Saturday 8/Sunday 9 January 2023
I am sharing this Adventure of a Lifetime with a (almost) lifetime friend Anne who I first met at school 50 years ago. We had long talked about travelling to Antarctica together but life events had got in the way – until now. I fly down from Auckland and Anne has to bus up from Invercargill (only to have to bus back down again tomorrow).
Our expedition starts in Queenstown where we join our fellow passengers (and a few crew) at the Copthorne Lakefront Hotel. After checking into our room and getting instructions for our travel, Anne and I go for a walk around the town to stretch our legs and enjoy the beautiful day. Then it is time to go to the bar for a celebratory Cocktail to mark this momentous occasion. At dinner we meet the some of other passengers (approx 120 people in total) and begin the somewhat daunting task of trying to remember everyone’s names. We sit with Alla (from Ukraine) and Jozef (from Slovakia) who are both doctors and now based in Brisbane. There seems to be quite a high proportion of people from NZ and Australia, which is nice although it is always interesting to meet people from all around the world.
We wake not entirely refreshed as our room was much too overheated despite having the windows open. But we wake in plenty of time to shower, breakfast, and pack our bags ready to check out by 8.00 and stow the main bags ready to be sent separately by truck down to join the ship. We have been provided with a tour of Lake Whakatipu this morning and the weather couldn’t be more perfect. We get lovely views of all the key high points: the Remarkables, Mt Earnslaw and the iconic Earnslaw steamer, Walter Peak and Cecil Peak stations, McKenzie station with an informative commentary as we cruise around the lake. But lovely as it all is, it feels very much like a ‘filler’ as we are all keen to get on our ship and start the real adventure.
We have an early lunch back at the hotel and discover what a small world it is as Anne and I both meet up with people with whom we have mutual friends/workmates. Eventually we are bundled on board 3 buses to take us through to Bluff to join the ship. There are a few delays along the way as it has taken longer for the bags to get there and be loaded than expected. At least this means we have a worthwhile stop in Invercargill at Queen’s Gardens and see two tuatara who have come out to bask in the sun.
The Heritage Adventurer is berthed in the container terminal part of the port of Bluff so unfortunately we don’t get to see Anne’s partner Donald who came down to see us off. It is extremely windy with impressive whitecaps in the bay and we make sure we have taken sea sickness tablets in preparation. After a few obligatory photos of the ship we embark and join the crew to go through Customs and Immigration – our passports are held on the ship. It seems strange to use a passport as we are still in NZ and going through the NZ subantarctic islands, but we do visit Macquarie Island (Australia) and International territories on Antarctica itself.
We then check in and are shown to our rooms where our luggage awaits us. We rapidly stow our gear in the myriad of cupboards and drawers that are available and then head off to explore the ship. We have a compulsory life boat drill before being introduced to the Expedition Crew – including ‘the most amazing array of experts that has ever been assembled for such an expedition’. We are very fortunate to have as our expedition leader Aaron Russ, son of the founders of Heritage Expeditions (along with his wife and 2 young daughters). We have naturalists, geologists, historians, wildlife experts, and photographers – all with fascinating backgrounds including lawyers, coroners, police officers, university professors, and of course those who have a long career in and around boats and the polar regions/ice, whether that be in Svalbard, Alaska, Kamchatka (Russia).
With all the delays today our schedule is running rather late and we don’t sit down for dinner until after 8.00 – and most are ravenous. But it is quite something when the time comes: it is a la carte dining with such a massive list of options that it is very hard to make a choice at all. The chef is certainly putting on a show for us all and, what with all the wine that is provided too, we will need to keep up the exercise on this trip.
The ship finally leaves port just after 9.00pm and we start to see whether our sea sick tablets will be effective or not. We are exhausted and head off to bed once we have cleared Bluff but sleep was to be very elusive as the ship rolled on the unusual easterly swell.
Day 1-2: Meeting and Departure
Day 3: The Snares
Day 4: Auckland Islands – Enderby Island
Day 5: At Sea
Day 6: Macquarie Island
Day 7: Macquarie Island
Day 8: At Sea
Day 9: At Sea
Day 10: At Sea
Day 11: At Sea
Day 12: Cape Adare, Antarctica
Day 13: Possession Islands
Day 14: At Sea, Coulman Island
Day 15: At Sea
Day 16: At Sea
Day 17: At Sea, Ross Ice Shelf
Day 18: Cape Bird/McMurdo Sound
Day 19: Cape Bird/McMurdo Sound
Day 20: Cape Evans/Cape Royds
Day 21: At Sea
Day 22: At Sea
Day 23: At Sea
Day 24: At Sea
Day 25: At Sea
Day 26: At Sea/Campbell Island
Day 27: Final Day at Sea