The morning of Feb 9th, the Lyubov Orlova arrived at Almirante Brown research station. We went ashore (waking up the research crew – oops!) and there weren’t so many penguins here as at other locations. I was in the first group ashore and followed Emily, one of the staff, up to the top of the glacier to admire the views. Akos, the expedition ornithologist, found a safe route to the top of the rocky tor and I quickly climbed up after him. Fabulous views in every direction! The nearby glacier was fairly active and created nice cracks and booms and I saw a small avalanche high on the mountain, but very little ice was actually calving from the glacier into the bay. When the glacier was quiet, everything else was still and I heard a whale spouting far below in Paradise Bay. I pointed it out to Emily and she identified it as a minke whale. There were also some fledgling blue-eyed shags that had just gone in the water for the first time and were quite sure what they were doing, which was very fun to watch.

Of course, our time on shore didn’t last forever and had to head back down off the glacier. It was a steep climb up and most people decided to slide down the hill. I thought I’d walk down, but part way down decided to slide down myself. Great fun – I should have started at the top! Even though I had to leave the station the very calm water of Paradise Bay allowed us to take zodiac rides around the ice bergs and the colony of nesting blue-eyed shags. There was also a relaxed leopard seal lounging on one of the icebergs, so we got a very good look at one of the top predators of the antarctic.

Next stop was Dallman Bay and the Melchior Islands. Dallman Bay is a prime place to do whale watching and we weren’t disappointed. Humpback whales were in the area (I saw one breach – always an amazing sight!) but the main reason we were there was to take zodiac tours around the Melchior Islands. Sadly we did not go ashore here (little did I know that morning that Almirante Brown would be the last time I would set foot on Antarctica), but seeing the scenery, including some caves underneath the glaciers, and the antics of the numerous fur seals was wonderful. After the zodiac tours, we started our sail north across the Drake Passage while watching the Sun set over the mountains and glaciers of Antarctica. This beautiful site was a fitting end to a visit to the most remote continent.

This time the Drake Passage was calmer, but still not the “Drake Lake”. Luckily, everyone had their sea legs and motion sickness medicines and everyone enjoyed the lectures and meals on the way back. Of course I spent lots of time on the deck watching for pelagic birds. I didn’t see anything I hadn’t seen before, but the size and grace of the albatrosses is amazing and watching them sail over the waves is mesmerizing.

As we headed north the air started getting warmer and we crossed the Antarctic Convergence which is the meeting of the cold southern waters with the warmer northern waters. The most surprising moment of the Drake Passage was on the afternoon of Feb 11th when we were still a long way from land – a female Kestrel was following the boat. Even better, she landed on the railing of the Lyubov Orlova very near me. I got some fabulous photos of her and I’m wondering how she ended up so far from shore. Before dinner there was a final cocktail party with the expedition staff and crew of the ship where we all celebrated a fabulous trip.

A little before sunset we caught first sight of Argentina and soon entered the Beagle Channel. By sunrise we were approaching the dock at Ushuaia
, all of us up early to leave the ship and head along our separate ways. As luck would have it, I shared flights to Buenos Aires and on to Dallas, Texas with my new friends Wanda and Joe, making the long flights and layovers more pleasant.

I was home on Feb 13th and looking forward to seeing my brother (who even with a horrible cold, still picked me up at the San Francisco airport) and sharing my adventure with him and my friends here in California and elsewhere.