What do you think of when you think of Antarctica?
In February 2018 we set off on a holiday of a lifetime – a 14-day cruise around Antarctica. We expected to see lots of penguins, and lots of snow, ice and icebergs. What we weren’t prepared for was how indescribably beautiful Antarctica is. I hope this blog gives at least a flavour of this.
We set off on our adventure from Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina, heading straight for the notorious Drake’s Passage where the Pacific, Atlantic and Antarctic oceans meet. After two days of rough seas (and sea sickness tablets!), we entered calm Antarctic seas and our first sighting of land, cruising along the coast of Elephant Island.
The following day we had our first landing on the Antarctic land at Brown Bluff, with its colony of gentoo penguins, including this beautiful chick. It was amazing being able to walk among the penguins, they had no fear of a group of humans. Our guides told us not to approach the penguins but if they approached us that was fine. The adult penguins usually kept their distance, but the chicks were very curious and came very close to us, delighting in pecking at our walking poles and anything else we brought with us.
Cruising further south, we landed at Neko Bay spending time with more gentoo penguins, and from there we sailed through the beautifully stunning Neumayer Channel where we saw lots of south polar skuas. Our next landing was at Port Lockroy, an old British research station which is now a museum and had it’s own Post Office so we could send postcards home, though unsurprisingly we arrived home before the postcards did! Still, not everyone has a postcard with a Port Lockroy frank on it!
The following day we crossed the Antarctic Circle and continued to our southernmost landing, Red Rock Ridge. This has to be the most beautiful place in the world. Nothing there, not even a penguin. A few of us walked to the top of the ridge, sat down and just looked at the view. None of us said a word, we just soaked up the views, peace and tranquillity.
Then it was on to Bongrain Point, home to a colony of Adelie penguins, and some crabeater seals.
From Bongrain Point we sailed through Gullet Channel where we were lucky enough to see lots of humpback whales and then landed at the Vernadsky Research Station, which is an active station owned by Ukraine. This was previously a British research station, sold to Ukraine by Britain for £1 when they split from Russia and had no research stations of their own. There is a brightly coloured signpost showing the distance from Vernadsky to other parts of the world.
From here we cruised to Petermann Island, our final landing, again surrounded by beautiful scenery and lots of gentoo penguins.
Then it was a two-day cruise back to Ushuaia, though Drakes Passage again. Fortunately, most of us had got our sea legs by then and spent a happy two days reflecting on our wonderful experience, before arriving back at Ushuaia to a beautiful sunrise.
And that was where our adventure ended. There are not enough superlatives to describe our experience. Antarctica is such a beautiful, unspoilt place, and will hopefully stay that way as it is protected by the Antarctic Treaty which ensures that the environment is fully protected, and where scientific research has priority.
Before I finish, I must give a mention to the company we sailed with, Hurtigruten, who worked so hard to ensure we had an experience second to none (and no I’m not on a commission!).
As this website has grown, along with its community, we realised that not everyone who travels has the time or ability to write an article. So to make the site more universal, we have created this space to allow people from all over the world to share their experience through media, no matter their language or background.