After four days of letting it sit, I think I finally have the words. But before I begin, here is a shot of (very excited me) at my first “penguin” encounter!
At 4:00pm on Saturday, January 28, 2012 the hubs and I arrived at the docks in Ushuaia, Argentina to being our journey to Antarctica. Our final continent. The coldest, windiest and driest place on earth.
We were met by the expedition staff of the M/V Ushuaia, checked in, led (way, way down to the D Deck) to our room, and then welcomed on board with a champagne toast and snacks.
We met our fellow travellers at this reception and were quite surprised by the demographic. Given the cost of a trip to Antarctica, we expected the demographic to be older. Apart from the two kids on board (6 and 11), the passengers ranged from their mid-twenties through their late-sixties with the bulk of the passengers being in the 25-35 range or boomers. It turns out that, like us, several people in our demographic booked their spots on the ship about 2-3 weeks before departure, securing up to about 35% off the cost of the trip. (Info on how to get an Antarctic deal forthcoming!)
Shortly after 6:00pm the boat pulled away from the dock and we began our voyage through the Beagle Channel.
The weather was typical mountain weather, it would change from sunny to rainy on the drop of a pin, but nothing could dampen our spirits. We were headed toward the horizon. And beyond that … Antarctica!
We had been warned again and again about the infamous two-day Drake Passage between Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands. We were prepared with loads of dramamine, audio books, movies, and books. We were warned again about the passage at an info session that first night. And we were warned yet again about the passage when the staff lined the halls and the common spaces with little white bags.
However – as we awoke on Day 2, we were struck by an unexpeceted sensation. Nothing. It was almost calm. The captain and the staff seemed blown away by how flat the passage was. So we spent the first day of the crossing reading, getting to know our fellow passengers and the expedition staff, taking advantage of the open bridge policy on the boat, attending lectures, watching the albatrosses, and eating. Breakfast at eight, three course lunch at 12:30, afternoon tea at 4:00, and a three course dinner at 7:30. We did not go hungry on this boat.
As the day went on, and we clipped along we grew ever more and more hopeful that we might be able to do a landing the next day! I had heard that in the case of extremely good Drake Passages, sometimes there is a landing on Day 3.
Unfortunately, we awoke on Day 3 to the following daily itinerary:
08:00 Breakfast // 10:00 Penguin Lecture // 12:30 Lunch // 15:00 IAATO and Zodiac briefing // 16:30 Snack // 17:30 Antarctic Pinnipeds lecture // 19:30 Dinner
No landing. Dang.
Or at least so we thought. At 9:00 an announcement from the bridge changed everything. Land ahoy. Penguin lecture moved up to 9:30, IAATO briefing at 11:00, first landing at 15:00 on Robert Point, on the SE tip of Robert Island in the South Shetlands. The morning was a whirlwind of learning, life jacket and boot getting (and, of course, eating) and after lunch the hubs and I stepped out on the (much windier) deck for our first close up views of the Antarctic.
And at three, after a quick zodiac ride from the boat, it was time to take our first steps in the Antarctic. We were greeted by fur seals, elephant seals and chinstrap penguins.
And here again, I run out of words. So I hope pictures can do the three-hour landing that first afternoon justice.
(Those last three snaps were taken with fellow passenger’s Chris and Mike’s friends 100-400 L zoom lens. Playing with their lens made my amazingly amazing day even better!)
Back on the boat we warmed up with tea, enjoyed dinner and then set off across the Bransfield Strait, aka, the mini-Drake. But, just like the Drake, the Bransfield didn’t throw up anything we couldn’t handle. And before we knew it, we were spotting our first random icebergs on our way to the Antarctic continent!
You can see even more pictures from Day 1 to 3 here! And check back Monday for Days 4 and 5: our first continental landing (!baby penguin encounter!), a gigantic Adelie penguin colony, a zodiac tour through an amazing harbour, a surprise whale encounter, and even more baby gentoos!
And, if a trip to the Antarctic is not in your immediate future, and instead you are headed to Europe might I suggest car hire in Italy as an option? We’ve hired cars around the world, mostly notably in South Africa for three weeks, and we love it!
10 Replies to “Antarctica (Days 1 to 3)”
What amazing luck! Love all the wildlife pictures.
Our eventual plan is to book something last-minute, but I’m looking forward to hearing your specific advice on how to get the best deal possible since even with a discount, it’s hardly a budget trip.
I absolutely agree. For the last year or so, I figured we would need about $12K including flights from BA-Ushuaia, so was thrilled when we slid in under $10K. That being said, it’s still an incredible amount of money for less than 2 weeks. It’s funny what expectations make you think about your budget. It’s also pretty funny to stay in a super cheap hostel the night before you go on your $10,000 holiday :)
The travel agent we ended up booking through (Daniela at http://www.ushuaiaturismoevt.com.ar) is, I’m quite sure, the best travel agent out there! We booked last minute (two weeks notice, two last spots) from BA. I’m going to share all the nitty gritty the week after next (It’s going to take me the rest of this upcoming week to finish my daily-ish recaps to avoid having about 100 images in any given post!)
I also wonder if the prices would go down even more for the cheaper sailings in mid-late February or in October/early-November? I need to do some more research on that one!
Absolutely amazing! I hope you and Jonathan are doing well! He’s missed!
Thanks Mike. Those first few steps off the boat onto the South Shetland Islands were pretty surreal! J is good. I think he’s enjoying having some time to decompress!
Most serious travelers have antarctica on their list so they can visit all 7 continents.
can’t want to read more.
Thanks Shey! It’s funny that you say that – the vast vast majority of people on the boat were “contient checker offers”, so I totally agree with you!
I’m absolutely at a loss for words. Your photographs and storytelling are so captivating! I can’t wait to get home from work to pour over the rest of the photographs from your trip!
Thank you so much. I really did pour a lot into these posts. This one, and the others coming over the course of the week have taken days to write! It was just so amazing, I had to try to do it justice!
These pictures are fantastic! Wow! I am so excited by your grand adventure! You’ve made me ponder what could be possible…that I may have written off as impossible :) Thank you! ps. LOVE the Penguins!
Courtney, you have just made my night :) Please don’t write anything off as impossible, just make it a “one day” goal instead! xoxo.
PS I love them too.