Antarctica For All Ages: The Trip of a Lifetime
“After life in the vastness of a vacant continent, civilization seemed disappointingly narrow, cramped, superficial, and empty.”
Those words certainly ring true for me. As an older woman traveling alone to such a distant place, I knew that I would have to start planning well in advance and explore all my options before booking passage. While I didn’t realize it at the time I was considering such a trip, Frank Hurley’s comments would have a tremendous impact upon me upon my return.
After speaking with a woman who had traveled to Antarctica the year before, I decided to book with Abercrombie & Kent. Her glowing account of the trip and description of the fine service provided by A & K convinced me. The other feature I found enticing was that there would be stops in the W. Falkland Islands and South Georgia.
Booking well in advance saved me $500.00 I was also able to select the least expensive cabin. One spends very little time in the cabin on an expedition cruise. As it turned out, the cabin was extremely comfortable and nicely furnished.
The next stop was Tierra del Fuego National Park. There are only five varieties of trees in this area and the only animals you’ll see are the fox, rabbit, and beaver.
The expedition crews lectures were informative and eclectic - the exploitation of whales, seals, and fish, penguin life, Sir Ernest Shackleton, plate tectonics, and global warming -to name a few.
Elsehul, an area where there are colonies of fur and elephant seals with Gentoo penguins interspersed among them, living in complete harmony.
Stromness Bay, where Shackleton arrived in his heroic effort to save his crew who were stranded on elephant Island; where the old whaling station, abandoned long ago, stands vacant and rusting; where we climbed the ridge past the waterfall to re-create Shackleton’s trek into Stromness; white reindeer, brought there by the whalers, still roaming the hills.
Icebergs with their blue refracted light that seem to have been carved by a sculptor
Elephant Island where Shackleton’s crew remained stranded for four months living in upturned life boats waiting for their rescue.
Half-Moon Bay and Livingston Island where chinstrap penguins abound
Deception Island where thermal springs heat the water so that the more adventurous passengers can shed their parkas and strip down to bathing suits to splash around in the water
Neptune’s Window where you can gaze across the bay atop a ridge and catch your first glimpse of the Antarctic Peninsula
Neko Harbor where you actually set foot on the Antarctic Continent.
Lemaire Channel, also known as Kodak Alley or Fuji’s Fiord, with its breathtaking scenery and two mountain peaks known as “Una’s Tits” - named after a secretary working for what is now known as the British Antarctic Survey (BAS)
Port Lockroy, home to weddel and leopard seals ; scores of Gentoo penguins
Some “WOW” ExperiencesWatching two penguins doing their mating dance - so lovely and graceful
Seeing a leopard seal fast asleep on a piece of floating ice
Hearing a glacier “calving” and watching the ice fall into the sea amide a thunderous roar
Observing the male and female chinstrap penguins trading places to guard their egg
Marveling over a fur seal pup less than two hours oldLooking at giant petrels feeding off the carcass of a dead elephant seal
What You Can ExpectA sudden and dramatic change in weather conditions on any given day
Seasickness while crossing the Drake passage which is considered to be the roughest sea in the world
Change of itinerary due to weather conditions and ice - Passengers are advised in advance to “pack their patience”.
Strong kabatic winds (cold air that travels down the mountains)
Lots of hiking and climbing - Camera batteries dying quickly. Cameras should be carried in a well-insulated bag.
A Note of Encouragement for the Older Traveler
The majority of passengers on this voyage were at least fifty years old; most of them physically fit and energetic. I was amazed at how many people were making this journey for the second time. As one person put it: “Once is not enough. You just have to come back.”
A Final Thought
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