The white continent, Antarctica, is often seen as the final frontier for intrepid travelers with the lofty ambition of seeing all the Earth’s continents. But for the truly adventurous traveler, Antarctica should never be seventh.
In early December, I took an overnight flight from Miami to Santiago, Chile. In the early hours of the following morning, another flight to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, with charming colorful buildings backed by snowcapped mountains. All to accomplish what had been a long-cherished aspiration, to visit Antarctica! I was not to be disappointed.
The magic and joy of this journey was in experiencing the absolute calm and tranquility together with the splendor and majesty of the ever-changing scenery around you.
We were fortunate in that both the outbound and return crossings of the Drake Passage were relatively uneventful. Heavy winds did at times cause a change in anchorage and the cancellation of kayak trips. A trip to the most remote destination on Earth requires many considerations as to weather conditions, guest comfort, wildlife preservation, and environmental responsibility, and so this is all part of the expectation of visiting this remote continent.
Each time you left the ship, after dressing in waterproof pants and layers topped by a super warm jacket, hat, scarf, and gloves and adjusting your life jacket, gathering your poles, you then donned knee high boots. Before boarding the zodiac for the day’s adventures, you immersed your boots in a disinfectant solution. On your return to the ship before removing your boots, they were thoroughly cleaned in a machine which reminded me of a car wash.
The emphasis on keeping this continent free of contamination and protecting the precious environment was extremely important.
My most treasured memories from this very special experience are, first and foremost, the up close and personal wildlife encounters, with different species of penguin, leopard seal, so many different birds and of course, massive whales breaching in front of you.
Secondly, visiting Research Bases, both active and now abandoned, wondering at the tenacity and strength of both the current and early explorers, who spend many months isolated in this vast region.
And last but certainly not least, being in a zodiac, traversing through ice floes, with the brilliant blue of the icebergs and glaciers nearby. Just marveling at the remoteness of where you actually are and the incredible beauty of this vast white continent. A journey of a lifetime!
Anne Pace, born and raised in Australia has traveled extensively throughout the world. She returns frequently to her favorite destination, her hometown of Sydney.