The Antarctica Diaries – Day 3 – The Drake Lake & Surprise visit to Fort Point
by Deb Corbett – Commercial Director Asia Pacific – Ponant Cruises
Deb Corbett is one of our favourite industry professionals. She recently returned from an expedition cruise to Antarctica with her sister Annie. Deb recounts us on her personal cruise experience in February 2020 to Antarctica aboard Ponant’s L’Austral. We will be posting each day’s journal over the next few weeks.
Tuesday 11 February 2020 – THE DRAKE LAKE & SURPRISE VISIT TO FORT POINT
We awake to another gorgeous sunny day on the Drake. It’s three degrees with winds of only 22 km/h so PERFECT conditions for a day at sea. After a morning gym session in the theatre with the dancers and whale watching on deck with the expedition guides, we hit the lounge for a briefing about the day’s activities. Thinking we were at sea all day, the team announces that the Captain had made the drake in good timing which meant we would hit the South Shetland Islands sooner than expected so a surprise visit was in store and it was going to be a landing at Fort Point.
We are given a coloured group to be in for the cruise and all English speakers were in the red group. A buzz of excitement and chatter amongst the guests begins…what were we going to see? We can’t wait. Whilst we were anticipating our landing and wondering when the Peninsula would come into sight, the Chef had arranged for all guests to experience a traditional Iberico Ham Tasting. The chorizo and prosciutto were the BEST I have ever tasted. Coupled with olive tapenade and toasted bread, we sat down with another champagne in hand to enjoy! And the experience was even more perfect by the music playing in the background from the duo onboard. Hearing a professional harpist and guitarist singing was beautiful.
It’s 12 noon and the Captain announces we are entering the English Strait. Guests are so excited that cameras and phones are ready for action as the first sighting of land appears. We have officially reached the South Shetland Islands in record time thanks to the expertise of the Captain and his officers.
The South Shetland Islands are located about 900km southeast of Cape Horn and only about 100km from the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. This archipelago, which is 500km long, has 11 large islands. Among these islands are famous names such as Deception and Elephant Islands, where Ernest Shakleton’s men found refuge in April 1916. At 1.30pm we arrive at our surprise visit, Fort Point and it’s breathtaking.
The red group disembarks at 3.30pm for a zodiac landing that will stay for us forever. After a short zodiac ride, we arrive to be greeted by penguins and seals.
I’m so fixated on the animals that I forget to take a moment to soak up the incredible landscape. Mick Fogg always told me that guests often forget to put their cameras down and to enjoy the moment. That comment stayed with Annie and myself for every landing and outing. We would spend time taking photos then we’d put everything away to soak up where we were and what a privilege it was to be there. So fortunate that PONANT has this fabulous spirit of adventure and passion to share with guests.
I’ll let the pictures tell the story of our first landing…
We arrive back at the ship speechless on what we have just done and feel so truly blessed.
Dinner was superb followed by a 30-minute performance by the L’Austral dancers. There are 5 dancers onboard plus two singers and the duo of the harpist and singer/guitarist which give us wonderful entertainment throughout the cruise.
I notice in our program that we can purchase a postcard from the Boutique and this will be stamped and sent from Port Lockroy, the most southerly operational post office in the world! How cool so we hurry to ensure we get this done. We wonder when it will arrive home?
Stay tuned for next week’s installment: Day 4 – Enterprise Island & Wilhelmina Bay