Our Journey To Antarctica – Part 1!
while i am grateful to be back in the united states, a piece of my heart is surprisingly still aching for our experiences in antarctica. thank you all for your comments on previous blog posts and letting me know what you want to hear about from our journeys to the frozen land. i have taken over 2,500+ photos and have spent the last few days trying to pair them down (you are welcome) so let’s get started with it!
we left from ushuaia, the capital of tierra del fuego (after staying at this outrageously gorgeous hotel) in argentina. this is the most common place to embark on your journey to antarctica. you can also access the continent by new zealand.
to say ushuaia is picturesque would be a vast understatement.
funny story, as we headed towards the pier my husband said “oh wow, our boat is so much bigger than i was thinking.” to which i responded “that is so not our boat.”
i was right. we were on the smaller boat at the end of the pier behind the large cruise ship. ha!
we booked with Antrapply Antarctic Expeditions and took the ‘classic antarctica’ route. we paid full price (meaning this is not a sponsored shout out, i fell in love with them and highly recommend them! just tell ’em i sent ya! 😉 ) our expedition ship was called the “M/V Ushuaia.”
though i was a little nervous about being on a ship that only holds 88 passengers, it turned out to be the right choice. it was small enough that we could explore smaller inlets in antarctica that the larger cruise boats couldn’t get to. even better, we got to know our fellow “antarcticans” better (more on that in a later post).
it is important to note that this is was not a cruise, it was an expedition. while we did sleep on the boat each night, it was different from our alaskan cruise in that the point isn’t to lay around in a fancy boat but rather to get off of it and adventure around antarctica every chance you got! that being said, the crew was fantastic and worked very hard while having fun to make sure we all enjoyed ourselves. champagne toast as we set sail (before the seas got rough).
here was our room! since this is a spendy trip, we were in less-fancy rooms in bunkbeds! the diesel smell was at times pretty strong so that was less fun but again, you don’t go to antarctica to hang out in your room.
we had a closet, little desk and sink in our room while we shared a toilet and shower with our neighbors (two sisters from argentina!). we did pretty good with this, only locking them out once and them locking us out twice. we all called it a success!
our new dutch friends (hi stephanie and thijs!) referred to these bed railings as “bed fences” which forever stuck. they are put there so you don’t get thrown out of bed while crossing drake’s passage.
let’s all take a moment to remember that the drake’s passage is known as the roughest and wildest waters in the world. you must cross it (and it takes 38 hours) in order to get to antarctica from south america.
a word of advice: take the drowsy dramamine before you set sail, only take small sips of water and hope that you can sleep through most of it. we both wore the seasickness patch on our way there (disgusting dry mouth as a side effect) but it doesn’t make you very drowsy. we took regular drowsy meds on the way back and it was better. we are still working on processing our videos from the trip and i’ll try to include one that only decently captures how much the boat rocked. the waves got up to over 21 feet and to which was “thankfully normal.” they can get up to 45 – woof.
here’s a photo they showed from their last journey through it as we were getting briefed on what to expect:
they cancelled lunch and dinner our first day through drake’s passage because it was too dangerous too cook and well…everyone was seasick in their cabins anyway. the staff came around and delivered sandwiches, water and apples.
it was rough but worth it. towards the afternoon of the second day at sea, it slowly started getting calmer and then we saw our first icebergs! the expedition leader, agustine, surprised us all by saying we would get to make our first landing, hydruga rocks!
thankfully seasickness passes pretty quickly once the boat stops trying to throw you against the opposite wall.
here’s a map of our journey and the expected route (though we were blocked by sea ice so couldn’t access some parts).
here’s what we actually did, with our first stop being hydruga rocks:
as many of you were sitting down for your thanksgiving feast, we were feasting our eyes on our first encounter with penguins!
this is also when we learned how distinct and not very pleasant penguin poop smells. i hope you like my ridiculously huge sunglasses (thanks Target), they fit perfectly over my normal glasses and were worn every single day.
it was surreal and so exciting to finally arrive in antarctica! i didn’t even really know you could travel to antarctica until a few years ago. the boat did not celebrate thanksgiving (though we cheers-ed with our fellow 11 other americans). we had prior planning – as mentioned in my thanksgiving post, with our own thanksgiving feast when we returned to the ship.
we grabbed rolls from the dining room, had turkey jerky, corn nuts, dried cranberry, pecan pie/apple pie lara bars and potato chips subbing for mashed potatoes! though “happy thanksgiving” appears to be written on a maxi-pad, it is indeed a shower cap.
this feels like it’s turning into a details post so that you better understand how it all worked. since i’m clocking in at 900+ words already, i am going to wrap up with some logistics and then share more in my next post about where we went complete with photos because most days we were doing two landings!
in order to make these landings, the ship is anchored a fair way from land and then we took zodiacs to the landing. this is one of my favorite photos i took of the ship. aren’t those mountains incredible?!
the sailors would then lower the zodiacs into the water and then the 5 member expedition team (who were amazing and many of them had their PhDs) would go scout out where was safe for us to walk. they would also drop off “safety bags” complete with everything we would need to survive on land if need be for at three days.
each of these landing we prepared for “wet landing,” which meant stepping in freezing water to get ashore. i work four pairs of wool socks and my feet were still constantly cold. usually the water was pretty calm but sometimes the zodiac rides required a firm grip on the rope around the edge so you didn’t fly out.
alright, that feels like a good chunk of information for now. here is PART TWO where i talk about our first continental landing on antarctica (the first one was an island, still belonging to antarctica). i shall leave you with this and just know there is more where that came from…
happy monday friends!