(This blog is in an unconventional format: The dates displayed are actual trip dates - not post dates.)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The LeMaire

January 25, 2010
65°13"S, 64°00"W

The late evening began shortly before 10pm, knocking off a few cocktails on the observation deck while waiting with the rest of the passengers for the imminent start of the MV fram fashion show. That I remember almost nothing about said show speaks loudly of either the amount of cocktails consumed, or just how absolutely thrilling the show was. Since the rest of this particular evening makes up some of the strongest and most vivid memories of the whole trip, I'm going to go with the latter. A bunch of the officers and crew took turns in parading the deck in completely ridiculous outfits, to the raucus cheering and laugher of the mostly senior audience. But lets face it, we weren't on the Fram because we expected entertainment on the ship, we were there for the entertainment around the ship.

With my tendency to feel an awful empathy on behalf of people making complete fools of themselves, I was thankful that the pain passed relatively quickly as it was announced we should all get ourselves out onto the deck for our entry into the LeMaire channel. By the time we'd pulled on many layers of clothing it was nearing on 10.30pm, and the sun was making its lazy fall from the sky.

Up ahead a gap was forming between sheer rock walls - in the growing twilight, their darkened, shadowed forms accentuated the glowing hues of sunset pushing through the opening passage. The Fram sat while a second boat slowly turned and moved northward out of the channel. With every inch we moved forward, the unfolding scene was becoming impossibly better. What we were witnessing is almost unheard of in Antarctica travel; many of the crew are saying that in years of expeditions, they've never seen the LeMaire like this.

A traversal of the LeMaire channel is a standard feature of almost any cruise along the Antarctic Peninsular; formed by the narrow stretch of water running between Booth island and the mainland. Peaks on both sides climb abruptly from the ocean up to over a kilometre in height, keeping the waters protected and still in even the harshest gale. Many travellers refer to it as the Kodak-crack; the most photographed part of Antarctica - but many of those photos show fog, or snow or blizzard. We had the superb luck to be sailing into a perfectly clear sunset.

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