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Why a trip to Antarctica is worth it

"If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo. Literature, and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater; the only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it.” - Andrew Denton

In this blog post about Antarctica we share:

Our experience

Day by day

Practical things and tips

Our experience

On the 14th of March 2019, our adventure to Antarctica started on the G Expedition in Ushuaia, Argentina. As soon as we boarded the ship, it was made very clear to us that this is not a relaxing cruise but an expedition. The crew consisted of people with knowledge related to Antarctica, like marine biologists, glacial scientists, researchers and other experts. In total there were 130 people, including staff, this may sound like a lot, but we learned that most of the expeditions have more than 1000 people on board. This gave our expedition a very intimate feeling and it allowed us to ask all sorts of questions, especially during the first and the last two days when we sailed through the Drake Passage. It lasted around 100 hours and our days were filled with lectures, about penguins, the Shackleton's 1914 expedition, ice and glaciers,… But to be honest, no matter how interesting some lectures were, sometimes nausea or fatigue (as a side effect of the anti-seasick pills) took over and when images start to move on the motion of the waves…. It can really make you feel sick!

A trip to Antarctica is not your standard "holiday". It requires a certain interest and willingness, both financially and in terms of expectations and health. Being together in such a unique place with people from 21 different nationalities and ranging from young to old, created an unforgettable connection between all of us. As a group, we were exposed to the power, force, beauty and roughness of pure nature and these elements gave us the feeling we were on the same page. It rarely happens that people unanimously agree on hard topics such as politics and climate, even in much smaller groups! And this happened to us, in this part of the world which is dominated by nature, where climate change is imminent and where your emotions get triggered by the immensity of the ice, the icebergs, the animals and the sea. Antarctica has made us laugh, daydream, but also cry. We will try to do our best through this blog post to convey something of this feeling, but neither words nor images will ever match reality, no matter how beautiful they may be.

Day by day

Day 1 | The South Shetland Islands

After 2.5 days of venturing the Drake Passage, this was our first day and "baptism" on Antarctica. The island where our ship anchored was Deception Island. This is the safest harbour on the South Shetland Islands and therefore the reason that in the past many scientists built their stations here. Unfortunately, large whale stations were also located here. Walking through the large abandoned tanks, slaughterhouses and the view of the storage tanks for whale oil gave us chills. In 1969 the volcano beneath the island erupted for the last time and destroyed everything that people had built. After this eruption, nobody came back to be stationed here.

The crew of our expedition gave us the opportunity to do a polar dip in the water of the lake that is formed by the crater of the volcano. Imagine this, you walk fully dressed in -5 degrees and then you remove all your clothes (up to your underwear / swimwear), run into the water, submerge your head and come back ashore as fast as possible. After this, you dry yourself, put all clothes back on and wait for your turn until you get on the zodiac that brings you back to the ship. In short, VERY COLD!!! Of course, we did it and got our polar plunge certificate :)

Day 2 | Antarctic Sound

The Antarctic Sound is a 48km long and 11-19km wide passage that separates the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula from Joinville Island. This passage is known as the iceberg alley because giant "tabletop" icebergs float there. These icebergs are eroded from the Larsen, Ronne or Filcner icebergs in the south and create a spectacular landscape that floats between sea ice of different ages. For us, it was one of the most bizarre days of this trip. We had the best weather you could wish for; no wind, clear blue skies and sunshine. Hallelujah! This made it possible for us to sail through the Antarctic Sound and we saw the Wedell Sea while it was frozen. It is located on the eastern side of Antarctica and is very difficult to reach because most of the year this sea is completely frozen. Because of this, a ship cannot sail in this direction. The ice that covers the sea is called pancake ice because the ice looks like pancakes. As icing on the (pan)cake, on the way back, the ship was surrounded by a group of 25-30 killer whales, a dozen humpback whales and a lot of penguins. AWESOME!!!!

Day 3 | Cierva Cove & Charlote Bay

7:00 AM, rise and shine. The weather was beautiful, so we went kayaking for the first time!

We chose to go kayaking, for which you have to pay extra. If you don't want this, there are daily several “landings“ with the zodiac on Antarctica, if the weather is good. You can also sign up for different zodiac groups. This varies from scientific research to photography and takes place every day. The goal of the expedition is to go off the ship as much as possible so that you can explore Antarctica. Whether this is by kayak or zodiac does not matter, both are a great experience! If you have chosen for kayaking, you can always choose to skip it once and sign up for a zodiac group.

7:30 a.m. The kayak group was called on the ship to come to the wet room. That's the room in the belly of the ship where you put on your kayak suit, disinfect your shoes and check out with your badge. Disinfection is important because none of "our" bacteria should come into contact with anything on Antarctica. Checking out is necessary to make sure no one is left behind when returning to the ship. This applies not only to the kayak trips but to all activities that take place outside the ship.

At 08:00 AM our kayak tour started. We never dared to dream that kayaking could be so special. The absolute silence around you, the only thing you can hear is the ice cracking and sometimes breaking in the distance. Cierva Cove is known for its abundance of leopard seals. Unfortunately, we were unlucky and were not able to spot one. But that did not spoil our day, because the scenery where we were allowed to kayak is one of the most beautiful things we have ever seen in our lives.

After kayaking in the morning, we left for Charlotte Bay later that day. This is a bay on the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. The head of this bay is formed by three glaciers; the Renard, the Krebs and the Bozhinov glacier. Because we had such good weather, we had dinner on the outside deck that day. We know that we describe almost everything as being special and very beautiful on this trip, but we will take you to our dinner that evening. A bbq at sunset between floating icebergs, an orange-pink-purple colour palette in the sky that leaves you in awe, an amazing full moonrise behind the big icebergs...HIGH ON LIFE for sure!

Day 4 | Neko Harbour

Neko Harbour owes its name to the floating Norwegian whale factory ship, Neko, which used this bay frequently and was active from 1911 - 1924. Ironically, a lady recently named her son Neko because she was so blown away by the beauty of this place. Not knowing where the name Neko actually came from....

Nowadays Neko Harbour is mainly known for the large colonies of gentoo penguins, the incredibly beautiful glaciers and the sound of avalanches and breaking ice.

Day 5 | Wordie House & Vernadsky Station

Wordie House used to belong to the British. They carried out one of the best-known scientific researches in Antarctica - the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer. The condition for having a station in Antarctica is that you build everything yourself, dismantle it and take all your junk with you at the end of the season (leave-no-trace policy). The British had no money to dismantle their station at the end of the season and Ukraine really wanted a station on Antarctica but didn't have the money. So in 1996, Ukraine was allowed to take over the British station for the symbolic amount of 1 pound because this was cheaper than demolishing the station and taking everything back to the UK. The condition was to keep the station running and occupied for 15 years. Meanwhile, Vernadsky Station is one of the most popular stations on Antarctica and they are still researching the ozone layer. The station is not only popular because of this story, but also because they brew their own vodka in their southernmost bar on earth. Because they are ˝real˝ men, the women who pass by will get a free shot, if you leave your bra behind...Cheers to this!

Practical stuff and tips

Our trip was the "Antarctica Classic" via G Adventures, for which we paid about 5000 USD per person. If you are travelling through Patagonia and are flexible in your time, it is a good idea to sign up for last-minute deals in Ushuaia. There are plenty of travel agencies that have the latest deals to go to Antarctica. We signed up two weeks in advance and had a deal that was ultimately 2,500 USD cheaper per person. On the ship itself, we met people who hung around in Ushuaia for one and a half to two weeks until the best deal came along and joined us for USD 3,500. If you choose this option then there is no guarantee that you will go with G Adventures. We have no experience with other travel agencies for excursions to Antarctica, but probably all of them offer a great experience. Below are the websites we consulted in our booking process; for comparison:

Finally, take a good supply of anti-seasick pills, even if you're not sensitive to motion sickness. The Drake passage is always rough. Both of us are normally not sensitive to nausea at sea, but while passing the Drake Passage we both took anti-nausea pills three times a day.

If you want more information about this journey, we would like to hear from you on brucemeetsworld@gmail.com.

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