We’re back on dry land in El Calafate and we’re taking a few days to catch up on our email and our blog, and most importantly, our laundry. In the next three blog entries, I’ll share the highlights of our Antarctica experience with as many photos as I can manage to load. Don’t worry, we’ll cull through the 2,000+ photos Chris took so that you only see the best of the best.
If any of you, besides my mom, have been anxiously awaiting our return, desperate to know how we are doing and how our trip went, I can sum it up in one word: Fantastic. For the rest of you, here’s a quick wrap-up of the past 18 days.
We travelled to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and Antarctica where we marvelled at astounding landscapes, witnessed a plethora of wildlife, and walked in the footsteps of courageous explorers of the past. After spending hours upon hours watching hundreds of thousands of seven different species of penguins (Magellanic, Gentoo, Macaroni, King, Adelie, Chin Strap, Rock Hopper), I think I’ve finally reached my saturation point. Just for the record, there was one sighting of a young Emperor penguin (March of the Penguins) looking rather forlorn in the middle of a Gentoo colony but I did not personally see it.
Weather will make or break your Antarctica experience. When the winds are fierce and the seas are high, not only will you be unable to step foot on land, but you will be feeling so poorly you will wish you were dead. Luckily, we enjoyed perfect weather for the entire duration of our 18 day cruise: the seas were calm, the wind was light, precipitation was minimal, and sunshine was plentiful. Such idyllic conditions allowed us to participate in a total of 18 land / zodiac excursions and for a lucky few, nine kayaking excursions. Our expedition leader reported this was an all-time record during his 17 years of expedition experience!
Our ship was luxurious by any standards, but especially for an Antarctica cruise. The food was good, plentiful and familiar, and the service impeccable. There were about 100 passengers on board supported by a crew of about 75. The expedition team comprised of twelve guides from a variety of backgrounds, each offering a unique area of specialty. During the four sea days, our guides offered interesting and informative lectures covering a range of relevant subject areas all designed to educate us about the ornithology, marine biology, geology, history and zoology of the places we would visit.
The majority of passengers were from the UK, United States and Australia in almost equal measure, followed by Canadians (11), New Zealanders (4), and the remaining dozen came from various other countries. After four months struggling with Spanish, it was such a delight to converse with our ship mates in English. It became quickly apparent that this was a well-travelled crowd and we took complete advantage of the situation to hear about the exotic and wonderful places discovered and recommended by others. It was impossible to absorb all the information and I’m hoping that I can further exploit our new friendships via email in the months to come to collect travel tips and recommendations from around the world. The majority of passengers were older than us but don’t be fooled into thinking this was a sedentary crowd. I was impressed by the high level of participation in all activities, even the most strenuous hikes that I found challenging. It was a little disappointing, however, that only 29 courageous (some might say foolish) souls jumped into the frigid Antarctic waters for a polar plunge (ourselves included).
Well, I think that gives you the gist of our trip. It was nothing short of spectacular in every possible way. Stay tuned for the details over the next few days. In the meantime, click here if you’d like to read the fascinating history of the discovery of Antarctica.
The Polar Plunge in Antarctica. Water temp: -0.5C