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Antarctica Trip Report Dec 2009 [Extensive Photos]

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Old Dec 6, 09, 12:44 pm
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Antarctica Trip Report Dec 2009 [Extensive Photos]

I just finished up a trip to Antarctica last week and wrote up a "trip report" in my blog. For those who are interested I copied it below.


After two days of crossing the Drake Passage we caught our first glimpse of an iceberg (with penguins on it!!) and then saw land….the South Shetland Islands.



On November 24th we made our first excursion onto the South Shetland Islands at Aitcho Island located at 62°24′S 59°47′W. The ship dropped anchor near the island and then we boarded zodiacs to take us ashore. This was quite a thrilling experience to race toward the islands with the cold Antarctic wind blowing in your face! Once we were ashore we were given instructions as to where we were allowed to go and then given free time to explore. There were hundreds of penguins (Chinstrap and Gentoo), Weddell Seals, and lots of Southern Elephant seals. I really enjoyed just being able to wonder around and take in the sights without being crowded by a group. I chose to hike 1km up and over a hill to the backside of the island.










Our next stop was at Yankee Harbour located at 62°32′S 59°47′W. The conditions were getting worse at this point. The winds had picked up and it was snowing…sideways. We were still able to make our landing but the zodiac ride was a bit rougher than before. Once ashore I started to venture around but due to the blowing snow I could really only go in one direction and photograph in one direction to prevent getting my camera lens covered in snow. I personally enjoyed the inclement conditions because it felt like that’s how visiting Antarctica should be.








The following day we progressed down the Gerlache Straight toward Neko Harbour. There was quite a bit of ice in the water which delayed our arrival. It also meant the ship could not get as close to shore so we would have a longer zodiac ride to the shore. It was neat navigating through all the ice to get to shore. There were several colonies of penguins and a large glacier nearby we could periodically hear calving (cracking / breaking off). The second landing site for the day was at Paradise Bay. We started by taking a cruise in the zodiac to get an up close look at ice bergs and glaciers. We then visited Brown Station. This landing was much more fun than I expected. We started by hiking to the top of a hill/mountain which offered incredible views of the area. Then, instead of walking down we slid down the hill. It was so much fun we hiked up and slid down again.










Brown Station was also the location of our overnight camp site. We had dinner aboard the ship and then were taken back to Brown Station where we set up camp. It was a unique experience not only to say I have slept on the continent of Antarctica but it never gets dark this time of year. So even though went to bed at 1am, it was not any darker than 9pm. In the “morning” we woke to found a large amount of ice had formed between us and the ship. For moment we thought we may be stranded to a bit but the zodiac drivers did an excellent job navigating through the ice and getting us back to the ship…minus the one zodiac that headed for the wrong ship





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Old Dec 6, 09, 12:46 pm
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Afterward we navigated down the Lemaire Channel toward Petermann Island which would be the Southernmost point of our journey at 65°10′S 64°10′W. The Lemaire Channel is a long and narrow passage filled with ice. In fact at one point we hit an iceberg and the expedition crew looked a tad concerned but luckily there was no need to bring out the orchestra and brandy.



After visiting Petermann Island we headed toward the Pleneau Islands for a zodiac cruise in the “iceberg graveyard”. This was one of the highlights of the trip (though it was the most miserable part of the trip for group 2 due to weather so I really lucked out). We cruised around the area in a zodiac for over an our getting an up close look at scores of icebergs each unique. At one point our zodiac driver drove the zodiac up onto an ice sheet for a few minutes and let us walk around. The ice was cracking in several places so we did not stay for long. Words cannot describe how beautiful this place was but it was almost like a modern museum for ice sculptures!! Simply incredible!!













Today being Thanksgiving the crew prepared a Thanksgiving dinner for the Americans aboard. It was good though the portions were not very American and I missed the cranberry sauce (that somehow made an appearance for a meal two days later – maybe they couldn’t find it??) and pumpkin pie.



The following day we landed at Port Lockroy, a British Station (the first to be open and have “staff” present.) We were able to mail postcards (which many of you should be receiving in 6+ weeks) and even buy some souvenirs. (I can’t believe I was able to go shopping on Black Friday in Antarctica.)









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Old Dec 6, 09, 12:47 pm
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The following day we had yet another exciting landing due to an unexpected encounter. As we were waiting to board the zodiac we spotted a whale. Luckily we were able to get in the zodiac quickly and make out way over to the whale. Those who went kayaking on this landing were given amazing views of the whale though I was still able to get a decent view from the zodiac.
















This evening we were treated to an outdoor BBQ which was fantastic!!! (Why couldn’t they have served portions like this for the Thanksgiving meal??) We sat outside and enjoyed the mild weather and even got to see another ship overtake us at one point.






On our last day we visited Whalers Bay in Deception Island. This was in the caldera of a volcano that last erupted in 1969. This was also the site of the “Polar Plunge” where 30-40 of us went swimming in the Antarctic Ocean which was about 34°F. In all honestly it was not as cold as I expected. Upon returning to the ship we were greeted with hot chocolate and rum!








Our final landing was at Half Moon Island located at 62°36′S 59°55′W. This landing site was heavily populated by Chinstrap Penguins and 1 Macaroni Penguin which we were unfortunately unable to find. There were a few seals and even two whales located offshore. The kayakers yet again got the better view!












Our landings had come to an end and now we prepared for our voyage back across the Drake. The day before there were 50 knot winds so we were preparing for a bumpy ride. Much to our surprise the Drake was quite calm with 2-3 foot waves. Our entire crossing was as smooth as can be.

We returned to Ushuaia on time but the Captain had a bit of trouble parking the boat and ended up hitting a nearby boat in the process. Everyone was fine but a lifeboat was broken.

I spent a few hours doing some last minute shopping in Ushuaia before catching my flight back to Buenos Aires. This Antarctic Voyage was without a doubt one of the best, if not the best trip I have ever taken!!
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Old Dec 6, 09, 1:05 pm
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Great report and absolutely beautiful pictures ... I look forward to hearing more the next time I see you at a happy hour!
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Old Dec 6, 09, 1:14 pm
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Can I go next time? great photos and wonderful report. Thanks for writing and sharing it
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Old Dec 6, 09, 1:26 pm
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If you don't mind answering, what sort of $ is needed for a trip like this?
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Old Dec 6, 09, 3:37 pm
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Best. TR. Ever.

(Although several friends-of-friends actually work at McMurdo or Pole, so I can't help but think that that TR would be even better. Plus, they say rude things about Antarctic Travellers, but I say 'sod that'.)
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Old Dec 6, 09, 3:45 pm
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Swimming in Cold Water

Very nice trip report and photos, uva185!

I'm wondering about your statement that the 34F water didn't feel as cold as you expected. In my own case, I hate swimming in even cool water...85F and higher is my preference.

Do you enjoy swimming in cool or cold water and/or do it often?
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Old Dec 6, 09, 4:10 pm
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Thanks everyone for your comments. If anyone has any questions I would be happy to answer them!

Originally Posted by Aus_Mal View Post
If you don't mind answering, what sort of $ is needed for a trip like this?
Well, there are several companies that offer voyages to Antarctica. Their prices seem to fluctuate and sometimes discounts and packages are offered. Typically it is cheaper to go earlier in the season because due to the ice you may not be able to make all the landings. I am thrilled I went when I did because the continent was still covered in ice and snow and it even snowed while we were there. We were able to make all our landings too!! Later in the season it gets quite muddy and IMO it would not be as enjoyable. If I did it all over again I would still go around the same time even if it cost more.

This season the lowest rate Quark offered was $3,890 per person for a Triple Room and $5,490 per person for a Twin Room which includes all food, some drinks (water, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, etc), 1 hotel night prior to embarkation, all zodiac landings (camping and kayaking are extra -- the kayaking price includes kayaking for the duration of the trip, not just one outing). http://www.quarkexpeditions.com/anta...ates-and-rates


Originally Posted by Middle_Seat View Post
Very nice trip report and photos, uva185!

I'm wondering about your statement that the 34F water didn't feel as cold as you expected. In my own case, I hate swimming in even cool water...85F and higher is my preference.

Do you enjoy swimming in cool or cold water and/or do it often?
Oh no, it was still freezing!!! Personally I think portions of the Caribbean are too cold to swim in. I think I was either just hopped up on adrenaline or psyched myself out to think it would be worse (like instant numbing or something). Either way it was amazing and if anyone goes I HIGHLY recommend doing the Polar Plunge!!
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Old Dec 9, 09, 8:26 pm
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I, too, was on this trip, and I think attending all the lectures and learning about the historical significance of many of the places we stopped made the trip that much more special. After camping on the ice for a mere 7 hours and dipping in for exactly 10 seconds, I simply can't fathom how Shackleton's men did it for 18 months with less high tech gear than we had, and they did it for real!

I wasn't interested in getting drunk every night, getting a picture of me in front of every moving / stationary object, or cutting in line to always be in the first group out, but rather in the experience as a whole. And for those that took the time to soak it all in, what an incredible one it was!!!

Words truly do not express the magic that this place holds. I'm not a cold person or a nature person by any stretch of the imagination, but you can't help but be captivated by the beauty of the ice and the drama in the penguin camp. I thought humans had it bad, but at least other humans don't steal our nests and poop on our homes! Being spring and all, there was lots of wing flappin going on as well *wink*wink*

I think the best way to experience Antarctica is just to sit and be quiet. Then the world around you comes to life and you start to see beyond the white walls of ice and snow. All the nooks and crannies pop out and the wildlife bursts to life. My favorite moments where those where I just sat.

Back on boat, though, grab your notebooks because so many great adventures have been had by your fellow boaters that one can't help but be inspired by the stories shared around the dinner table. My list of places to go and experience just gets longer and longer every day!!
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Old Jan 2, 10, 3:20 pm
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Great photos! Where you able to approach the animals?
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Old Jan 2, 10, 6:05 pm
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My dream trip! Thanks for posting your report, uva185.
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Old Jan 2, 10, 8:28 pm
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Thank you so much for the wonderful report and fabulous pictures. Truly amazing to be near the animals and to see the ice.
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Old Jan 3, 10, 8:58 am
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Originally Posted by StewieD View Post
Great photos! Where you able to approach the animals?
Yup, we were able to approach the animals within a certain distance (I think 5 meters from penguins and 10 meters from seals). However if we sat down the penguins would walk up closer to you and that was "allowed".

At one point I sat down on a rock and three penguins came up to me -- no more than a foot away!
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Old Jan 6, 10, 9:41 pm
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That was a great report and fantastic pictures. Thanks for sharing!
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