Today we got off the ship again and into the water for a kayak among icebergs and the “polar plunge.” What a trip!

I was able to rouse myself at 1:30am for another sunrise. This time the skies were clear, the air was still, the ice was thick, and the moon was full. The soft angled light gave the bergs an ethereal, otherworldly appearance. I got a few great shots with the long lens, and even a few with the iPhone. Grateful for the tripod, so I could bracket shots without wobbling.

Tabular Iceberg Moonrise
Moon over Antarctica

Our ship wasn’t able to go further into the pack ice than this, which meant that our chances of seeing Emperor penguins are now shot. Most tours visit them at Snow Hill Island, which requires a helicopter to visit. We’d hoped we might find one or two alone on the ice, as individuals are sometimes found far from colonies. No worries though, we’ll see plenty of other penguins.

I got back to bed and was able to go back to sleep for a few hours, then was woken up for breakfast and a talk by Jamling Tensing Norgay. He’s the son of the first Sherpa to summit Mount Everest with Edmund Hillary in 1952. He shared amazing video and inspiring stories of his work on the Everest IMAX film in 1998, and a few good rules about when to push forward and when to turn back.

“It’s optional to stand on the summit, it is not optional to make it home.”

With the calm air and relatively warm temperatures, the expedition leader decided today was a good day to let us get down on the water. Those who wanted to could go kayaking among the smaller icebergs, and Ruth and I got to use our Tahoe skills to take the Grosvenor teachers in our boats. I got a few great shots underwater with the GoPro, and edited them together into a nice reel.

Kayaking in Antarctica

Back on board, we readied ourselves for the polar plunge, which I have been excited about and Ruth has been dreading. Luckily with some peer pressure and a bit of liquid courage, she was convinced to join us. It was a quick shock to jump into 31 degree water, which was saltier than expected and buoyant and cold enough that I popped right back out. Then we ran up to the sauna to warm our cores, and a shower to clean off. I think we are both glad we did it, but are not planning to go again.

After lunch, we heard a talk about the “Secret life of Krill.” It seems like a small subject, but ”we only protect what we care about, and we only care about what we understand.” I took fairly complete notes, as this is a potentially a good activism campaign to boycott fisheries that harvest krill oil for their own profit at the risk of serious destruction. Basically all animal life here depends on these small crustaceans, and extracting them is having a big impact on the sustainability of the population.

For recap, the Scandinavian staff told us about the Lucia festival day, the longest night of the year on December 13th. They wore robes and paraded with candles (LED for safety), and the staff folklore researcher told us about the holiday celebrations performed during other, less comfortable, Arctic and Antarctic expeditions.

Another delicious dinner, and then I need to go to bed. We have a long journey through the night to the other side of the peninsula for more incredible landscapes.