Antarctic weather gods finally smile

By Angie Butler

There are times when the weather gods just won’t play ball and it seemed that way on the most recent Shackleton Centenary voyage on the glorious Hebridean Sky ship! As we waited in Buenos Aires (OK that wasn’t a hardship) the vessel was caught up in a storm and we were delayed by a day’s sailing.  Still, we all made merry in a BA restaurant and got to know our fellow passengers that we were going to spend the next three weeks whilst sailing Antarctica.

Soon we were headed to the Falklands and if I am honest the ocean still seemed somewhat angry. Port Stanley was a welcomed stop. On board was a mountaineering team of nine preparing to cross South Georgia in Shackleton’s footsteps. Collin Roberts the present Governor of the Falklands welcomed the team to Government House for tea, a rare honour.

Heading South to South Georgia our sea legs were improving and we were able to take advantage of the exquisite food on board.  With seven Filipino chefs producing five star meals we needed to take some exercise and South Georgia was a welcome stop and an opportunity to lose ourselves amongst the min-blowing King penguin colonies.  Ah the weather gods!  The crossing of South Georgia was deemed to be too dangerous in the present conditions. However, the team did experience some superb hiking later on in the voyage.

A full day at the whaling station included a beautiful church service to remember the men of the Endurance and Ross Sea party. The service which included readings from Pippa Wordie, grand daughter of Sir James Wordie moved some to tears as we remembered those who survived and those whose lives were forfeited on the Great White Continent.

The Hebridean Sky took the rolling sea in its stride thanks to newly fitted stabilisers as we headed further South.  Our expedition leader made the call to sail down the East side of the peninsula. This was an exceptional opportunity as never before had we seen tabular icebergs like it. We were in a different world of ice. Everything appeared to be magnified, the whales bigger, the albatross soared higher and the penguins abounded like never before.  The first lost day (a distant  memory) was made up by three landings a day… the first wakeup call at 5 am…and everyone seemed to bounce out of their comfortable cabins! Deception Island provided the perfect beach for the Antarctic swimmers…as it’s a volcano below the sea’s surface…and the water is not too icy …is that cheating?  For me the highlight besides the day in Grytviken was the morning at Bailey Head a very, very rare landing due to the fall of the beach as the zodiacs land.  But the weather gods by now were kind and blue skies and no wind were the orders of the day.  Bailey Head is the penguin high way for literally thousands of chin straps penguins. It is also here that the mountaineers hiked to Deception Island.

Half-moon Island was our last landing and it was a sad day as we were heading North and saying goodbye to the most extraordinary continent on planet earth.

Angie accompanied a group of Ice Trackers to Antarctica on the Shackleton Centenary Voyage in November 2016.

Should you wish to take part on the last Shackleton Centenary Voyage, in February 2017 (and take advantage of the great discounts) please contact us.