Antarctica, day 2: Food and glaciers

March 3, 2022 • 9:00 am

We’re now in the Beagle Channel sailing toward Puerto Williams, but won’t be there till tomorrow. More on the channel below, but first a note from aboard, and then the food.

We are taking a large crew of about a dozen Ukrainian scientists (one women and the rest men, all young) to the Vernadsky Research Base in Antarctica that I visited and described two years ago.  The all had their Antarctic uniforms on with “Ukraine” on the back, so I went up and tried to chat a bit, letting them know that America was behind them. I asked one if he would rather be back home than at the field station, and he said, “of course.” These people, of course, would all be fighting if they were back home, and would face a high chance of being killed. But that’s where they want to be.  It was terribly sad; you could just tell from their faces that they were discombobulated and conflicted. Or maybe I just read that into their visages, but one thing was certain: they were not happy to be out of Ukraine and not looking forward to a winter season in Antarctica while war raged at home. I’ve seen not a smile among them.

On to food: I had lunch yesterday in the Restaurant Aune, which is the ship’s main restaurant, the others being a fancy restaurant reserved only for luxury suiteholders (I’ve never eaten there, of course), and the informal Fredheim, where I had takeout burger and shake last night. Today I decided to lunch in the Aune. Lunches used to be terrific buffets, always with a fancy centerpiece item like carved roast beef, suckling pig, or lobster. Now, because of covid, the ship generally eschews buffets and serves three-course meals for lunch and dinner. One is supposed to reserve a table, too, but as I am a hybrid between a passenger and crew, I have made arrangements with the passenger restaurants to just walk in. After four more days I can dine downstairs with the crew and staff, and will split my time between the passenger and the staff/crew restaurants, eating both “upstairs and downstairs.”

Here was my lunch yesterday. It was good, but I’m generally not in the mood for fancy food at noon. Now I’m quite full.

The Aune is a large restaurant that goes the width of the ship, with windows everywhere. As I said, one of the pleasures of eating here is getting a table by the window and watching the seabirds fly by: albatross, fulmars, petrels, and other miscellaneous avifauna that I don’t recognize:

I’ll show the dishes and give the descriptions that were given on the menu:

“Today’s tasting plate: cured ham and sundried tomato crostini, poached cod, olive tapinade, lettuce, cherry tomato artichoke, herbs, and lemon couscous with goat cheese.”

“Chicken ballotine, roasted carrot and leek & potato confit.”

“Tilslørte bondepiker: Traditional Norwegian apple compote and whipping cream dessert.”

Now, we’re sailing through the famous Beagle Channel, labeled “Beagle” on the map below.  As Wikipedia notes,

The Beagle Channel, the Straits of Magellan to the north, and the open-ocean Drake Passage to the south are the three navigable passages around South America between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Most commercial shipping uses the open-ocean Drake Passage.

The Beagle Channel is about 240 kilometres (130 nmi; 150 mi) long and 5 kilometres (3 nmi; 3 mi) wide at its narrowest point.

An aerial photo from Wikipedia (their caption):

Partial aerial view of Beagle Channel. The Chilean Navarino Island is seen in the top-right while the Argentine part of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego is seen at the bottom-left.

The most famous site in this 150-mile passage is “Glacier Alley”, famous for its five named hanging glaciers, named, with colonial hauteur, Francia, Alemania, Romancha, Holanda and Espana. (See more photos and information here.)

These constituted Darwin’s first encounter with glaciers, and he was stunned. As Wikipedia notes:

 The ship continued the survey in the second voyage of Beagle under the command of captain FitzRoy, who took Charles Darwin along as a self-funding supernumerary, giving him opportunities as an amateur naturalist. Darwin had his first sight of glaciers when they reached the channel on 29 January 1833, and wrote in his field notebook “It is scarcely possible to imagine anything more beautiful than the beryl-like blue of these glaciers, and especially as contrasted with the dead white of the upper expanse of snow.”

I had a cabin and a balcony on the port side, the glaciers were on the port side as we were heading east, and so there was no need for me to go jostle with the photographers on the top deck capturing this splendid sight. I just stepped out onto my balcony and took these pictures with my iPhone (my Panasonic photos reside in full resolution back in Chicago).

The transit through the Alley takes a bit more than an hour. I haven’t tried to put names to these glaciers, though I did two years ago in my earlier post. The amazing thing is that some of them come right down to the water, calving off small bits of ice; and Darwin’s “beryl-like blue” is certainly visible. See below.

Here the water melts from a glacier, creating a waterfall into the channel. People who have traversed this passage for many years tell me how much the glaciers have shrunk. We all know why that is, and it’s ineffably sad.

The “beryl-like blue”, and yes, it really is that color.

I took this from inside my cabin to show you the view. The bar across the top is the frame of my glass door to the balcony.

More beryl-blue ice dropping into the Channel:

And another photo from my cabin.

And then some brisk walking on the top deck to work up an appetite for dinner: a small sirloin steak, rare, fries, veggies, and for dessert. . . .A CLOUDBERRY MILKSHAKE. Yes, I know what many of you are thinking but a, I’m not going to eat like this every day and b. my cholesterol and condition of my heart and arteries are quite good, thank you.

A great shake (with recyclable straws). Is there anywhere in the U.S. where you can get cloudberry milkshakes?

11 thoughts on “Antarctica, day 2: Food and glaciers

  1. Really great photos of something most of us will never see. We would be lucky to get a true milk shake anywhere. My experience with those recycle straws are they sometimes don’t last through one use.

  2. Truly amazing photos, and very nice food as well. I must say, that “taster plate” sounds like a combination of which I would happily make a huge meal if it were available. Yum.

  3. Very cool pics…literally!

    I was able to see glaciers on a trip to Alaska. My chemistry-nerd self liked the blue, but what was more impressive was their size. For both reasons, I doubt seeing them ever gets old.

  4. Please forgive me, but a few of us might be vegetarian. Could you maybe take a few pictures of the veggie option someone might be eating? Thank you.

  5. I confess to being a bit geographically confused. I thought previously the ship was near Cape Horn–but now you’re up north in the Beagle Channel? Is this a common route?

    1. Perhaps there has been a map previously of the ship’s route. If not, here’s my guess of its rough outline, particularly so far:

      South from Punta Arenas then west a bit into the Pacific, south to enter the west end of the Beagle Channel to proceed eastwards through it past Ushaia, Argentina to the north, then Puerto Williams, Chile on the south. Cape Horn is almost due south of the latter, the ‘bottom’ tip of the furthest south island there, in this plethora of islands and channels called the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago.

      Then from the east, Atlantic, end of the Beagle Channel, presumably pretty much due south to reach Antarctica, near Elephant Island where Shackleton’s crew were marooned till famously rescued, and also near the huge northernmost peninsula of Anarctica (called ‘je ne sais quoi’ by me!). It is actually still not quite south of the Antarctic Circle, which many of these cruises do not cross.

      But maybe they are going to the Falkland Islands first, then south, rather than to the Falklands after Antarctica.

      Let me joke a lie, to say that this is the route my EV’s screen tells me to drive if I wish to go there; but it can’t find any chargers, not even gas stations. And unfortunately I cannot convince my bank to freely give me the money to pay Hurtigruten and go that sensible way. So I’ll again need to do it vicariously, courtesy of Jerry’s kindly and excellent posts. Thanks Jerry!,

  6. I think we should give Jerry a round of applause for eating all that nasty foreign food while in such drab and boring surroundings. Seriously though, lucky beggar!

  7. It looks like a very enjoyable trip. The menu reminds me of my time on Danish ships, and brings back fond memories.

    I will offer a tip-
    It has always been my practice before going to sleep on a ship, to set a flashlight, my day’s clothing and boots, and a charged ship’s radio next to my bunk. I don’t leave the flashlight and radio on a bedside table, but on the floor, where it cannot fall off and roll away.
    The point being that by putting those things in the same place every night, in a place that I can reach immediately upon waking up, I will not waste time searching for them in an emergency.
    It never happened in 20 years of sailing, but I always assume that when I wake up, it will be when the room is full of smoke, the power is out, and there is a 20 degree list.

    Actually, I still do this at home, minus the radio, out of habit.

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