March of the Penguins - Live!
Now, without question, when somebody asks me what the most incredible place I have
seen in my travels has been I know the answer…
I came here not having a clue what to expect from the boat I was on or the continent I was
going to be visiting. I can’t express how both of them surpassed my expectations.
I found my trip by Googling ‘Antarctica’ and ‘trips’. I then narrowed it down to the cheapest
option. That left me with the GAP Adventures trip. The boat held a bit over 100 passengers.
We all ranged in ages from early 20’s up to late 80’s. Everybody seemed very easy-going as I
barely ever heard any complaints out of anyone. Of course there were a few people I could
have lived without…but isn’t that always the case? The first thing the crew pointed out to us
during the first briefing when we got on-board was that this wasn’t a ‘cruise ship’…it was an
‘expedition ship’. Adventurous, huh?
On the third day, we began our ‘landings’ (all of them were ‘wet landings’ requiring our calf-
high rubber boots) which gave us a chance to explore the Last Continent. On many of the
islands we got to do different short (but steep) hikes. The views were beyond stunning.
Glaciers, mountains and icebergs surrounded us. One hike even went around the perimeter
of a volcano. Another short walk took us to views of the coastline that looked as if they
could be in California or New Zealand. Was this really Antarctica??? I imagined that
everything was going to be covered with ice and/or snow. How wrong I was!
Before coming out on this trip, I really had no idea how many times we would explore the
Antarctic waters and land (this was probably my fault as I never read the dossier before
heading out). People asked me if I would see penguins and my reply was “I’m pretty sure I
will – but I’m not positive.”
But oh…did I see penguins! Four different varieties of them! And don’t worry…I won’t bore
you with the names of the different types. We also saw four different types of seals – man,
those things are cute. And several types of whales were seen. I have never seen whale tails
right there in front of me. And the whales were so close that they were literally right
underneath our noses when we were at the front of the ship. And then there were the
penguins swimming through the water in groups while leaping through mid-air like
dolphins. And the sounds of thunder that weren’t thunder but were glaciers breaking which
then resulted in ice falling down thousands of feet into the water.
But there is nothing in the world like seeing penguins and seals literally floating by on
icebergs. Can you imagine such a sight? I would have to say that this was one of my favorite
things to watch. Icy blue waters with icebergs of all shapes, sizes and textures for as far as
the eye can see while some of them are scattered with a lone seal and others are scattered
with groups of penguins. I felt like I was living in an Antarctica coffee table book. There are
no adjectives to describe how it felt to be there. The icy landscape was infinite out here.
How do you put words to something that is on such a grand scale? How do you explain the
silence and remoteness of such an area? Heck, how do you relay the stench of ‘guano’ (i.e.
penguin poop)? The answer to all of these is that it is just plain impossible.
I saw one of the most incredible sunsets in my entire life and the sky was illuminated in an
intense red color. This had a unique Antarctican flair with penguins standing in the
foreground. This occurred when we were in Port Lockroy – the place where I could mail my
postcards with a postmark from Antarctica. This was also where the Antarctica passport
stamp was obtained – by far the cutest one in my book with a big penguin on it.
One of the most surprising activities I took part in was on Deception Island. There was a
possibility that the cold was affecting my brain. This is the only explanation I can come up
with for submersing my body into the Antarctic waters. Keep in mind that I can never
comprehend getting in a pool that is unheated. I don’t do cold water. Ever. Well, until this
trip. The temps of the water were minus a degree or two in Centigrade. From here, I ran
directly into the homemade pit that was dug moments earlier containing hot thermal
springs water. I wasn’t the only crazy person – there were many of us on-board. I think, in
total, almost half of the boat went mad and did this. We did get certificates that pointed out
that we were certifiably mental. That sounds about right.
I was expecting to be rather bored for a good chunk of the time. The five books I brought
with me still don’t have a crease in them as I never had enough free time to start any of
them. My time was utilized by lectures, whale-watching, scenery-watching, hanging out
with new buddies, a nap here and there (especially while on motion sickness meds), eating,
journaling, using the sauna and, of course, the different expeditions.
We had beyond-fabulous weather for the entire trip. It was also not nearly as cold as I was
expecting – some of our outings were actually on the warmer side. A bit deceiving when you
think of ‘Antarctica’. I still came prepared (actually, I didn’t really ‘come’ prepared as Alicia
is the one who brought me the gloves, hat and gator and I only thought to inquire about
renting the parka, waterproof pants and boots the day before I arrived – but once on-board
the boat, I was prepared). I bundled up so much at every landing that people had no idea
who I was. I left no skin exposed. At all. So if you see any of the pictures, it probably looks
like it was much colder than it was. It really wasn’t bad. I’m just a whimp when it comes to
I am just in love with what I saw during the past 9 days. Okay, maybe not all nine days as
the first two and the last two consisted of going through a certain type of hell also known as
the Drake Passage. It rocked and rolled me to sleep on the way into Antarctica but I fell
victim to the ever-present bout of motion sickness on the way back to Argentina. So much
for me ‘never getting seasick’.
So many people had different reactions when I told them my next destination was going to
be Antarctica (Jenna and Annie – yours definitely go down as the best!). Some were excited
to hear about it as it has always sounded intriguing to them. Others thought it was sheer
madness. Others thought the trip would do nothing more than satisfy my traveling to all
seven continents. I hope next time you hear that somebody is going to Antarctica, you
realize how amazing of a trip they are about to head out on. I loved it soooo much that I am
now wanting to do a trip to the Arctic to visit the polar bears and walrus’ of the world. Plus
the ice is rapidly melting up there so time is ticking. Any of you want to be my future roomie
on this adventure??? Hehe.
Now that the email is wrapped up, I am asking that some of you do something. Keep in
mind I have never asked anything like this before. If you have a few free minutes, check out
the links to my pictures from this area on my website under the Antarctica link. They, of
course, don’t do the grandeur of it all any justice. But it might make you realize a bit more
just why I found this to be the most spectacular place I have seen in my entire life…
I am now in Ushuaia in the Tierra del Fuego part of Argentina. Tomorrow I take a bus out
to Chile which will begin my overland adventure through South America. I have gotten
great recommendations from people I have met along the way and have added a few places
to my list of where I plan to go (including Bolivia).
Hope all is well!