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This post is continued from:
- Antarctica Trip Notes Part 1: Buenos Aires+Planning And Positioning For The Adventure Of A Lifetime.
- Antarctica Trip Notes Part 2: Flying To End Of The World And Having The Southernmost Chanukah Party In Ushuaia
- Guest Post: Halachic Zmanim In Polar Regions On The Kosher Antarctica Cruise
Monday, December 10:
With a fuel shortage in Ushuaia, ships bound for Antarctica had to choose from several non-ideal options. They could overnight in Ushuaia and hope that fuel supplies would arrive the next day. They could attempt to source enough fuel in Puerto Williams, Chile. They could make a run for Antarctica without as much reserve fuel as normal. Or they could divert to the Falkland Islands to refuel.
While our captain was making arrangements for fuel, the ship’s crew each seemed to have another answer as to what the plan would be, so we just had to wait until we learned what was going to happen. The rumor mills were in full swing as everyone wondered what we were going to do.
Ultimately I found out our ship’s plan thanks to my Marine Traffic subscription. I seemed to be the first on the ship to get the confirmed answer after the captain. It’s a great service to signup for when you’re on a cruise.
I never thought that I’d make it to the Falklands. Currently, the only commercial airline service to the Falklands occurs on every other Saturday from Punta Arenas, Chile. That makes it an extremely difficult place for anyone to visit, let alone a religious Jew.
After I got the email, I sent it out to everyone that was part of our group and we knew where we were going before most of the ship’s crew! It wasn’t until after departure that the ship paged everyone to the lounge to explain the detour and our new route:
I mentioned that we met in the ship’s lounge to discuss the diversion, but for the 99.9% of you that weren’t on the ship, I suppose I ought to digress for a minute to describe the ship’s layout, which will give some context to the trip report.
Our ship had 8 decks:
- Deck 1 has the engine room, which is off-limits to passengers.
- Deck 2 has the presentation room that we used as our shul. The ship set it up with a mechitza that was perfect for our needs. It also houses the ship’s infirmary.
- Deck 3 houses the triple cabins, as well as the mud rooms and zodiac boat exits from where we would change into boots and leave on Antarctic expeditions.
- Deck 4 has the twin cabins, the ship’s boutique, and the main dining room.
- Deck 5 has the superior and superior plus cabins, as well as the lounge, bar, and an aft observation deck.
- Deck 6 has the suites, the Bistro with its indoor and heated outdoor seating, the ship’s bridge, and an aft observation deck.
- Deck 7 has the pool, hot tub, exercise room, and the library with expansive views forward.
- Deck 8 is the main forward observation deck.
Most decks have indoor and outdoor portions. During calm seas the outdoors were great, but it can get very windy and you’ll be glad for wearing lots of layers.
The ship smartly marketed the Falkland Islands as a bonus and many people did applaud. Some people were thrilled about going to the Falklands. Of course adding a stop in the Falklands would mean that we would have less time in Antarctica. Departing on Monday, we should have arrived to Antarctica on Wednesday evening. Instead we would arrive at the Falkland Islands on Wednesday morning and to Antarctica on Friday morning.
Such is life on the high seas. On the positive side, if you need to divert, it may as well be to an exotic locale that you would otherwise never get to! It also meant that we would get another passport stamp and as you may recall from my Island Hopper trip notes, I am a total sucker for passport stamps 😀 .
Before departure we had our muster drills in the ship’s Bistro to learn about evacuation procedures:
Standing 3rd from left is Andrew Prossin, the managing director of OneOcean Expeditions. Sitting down are some members of #KosherAntarctica as well as Stephen Harper, the former Prime Minister of Canada.
Sailing away from Ushuaia:
Getting food onto the ship was a Herculean task. Due to Customs restrictions we had to load the food on the ship in Canada, which required finding a Canadian caterer. In order not to have the kashrus challenges that plague most cruises, we opted to have all of the meals shipped double wrapped and sealed from Montreal to Sydney, Nova Scotia, for it to be loaded onto the RCGS Resolute when it made its way from Europe to the Antarctic in October.
My sister-in-law, Rochel Eleff, is a Montreal native and recommended that we look into Montreal based L’Orchidée Traiteur, which is owned by Shua Lurie and Armand Kadoch. Shua was our point person and was a pleasure to work with over the past 6 months. L’Orchidée Traiteur really helped make the trip a success!
Altogether, we sent about 2 tons of food from Montreal, including a massive selection of kosher wine and liquor. OneOcean supplied us with brand new cutlery and dishes as well as dedicated wait staff to assist with all of our needs.
We also had Moishe Paskesz onboard as mashgiach to make sure that everything went according to the plan laid out by Shua Lurie. He had a badge that allowed him to access every part of the boat that he needed:
Copious amounts of wine were on hand for meals:
For dinner on Monday we had succulent English Louisiana Ribs with mashed potatoes, fried onions, green beans, and red peppers. The food was incredible!
Dinner with a view of the Beagle Channel:
And of course what is a dinner without a delicious chocolate praline dessert?
Now this is a globe!
After dinner we had a meet and greet session with our group.
I started off by telling the story of Reb Yechiel who married Adel, one of the daughters of the Baal Shem Tov. You can read the full story here on Chabad.org, but the TL;DR version of it is that Reb Yechiel winds up spending Rosh Hashana on an island and because of his prayers on the island he was able to elevate the place spiritually and nullify a heavenly decree that 300 Jews were to be taken to the island against their will.
Everyone in our group then opened up about what brought them on this adventure. It got pretty emotional in there and it really was an amazing sight to see and hear from everyone in our diverse group.
Tuesday, December 11:
Every day, I researched where the ship would be and calculated zmanim based on the various possibilities for the range of where we might be and based on the different opinions on the correct times to pray.
The ship had their daily schedule:
And we typed up our own schedule, which we hung up in several places throughout the ship and sent out over WhatsApp:
We were supposed to be going through the Drake Passage on Tuesday, but instead we were cruising calm waters to the Falkland Islands.
The 51 passengers on our Kosher Antarctica journey had their first breakfast onboard on Tuesday.
There were rolls:
There was also an Omelette station where you were able to order any type of eggs and toppings that you desired:
After breakfast, Rabbi Aaron Kotler, President & CEO of Lakewood’s Beth Medrash Govoha, gave a shiur on Antarctic Zmanim. We had a lively halachic discussion when he proposed a heter for a shorter 10th of Teves fast that I didn’t believe was going to be applicable in our estimated location.
That was followed by a presentation on Falkland birds by the ship’s crew, and an introduction to ocean kayaking.
The ship strongly discouraged novices from signing up for ocean kayaking, but they still sold out of their 30 available spots quickly. Kayaking was the only activity not included in the cost of the cruise, it was a $795 upsell.
I’ve gone ocean kayaking just twice in my life, in Oahu and in Palau, but I knew I had to do it in Antarctica as well. There were people on a waiting list and they tried to scare us novices off, but nobody gave up their precious spots. But they did succeed in making me nervous about the undertaking.
After that it was time for lunch.
I made myself a a small salad from our kosher salad bar:
And then had some delicious Fettuccine Alfredo and Baked Ziti:
After lunch, Moishie gave an excellent powerpoint presentation on photographing the wildlife that we would see in the Falkland Islands.
And then the kayakers went upstairs for our first safety demonstration on ocean kayaking with information on kayaking in a place with below freezing water, glaciers, icebergs, ice calving (the breaking of ice chunks from the edge of a glacier), whales, penguins, seals, and dolphins.
The ship offered a variety of talks, often held between tea time and happy hour. OneOcean staff spoke about the wildlife we would see and the natural history of the region, while scientists on board spoke about the research they were conducting on whales and penguins.
For dinner on Tuesday we had mouth-watering Montreal smoked meat. The heavenly aromas attracted passengers from the non-kosher part of the ship, who were sad to learn that our food was exclusively for the kosher group.
Two of the passengers on the ship that were not part of our group were Stephen Harper, the former Prime Minister of Canada, and his wife, who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Our Montreal-based caterers were extremely excited to see them, and took over a plate of their smoked meat. He loved getting special food deliveries from his fellow countrymen, and they spent a few minutes jabbering happily en français.
Stephen is a well-known friend of Israel, and was beyond friendly. He was happy to take selfies with everyone, and spent a good amount of time schmoozing with our group throughout the voyage. Though he did comment that at 6’8″, Moishie was the tallest Jew he had ever seen, and the first that made him, standing at 6’2″, feel short.
We davened Mincha and Maariv in the shul and called it a night.
Wednesday, December 12:
Our ship landed in the Falklands in the wee hours of the morning. After an early Shacharis we had a quick breakfast, including delicious crepes:
As there is a dock in Stanley, we were able to deboard with a staircase. In Antarctica we would have to deboard to a small zodiac boat as there are no docks there.
Temperatures in the Falklands were in the 40s and it was sunny.
There were shuttle buses that took us to Gypsy Cove. The first bus filled up well before its departure time, but I caught the second bus:
The Gypsy Cove area was very pretty:
Moishe Paskesz flew my Mavic Pro and got some nice shots as well:
Alas, a crewmember asked him to stop flying as it was against the law in the Falklands. As it turns out, it is actually perfectly fine.
Speak softly and carry a big lens:
View of Stanley from Gypsy Cove:
Most of the group went on to Stanley, but Moishie and I decided to stay in Gypsy Cove for a little longer while we waited for the 3rd shuttle bus into town.
We were rewarded with a very cute mother penguin with 2 chicks:
The shuttle made a stop at Whalebone Cove, home to several shipwrecks:
After that, the bus dropped us off in “downtown” Stanley. There are stores, a post office, and a museum on the main street.
To say the Falklands are full of patriotic Brits would be an understatement:
I sent a postcard home from the Falklands:
And of course I picked up some beautiful homemade jewelry from the excellent Studio 52 for my better half, who was back home with the kids.
From left, OneOcean managing director Andrew Prossin, former Canadian PM Stephen Harper, Moishie Hersko, and Dick Filby, who served as the ship’s Ornithologist (bird expert).
Stephen was busy asking Moishie how to say certain phrases in Yiddish:
The store has a variety of food products from all over the world. I bought some sunscreen that I forgot to pack and I found kosher soda from Brazil and chips from South Africa and the UK:
The ship finally finished refueling and it was time to head back onboard.
It was time to face the Drake Passage, home to some of the wildest winds on this planet. The pictures from our ship on the trip just before ours were downright terrifying:
View from the bridge of the RCGS Resolute as waves crash over the bow. We encountered 11 meter (over 30 ft) waves and winds that were just below hurricane force. The ship managed just fine. It was a wild ride! Photo by Dave Stark@OneOceanExp @RCGS_SGRC @CanGeo_Travel pic.twitter.com/KY6OEIdJwB
— George Kourounis (@georgekourounis) December 4, 2018
But crossing the Drake is part of the price of admission to the Antarctic explorers club and we were all ready to resume our expedition to Antarctica!