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MastaHanky Dec 27, 17 3:44 pm

November in Antarctica
I've been wanting to visit Antarctica forever! Quark Expeditions has a 50% off sale every year to fill up some of their undersold expeditions, and this year the stars finally aligned for me. I cleared my entire winter schedule and booked the first half-price expedition that made sense for me.

Part 1

After boarding the Ocean Endeavour late-afternoon in Ushuaia, Argentina, we spent the next couple of days crossing the Drake Passage. Birds followed the ship for most of the day - perhaps in hopes we were a fishing boat that were throwing out scraps.

After two days onboard, we finally caught sight of land. The amount of snow covering the land was immediately apparent, although maybe not as visible in this panorama photo.

As we approached our first landing, they informed us that current regulations state that only 100 people are allowed on land at a given time. Our ship was sitting at around 180 people, so half of the group would go onshore while the other half would cruise around on Zodiacs for a while, and then we would switch. I started in the first Zodiac group. We were immediately greeted by some beautifully-sculpted ice.

There were several icebergs in the area that we were able to check out.

Our first landing featured numerous Chinstrap pengiuns and Weddell seals.

MastaHanky Dec 27, 17 7:07 pm

Part 2

This day started out overcast, but not too cold! We eagerly hopped in the zodiacs to explore the area! This particular location had quite a bit of snowpack.
As noon approached, the skies quickly cleared, leaving us a pleasantly "warm" afternoon!
Some on the ship had opted to do some cross-country skiing.
Old shipwreck from the the early 1900s.

The afternoon was so nice that the staff elected to set up the grills on the back deck and let us take in the surroundings over lunch.

MastaHanky Dec 27, 17 7:22 pm

Part 3

Later that afternoon we plopped down to check out some Gentoo penguins. There were thousands of them here.
Stand-up paddleboarding was also an option. Because I had booked this trip last-minute I wasn't able to get in on any of the adventure options.
Broken up sea ice could still be a bit thick in places and we carefully navigated our zodiacs through it.

MastaHanky Dec 27, 17 7:39 pm

Part 4

I started off today with a quick excursion to an unmanned Argentine research station.
After a bit taking in the sights in the surrounding areas, we hopped in the Zodiacs where we found a bunch of Antarctic Shags feeding.

Sadly at this point I had come down with a fever and elected to remain on the ship for the rest of the day, missing out on our second excursion and the infamous Polar Plunge. I rested up all day and all night, feeling good enough the next morning to cruise out into Paradise Bay. This was probably my favorite part of the trip - the water was absolutely still, the only noise being the occasional cracking of an avalanche that you could turn and watch.

MastaHanky Dec 27, 17 7:48 pm

Part 5
We continued heading south, through more sea ice and majestic mountains.

And then........we came to a stop. A solid sheet of ice blocked our way. The captain consulted with other ships in the area to come up with a plan. We ended up turning around and coming back the way we came. Thus ended this particular day.

One final day of excursions. We hopped in the Zodiacs again, and got a great view of this guy taking the loveliest nap ever.

As we left the area toward our final destination, the captain reported seeing several whales in the area. Rather than go for one final excursion we elected to follow the whales for a bit. This particular set (a mother and calf) played right along, breaching several times by the ship. A fitting end for a wonderful trip as we made our way back up to the Drake.

sl00001 Dec 27, 17 8:26 pm

Stunning pictures!!!

757 Dec 27, 17 9:25 pm

Amazing photos! Wow!

blueferrari Dec 27, 17 9:50 pm

beautiful pictures, particularly love the posing seal photo.

iluvdoco Dec 27, 17 9:54 pm

Incredible! Awesome TR. A couple questions.

1) How cold was it? Seems like some people are just standing around in fleeces on the open deck.
2) No danger of falling into the water for people who did stand up paddling?
3) How close can you get to a penguin or were most of your photos taken using a telephoto?

MastaHanky Dec 27, 17 10:14 pm

Originally Posted by iluvdoco (Post 29221568)
Incredible! Awesome TR. A couple questions.

1) How cold was it? Seems like some people are just standing around in fleeces on the open deck.
2) No danger of falling into the water for people who did stand up paddling?
3) How close can you get to a penguin or were most of your photos taken using a telephoto?

The temperature was surprisingly mild - the coldest we experienced was probably in the 20s, although the wind chill brought it down a bit further. On the sunny days it probably reached 40F. At more than one point I stripped down my top layer to just a T-shirt or a sweater (although I still left all my bottom layers on).

I'm sure there was some danger of falling in the water for the paddle-boarders. They only got to do it when conditions were pristine, and I'm sure they had some kind of safety briefing about it. I don't know what it entailed.

You are not allowed to approach the penguins and they ask that you keep at least 10-15 feet away from them. However you do not need to move should the penguins approach you, and this happened routinely. On more than one occasion I had a penguin just stroll by within arm's reach. Most of the photos were done with a telephoto lens though.

Annalisa12 Dec 27, 17 10:29 pm

Absolutely stunning pics. My husband would like that trip.

thanks for posting.

arkellvspressdram Dec 28, 17 3:34 am

Amazing trip report thanks, I've checked out some of the options for similar cruises and they seem to clock in around 5-8k was that your experience? Any pointers for booking?

Out of my Element Dec 28, 17 5:03 am

Thanks very much for posting this! We are heading there in February and this just made me more eager to get there! Great pix and stories.

florens Dec 28, 17 6:11 am

Stunning pictures, wow! Thanks for sharing!

Fredrik74 Dec 28, 17 7:32 am

Absolutely stunning pictures.

I'd be afraid of seasickness on the passage to and from Antarctica though.

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