Carefully, I stepped from the cruise liner's gangway, waiting for the swelling waves to break before I did my stunt. With one fast stride, I was in my rubber boat. Our small group of travelers, within minutes, bounces through mesmerizing blue ice and even a seal was dozing off. To get to the northern part of the Antarctic Peninsula, I swing my legs over the zodiac as soon as the boat comes to a stop at a rocky beach.
Walking along the beach laden with blocks of ice, a marvelous sight accompanied by a pungent guano smell caught my senses. I got surrounded by adelie penguins waddling by the hundreds. As far as what I could see, their numbers rose up a craggy slope. This is a momentous day as we finally land in the farthest of all continents and this two day cruise from Ushuaia, Argentina is simply rewarding even as it had to course through the unknown perils of the rough seas. Increasingly, travelers worldwide are realizing this vast crystalline wilderness at the bottom of the world is well worth the trouble to visit.
Through the years, numbers of visitors grow and just last year, 26,000 trooped here. Lectures on global sneaky penguins seem to break swirling blue patterns. The weather is extremely pleasant during the Decembers of the austral summer even as this continent is known to be the world's coldest. Achieving 40s on the peninsula, there can be times when temperatures grow extremely freezing. The trip normally has its high during November to March.
Going on a sea adventure for around 11 days, this 100 meter ice strengthened ship body is full with passengers most of the time, carrying about a hundred or more of them. The vessel is not so fancy, but it is very comfortable. It has a bar and lounge with a small library and an auditorium. On board tiny yachts, many people travel to Antarctica. We leave port on a Friday night. The next day, is about seeing the breathtaking birds in their flight such as the wandering albatrosses, along with the other birds found in the southern seas traveling around.
Passing time at sea entails the tour guides making creative presentations spearheaded by different experts from a geologist, a bird specialist, marine biologist, historian even a creative visual artist that makes tourists draw or paint icebergs and adorable penguins. Even as global warming was in discussions usually, it came as a bug surprise that lectures on it was never present at all on this trip.
During the trip, loads of action occurred primarily in the nearby islands and during landings on the continent. It is truly unforgettable to hear the loud crack of a calving iceberg or witness an avalanche in motion from afar. From the decks of the ship, so much wondrous things are seen. This season, darkness occupies shorter hours so many tourists revel in their sightseeing spree.
It would be a cinch to be spending most of your time on deck, watching a huge array of icebergs crafted by the wind as they drift by, some brilliant white, others blue, but make sure that you are dressed to keep warm against drafts. High mountains with big hanging glaciers and pristine landscapes swept us off our feet. Few times, whales would be surfacing, showing their beauty. A beautiful and long lasting sunset makes the sky its canvas of red and orange colors.
One of the passengers was very sick and in need of evacuation and this shocked us as we got back on board the ship. In short, we have to take an overnight detour that will take a long while before we can get an airstrip at the South Shetland Islands. Medical evacuation insurance has now become a necessity before embarking on a trip due to evacuations like this one which costs up to tens of thousands of dollars or oftentimes, even more.
Once the passenger was evacuated to Chile, we trooped to where the newly Gentoo penguin chicks were fed by their parents, in Ardley Island. A slimy strand connects an adult penguin and its young after the adult penguin feeds its young by regurgitating a snack of krill by putting its tiny head inside her own mouth delicately.
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