In today's post, I talk to PJ about his trip to Antarctica: A land of extremes, the coldest continent on Earth with the highest average elevation and a place almost untouched by humans.
I have been intrigued by the continent for a long time. Honestly I had been saving up for it for a while, I just didn't have anyone to go with. When my uncle approached me with the idea, I jumped on it.
Once I had mentally decided that it needed to happen, the stars just aligned. I got a balcony room on the Quark for half the price for an expedition that was to depart in 5 months. Most of the expeditions are booked years in advance, so these were the left over cabins that couldn't be sold and the agent needed someone to fill them and gave heavy discounts.
Talk me about your journey - Where did you land? How did you get there? How long did it take? Does Antarctica have an airport?
Going to Antarctica while living in North America means you have to leave from Argentina or Chile. There are no commercial flights to Antarctica, in fact even with the boat you are only able to go to the Antarctic peninsula. Antarctica proper is divided between 7 countries and they only have bases there which are manned maybe 3-4 months a year.
My boat left from Ushuaia which is the southern most tip of Argentina so I had to fly into Buenos Aires to get there. Quark Expedition met us at Ushuaia airport, we stayed there for 1 night. Most of us had last minute shopping to do from the list that we were provided. Ushuaia's economy thrives on Antarctica tourism and had everything that we wouldn't normally get in REI or other outfitters.
Once you get on the ship, it takes 3 days at least to get through the drake passage, the most turbulent seas in the world. More than 50% of the ship got major sea sickness during this time. If the storms cooperate and you have a good captain (which most ships do) you will get to the Antarctic peninsula in 3 days. The cruise is considered an expedition because you really don't know the ports that you will be able to get to, it is all based on the storms and weather.
It changed everyday but once you are sailing past these amazing icebergs, it really doesn't matter where you dock. There are penguins and seals and whales everywhere and they come so close to the boats. Its simply breathtaking!
They say, its all about the ice. Tell us about the adventures. Did you go in a group? Were there activities planned? Did you need to be at a specific fitness level to partake?
It's a lot more than just ice. It really is about the wildlife and the atmosphere that these icebergs create. Our ship had about 150 passengers and I was part of a smaller group of 20 kayakers. We were more fit than the rest of the group, but you definitely need a certain level of fitness to be able to withstand the cold on the zodiacs and able to walk on ice.
There are activities planned on the ship, but off the port, it was all about getting on the zodiacs or kayaks and getting close to the penguins, seals or whales and seeing these massive ice bergs. We did have one port where we could visit a small British outpost,