Tuesday, 3 March 2015

20 February - Second bike landing on Antarctica.

I discovered the morning after our party that the best cure for a hangover is to get your dry suit on and go Kaiaking around the ice bergs!

What a stunning day. Cath and I set off and within 10 minutes of being in the water we were graced with the sighting of a couple of humpback whales. They were a good distance away and we watched as they continued on their path - apparently oblivious to our presence - before heading for some funky looking ice bergs. The shapes were stunning and they glistened in the morning sun. It really was breathtaking. The penguins jumped in and out of the water around us as we paddles silently on. I will never forget
that experience. It was perfect!

The next morning we left Water Boat Point and headed West.

Fur Seal
Sailing that day was beautiful. The waters were calm and the sun shone on the Ice Bergs as the
whales popped in and out of view. Antarctica was showing us her best side today. The blue of the Ice Bergs is something that I believe cannot be replicated. The ice has a magical dream like quality and to be sailing through them silently was wonderful. We bothered no one and nothing. No engine sound and no footprint. I lay on the deck near Rhonda (who had been brought forward to the bow) with the sun on my face and just took it all in as we managed a modest 4 miles an hour!

Humpback Whales and Rhonda
It took us all day to get to Vernadsky but there was no rush.  We stopped on route to visit another penguin colony in the hope of finding some Adelie's (penguins). We found that the Gentoo's dominated with only a couple of the Adelie's to be found where in previous years they had flourished. It seems the Gentoo's ruled!

Adelie Penguin
By early evening we had found the
perfect anchor and settled in for the evening after putting out 3 lines to nearby rocks. The lines were to stop us swinging too much as we were in a sheltered bay with little room.  That night we ate dinner aboard the Ice Bird and enjoyed an early night while the going was good.

The next morning we contacted the nearby base and asked permission to land the bike for the
second time in Antarctica. Vernadski is a Ukranian base and home to 12 men. Unlike the Chileans who stay for just 5 months, these guys stay for 12. They are not Navy or Airforce but a group of scientists. Their role is to collect data.

Cath and I went ashore to speak with them and discuss our options. After a quick chat it seems we had many and we were going to have to try and squeeze a lot in to this day!

Our new plan was to land the bike, have a play in the snow, do some tobogganing, have a sauna (built at the base) and a dip in the icy water and then join the guys again for a barbi and a few drinks.

Landing the bike
I was liking Antarctica! The bike
really was getting some attention. It's not often you see a sailing yacht coming through the ice bergs with a Motorbike strapped to the bow. It seemed the Navy, Airforce and scientists alike were loving it and they were more than happy to pull out all the stops to help and even entertain. It made a change from counting penguins I guess (actually on this base there was no colony. This is why we gained permission)!

Rhonda at Vernadsky
The landing went well and this time I wasn’t so nervous, although I don’t think I would ever get totally comfortable watching my bike being dangled over icy salty water and lowered in to a small Zodiac! However, by now, we were well rehearsed.

Once in the Zodiac we took  her around to the boat ramp where the Ukrainians were waiting with a crane. Carefully Rhonda was winched out and placed gently on the jetty. It went smoothly.  It always helps to have a load of big Ukrainian men on hand!

Fun in the snow
I jumped on Rhonda and rode up the wooden walkway around the the side of the building. Here we had to get her through a narrow passage between the deep snow and the side of the building. It was an icy walkway and very narrow but with a little engine and a lot of brute force, between us we got her through. On the other side was a pile of rocks which was easy to ride over and then more snow and a frozen stream which we got over with no trouble. The bike wasn’t gripping at all so it was just a case of pushing and shoving her up the hill to the point where I thought we could get some good photos. It was a great fun and the boys really got in to it as you can imagine!

 One of the guys was in to Motocross back home and had been really keen to meet Rhonda. He was so happy to have a bike on his Island and so I suggested he ride her back! The smile said it all and off he went. When he got off he came running over and shook my hand. “I am so excited, my legs are shaking” he said. I laughed and said “I know the feeling!”

It's tough work!
From here the boys asked if they could take the bike actually inside the base. “Why not” I said and so we set about getting her up the wooden stairs at the back and through the narrow doors! We made it of course and once inside we had some more pictures and a quick shot of their home-brew in celebration. We took a team photograph later at the front of the building. They wanted to frame it and put it up with the historical photos in the base. These photos went all the way back to the 1960’s when the base was first set up and run as a British base. It was handed over to the Ukrainians in the mid 1990s. There was a photo for every year. I was very proud to think that I would soon be joining their historical line!

In the base with my little Welsh sheep and their local big sheep!!
Some of us took to some toboggan racing after lunch as well as hill rolling. We paired up and rolled
down locked together with one of us holding a go pro above our heads to capture some pretty funny footage!

That night we had a wonderful spread and enjoyed some great hospitality in their cosy bar area. The home brewed spirit of Almond snaps, sugar,  5000 year old glacier water and some other stuff helped to keep the conversation going and after the first lot of our crew left at around 12.30pm on the first zodiac, the party games began! They are hard to explain but I ended up landing on my head at one stage with a chair on top of me! Needless to say I failed that particular challenge as did everyone else who tried! We left at around 3am. Life jackets on, in to the zodiac, navigate a few ice bergs and we were home and thankfully still dry!

Drinking games before it went wrong!
The next morning we sailed off again and were saluted from the balcony as we passed by the Vernadsky base. I saluted back and shouted up “Smoke me a kipper. I’ll be back for breakfast”! Never did there seem to be a more appropriate time to coin that phrase!

So long and thanks for all the fish!

More pictures from the day
I left feeling a little sad that we had
to leave. Just as I did the Chileans. I had an urge to stay and do some time with them. It probably could have been arranged too but I left on the boat as planned. Not brave enough to make the decision.

That was to be our last party on Antarctica. The Lamaire Channel had other plans for us!
Humpback Whale


  1. haha brilliant! Well done steph, perhaps the funniest blog post yet with the hunt for Gentoo penguins and drinking games with Ukrainian scientists at the ends of the earth! Slay on mate.

  2. babe I'm loving it! just wish it was me, so please could you tell me how to bye you your next tank of petrol please.x Oraya.

    1. Thanks so much Oraya. The easiest way would be through this site http://www.gofundme.com/Onestephbeyond
      I really appreciate your support. Thank you xxx

  3. Knew you could do it, Steph! Now that you've done Antarctica, you can now finish the journey at a less intense pace.

  4. Rhonda will be the most famous motorbike ever!

  5. Fantastic ... one of your best write-ups too!

  6. Well done Steph, fantastic achievement x


  7. What a brilliant piece of your adventure jigsaw, and so different. Some great photographs too, but the last one sums up your mood perfectly. Roll on, my lady! Respect, peace and love.

  8. amazing scenery, amazing photos, your an amazing person. glad you made your dream. xx