Antarctica, Baby!

Do you have a dream trip? (Or something else you’ve always wanted to do or buy?)

Do more than just wish for it.

Set a goal, save for it, and then make it a reality. After all, aren’t doing things that are important to you part of what life (and money) are for?

I finally made a long dreamt-for trip a reality. Here’s the story.

A gentoo penguin looking at meThe dream destination

After my husband and I got completely out of debt by paying off our house, we saved up for the things we’d promised ourselves we’d do afterward. For me, that was a trip to the most amazing place: Antarctica.

Antarctica entered my imagination as a little girl, when I found an envelope that had been mailed from Little America. I learned about Admiral Byrd’s second expedition to Antarctica and the idea of exploring such a remote place fired my imagination. Plus there were penguins. Penguins!

I didn’t think reality could possibly live up to decades of imaginings, but you know what? It was even better. There was no way I could have imagined how amazing Antarctica really is.

Some of the zodiacsThe fears

Ever have these secret (or maybe not-so-secret) fears that the things you want won’t work out the way you hope? Especially when you’ve waited a long time and budgeted a lot of money for it? (My original budget was $10K for the trip — which I went over due to a side trip to Easter Island and a last-minute purchase of a DSLR.)

My fears for the trip went like this: What if I spent all this money and got seasick? What if I fell into the water and froze? What if I hurt myself?

But you know what? I didn’t get seasick. I traveled with Antarctica XXI on their classic air-cruise, which meant we flew over the Drake passage on a chartered jet instead of spending a couple of days each way in seas that could potentially have been extremely rough. A fairly short, pleasant flight sure beats that :)

The rest of my fears were equally unfounded.

The adventures

After landing in the South Shetland Islands on a bright sunny day, we began our cruise around the Antarctic Peninsula in what turned out to be extremely calm waters the entire time. We made a couple of landings each day, where we got to do things for hours at a time — like hiking up mountains to penguin rookeries (where the penguins were pretty curious about us), sliding down a polar slide, visiting historic huts and Deception Island, watching a glacier calve, checking out seals and an old whaling shipwreck, seeing the first baby penguins of the season, etc.

A few brave(?) people did a polar plunge at one point, while others snowshoed and kayaked. The main thing though for me was the ability to just be and enjoy the experience. I loved sitting in the snow and watching the adorable penguins, some of whom came up within about 3 feet of me. I cried when it was time to leave.

A Weddell sealThe expedition staff and the ship’s crew were very good about making sure we got safely in and out of the zodiacs used to transport us from the Ocean Nova to the shore on each outing. There was definitely no falling into the water, and no hurting myself. Instead, it was super fun. A little bit like being at summer camp with awesome and highly knowledgeable camp counselors and a bunch of new friends. They even hung out with us in the lounge, and we had an impromptu sing-along one night. (One of the staff is a musician as well.)

A couple of the staff talks were interrupted by sightings of whale and orca. On our very first day, we saw probably 20-25 humpback off the side of the ship. We stayed together for quite a while. And on nearly the last day, an equally huge number of orca hung out with us for a while. There were sightings of a couple of other kinds of whales (a sei whale and a minke) as well at various points during the trip. Plus birds galore…and did I mention seals & penguins?

The ship’s captain also went out of his way to make everything as special as could be. At one point, when the zodiacs weren’t able to get through the ice to our intended destination of Port Lockroy, he had us follow behind the ship in the zodiacs while he broke the ice to nearby Damoy Point, a destination we could reach. Seeing the ice crackle and move right next to us was awesome.

Amazing beauty

Antarctica was indescribably beautiful, with pristine scenery and brisk air. Believe it or not, it wasn’t even very cold — the coldest it got during the day for us was 32F / 0C. (December is early summertime there.) One of the other passengers said the scenery was a little bit like Alaska on steroids. Having never been to Alaska, I can’t say, but I do know I’ll be back to Antarctica again one day.

For now though, I’ll leave you with this photo I took from the deck of our ship, and a quote from Andrew Denton:

View from the deck of the ship

“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.”

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9 comments

  • Kathy

    We’ve toyed with the Antarctica trip but have heard so much about the rough seas at Drake. And I’ve heard that accomadations on those ships are rustic at best. So maybe flying is the way to go. We have been above the Arctic circle and we did a trip to Hudson Bay to see the polar bears…..awesome! And I think Alaska is the most magnificent place on earth. I’m so glad you were able to do a dream trip.

    • Thanks! Polar bears and the arctic circle sound great too :)

      Flying definitely is the way to go IMO. Our ship was very nice — not like a luxury cruise ship where the ship itself is the entertainment, but nicely appointed with good food and surprisingly large staterooms.

  • Margo

    Congratulations on your dream come true. We have a dream sequel. We spent 6 years living in an RV living in desert SW US and up in Idaho Sawtooth Mountains, all without hook ups as we were self-contained and self-powered with solar panels. We decided we were missing the grandkids growing up and came back for 6 years. Now our dream is to do it all over again and October 2014 is our departure date! We are so excited to do what we so enjoyed before. With gas being higher now many people think we shouldn’t do it, but it is hard for them to realize that for 7 months we stay in the desert without traveling and then for warmer months will travel to mountain areas in Arizona, New Mexico, and stay put for a month at a time. Therefore, not traveling as much as people think, just to and from long-term destinations. We are soooo looking forward to it!

  • suzy

    So glad u had such a wonderful trip!!!

  • This is absolutely one of the places I would want to visit someday. Antarctica is really amazing.

  • How cool!! Congratulations on your dream coming true! I want to go to Hawaii, and that desire has only manifested itself in the last few years. I want to see the turquoise blue water in person and see what it feels like to be in it.