The Antarctica Diaries – Day 5 – Dorian Bay & Paradise Bay – Cruise Traveller

The Antarctica Diaries – Day 5 – Dorian Bay & Paradise Bay

Deb Corbett (left) and Annie Corbett (right) in Antarctica.

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.

Thursday 13 February 2020 – DORIAN BAY & PARADISE BAY

It’s again one degree today but with a wind speed of 41km/h and we’re told that we have two expeditions today – a landing in the morning and a zodiac outing in the afternoon so rug up today with lots of layers. L’Austral entered the Neumayer Channel at 6am so we were up early to catch a glimpse of this magnificent channel. This was followed by a quick morning gym session with the dancers in the theatre and then there’s no time to waste as we head to Dorian Bay in a zodiac for our landing.

Arriving at Dorian Bay, Antarctica with L’Austral in the distance

Dorian Bay is a cove on the northwest side of Wiencke Island, in the Palmer Archipelago of Antarctica. It was discovered by French Antarctica Expedition 1903-05, under Jean-Baptiste Charcot and named by him after Monsieur Dorian, a member of the French Chamber of Deputies.

Two structures were erected on the shores of Dorian Bay. The Argentine Refugio Bahia Dorian in 1957 and a larger building known as the Damoy Hut in 1975, where it served flights to and from a summer-use ice strip for aircraft used before the sea-ice cleared near Rothera Base. The Damoy Hut and ice-strip were closed in 1995 but the Hut is still there and is maintained and administered by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust. It was incredible walking through the hut and seeing how the explorers slept, what they ate and what their equipment was like.

We were then directed to a glacier walk. It was a little steep, but I made it to the top and I’m so pleased that I did as the view was spectacular and over the other side you could see Port Lockroy Post Office.  We took a moment to soak up the view and pinch ourselves of where we were…

We headed back to the ship after an amazing landing. Upon arrival into the lounge we had a brew of hot chocolate with Tia Maria as an option to drop into the mug! Each time we returned from an expedition, there would be a hot beverage waiting for us. It ranged from mint & ginger tea to mulled wine and it was always a welcomed treat. We also had wonderful afternoon teas each day which were delicious.  A great energy boost before our afternoon outings.  PONANT’s French touch oozed for the afternoon teas, especially when it was Macaron time!  PONANT serve the iconic Laduree Macaron.  My favourite was the salted caramel whilst others enjoyed the rose petal, vanilla and chocolate Macarons.

Another afternoon tea favourite was “custom-made” vanilla slices to your liking – passionfruit, vanilla or chocolate filling made especially to your taste with cream on top and extra icing sugar or chocolate shavings to finish….

Have I mentioned the butter onboard? OMG it’s deliciously creamy.  PONANT serves the best butter in the world called Le Beurre Bordier owned by artisan and cheese monger, Jean-Yves Bordier.  A French family, who we are having dinner with, says it all starts with the cows as they live lovely lives grazing on grass and flowers and are not in overcrowded factory farms. They are happy cows living on rich soil farms. Bordier only sources his milk from local farmers who have the best farming practices. They tell me that typically butter is made 6 hours after a cow is milked but not for Bordier – he takes 3 days! Bordier also uses old fashioned methods. Bordier has a special wooden machine (the only one!) called a Malaxeur that the butter is kneaded through, at a slow speed, for a specific amount of time. They say it helps develop flavour and creates a silky texture. After the Malaxeur, they use special grooved paddles to pound the butter, by hand, before forming it into the shapes requested by chefs for each individual order.  I never thought I would get so excited about Butter!

We enjoyed an Italian themed lunch before heading out on a zodiac outing around Paradise Bay. We were the last group to head out and by the time we left, the clouds had come in and it was snowing. We were so excited as we ventured out in different weather and enjoyed the misty vistas as well as viewing by water the Admiral Brown Base, which is an Argentine Antarctic base and a scientific research station. It is one of 13 research bases in Antarctica managed by Argentina.  It’s really cute and reminds me of when I use to build little lego towns as a child.

However, one of the guides radioed our guide and alerts him to lots of seals playing at the other end of Paradise Bay so we hold on and dash to get to the other side. We see seals sleeping, swimming and playing. INCREDIBLE! Words can’t explain what this afternoon was like. There was only 6 of us in the zodiac plus our guide and we were all lost for words.

Leopard Seal reclining on sea ice – Antarctic 2020 – image: D. Corbett, Ponant Cruises

You constantly hear the crunch of ice under the zodiac as we drive through melted pieces of ice…

We arrived back at the ship with our spirits soaring and had this incredible bond between the 6 of us, so much so, that we organised to meet after dinner for a recap on our zodiac outing and to share all the videos and photos that we took during our adventure. We air dropped to each other whilst sipping on Cosmopolitans. This bond and memory will be with the 6 of us forever. Did I mention that in addition to the dancers, two singers and duo onboard, there was also a Pianist who played each night in the Observation Lounge but tonight Yevgen Kranshykh was performing a Piano Concert in the theatre, where guests could travel through the evolution of music.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment: Day 6 – Port Charcot & Petermann Island