Today was the bittersweet final day (Feb 24, 2022) on the MS Fram and our spectacular Antarctic expedition with Hurtigruten. We were definitely ready for our trip to be over, but not necessarily our vacation. If all our flights go according to plan we’ll have almost two days to recover, but we could have probably used at least one more.
We woke up early, went to breakfast, got an early Covid test for our trip back, and had the opportunity to tour the bridge of the ship and meet the captain. We had seen him a few times on the excursions as well, but only in passing. It was neat to see the MS Fram control center, and it was actually smaller than I expected. They had a 5 person command crew, but usually had 4, there was 1 extra due to a trainee. We learned that the autopilot handled a lot of the open water journey, even in the Drake, but that they took full manual control around ice bergs and in the narrow channels.
I asked them why we had gone out to open sea at night in South Georgia, but we didn’t get a satisfactory answer, it seemed essentially because they wanted to and the crew got better sleep when they did. How nice for them… eye roll.
Then we packed, had lunch, and sat around a bit both on deck 4 and in the Explorer Lounge where we got some cookies at 3PM that were the best we had on the trip. They were holding out on us! If they can make those, why were we getting those awful desserts constantly! We weren’t actually that perturbed, but it does boggle the mind a bit.
The expedition crew then started up a quick retrospective in the Explorer Lounge, with slides included, but with the sun streaming in from all the windows in the lounge it was nigh impossible to see the slides very well. It was a great session though, with each of the expedition folks touching on there area of expertise. Including details such as the fact we had seen 66 bird species, 10 whale/dolphin species, and over 100 individual whales/dolphins on our voyage.
Rachel then went through the Q&A that had been submitted. Here we got the best possible answer to the ship heading out to sea during the nights in South Georgia, she said a mixture of keeping the birds safe and easier to stabilize the ship with movement. Not sure if it was truly the correct answer, but it was the best PC/public relations answer. We also learned that the ship got its water from desalination plants on board, which was fascinating.
Each member of the expedition crew summarized the trip within their field of expertise, and Rob the ornithologist did an especially great job of putting a bow on the whole experience. Only then did it start to hit home for us that this was indeed the end, and we got a bit teary eyed.
About an hour later we headed down to the science center where we viewed the quote of the day and the progress of the MS Fram.
where we were greeted with champagne, and thanked by the captain, Yuri and Kevin, and Reike with her traditional PA announcement preamble “Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentleman” in her slow calming voice
Yuri and Kevin then put on a 20 minute video collection of their pictures and video that walked through the whole trip.
We were definitely emotional and teary eyed by the end of it. We shared some more goodbyes with folks after, never knowing exactly how parting the next day would go and if we would get additional chances.
Food recap for the day:
- Breakfast – same as it ever was
- Lunch – Quite good! Fried rice to start. That’s correct, to start. Then fish and chips. Finished off with a fruit plate, where I joked and then somehow gloriously got a plate full of just kiwi fruit.
- Dinner – Beef tenderloin.
The next morning, Feb 26, 2022, we docked early and were forced off the ship so they could turn it around for the next sailing. To kill time before our afternoon flight, we did a Punta Arenas tour through Hurtigruten that was lackluster – not to say the tour guide was bad, there just isn’t much to see or do in Punta Arenas. Here are the highlights of the pictures we took:
The charter flight from Punta Arenas back to Santiago went off without a hitch and we landed in the early evening, leaving us 3-4 hours before out red eye from Santiago to Houston to Denver. Coming back from a vacation is always the worst part, but at least flying business class softened the blow. The United Polaris seat configuration was the same on our inbound to Houston as it was for our outbound (excellent), and meal service was nothing to write home about.
Only once home, many months later as we put this blog together, did the enormity of the Antarctic expedition really sink in. It was a trip of a lifetime, and one that we were so lucky to have gotten to do, given the COVID and travel hurdles in place at the time. We’d recommend visiting Antarctica and South Georgia to anyone and everyone who wants to see a landscape like no other, frozen in time, untouched by man, the way nature intended.