Journey to Antartica Aboard the National Geographic Explorer – Day 6
The Lamaire Channel
Early this morning we sailed through the most narrow and most scenic passageway in our voyage, the Lamaire Channel. Seven miles long and one mile wide, this picturesque channel is dubbed as “Kodak Gap.”
Towering, jagged cliffs greeted us as we entered this narrow channel that maybe challenging to navigate for some vessels due to ice packed passageway. Ours was the first expedition vessel to pass though the channel during the season.
“A magnificent Alpine country, illumined by the rising sun, rose slowly from the sea; there were mighty fells with snowy crowns and with sharp, uncovered teeth, around the valleys through which enormous, broad rivers of ice came flowing to the sea.” – Gunnar Andersson, Swedish Antartic Expedition, 1902
(We learned from our captain that four other vessels attempted to traverse the channel within days after we did but had to turn around as the ice floes were too thick for them to navigate.)
We made a landfall in Booth Island located in Penola Strait directly south of Lemaire Channel. The view from the expanse of the island and the sea was simply spectacular. What a beautiful white desert.
Desert? Yes, that was one thing we learned from this expedition – that Antarctica is actually a DESERT and is, in fact, the largest desert on Earth! Did you know that? We always think of a desert as a place so flat and arid. A desert is actually defined as a place that receives very little or no precipitation, whether rain or snow.
Antarctica indeed is the driest as well as the coldest, windiest, highest, cleanest and the most remote continent on earth.
Making our way to the Narnia-esque summit.
POLAR PLUNGE, SHACKLETON AND WHISKY TASTINGBack aboard the vessel, while still on the calm water of Penola Strait, several of our courageous fellow travelers made the daring polar plunge on the near freezing water. They said if felt great! (We intended to participate in the second polar plunge, but alas, the elements didn’t allow for the right condition).
Our parkas, in fact, were special commemorative centennial edition complete with Shackleton’s patch. (We had the honor of meeting Shackleton’s granddaughter, Alexandra, at the airport in Ushuaia after this expedition. She was pleased when we showed her the parka. She said she had not seen her grandfather’s image on a patch before.)
We had several activities that celebrated the legendary explorer during our expedition – documentary, photo presentations and talks about his life and expeditions, and a tasting and toasting of the whiskey that was specially made for his expedition.
RETURN PASSAGE IN LEMAIRE CHANNEL
We sailed back in Lemaire Channel in the evening. The return passage was made more dramatic by the evening light beautifully illuminating the peaks and their spectacular reflections in the calm, mirror-like water.