12 days cruising amazing Antarctica
I’m back in Ushuaia and I had a trip of a lifetime, my dream came true. It has been an unbelievable experience witnessing nature at its finest. It was amazing, inspiring, magical and spectacular. Just when you think that a day can’t be topped, the next day was even more extraordinary. I sailed on waters as smooth as glass, rolled around in the snow, witnessed impressive calving, visited seals playing around, interact with penguins and I’ve seen whales shown their flukes and blown their spouts right in front of the boat. To top it all up I plunged into the icy waters of the Antarctic Peninsula with nothing but my bikini and a smile on my face. Antarctica has exceeded everything beyond my imagination, read here my day to day story!
DAY 1, LEAVING USHUAIA, THE DREAM STARTS!
Ushuaia marks the end of the road in Argentina, but for me the beginning. The beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure! I finally made the decision to go to Antarctica! It was a hard one, because it’s so much money, but I was sure it will be worth it. In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take.
So here I am, standing in front of a massive ship, ready to board. With a big smile on my face they brought me to my room. I had a twin room and my roomie was already there. Miranda is also Dutch, so we were immediately connected. In the lounge on Deck five we met some other passengers, the crew and the captain Evgeny Levakov and made a toast on the trip. Yes, Champagne! There I was waiting for! How can you better start of an amazing trip then with a glass of champagne! After the Safety and Lifeboat Drill with our huge orange life jackets on we were ready to go… Bye bye land, Antarctica… Here I come!
In the end we only regret the chances we didn't take
DAY 2/3, A WILD RIDE ON THE DRAKE!
Somewhere really early in the morning we passed the Beagle Channel and we were on open ocean. Open ocean means, whoohoo roller coaster! The Drake Passage is a 500 mile stretch of the most treacherous of oceans on earth and know as a wild ride. Luckily our ship, the Plancius is equipped with state of the art stabilisers and we were lucky that is was pretty smooth… Uhhum.. I Still brought most of the day spending horizontal in my bed and I only came out my cabin for food. The food was amazing so I didn’t wanted to miss it, also I paid for it so…. 🙂
The second day we continue to be rolled by the swell of the ocean but I felt much better. Maybe because I was the captain for a bit. Maybe.. ?! Miranda and I were making friends with the staff and the other passengers on board. We attended some presentations and for the rest we were just chilling, and waiting.. Waiting to see land! Waiting to see my last Continent!
DAY 4, THE FIRST GLIMPSE OF ANTARCTICA!
Wake up call! Out of the speaker in our room we heard Sebastian, the Expedition Leader saying “Goooooood morning everyone!” We were approaching the Gerlache Strait which is a narrow channel with great views at both sides of the ship. So I put on a couple of layers and went to the deck to see my first glimpse of Antarctica. Wow… Amazing! Everywhere I looked were icebergs and seals floating around on the ice floats. Certainly we were a small ship in a big world again!
A bit emotional cruising Foyn Harbour
After breakfast we went on a Zodiac cruise around the area of Foyn Harbour. It was a sunny day and the landscapes were just incredible. I’m not sure if it was the wind or that I was a bit emotional but there were some watery eyes and teardrops.. Just being in a small little zodiac, surrounded by icebergs, somewhere far, far away from everything. That moment, so happy, I made it! I made it! I could scream, and I did!! I Did it! I made it to Antarcticaaaaa!!
The main aim of the cruise was an old whaling factory ship, these kind of factory ships were operating in sheltered bays, processing the whales during the summer months. As we sailed near to the wreck I could still see the boilers and the inside of the ship. The water was clear so you could look pretty far below the water line, but oh what did I wanted to dive this ship wreck. For the rest lots of Fur seals lying up on the rocks and birds flying around our zodiac with in the end some Humpback whales in the distance.. The morning was pretty complete and I was more then satisfied. Not thinking about the money anymore, it was already totally worth it.
First steps on Antarctica, Neko Harbour
Back on board it was time to lift the anchor and set sail towards the mainland of the continent, my first continental landing! Neko Harbour is a very scenic bay with an amazing big glacier called, Deville Glacier. I heard and saw the calving what was pretty impressive. The sound what the ice makes when it falls down, incredible! There were also a lot of Gentoo penguins. As soon as we were on land I could smell them. They stink. But seeing a penguin up close, who cares about the smell!? It was really nice to see them feeding the chicks and playing around. I could watch those silly animals for hours, so I did.
DAY 5, BEAUTIFUL VIEWS AND MORE PENGUINS
Again an early morning wake-up call as we made our way to the entrance of the Lemaire Channel, a very narrow scenic passage which has often been referred as the ‘Kodak Gap’, because of the thousands of photos that have been taken. I added also a couple! 😉
Port Charcot & Petermann Island
After breakfast we took the zodiac to Port Charcot, which is a wide bay on Booth Island. We hiked and saw more and more penguins en seals. On the top of the hill we had a beautiful view over Français Cove and into Port Charcot, which is sometimes called the Iceberg Graveyard as so many icebergs get stranded in the bay. It was pretty windy at the top but what an amazing view again! This is what I expected from Antarctica, cold, windy but amazing!
We had lunch on the boat and sailed around the corner to Petermann Island. There I saw some moulting Adélie penguins, comical little birds with a distinctive white eye ring and the penguins Blue-eyed shags. Yup, I know my penguins! The sky became brighter, the visibility around the bay area got better and it turned into a beautiful day! We walked around, chilled and watched the penguins chasing each other..
A special Antarctic BBQ
Back on the ship there was time for a special Antarctic BBQ! With awesome food, interesting conversations, glühwein and whiskey on Antarctic ice we danced the night away… It was almost comparable with the Aprés Ski in Austria, but then we were in Antarctica, on a boat, surrounded by icebergs and seals.
DAY 6, POSTCARDS & HUMPBACK WHALES
Sebastian made the wake-up call at 07.15, which was a little early after the late night at the BBQ. But I’m not here to party, I’m here for the expedition, for Antarctica. But the snowstorm also didn’t really help getting excited, it was the first time I was actually freezing! So this is how the end of the season feels like in Antarctica?! Right..
With the zodiac we went to Vernadsky Station what is a Ukrainian research station. People stay here to do research for 1 year and I seriously couldn’t do it. It’s half of the year completely dark, and freezing! For people who know me, I’m a summer person, I chase the sun. My dream was going to Antarctica but I would never live here, too cold, too dark and no social life. They do a really good job though, and they have a bar to entertain themselves! The bar was built by the Brits before they sold it to the Ukrainians for £1. The wood used was supposed to be for a new jetty but bad weather and heavy snow prevented the building, so most of the wood was used for the construction of the bar! A pretty nice investment I would say.
Sasha, one of the researchers gave us a tour and we were drinking wine and playing pool in the bar. Before we left I sent some postcards and got my passport stamped. The postcards will probably arrive in 3 months, IF they arrive…
After 2 more zodiac tours through some amazing channels and Icebergs with more seals, penguins and snowball fights we called the day because of the bad weather. But the day was not over yet! Back at the boat I saw a mother humpback whale with her calf and they were curious about the zodiacs. From the ship I had the perfect view and I could hear their breaths when they came up, and down, and up, and there was the tail… Awesome! Another amazing experience! What an amazing big animals, seen so up close…
DAY 7, THE POLAR CIRCLE
“Goooooood morning” I’m getting used to Sebastian’s voice in the morning. And this time we are south of the Antarctic circle, further south than I’ve ever been. It was a clear day and the sun was shining on the beautiful icebergs. Another day in Paradise.
A perfect morning on Detail Island
The zodiac brought us to Detail island where two of the passengers got married. Who can say they got married in Antarctica?! For me, it would be too cold, also.. not sure if a wedding is my thing.. But we all enjoyed it and we threw Ice instead of rice. Because it was so sunny I found a spot in the sunshine, sat down and enjoyed the incredible surroundings. A moment for myself to take it all in. It really was a perfect morning and it showed the best side of Antarctica after the snow and grey weather of the day before.
We also visit a historic British Antarctic Survey hut known as Base ‘W’, what was build in 1956 but was only used for three years before it was abandoned. When a ship came to resupply the base they couldn’t get closer because of the ice and icebergs in the bay so the men were ordered to pack up and travel by sled over the ice to meet the ship. The hut still looks the same as it had been left nearly 50 years ago. Tins of food on the shelves, clothes on the beds and magazines on the table, a step back in time..
Crossing the Polar Circle
In the afternoon we were invited to the upper deck behind the Bridge to toast the crossing of the Polar Circle again. Bubbles and a loud horn when we crossed over 66°33’.46S.
DAY 8, THE POLAR PLUNGE!
In true expedition fashion, the day started with a change of plans because of the strong winds. But after bit of waiting, we hopped in the zodiacs again to make our way to Jougla Point. On shore I was greeted by the familiar smell and sound of the Gentoo penguins, yum.. Delicious! Jougla Point is famous for the whale bones and in between there were Weddell seals and an elephant seal laying around.
Back on the ship we continued sailing north, had lunch and sailed through the beautiful Neumayer Channel. Also, the clouds that were ever-present in the morning were getting blown away and the sun was starting to shine. Hello, my new favourite place, Paradise bay!
We zodiac toured around, climb some mountains and because of the beautiful weather I decided to get in my bikini and run in the icy waters of the Antarctic! Yes! I jumped in the nearly frozen sea! Woop Woop! The polar plunge!
(sorry a bit blurry because it’s a screenshot from a movie, and I was running kinda fast… BUT I got proof! 😉 )
DAY 9, SAILING INTO A VOLCANO
Deception Island is the only place in the world where vessels can sail directly into the centre of a volcano. The area inside has a long history of human activity, including exploration, scaling, whaling, aviation and scientific research.
Aggressive fur seals
We went ashore on Whaler’s Bay, for a visit of the remains of the Norwegian Hektor whaling station, the cemetery and other artefacts. There were a lot of fur seals and some of us got almost attacked. Not me, I kept my distance. 🙂 We walked to the top of Roland’s Hill where it was a bit blowy and snowy but again, amazing views. It felt very Antarctic and I enjoyed sliding my way down, why try to not fall by walking down if you can go and slide?! Nobody is to old to have some fun in the snow!
Sunset over Half Moon Island
Half Moon is a 2 km long, half moon shaped island where a colony of Chinstrap penguins live. Thousands of molting birds were standing on the rocks waiting for their old feathers to drop out and the new ones to grow through… Again, amazing to look how they chase each other, how they fall and stand up, how they think they can jump, but not really.. We watched them till the sun was setting behind the mountains. Our last stop in Antarctica. Maybe one of my favourites stops…
DAY 10/ 11/ 12, THE End..
During the night the motion of the ocean had increased because we were leaving Antarctica and entering the Drake Passage again. Considering this is one of the roughest stretches of water on the planet, it was not too bad.. We were sharing pictures, drinking wine, eating food and relive the memories together till we needed to leave. Me and Miranda were probably the last ones leaving the ship, we hugged the staff and made our way to the hostel… This was the end of a very special trip. I went to my 7th continent. This trip will last me a lifetime, in my memories, in my imaginations, and in my dreams…
A special thank you to all the people who donated and helped me to make this dream come true.
THANK YOU: Shoghik Galstyan, Tineke Scheel, Derek Elkins, Ginski Jermolajew, Yvonne Doff, T5 Wulferink, Elisa Hanssen, Leah Bali, Frank Castro, Myriam Spera, Cor de Vries, Marion Bos, Carl Lind, Patrick Speijers, Desiree Kox, Rob Vroon, Arno De Goede, Madelon Groenheiden, Tyrus Blount, David Robinson, Wilco Rakhorst, Kaleb Prinzen, Roel Van Steenvoort, Jan-Willem Laurey, Marco van der Heijden, Elise Rijnhout, Linda Panhuijsen, Jacqueline Lips, Pieter Baeten, Carmelo Fedele, Shelly Murav, Ed Van Zwieten, Lucinda Morek, Vegard Sjursen, Fiona Ginty, Karl Ramos, Tarik El Hamdaoui + all the Anonymous!!
THANK YOU: Waterproof Cruises for arranging this unforgettable trip with Oceanwide Expeditions!
THANK YOU: All the staff members of Oceanwide, from the captain to the people in the Machine room (who gave me a sneaky look at their working station 😉 )
THANK YOU: All the other passengers for dealing with me 😉 and sharing this amazing experience. Especially my roomie Miranda, thanks! 🙂
For those who can dream, there is no such place as faraway...
Hi! I’m Maartje, a Dutchie who left her home to explore the world slowly, thoroughly and never came back. I’m just a little obsessed with travelling, photography, scuba diving and enjoying life.
Do all you can to make your dreams come true..
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