Wow. What an experience. I’m still pinching myself after a truly once-in-a-lifetime expedition to Antarctica. I knew it was going to be an amazing trip, but not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how good it would actually be.
After boarding the MV Ortelius in Ushuaia, it took us three nights and two days of sailing through the precarious and at times treacherous waters of the Beagle Channel and Drake Passage before sighting land of the Great White Continent. This time was filled with briefings and lectures about our destination, whilst we all got to know one another and fight the urge to taste our meals for the second time. We all rejoiced in unison as we entered the sheltered waters of the peninsula and were blown away by what we saw.
The scenery was stunning. The landscape of Antarctica, the largest desert on the planet, is mountainous with glaciers and icebergs littering the various channels and bays of the Antarctic Peninsula. Watching glaciers calve into the icy water below was a common occurrence and I found myself constantly ‘wowing’ at what was before my eyes. I couldn’t believe it.
With only roughly 30,000 visitors per year, the animals inhabiting Antarctica are yet to develop a Pavlovian-response to humans. We were able to watch many different species of whales, penguins and birds in their natural habitat and they were very inquisitive. As I sat on the shore of Cuverville Island, one penguin tasted my boots, pants and camera lens with his pecking beak!
Our six days in Antarctica were filled with activities on the continent itself or in the surrounding waters. I mountaineered around the sweeping ranges and ridges of Paradise Bay, cruised in zodiacs and landed at Dorian Bay, Port Lockroy and Jungla Point, where I hung out with the penguins and seals, camped overnight at Paradise Bay, waking up just metres from the penguins and kayaked through the iceberg-filled waters surrounding Petermann Island. The coldest activity by far was my polar plunge, when I decided to go for a swim in the -1.8 degree water at Cuverville Island!
The Five Senses of Antarctica
Antarctica smells like penguin guano. It’s a horrible smell, but I guess penguins need to empty their bowels at some point. Some of the landing sites had red or green snow, depending on what the penguins had been feeding on!
Antarctica feels like a different planet. The pristine condition of Antarctica, the wildlife and landscape are just unreal. I still can’t believe that a place like that exists on the same planet that I live on.
Antarctica tastes like three-course meals. The food onboard was fantastic. We were treated to three-course meals or buffets three times per day and I can’t recall a time I was ever hungry, which is very unlike me!
Antarctica sounds like calving glaciers. Witnessing glaciers calve away and crash into the waters below creates an enormous roar that can be heard from kilometres away.
Antarctica looks like white. Whether it was the snow, the icebergs or the glaciers, everywhere you look in Antarctica you can see white!
Antarctica was simply amazing. My trip there has changed the way I think about conservation and global warming and definitely left me wanting to explore the unexplored. I’ve been back on Terra Firma for a few days and I’m still shaking my head in disbelief at what I was fortunate enough to experience.