Dec. 18 Mrs. Chippy – Antarctic Circle and first icebergs

After almost five days of sailing and seeing nothing except for waves and swells – I was beginning to wonder if perhaps we had some problem with the navigation system.Our latitude and longitude numbers sure seemed to show that we were headed in the right direction – but where is all this ice and snow that should be at the poles.If you didn't know it was below freezing outside it might as well have been at the equator.Here is our latest update off the ships computer:

Latitude: 67 degrees 9 minutes

Longitude: 98 degrees 42 minutes

Air temp: -.7 degrees celcius

Water temp: -.3 degrees celcius

Wind: 11 meters per second

Sunrise:3:00 AM

Sunset:1:45 AM

So it was another lazy day – looking out the window to see what animals we might see and also to keep some sense of stability as the ship continues to do some 20 degree rolling in the swell.It does seem to help if you can see the horizon – just like looking out the front window of the car helps to prevent motion sickness.But suddenly at 3 PM –there was an all-hands call to the dining room, everyone needed to be there immediately per orders of the Captain.We were met at the door by a tall norseman, with a full beard and a penguin on his shoulder.

He demanded to speak with the Captain – announcing that the God of the Sea – Neptune himself, was very angry for it appeared that we were entering his Antarctic kingdom without paying him proper homage. Only those that could prove themselves worthy by passing his test would be allowed to continue on our southward voyage. The Captain disappeared with Neptune's aide – and we soon heard screaming from the depths of the ship. When the aide returned, he was alone and announced that the Captain had failed to secure our passage and each would have to answer for himself. I was especially fearful – for I suspected that Neptune would never allow an Arctic creature such as myself to enter his Antarctic kingdom. I was certain that I would soon be cast into the sea which seemed angry itself – sending crashing waves high above the bow of the ship.

The aide came for me next – leading me into a back room where my instructions were clearly posted.

I growled as I have not growled in years, and with a nod of approval the aide blindfolded me, lead me into the sauna warming room, and told me to kneel at the flippered feet of Neptune.When my blindfold was removed I was awed by the site of Neptune himself – with two beautiful mermaid maidens on either side.

In a soft but powerful voice – Neptune asked how a creature of the Arctic had come to be so far from home.As I explained my sad tale of being orphaned - when my promised owner had failed to come to Teddy Bear Tea to adopt me, both maidens began to weep and asked for mercy on my behalf.Neptune seemed moved by my sad tale as well, then declaring that he would grant me passage to explore the kingdom with the Oden- but that when they departed I would have to leave also - for a polar bear, even a tiny friendly one such as myself, does not belong in the land of penguins.They wished me well, and hoped that perhaps someday our paths would cross in the Arctic kingdom once I found my way home.

I later learned that the humans had a much more difficult time securing their passage.Each was asked to name his beautiful maidens – a trick question since their name is known only to Neptune himself.When they failed – each then had to pass of a test of Antarctic toughness – submerging their heads into the bucket of ice water at his feet and then kissing the maiden's fins and Neptune's flippers.Neptune and his court joined us for dinner and the Captain awarded each member of the expedition – including me – with a certificate granting fair passage into the Antarctic kingdom.

As soon as Neptune had departed back to his undersea kingdom – the bridgewatch declared that our first iceberg had been spotted on radar.We all rushed to the deck and watched as a tiny speck on the horizon slowly grew to become an iceberg the very size of our ship.In this photo you can see it in the distance right above my head.

We never came closer than 4 miles according to the radar, but even so it was clear that the visible portion was at least as large as our entire ship.

Then came our first "growler" – smaller icebergs that roll in the swell that often have very distinctive patterns as they melt into the sea.

As wedraw nearer to the icepack and Antarctica, we expect that the numbers of icebergs will continually increase until they in fact unite to form the pack ice that surrounds the continent much of the year.With the sun still high overhead at 9 PM – this is the second major iceberg that passed by about 7 miles away.

With at least 7 more days until we reach McMurdo – I look forward to being to share some even better shots – especially now that we have the support of Neptune.