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1.25.2013

We took in spectacular scenery under clear skies while motoring north to Paradise Bay where we finally got to participate in our polar plunge. 48 out of 114 passengers jumped off the zodiac into the 2° Celcius waters. I’m glad we waited until today, as it was glorious. Sunny and calm, the water like glass…the only ripples interfering with mirror image reflections of the surrounding peaks and glaciers were those created from the plunges!

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All the jumpers formed a line on the lower deck in their bathing suits, bath robes, and slippers while the supporters stood on deck three. The staff tied a rope around our waist in order not to lose us, and on the count of three we jumped (or dove) into the icy water. I tried a jackknife with the goal of splashing the staff as they are a rowdy group, though I don’t think I succeeded. Nicole did a back dive.

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20130214-152151.jpg taken by expedition staff

After our polar plunge, we cruised farther north to Neko Harbour where we got back in our kayaks. Once again, the water was as smooth as silk. We couldn’t have had better conditions. The sun shined. The surrounding peaks and ice once again reflected in the placid waters. The setting was magnificent.

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We paddled toward the brash ice and found some more humpback whales, five to be exact. One whale came to visit the group. It surfaced right next to the zodiac and then submerged beneath the kayaks. Three others were just resting on the the surface, so we just sat there and watched them for a while as they blew, trumpeted very loudly, and occasionally waved their long pectoral fin! It is great fun to watch and wonder what they are going to do next! They never fail to surprise…you think they will surface one place and they pop up some place else. You think they will stay put and suddenly they dive for krill. I suppose that is why despite this being the third time we’ve kayaked with the whales, the intrigue and awe hasn’t dwindled. Part of the fun is to stop and look at all the other kayakers just staring at the ocean surface waiting in silence to see what is going to happen next! Even Dave paddled the zodiac instead starting the engine to keep the silence.

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After some time with the whales, we enjoyed the seals next, a Weddell and Crabeaters to be exact. It was our first spotting of Crabeaters on the trip, and they are the most plentiful pinniped species in the world, so it is funny that it took us so long to see them given all the other wildlife we’ve seen. Their name is also curious, given their major prey is krill, not crab!

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After playing in the harbor for an hour and a half, we took the opportunity to go ashore, as this was our second landing on the Antarctic continent as opposed to an outlying island. As kayakers, we only had 45 minutes on the continent, so we had to use our time wisely. We quickly stripped out of our life vest, booties, and dry suit; stepped into our commissioned rubber boots; stopped to admire some more Gentoo penguins that have the white patch on their head and an orange beak; and then ventured toward the 1,000 meter hill. We were told we would need to hurry if we wanted to make it to the top to slide down, so Nicole and I virtually sprinted up this ice/snow hill. I’m not sure “sprint” is the proper word to define our slippery trek up the hill in rubber boots, but we did make it to the top out of breath, but with plenty of time to spare! From the top, we slid down the snowy hill on rears, leaning slightly back, raising our feet slightly off the ground, and only braking with our hands at the end, spraying snow up all around us. What fun!

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20130214-155025.jpgphotos of Nicole and I sliding taken by expedition staff

Back on board, the fun continued as the humpbacks started breaching! I’m sick to say I missed this (though I did see some photos later). I went outside in a light jacket after the announcement and waited several minutes until I couldn’t stand the cold anymore. As soon as I walked inside, they breached again. The recap of the day started, and they breached again. A lot of passengers were fortunate enough to witness the delight, but I was not one of them.

We finished the night with a scavenger hunt. We had to find several answers about the ship and crew and we ended the night with final jeopardy of sorts – 3 tasks. We had to draw a picture of our favorite staff member, write a limerick, and dress a member of our team up like a Neptune’s queen to parade around the room. Nicole and I teamed up with Peter, Bev, Marion, and Harvey. My mother won’t believe this, but I think Marion may be more competitive than me! She really got into the games and made me smile! Nicole was our queen, and she had five minutes to reappear in an outfit which came from Marion and Harvey’s room. It included a robe, a life vest, a kayak skirt and more. While her costume didn’t win, our limerick written in three minutes did:

There once was a ship named Sea Spirit
And none of the competition was near it
She sailed south of the circle
While others were fearful
And kissing the fish means you cleared it

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Overall, however, our cumulative points didn’t win a prize of immeasurable value, but it was entertaining to try, even though I can’t say I stayed for the whole game. I got slightly distracted by another amazing natural event. The sun was setting at the bow of the boat while the full moon was shining at the stern! It was the first time it was even clear enough for us to see the sun set and what a treat to see the sky illuminate orange as the sun sank below the horizon at the same time the full moon shined bright above the pink tinted, snow covered peaks. Certainly a once in a lifetime moment! ETB

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