Antarctica (Feb 20 to Mar 4, 2015)

When I tell people I went to Antarctica, they of course ask me what it was like. While this should be an easy question to answer, I find it difficult every time. The reason being that I can’t seem to find the right adjectives to adequately describe Antarctica. Gorgeous, spectacular, amazing, surreal, other worldly, tranquil, serene, alive, vast. As perhaps you’ll get a sense from the pictures, it’s all of these and so much more.

So, what was the trip like? I boarded the 341-foot MS Expedition (operated by G Adventures) in Ushuaia, Argentina (see previous post) with about 130 fellow passengers. We spent the first two and the last two and a half days traveling across the infamous Drake Passage. We were told that on a scale of 1 to 10, the seas were about a 4 on the way there and about a 3 on the way back. To many, it likely felt more like a 9.9, even with meds. Fortunately, I was largely unaffected and actually enjoyed being rocked to sleep each night. During the passage and throughout the trip, the expedition staff, a team of naturalists, biologists, geologists, (and other “gists”) offered numerous presentations to educate us about Antarctica’s wildlife, geology, climate, and history of exploration. The team also included a photographer who helped people get great shots in the snowy paradise.

Almost daily for the 8 days that we traveled south along the Antarctic peninsula, we were taken onshore and/or cruised along the shore via zodiac to commune with penguins (chinstrap, gentoo, and adelie), seals (fur, crabeater, leopard, and Weddell), and nesting sea birds (including shags and petrels). We also had close encounters with humpback whales (one breeched near the ship 63+ times in a row!) and orcas (one swam under a zodiac!). And many days, petrels and giant albatross (with a 12-ft wing span) cruised around the ship. While it was amazing to be so close to the wildlife, it was the landscape that I found most mind blowing, especially after we crossed the Antarctic Circle and cruised past giant icebergs and sliced through large sheets of sea ice. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

On top of all this, the food was delicious and plentiful, the bar had live music, including the ship’s band, The Monkey Eating Eagles (named for an endangered Philippine eagle), and a very talented musician named Moss, the passengers and crew became one big happy family, and my roommates, Anna (Australia) and Jing (China), made the experience even more special.

While I didn’t plan to go to Antarctica, I will be forever glad I did. It’s hard to beat crossing the Antarctic Circle toasting champagne with friends while cruising past some of the most majestic scenery imaginable. Antarctica really should be on everyone’s bucket list. Oh yeah, and doing a polar plunge in Antarctica, huge bragging rights!

Here’s a preview picture. Click the link to see the full photo album & videos:

Note: the amazing close-up pics of the humpback and the orca were taken by my shipmates, Jing and Shirley.