Antarctica is the southernmost continent. About 98% of Antarctica is covered in ice, which makes it on average the coldest, windiest and driest continent on earth.
Ten years ago if someone would have said we were going to go to Antarctica I would have probably laughed at them. Who goes to Antarctica?? I honestly hadn’t given it any thought at all. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like and now that I have been there I can not find the worlds to describe this beautiful place on earth.
We arrived in the South Shetland Islands on the 29th January early in the morning after passing several big impressive ice bergs. You will never forget seeing your first ice berg.
The South Shetland Islands are a group of Antarctic Islands that are just 75 miles north of the Antarctic Peninsula. There are eleven major islands and numerous smaller ones. The Islands are of volcanic origin and mainly mountainous and more than 80 % glaciated.
Amazingly as we entered the pass we were greeted with several feeding Hump Back Whales and hundreds of Chin Strap Penguins that were eagerly getting in on the action. An absolute amazing sight. What a fantastic start to what would be an amazing week.
As we motored down the chain of islands and circled several Ice Berg formations, the landscape just got even more breath taking. The colour blue started to become very vivid amongst the black and white.
Our destination for our first night was in Deception Island. The Island is the caldera of an active volcano, which caused serious damage to local scientific stations in the late sixties. There are also old whaling stations on the Island. Of cause when anchored in an active volcano, one can only expect to be completely covered in dust and ash the next morning. We spent the majority of the next day at Whalers Bay.
Deception Island has some wild varying microclimates. In some areas water temperatures reach 70 degrees celsius. Near volcanic areas the air can be as hot as 40 degree’s celsius. Steam rose from the waters edge on the beach, however the air temperature was still pretty cool.
Later that afternoon we headed for the spectacular white peninsular that was ahead of us. We spent the night heaved to not wanting to be too close or running the risk of hitting any roaming ice bergs. We had a beautiful sun set. I went to bed after mid-night and could still see all around me as a wonderful glow of light seemed continuously present. There was only a very short period of darkness and as soon as that had past we were on our way again.
Waking early to a breathtaking view of complete white-ness as we dodged our way through ice bergs that was often occupied by scurrying penguins. The bay opened up to the sound of blowing hump back whales as they appeared to be all around us. As we progressed further pods of killer whales were spotted. What a fantastic sight.
The days to follow were amazing. The sky cleared up and became a bright clear blue and the sun shone down on us. The sea was glassy and flat calm like a lake. It was hard to believe we were in Antarctica until the sound of a whale breaking the surface or the smell of a penguin colony brought you back to your senses.
There was always the most amazing wildlife all around. Seals, penguins, whales and bird life all in abundance.
On a daily basis we would pass ice bergs packed with sprawled out sleeping Crab eater seals, their heads would barely move at the sound of the engine passing within meters of them. Their sleepy eyes did not seem at all phased by our existence.
Our magnificent week passed to quickly and with a soon to be deteriorating weather forecast it was time to leave.
Our last night we spent anchored in Pork Lockroy, a natural harbour and a site of an ex British Research Station that has been renovated and now operates as a museum and post office. Half of the Island is open to tourism whilst the other half is reserved for the penguins.
Early on the 6th February we left the quiet anchorage and started on our journey back across the Drake passage.
What we experienced in that week will stay with us for the rest of our lives.