Visiting Antarctica is a tale of two adventures. A tale of the journey through rough waters followed by a visit to an incredible part of the world.
Antarctica had been on my bucket list for many years. It was going to be my seventh continent. My wife had no interest. So, I called my brother, Ted, with the idea for Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure #3. After about 2 minutes on the phone, he was in. With the help of Justin Massoni, our AdentureSmith Explorations travel expert, we settled on the right trip in terms of dates, the ship, time planned in the Antarctic Peninsula, and cost. We chose a Quark Expeditions trip on the World Explorer.
The journey to arrive at the Antarctic peninsula was everything it was cracked up to be. An overnight flight on January 24th from New York to Buenos Aeries followed by a flight to Ushuaia. Our short time in Ushuaia was a nice stop making sure we didn’t miss the ship departure. Ushuaia is billed as the southernmost city in the world. All went well on this part of the journey. We boarded the ship in the afternoon and had a very pleasant cruise through the Beagle Channel. The ship was amazing in every way. Next up would be the famous Drake Passage between the southern tip of South America and the northern tip of Antarctica. No turning back now. Would we get the Drake Lake or the Drake Shake?
We were greeted by forty-eight hours of non-stop 20-24-foot waves. When I say non-stop, I am not exaggerating. The captain commented that this trip was about an 8 out of 10 in terms of rough seas. Not the worst you see on YouTube, but nothing to sneeze at. Lots of staggering through the ship reaching for walls, railings, and furniture. The good news is that it felt like we were riding the waves more than fighting the waves. We never feared for our safety, but we both feared getting seasick. With some great medication from the ship’s doctors, we persevered.
Each day we had presentations by the expedition team which kept things interesting and focused on the fun ahead. The rough seas took more time than planned, so we had to skip the South Shetland Islands in favor of the full itinerary in the Antarctic Peninsula. It was a good trade-off. Upon our arrival in the Antarctica Peninsula, the waters calmed, and the fun began.
We spent four days in the peninsula. Each day followed the same pattern. Boarding the zodiacs in the morning for a landing and cruising on the water. Over lunch, the ship would move to a new location and the afternoon included another zodiac cruise. Each day ended with a recap meeting with the expedition team and presentations about what to expect the following day. Each evening there was an interesting and often off-beat “bar-talk” by a member of the expedition team based on their expertise and life experiences. The Antarctic is spectacular, with icebergs and glaciers at every turn. During the journey, we encountered only a couple of distant ships and only one other while in the peninsula waters.
Some of the marine life we saw included:
- Penguins: Adelie, Gentoo, and Chinstrap
- Seals: Weddell, Leopard, Crabeater, and Fur
- Whales: Humpback and Minke
- Flying Birds: Albatrross, Petrel, Cormorant, Tern, Gull, and Sheathbill
We visited the following locations:
- Monday AM: Cuverville Island
- Monday PM: Paradise Harbour
- Tuesday AM: Petermann Island
- Tuesday PM: Yalour Islands
- Wednesday AM: Neko Harbour, a continental landing
- Wednesday PM: Errera Channel – Kayaking and the polar plunge (for Ted, but not for me)
- Thursday AM: Portal Point at the entrance to Charlotte Bay, another continental landing
- Thursday PM: Foyn Harbour, Enterpise Island in Wilhelmina Bay
After the four days, all that was left was the return trip through the Drake Passage and into the Beagle Channel. Our trip back wasn’t as rough except for one night when there was a big storm that had us rocking and rolling all night. Very little sleep and being tossed around so much that the prospect of getting up to see outside was something neither of us chose to attempt. Upon our return to Ushuaia, we were ready to board our return flights on February 5th.
Looking back, none of the challenges of the voyage took away from the incredible trip. I should note that everyone on board the ship was phenomenal. Our fellow passengers were extremely friendly, sharing in the anticipation and enjoyment of the trip. The expedition team was enthusiastic and showed their passion for Antarctica on every excursion and during every presentation. Each person we encountered was a pleasure to interact with. From the dining staff to the cleaning staff to the front desk and the captain/crew. Everyone appeared to enjoy their jobs, even though it included going through the Drake Passage twice on every voyage!
Visiting Antarctica was truly a once in a lifetime experience. A tale of two adventures, both packed with memories. Nothing left now except sorting through photos, telling stories, and planning for Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure #4.