6.25 in the morning sailing through Crystal Sound the announcement came over that we were 10 minutes from the Antarctic Circle. Along with another 10 or so I was already on the bow of the ship with a champers at the ready. There was ice and snow on the decks form overnight. The countdown, then a blast on the ships horn, a cheer and finally I was there 66 degrees 33 minutes south. And onwards and southwards we kept on sailing. Our first stop was on Detaille Island where there is an old British Base hut that was abandoned in the 1960s as often it was impossible to access the base, even in summer. This base has since been restored by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust in order to preserve and record the site. It is s fascinating insight on how life was in the earlier days with numerous items just left behind. Everything from various canned food supplies, to pots, clothing, and all the equipment and tools.
Once again the weather was near perfect, so the decision was made to head further south in the search of Fast Ice. This is sea ice that is permanently frozen, even in summer. “Landfall” was to be made at the Fast Ice joining the Arrowsmith Peninsula to Liard Island. Technically this ice is part of the Continent as it is permanent ice. Slowly we cruised towards the mostly flat line of the Fast Ice on the horizon, with the occasional pressure ridge on it. There came a point where only a few boat lengths of open water separated our ship from the edge, but we did not start to slow or turn as I expected.
The realization of what was about happen dawned on me. We were about to literally ram mainland Antarctica. I was on the top deck 6 to take in the view and the bow was on deck 4. Rushing down a few flights of icy stairs and some heavy doors I made it to a point where I could see the bow of the ship at the point where it pierced the water. Or in this case the as it crushed the flat sea ice to come to gradual, yet sensational halt. In 15 seasons this was the first landing on fast ice. All credit due to Captain Sergey.
Just about everyone on board including ships crew and expedition staff took part in the 10 second Zodiac ride onto the ice, to then walk once more on the Continent while at the same time looking up at the bow of the ship that made this possible. All the time the ships propellers were gently turning to keep her on land. Once everyone had returned after a short cruise around on the Zodiacs, we simply reversed out and then moved on towards our next stop overnight.