Saturday, January 11, 2014

Antarctica, Part 1

"Why are you going to Antarctica?" my friends asked. "To work?"

It did seem a little strange, I had to admit, to decide to travel to someplace so far away and expensive to get to, only a month in advance (although later I was to meet even more spontaneous folks who decided to go a week ahead of time and had no warm clothes with them).  But there was a half off sale, I wanted to see the 7th continent, and so I went.

I went on this ship.
I took this from one of the zodiacs.  You can see a zodiac loading at the bottom of the gangway.
I had my doubts, as a person who is not interested in cruise type vacations.  However, they call this an "expedition ship."  While you do get meals provided, there are no 24 hour buffets (although we eagerly awaited tea time with its included cookies), no casinos, no entertainment beyond wildlife and history lectures.  I decided I could stand it.  After all, there aren't a lot of ways to get there.  You can actually fly to the South Shetland Islands, but there is no guarantee (or refund) if there is bad weather.  You could also take a yacht or sailboat, but not having rich friends who owned one of these, I decided to brave the ship.
The yacht here at Port Lockroy is the summer home of a National Geographic film crew who was doing a documentary.  We did see some private yachts also.  I think it would be fun, but it would take a lot longer and would be quite sporty in the rough seas.
The long trek to Buenos Aires and beyond hadn't gotten any shorter than last year, but I finally ended up in Ushuaia, "El Fin del Mundo"...the end of the world.  I was there early, so decided to hike up to Glacier Martial, just outside of town.


"Can you walk there?" I asked the front desk man at the hotel.  "Oh no, you need a taxi," he said, looking concerned.  So for 55 pesos I was deposited at a ski area with a small chairlift.  Some people take the lift up, but I walked to the trailhead, saving a few pesos.  I hiked to the edge of the glacier in lightly falling snow, and then to a panoramic point from where you can look down on the town and the Beagle Channel.
Looking down at the port of Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel
Hiking back down, I decided to forgo the taxi and walk back into town. It turned out to only be 7 kilometers and a nice walk.  The next day we were able to board the ship to begin our adventure.  I met four women who were all traveling solo.  Between us we represented Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, Sweden and the U.S., and ended up spending most of the trip together.

My room on the ship.  Note the life jacket in case we needed to abandon ship.  I paid half price for the room and didn't have to share it.
 
Leaving Ushuaia, we headed out into the Beagle Channel and towards the infamous Drake Passage, where it was time to know for certain if you were prone to seasickness or not...
Last sight of land for awhile
Happily, I discovered that I am not, although some people really suffered.
Seas are pretty calm here, but for awhile the ship rocked and rolled a lot
 
Next: Zodiacs, climbing, camping, penguins and more penguins!

11 comments:

  1. Wheeee! Thanks for the trip. Great photos. Looking forward to penguins and more penguins.

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  2. So lucky you got a half price deal on your trip! I would love to see Antarctica. Can't wait to see some penguin pics.

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  3. This is awesome! Can't wait to see part 2! Love the adventurer in you!

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  4. Ditto what these earlier commenters said!

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  5. Wow and wow. What you should have said to anyone who asked you why you went is "Why the F*** not?!" That is awesome that you JUST WENT. And it looks incredible!

    BTW, cruises with buffets, cheesy dance-offs, and even cheesier entertainment is SO not my thing. This sounds way better.

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    1. Yes, I couldn't handle that type of cruise myself. We had penguin lectures and photography seminars instead.

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  6. What an amazing trip!! Antarctica isn't most peoples idea of a vacation, but I'm fascinated. It's definitely on my bucket list. In the meantime, I really enjoyed your pictures. Mind if I ask what site you saw the sale on?

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    1. I went through Adventuresmith which is kind of a broker/travel agent for one of the companies that lease the ships. I could have also booked on the Quark Expeditions website (the company that leases the ships). The prices were the same either way, but I got more answers and personalized service from the Adventuresmith people. They even found me an internal flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia when I couldn't find one.

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    2. Got em' bookmarked :) This looks like such an awesome adventure. Thanks for sharing.

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