that I would attempt to get up, pull myself together and try to make it upstairs to the observation lounge. The first couple of times, I made it to the base of the first of three flights of stairs I’d have to negotiate to get there and then turned back around and headed back to my bunk bed with my tail between my legs realizing that I wasn’t ready yet. Eventually 4 hours later, I got to the base of the 1st flight and felt I could make it. I started up, but the ship was still being thrown about by the waves and that was when I very quickly realized what the banisters on all the staircases were for. These staircases were very steep… steeper than fire escapes and I clung onto those banisters for dear life, nearly losing my grip at one point. If I had lost it I wouldn’t be lying to you if I said I could’ve broken something…if not my neck on the way back down again.

At last I made it up to the observation deck ahead of my other very sick room mate who was still in our cabin down below nursing serious nausea. It felt so good to be back in circulation again and it was light and open up there. After saying hello to a few fellow passengers, I made straight for the coffee bar where I made myself a cup of black tea and made a bee line for the ginger biscuits. After eating and drinking something I felt much better and was officially back on my feet again and rearing to go.

It turned out that my room mate and I weren’t so weak after all. 90% of the passengers, including our team leader had fallen victim to the dreaded Drakes Passage.

This entry was posted on January 2, 2015.