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December 10, 2004

Anyone for a Swim?

We had two more landings left before heading back across the Drake Passage to Ushuaia. After the morning wake up call and breakfast, we geared up for our landing on Deception Island. The "deception" of the Island is that it is actually an active volcano, which last erupted in 1970. The island is shaped like a ring because of its collapsed cone. We landed at Whalers Bay, where there are remains from the old whaling station that closed in the 1930s. I walked up and down the sulphurous smelling beach checking out the whale bones and some of the old buildings. I also walked up to Neptunes window, which is a low point in the crater rim, where there was a nice view of the beach below.

Since Deception Island is an active volcano, there are many places where the thermal hot spots cause the rocks on the beach to be hot. One of the popular things to do here is dig a little pool and fill it with water which is then thermally heated by the rocks. The expedition staff dug the hole for us and some of us sat around in the water, which was REALLY hot. Of course, the water just a few feet away was still completely frigid, and every once in a while, someone would get up and walk, run, or dive into the freezing Antarctic water. Let me just say that I absolutely LOATHE cold water, but of course I had to do it anyway. I got up out of the hot water, ran part way into the cold water, and then just dove in completely. It was so cold my skin started stinging almost immediately. After about, oh... 3 seconds or so I jumped up out of cold water and ran back into the hot water as fast as possible. After sitting in the hot water for a while, I got up again and went and sat in the cold water. I just wanted to see how long I could stand it. The night before, the ship doctor told us that a person could survive for about 5 minutes in Antarctic waters before hypothermia would set in. I went into the water and sat down, and could only sit there for about 30 seconds before I could feel my skin tingling and my muscles starting to seize. So I got out again. Experiment over. Mental note: don't fall off ship.

Our last landing was to one of the Aitcho Islands. The name comes from the British Hydrographic Office, HO, which later was just spelled Aitcho. (Did you know that "Aitch" is actually in the Scrabble dictionary as the spelling for the letter "H"?) Along with the gentoo and adelie penguins (here's an adelie looking for a hug,) we also had our first look at the chinstrap penguins. Laurie had told us that if we walk to the other side of the island, we would come to an overlook with a rock formation in the center that looks like someone giving you the finger. I walked over there, passing penguins and a lazy weddel seal on the way, and when I got there, ah ha, it definately did! What a nice way to conclude our visit to Antarctica! Also near the rock on the shore were elephant seals, which we hadn't seen before. I think this chinstrap penguin thought it was protecting the seals. I got very close to it and it wouldn't move. The seals were big and blubbery, but cute, in a mammoth sort of way. They would scratch, lay and sometimes growl, but mostly they just laid there.

Posted by msshell on December 10, 2004 07:12 PM
Category: Antarctica

Hey! Did you leave your brain back on the ship? You DORK. You're lucky they have a trained medical staff. SILLY SILLY MICHELLE. YOU think I do DUMB stuff. LOL!!!! See ya soon!

Posted by: jeff on December 11, 2004 10:51 AM

I like the chinstrap penguins. Did you bring one back? Makes a great Christmas gift!! hee hee

Did you hug the penguin? It was waiting for you!!

Posted by: jeff on December 11, 2004 10:56 AM

JEFF: Yes, I left my brain on the ship. They are going to implant it into a penguin head.

Posted by: Michelle on December 11, 2004 11:58 AM

Thanks for the Scrabble tip. Did you check to see if the seals were alive? :-)

Posted by: Kellie on December 13, 2004 09:55 PM

I liked that "guarding" chin strap penguin. He really looked like a guard with a little helmet on.

Posted by: Sherry on December 14, 2004 10:09 AM

Michelle, you are a verry brave girl . . . jumping into frigid antarctican waters TWICE!?! You are also nuts, but I'm impressed.

Posted by: Jessica Katherine on December 16, 2004 01:53 PM

JESSICA: HI! I'm glad I was able to tell you all about Ellen and Julis vacation!

KELLIE: Didn't check the sea lions for a pulse. I learned my lesson about that in Namibia.

Posted by: Michelle on December 18, 2004 03:40 PM
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