Antarctica 2014: Day 1: Yankee Harbor, Vacuum Party, and Zodiac operations

Antarctica 2014: Day 1: Yankee Harbor, Vacuum Party, and Zodiac operations

This is a post getting into Yankee Harbor, Vacuum Party and Zodiac operations to get onto Antarctica

Next day, we got past drake passage early as the captain was running both engines to outrun a storm. It was about 20-30 knot winds when we sailed across the Drake Passage and it was a bit rocky. The day after, it was 70 knot winds. Luckily we were out of the passage and into Antarctic calm waters.

Earlier in the day, we had a meeting about Zodiac operations and also the vacuum party in the lounge.

The Vacuum Party was an event to have us clean some of our outerwear for lint and dirt in case there are any hidden seeds in there. It takes place in the Mud Room where we take off our boots to go inside the ship. This is to keep the inside of the ship clean and dry. They want to make sure you don’t contaminate the continent with any rogue seeds. There were already a species of plant that never existed there before but was brought there by tourists about a decade ago so we all had to be very careful. You can see a seed visible in the fourth picture.

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I had to vacuum the pockets of my running pants, my hydration pack and also clean and brush the outside of both of my running shoes. I didn’t have any boots so I didn’t have to wash those, but they would recommend you lightly scrub any footwear you plan on wearing on any excursions.

We ducked into Yankee harbor and had our first landing after lunch. Normally the first landing would not happen until the following morning but we got there about 12 hours early.


This was the passenger’s first time with the Zodiac so it took us a while to get the waterproof jackets/pants, and life jackets on in the Mud Room. Once we were loaded onto the Zodiac’s, we were given Zodiac Man Overboard instructions in case any of the passengers falls overboard off of the Zodiac’s. This never happened on our trip but this was just as a precaution.

The waves were a bit choppy so water kept splashing into the boat. Most of us was totally wet when we went to shore so we really needed the wetskins the first day. Any waterproof jacket, especially a long ski jacket/pants would totally work as well. I didn’t have thick waterproof pants so I rented the entire outfit. I would also caution those who wish to use their own jacket as its salt water that will be splashing onto you so it may damage your jackets if not properly dried every night. I would still recommend renting the tops/bottoms for $30 total just so that you don’t necessarily have to bring those jackets all the way down to BA and potentially ruining your jackets/pants.

Once you are on land, you should take off your inflatable life vests near the boat and then you can continue onto your excursion. We saw a few penguins (Gentoo and one chinstrap) and fur seals on the beach. The beach was very rocky. The weather was about freezing but with 30-40mph winds so it felt a lot colder. It was also drizzling on and off so it fogged up everyone’s camera as almost no one had a non-retractable sealed lens.

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You can see the rest of the penguin and seal pictures at my Facebook Fan Page:

Luckily the air inside the ship is very dry so all of our camera lens dried out.

The Zodiac ride back was a bit less wet and we dried off and undressed in the Mud Room. We were allowed to keep the boots in this room but we had to hang our jackets on the railing outside of our rooms. It was pretty normal to see two sets of jackets outside of each room. It worked as there was always one set of rooms on each side of the hallway as all of the rooms face the outside.

Eventually I learned to take off the wetskin pants along with my boots so I can stay dry as I take off my boots and pants. It also makes getting into it so much easier. Unfortunately, it won’t really let your pants dry properly but except that first day when we were absolutely drenched on the Zodiac rides.

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