Holidays...


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  • sue cook

Next day was the most important day of the whole expedition for the Shackleton descendants. In the morning we were zodiaced to Stromness on the northern side of South Georgia, where we hiked up to the famous waterfall where Shackleton and his two companions clambered down on a rope after a gruelling 36 hour scramble across the icy mountain range from one side of the island to the other.

 Sue Cook

Shackleton's fmous waterfall

Then in the afternoon we visited the nearby disused whaling station at Grytvyken where Shackleton finally found help to rescue his stranded men. There's a little cemetery on a hillside where he is now buried.

Sue Cook

Shackleton's gravestone

A moving service was held in the tiny church with readings including one by Sir Ernest's great granddaughter Alexandra 

He died of a heart attack there in 1922 in the middle of his final Antarctic expedition. A tiny wooden church was built nearby and Ice Tracks had organized a special service there in tribute to the great man. Togged up in our warm clothing and hats, we filed into the church and took turns in ringing the bell until the church was full. Relatives of the Endurance crew, including Sir Ernest's great granddaughter Alexandra, each gave appropriate readings, and we sang hymns to the rather fitting accompaniment of a banjo, strummed by the ship's bird expert, Simon. All in all it was a sweet, very sincere little service.

Back on board Vavilov next morning we saw our first icebergs – a host of small off-cuts from the nearby glacier but very beautiful. They made a wonderful popping crackling sound.

sue cook seal

Seal "posing" for the camera!

Seals are SO friendly and obliging for the cameras! 

One floated by with a fur seal sitting up on it, posing obligingly for our cameras.

Our last call before we left South Georgia was a place called Gold Harbour. It put a smile on my face that lasted all afternoon. It was such fun quietly hanging out with so much wildlife – king penguins, gentoo penguins (smaller than king penguins with little pink feet), fur seals and lumbering elephant seals lying all over the place – and each other.

sue cook

Majestic King penguins having a chat!

So much fabulous wildlife to observe

Antarctic rules stipulate that visitors must keep 5 meters away from wildlife, but of course the penguins and seals weren't bothered about that. They thought nothing of waddling past us or tobogganing on their tummies across our path.

sue cook

Adoring seal observing me!

And one young elephant seal took a fancy to me, insisting on nuzzling my shin and looking up at me with huge limpid brown eyes.

For the next three and a half days, we were at sea – the first of which turned out to be pretty stormy and I took to my bunk feeling sick despite having taken my daily Avomine pill. I've always been prone to travel sickness, despite working for the BBC's Holiday programme for five years!

sue cook

One of the amazing views

Despite feeling queasy,  a perfect cocktail was made for me and time on the boat was spent socialising and making new friends

There was plenty to do during our 'at sea' days. There was a library for quiet reading and a gym and spa for more active pursuits. At the lounge bar on the observation deck there were freshly made smoothies on offer before breakfast and coffee and tea facilities all day. Before dinner was Happy Hour with drinks at half price. Someone introduced me to the perfect cocktail to combat seasickness – vodka on ice with ginger ale and chopped fresh ginger. I got into the routine of having one every evening. Just in case, you understand... After dinner there were often 'fireside chats' - short informal talks given by one of our guest speakers or by fellow passengers. After only a few days, we all felt like we'd known each other for years.

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