The Antarctica Experience
Many visitors to Antarctica say the experience changes you. It’s true, but it’s hard to describe exactly how and why it has such an impact. Of course, it’s beyond beautiful – that goes without saying. The otherworldly panorama of snow and stone backed by the huge slopes of the continent’s ice domes are a sight to behold. But visiting the world’s last great wilderness has an existential effect as well.
It feels a bit like you are an ant standing next to an elephant. It’s humbling. The sheer power and scale of Mother Nature overwhelms you. And yet on some level, you feel connected to it. The continent awakens a long dormant survival instinct born in a world of glaciated extremes. An adventure here reverberates with the collective memories of a world man has not experienced in 10,000 years… of a glacier-covered Europe… of man crossing the Bering Strait. You feel it in your bones: stepping onto the continent is like waking up to your own ancient past.
At the same time, it feels intriguingly alien. This is the only continent with no native population. Imagine that, no people! In fact, no true land animal lives in Antarctica. There are no trees, no shrubs, and only two known tiny flowering plants. No, this is the domain of colorful lichens and snow algae. At moments, the landscapes here are so alien that you feel you are disembarking on a distant world. (I heard more than one joke about the ice planet Hoth.)
Thomas and I both agree 100 percent that our 11-day Antarctic Peninsula Adventure with One Ocean Expeditions is the most incredible adventure we have had to date. If you scan through our 1,200+ posts, you’ll realize that statement carries some weight. We really, really loved this trip!
To share that adventure, we have added the new Antarctica video above and linked into each of our Antarctica posts below. We hope that these posts (and others we intend to add in the future) will serve as an inspiration for travelers who are planning their own voyages to the ice continent.
Setting Sail across the Drake Passage
Setting sail for Antarctica was easily one of the most exciting moments of our lives. Boarding the Akademik Sergey Vavilov felt like we were boarding a ship to an alien world. There was a palpable sense of epicness, of venturing into the unknown, that is quite rare in the 21st century. I’m sure my fellow shipmates felt much the same. One by one, we walked up the ramp into the converted Russian research vessel to be greeted by our One Ocean Expeditions crew. From the first handshake, it was clear that the trip was going to be “awesome”.
Thomas and I slowly made our way up to the fifth deck taking in the details along the way. Signs and labels were all in Russian with English subtitles where necessary. Raised door portals and steep functional staircases distinguished the Vavilov from typical cruise ships. This baby was designed for real » Continue reading this post »
“Good morning everybody…”
We awoke on day three to expedition leader Cheryl’s silky voice announcing over the loud speaker that we were about to enter the famous Lemaire Channel, a spectacularly narrow passage lined with towering peaks, walls of ice, and jagged glaciers. I pulled back the blackout curtains to discover the waters dotted with icebergs; minke whales surfaced just off our window. We and our fellow passengers took to the decks staring in all directions, oohing and awing at the epic awesomeness of it all. Penguins leapt through the water alongside the ship, others sat on chunks of ice drifting through the channel. This was the Antarctic dream.
Our first excursion took us to the surreal iceberg graveyard off Pleneau Island. Our zodiac driver Derek, who leads walking (!!!) tours to view polar bears in Churchill, Canada when he’s not exploring the poles, slowly » Continue reading this post »
Camping in Antarctica
If there is one thing that’s guaranteed in Antarctica, it’s that there are no guarantees. We knew this when we booked our trip to the ice continent: all activities are very weather dependent. Mother Nature rules down here with a very raw sense of humor, and she sometimes likes to put humans in their place. Zodiac outings, landings, penguin viewing, hiking, every Antarctic activity listed in the brochures comes with an asterisk next to it clearly adding “subject to weather conditions.”
Everybody on board knew this, and we knew the most weather dependent activity of them all was camping in Antarctica. There were two designated days where the overnight camping excursion was possible. When we were told camping was not possible on the first night due to wind and rain, we all held our breath and prayed for Mother Nature to cut us some slack. Those prayers were answered the second night when it was announced that the camping excursion WAS ON! Cheers » Continue reading this post »
Kayaking in Antarctica
Gliding through the waters off Petermann Island, I cautiously dipped the paddle into the subzero Antarctic ocean to steer the kayak around a small flow of brash ice. Startled by my change of direction, four Adélie penguins leapt from the water and porpoised alongside me. Up ahead, the One Ocean Expeditions kayaking guide Michelle rounded the tip of the island backed by a couple of sculpted icebergs.
The second guide Mark paddled off to my right. A humpback suddenly surfaced in the distance behind him, a monstrous tail lifted into the air and then slipped below the surface. I reflexively glanced down into the water suddenly remembering that YouTube video of the whale that almost swallowed a scuba diver. Nothing below. We » Continue reading this post »
Penguins and Oceanites
Penguins are seriously entertaining animals. You can sit and watch them for hours. They steal from each other, give each other gifts, fight and flirt. They make “highways” that lead high into the cliffs. They even have protocols for how they move up and down their roads. It you mistakenly get in a penguin’s way, they look up at you as if to say, “Excuse me, you are not following the rules.”
They are curious creatures which show little fear of visiting humans. Much of the joy of visiting Antarctica is just sitting and watching penguins go about their day. It’s the ultimate animal soap opera. But beyond the avian comedy and drama, there is a lot to learn about these animals and scientists literally have to go to some of the most remote locations on earth to » Continue reading this post »
Our Crazy Antarctica Family
An unexpected highlight of our trip way way way down under was the cast of crazy, fascinating, wacky, spectacular, smart, hilarious characters that became our family aboard the Akademik Sergey Vavilov. It had never really occurred to us before, but Antarctica attracts an especially awesome crowd of people.
These are people who value experiences above all else, people who treasure exotic destinations, wildlife, extraordinary landscapes and adventure. These people – both passengers and crew – are living a dream to sail to the edges of the earth. They don’t end up here by accident; they end up here because they think a bit differently from the average Joe. Throw in some zodiacs and a hula-hoop artist and you’ve » Continue reading this post »
Thanks to One Ocean Expeditions
We are so grateful to One Ocean Expeditions and their exceptional staff for making our Antarctica adventure the perfect experience. Expedition leader Cheryl Randall inspired total confidence as she led with a masterful combination of professionality, sensitivity, safety and fun. She really should teach leadership seminars – there are a lot of people out there who desperately need her skills.
Every member of the crew left us deeply impressed with their contributions. We would like to extend our special thanks to Dr. Alan and Annie for taking such great care of Thomas during the Drake crossing. Derek, Caroline, Nate, Mark T., John, Ian and Sarah defined our One Ocean experience with their vast knowledge and extensive outdoor skills. Mark S. and Michele were exceptional kayaking guides who excel at making things work. Jeni, Cody, Shiho and Rocky went out of their way to make life onboard a total blast. Sophie and Ewan took us back to the age of exploration with their incredible kayaking expedition – we were proud to witness their tremendous success at Wilhelmina Bay.
Our 11-day Antarctic Peninsula Adventure aboard the Akademik Sergey Vavilov made us fall in love with Antarctica. In some ways, it may mark the beginning of a new ice addiction. I’m pretty sure this will not be our last trip to the poles. If you are interested in traveling to Antarctica with One Ocean Expeditions, make sure to visit their website at www.oneoceanexpeditions.com and take special note of their booking page where you can find an agent to help make that Antarctica dream come true.