Joomla\CMS\Filesystem\Folder::create: Infinite loop detected.


Wet Landing
Wet Landing

I've always been fascinated by Antarctica and the extreme conditions it brings to mind. A place on earth where humans were never meant to be. The cycle of life is stripped to the bare minimum; the food chain is plain to see; the balance between give and take is fragile; every part essential to the other. Humans living there take extraordinary measures to survive; and visiting this southern continent means careful preparation and requires a sophisticated support system.

As a lifelong photographer, this trip begs for gear. On the other hand, this is a journey to be experienced as a life changing event. I decided to leave the big guns at home and to bring a small camera and smartphone for those irresistible photographic moments.

OAT's White Wilderness offered a perfect chance to fulfill my dream. Their Antarctic program begins with a medical check-up to limit health risks in one of the most remote locales on our planet. Then there's the clothing checklist to assemble: warm socks, waterproof pants, base-layers, parkas, etc. Scuttlebutt about Drake Passage had everyone worried about rough seas and how to cope with the possibility of seasickness.

Reading Alfred Lansing's "Endurance" about Shackleton's ordeal on pack-ice created an excited anticipation about safely visiting the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. He described the penguins, sea leopards and seals as well as birds and whales. All of which I was eager to witness for myself. Anticipation was a wonderful aspect of this journey.

Mountains and Ice
Mountains and Ice

Getting to the end of the earth takes a bit of time. I started in San Francisco and headed to Buenos Aires before flying to Tierra del Fuego to board M/V Corinthian. 37.8° N to 54.9° S. The ship's crew is a great example of teamwork in every aspect of my traveler experience. Where to start? OAT operates a very tight ship. The crew anticipates passengers' needs; and the procedure to disembark/embark the zodiacs runs like clockwork.

As we sailed from Ushuaia, Argentina, we traveled east through the Beagle Channel then south into Drake Passage. Seasickness patches were applied and Dramamine tablets were taken. Fortunately the dreaded passage was only mildly turbulent, a five on the Beaufort Scale. So there was some rocking and rolling, but furniture and passengers remained in place.

During the two-day crossing we had lectures about what was in store for us - mountains, glaciers, ice, sea currents, whales and other wildlife. On our first day at sea we spotted hourglass dolphins and giant petrels.

On the second day in Drake Passage seas were accommodating and the weather was clear we could take a diversion for an early landing on Aitcho Islands. Our anticipation was satisfied by our first wet landing on a beach covered with penguins and a couple of elephant seals.

My curiosity about human life in this harsh climate was satisfied by a visit to Arctowski Station, a Polish research facility on King George Island. It's a small outpost that's occupied year-round.

A second landing for the day was on Penguin Island, a dormant volcano. We hiked up to the top of Deacon Peak for a 360° view of the area.

Base Esperanza
Base Esperanza

Another opportunity to visit local residents led us to Base Esperanza on the Antarctic continent. It's a small city that is occupied year-round. There's a museum, post office, chapel, and recreation center. Of course there are penguins everywhere.

The weather was so good, the ship's crew put together an outdoor barbeque on deck!

An afternoon landing at Brown Bluff brought us into Adelie penguin central. There were penguins bounding in the bay offshore and waddling all over the beach. An occasional leopard seal and hatchlings were spotted as well.

As we sailed away from the Weddell Sea we detoured close to a tabular iceberg, the largest seen on our trip.

Icy Reflection
Icy Reflection

A much anticipated polar plunge event was performed by hearty travelers on Mikkelsen Island which is in a southeastern bay of Trinity Island. The site was also home to a Weddell seal and Leopard seal.

Base Primavera is part of a large Antarctic Specially Protected area, so we used our zodiacs to tour from the sea. The glacial ice floating around us filled us with awe.

Our weather changed dramatically today. Rain, wind and snow encompassed those landing for the snowy climb to a ridge top that hosts nesting chinstrap penguins.

Later we headed to Dallmann Bay in the Melchior Islands for a final zodiac tour of the narrow waterways with ice capped shores.

Then it was back to Drake Passage which was very smooth as we raced an oncoming storm. It was all good and we returned to Ushuaia twelve hours early.

Expedition Photographs

Search Tags