Saturday, April 5, 2008

Going ashore in Antarctica

Investigating Antarctic cruises, I read how zodiacs or similar small boats were used to transport passengers from the ‘mother ship’ to the shore. Our cruise ship used a small boat called a polarcirkel. I didn’t think the different name meant much. I figured it was just a brand name for a type of zodiac.

We had used boats similar in design to zodiacs when we cruised the Galapagos. On that adventure, climbing in and out from our ship, and then out and back in close to shore, was, at times, a dicey experience. It was easy to lose one’s balance stepping onto the inflated side of the zodiac. And swinging legs over and out of the zodiacs as we had wet landings was sometimes difficult. Thanks to lots of hands from crew and other passengers, everyone safely navigated the ins and outs.

However, in the Galapagos, we were wearing shorts and water sandals and I wondered how we would handle this bundled up with warm weather clothes, boots and gloves.


Our first indication of how different our Antarctic experience would be from our Galapagos trip was that the first boat ashore was expedition staff with emergency supplies. The weather in Antarctica can turn in an instant and one minute there can be safe and easy landings and the next minute it is impossible to bring passengers back to the ship. Brought ashore every landing were tents, food and water to be used in just such an emergency.


The next difference was the polarcirkels. The polarcirkels that were being used hold a driver and 8 passengers. They are hard sided (unlike the soft sided zodiacs) and when you need to step from the ship’s ladder into the polarcirkel, not only is there a flat platform to step on, but there are rails, on both sides of the platform, to hold onto. As you step down into the boat, there is railing along the middle, to hold as you make your way to your seat. How easy!!



Getting out onto shore and back in was easy too. The expedition staff placed a two step stool at the front of the polarcirkel. To get out we stepped back onto the boat platform then down two steps, with expedition staff available to provide assistance, if necessary. And getting back in was the reverse, and just as easy. Piece of cake.


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