I was in Antarctica!!  That’s my favourite sentence ever.  I’m not sure where to begin describing this spectacular adventure or even how to structure my post.  There’s so much to write, thousands of pictures to sort through and I can gush about Antarctica ALL DAY LONG!

I have always wanted to go to Antarctica.  Always.  It seems like it was just a spot at the bottom of the map that average people could never travel to.  I don’t know what made me first google to see if there were any tours that I could book, but I did, and what I found was a company called Quark Expeditions.

Note that not all pictures/videos are mine in this post.  I have used pictures provided by Quark to the passengers of our specific voyage and pictures/videos from my gang on the ship!  Any mistakes are mine.  I’ve thousands of pictures and I might have mixed up the islands a bit.

If I had to pick just one word for Antarctica it would be MAJESTIC and it was this gal’s dream come true!

Quark Expeditions
On My Way!
Ushuaia, Argentina and Embarkation
Crossing The Drake Passage
Approaching The Circle and Detaille Island
Crystal Sound & Fish Islands
Berthelot Islands & Petermann Island
Yalour Islands, Port Charcot & Pleneau Bay
Danco Island, Neumeyer Channel & Port Lockroy
Enterprise Island & Portal Point
South Shetland Islands:  Deception & Halfmoon Islands
Crossing The Drake Passage ~ Again
Disembark in Ushuaia and Fly to Buenos Aires
Adventures of Mary & Jane
Voyage Summary


Quark Expeditions

Here is the description of the tour I booked ~ I sailed on the Ocean Endeavour.

Crossing the Circle: Southern Expedition
14 days from Buenos Aires

Not only does this expedition include the most in-depth exploration of the Antarctic Peninsula, but it also offers the opportunity to venture farther south across the Antarctic Circle. As you head toward a milestone that few travelers reach, you’ll feel as if you’re in a world without borders, sailing across an endless stretch of sea dotted with ice.

Dramatic ice formations will ignite your imagination as you search the landscape for the wildlife that calls it home. Whether it’s humpback whales alongside the ship, a leopard seal diving beneath your Zodiac, penguins sliding off an iceberg into crystal waters, or a giant petrel soaring above cracking sea ice, you’ll experience a sensory overload in Antarctica like you’ve never felt before.

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A small fortune was spent totalling $12,665 USD not including airfare to Buenos Aires and my extra days exploring there.  I went with the inside single cabin (even though more expensive) because I did not want to share with strangers for 2 weeks.  I still had princess delusions at this point.

Four of the days were crossing the Drake Passage (two going there and two coming back) and if I was going to spend my time being seasick and throwing up — I wanted the toilet all to myself!  This Newfie girl is never seasick and wasn’t expecting to be seasick, but I was prepared just in case.  I wore the seasickness patch on the way across and did not wear one on the way back.  There was never a moment I felt seasick.

I also booked the Kayaking and Standup Paddleboarding Adventure Options.

  • Crossing the Circle: Southern Expedition with Flights from Buenos Aires 14 Day 2017-2018 – Single Inside ($13,495)
  • Ocean Endeavour Mandatory Flight and Hotel Package ($950)
  • Stand Up Paddleboarding – Offered once throughout the duration of your trip ($225)
  • Kayaking – Offered as many times during your trip as possible (weather dependent) ($995)
  • Antarctica 2017-2018 Early Booking Bonus Standard Cabins (saved $3,000)

Put a jar on the counter and start saving for the trip of a lifetime!


On My Way!

My tour started in Buenos Aires, Argentina so I booked a few extra days before and after Antarctica and explored both Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay.

A representative from Quark was in the hotel lobby handing out our boarding passes for the charter flight and our luggage tags.  I got upgraded to a Top Deck Twin room and was in room 8008.  I’m nosy and checked online to see what that room would cost for one person ~ 35k.  Gulp.  Out of my price range.


Ushuaia, Argentina and Embarkation

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We got up early and took the charter plane to Ushuaia.  Most passengers were on the charter flight, but some were already in Ushuaia.  Ushuaia is absolutely stunning!  It definitely warrants a return trip to the region to do some hiking.  Gorgeous!  Ushuaia is one of those places where you smell the ocean and feel the mountains!

We all boarded the Ocean Endeavour and set sail at 17:45 from Ushuaia.  I loved my room!

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WHAT?  WAIT!  FULL STOP!  Did someone say complementary wine with dinner?  Quark … let me introduce myself.  We are going to have the best relationship.

I ended up hanging out with a group of people that were fantastic – Me, Kathy, Elba, Linda, Barb, Michelle, Bridget, Maxine, Nancy and Don (yes Don had a harem of ladies!).   We all sat together in the restaurant and waited on each other to board the zodiacs together.  I had the best time with these folks and they made the voyage even better!  Shout out to the gang!  xoxo


Crossing the Drake Passage

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The Drake Passage or Mar de Hoces—Sea of Hoces—is the body of water between South America’s Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. It connects the southwestern part of the Atlantic Ocean (Scotia Sea) with the southeastern part of the Pacific Ocean and extends into the Southern Ocean.

Wikipedia


There are 5 Oceans in our beautiful world:  Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Southern Ocean.

The Southern Ocean (aka Antarctic Ocean) surrounds Antarctica and is where the cold north flowing waters mix with the warm subantarctic waters.  It’s officially defined as waters south of the 60th parallel.

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The Drake Passage was named after Sir Francis Drake, a 16th century privateer from England and the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.  The Drake Passage is known as the roughest water in the world and is 800 km wide and 1000 km long.  It is unpredictable, notorious, turbulent and just plain wild!  My response to that was — BRING IT ON!!

Folks refer to the crossing as either “The Drake Shake” or “The Drake Lake”.  I didn’t think the ocean was rough at all.  Here’s a picture of my room and my view of the ocean.  I loved sleeping and having the waves so close and hearing them hit the ship.  The ship swayed back and forth as we went across the Drake, look at the curtains!  Showering was an adventure with the rocking as the water temperature would go very hot or cold with the swaying.

There was a smoothie bar just downstairs from my room.  I think I went here every morning and had this green spinach concoction.  It was delicious!

During these crossing to Antarctica, we got our boots and parka and I also picked up my kayaking/paddleboarding dry suit.  The red suit is the immersion suit to put on if we sank.  You can survive for days in the Antarctica waters with this on.  The yellow parkas were provided by Quark and ours to keep!  They are really nice coats with a black puffy that detaches from the inside.

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We also had an assigned spot in the locker room for our outside gear.

The days crossing the Drake Passage were spent hanging out, socializing in the Nautilus Lounge, eating scones in the afternoon, attending lectures and exploring the ship.

I got fat eating as many scones as I could ~ I love scones and cream ~ so delicious.  As I was departing the ship, I saw the chef and told him I think I gained 10 pounds (sadly when I got home that’s what it was) and the chef laughed and said that’s why he has shares in Weight Watchers!  The food was amazing, especially these scones.

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And then it happened!  An announcement was made on the intercom to the whole ship that there was ICE on the starboard side!  There has never been a more photographed iceberg than this one.  A couple hundred very excited passengers took thousands of pictures of this beauty!

Nautical terms:  Port (Left Side) – Starboard (Right Side) – Bow (Forward) – Stern (Back)


Approaching The Circle and Detaille Island

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The Antarctic Circle is the most southerly of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. The region south of this circle is known as the Antarctic, and the zone immediately to the north is called the Southern Temperate Zone. South of the Antarctic Circle, the sun is above the horizon for 24 continuous hours at least once per year (and therefore visible at midnight) and (at least partially) below the horizon for 24 continuous hours at least once per year (and therefore not fully visible at noon); this is also true within the equivalent polar circle in the Northern Hemisphere, the Arctic Circle.

The position of the Antarctic Circle is not fixed; as of 23 September 2018, it runs 66°33′47.3″ south of the Equator.  Its latitude depends on the Earth’s axial tilt, which fluctuates within a margin of 2° over a 40,000-year period, due to tidal forces resulting from the orbit of the Moon.  Consequently, the Antarctic Circle is currently drifting southwards at a speed of about 15 m (49 ft) per year.

Detaille Island is a small island off the northern end of the Arrowsmith Peninsula in Graham Land, Antarctica. From 1956 to 1959 it was home to “Base W” of the British Antarctic Survey and closed after the end of the International Geophysical Year (IGY). It is now often visited by Antarctic cruise ships but is otherwise unoccupied.

Thanks to the men’s hasty departure and the necessity that they take little with them, Base W is an eerily preserved time capsule of 1950s Antarctic life. The base had been intended to host dog-sledging survey parties which would cross the sea ice to the nearby Antarctic Peninsula, but the ice was dangerously unstable. When Base W was vacated, heavy sea ice prevented resupply ship Biscoe from approaching closer than 50 kilometres (31 mi), despite the assistance of two U.S. icebreakers. So the men were forced to close up the base, load sledges with only their most valuable gear and use dog teams to reach the ship.

Wikipedia

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My takeaway is the position of the Antarctic Circle is not fixed because of something about the axial tilt of the Earth, the tides and the Moon and the circle moving south by 15m per year.  I’d love to take a class that delves into all of this in detail; I find it fascinating.

The Ocean Endeavour recorded our crossing at a latitude/longitude of 66°33.5’ S, 067°26.2’ W at 9:30:44 am.  Woohoo!  We celebrated on deck with champagne.

We also celebrated Crossing the Circle with the Antarctica flag!

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These initial images of Antarctica will stay with me.  I can’t describe how it felt to start seeing land, mountains and icebergs surrounded by the water.  It was spectacular!  Every iceberg was unique and beautiful.

We landed on Detaille Island and explored Base W.  It is how the men left it when they vacated and there is now a visitor book there that I signed.


Kayaking

I had only kayaked once before with my son on his Grade 9 school trip to Costa Rica.  It was in a lake and did not involve all the gear that we needed to wear in Antarctica.  I enjoyed it!

From the Quark Kayaking Team Log:

Kayaking:  Détaille Island

Weather:  Mostly cloudy with glimpses of sun, 0 ̊ C, 2 – 7 knot winds, moderate swell

Species Sighted From The Kayaks:  Antarctic Cormorant, Adélie Penguin, Fur Seal, Crabeater Seal, Weddell Seal, Humpback Whale, Kelp Gull

We gathered in the Nautilus Lounge to prepare for our first paddle together in Antarctica. Once our gear was zipped, clipped and ready to go, we headed down to the gangway. We departed the ship, kayaks in tow. There was a gentle breeze and moderate swell. Several large icebergs loomed in the distance, and the sun shone down on the glaciers of the mainland. We found a protected spot to load into our kayaks for the first time. We took our time, and everyone lent a hand, making it a smooth and seamless transition. Once we were all on the water, we began to paddle towards Détaille Island. We paddled though our several patches of brash ice, hearing the clunk of ice against hull for the first time as we wove our way towards the shoreline. As we approached, we crossed paths with a curious humpback whale. Witnessing the nearby blows of this enormous creature from the vantage point of our kayaks was an intimate experience of Antarctic wildlife that only a lucky few experience.

As we neared the shore, we came across large groups of crabeater seals lounging on icebergs. Some of the seals yawned and stretched, untroubled by our presence. Along the rocky shoreline, fur seals paused from their animated play to watch us as we paddled past. Moulting Adélie penguins on shore stood patiently, waiting for their new feathers to arrive so they could go back to sea to feed.

Continuing our circumnavigation of the island, Ryan led us into a narrow passageway. Moderate swells continued to roll in, allowing us to sneak past some shallow rocks one by one. We collected together again in the calm waters on the other side and continued on. The back side of Base W came into view. We were nearing the landing. We spotted a few more fur seals, as well as a lone Weddell seal quietly resting on a rocky beach. We paddled out though another narrow rocky passageway, making our way back out into some swell. With warm hearts and cold fingers after a great first paddle, we decided it was time to stretch our legs and explore the island by foot. We loaded into the zodiacs and headed to shore.

* That’s me with the orange ball on top of my hat 🙂

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Crystal Sound & Fish Islands

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Crystal Sound (66°23′S 66°30′W) is a sound in Antarctica between the southern part of the Biscoe Islands and the coast of Graham Land, with northern limit Cape Evensen to Cape Leblond and southern limit Holdfast Point, Roux Island, Liard Island and the Sillard Islands. It was so named by the UK Antarctic Place-Names Committee in 1960 because many features in the sound are named for men who have undertaken research on the structure of ice crystals. To the north of Crystal Sound, many geographical features are named after physiologists.  

The Fish Islands (66°2′S 65°25′W) are a group of small islands lying in the northern part of the entrance to Holtedahl Bay, off the west coast of Graham Land, Antarctica. They were discovered and named by the British Graham Land Expedition, 1934–37, under John Rymill.

The Fish Islands are between Crystal Sound to the south and Grandidier Channel to the north, sheltered to the east of Renaud Island. The Fish Islands and the Minnows, small islets to the east, are occupied by an estimated 4,000 breeding pairs of Adelie penguins, and there is a small Antarctic shag (part of the imperial shag bird family) colony.

Wikipedia


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Stand Up Paddleboarding (aka Sit Down Paddleboarding For Me)

This is the only time I’ve ever been paddleboarding and I didn’t stand up.  It was incredible!  The world was so incredibly quiet sitting on my board looking around at the water, the ice, the wildlife and the ship.

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Berthelot Islands & Petermann Island

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The Berthelot Islands are a group of rocky islands, the largest 2 km (1 mi) long, lying 3 km (2 mi) south-west of Deliverance Point, off the west coast of Graham Land, Antarctica. They were discovered by the French Antarctic Expedition, 1903–05, under Jean-Baptiste Charcot, and named by him for Marcellin Berthelot, a prominent French chemist. One of the group, Green Island, is protected as Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) No.108 because of its relatively luxuriant vegetation and large Antarctic shag colony.

Petermann Island is a small, low and rounded island, lying off the northwest coast of Kiev Peninsula in Graham Land, Antarctica, a short distance south of Booth Island and the Lemaire Channel.

Wikipedia


Penguins are like toddlers running around, playing, falling over and having fun.

This video was taken by Gavin Avery ~ I love it!  They are very playful.  Instructions from the Quark staff were for us to stay within the flags marking where we could walk and avoid the wildlife.  The joke was that the penguins were ignoring the rules and approaching us.

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There is such beauty in the world.


Yalour Islands, Port Charcot & Pleneau Bay

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Yalour Islands, also known as the Jalour Islands, is a group of islands and rocks 2.8 kilometres (1.5 nmi) in extent in the south part of the Wilhelm Archipelago. The group lies 1.9 kilometres (1 nmi) northwest of Cape Tuxen, Graham Land. Discovered and named by the French Antarctic Expedition, 1903–05, under J.B. Charcot. Named for Lieutenant Jorge Yalour, Argentine Navy, an officer of the Argentine corvette Uruguay which came to the rescue of the shipwrecked Swedish Antarctic Expedition in November 1903.

Port Charcot is a 3 km (1.9 mi) wide bay indenting the north shore of Booth Island, in the Wilhelm Archipelago of Antarctica. It was charted by the third French Antarctic expedition (1903–05), under Jean-Baptiste Charcot, and named by him for his father, Jean-Martin Charcot, French neurologist. Charcot established the expedition’s winter base at Port Charcot in 1904.

Pléneau Island (65°6′S 64°3′W) is an island, 0.8 nautical miles (1.5 km) long, lying just northeast of Hovgaard Island in the Wilhelm Archipelago. Charted as a peninsula of Hovgaard Island by the French Antarctic Expedition, 1903–05, under J.B. Charcot, who named its northeast point for Paul Pléneau, photographer of the expedition. The feature was first shown to be an island on an Argentine government chart of 1957.

Wikipedia


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Picture Credit:  Kathy Harvey

Kayaking

From the Quark Kayaking Team Log:

Kayaking:  Yalour Islands

Weather:  -1 ̊ C, cloud cover with snow, 3-5 knots of wind, moderate swell

Species Sighted From The Kayaks:  Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Antarctic Cormorant, Kelp Gull, Crabeater Seal, Adélie Penguin, Gentoo Penguin

As we departed the ship, gentle swells rolled in. We headed towards the Yalour Isands, kayaks in tow, to find a protected place to load in. Taking shelter behind one of the low-lying rocky islands, we helped each other into our kayaks. We began to paddle along the shore line, taking a wide berth around some large icebergs in the vicinity. As we rounded the bend, we came across a colony of Adélie penguins, we were also able to spot one of the cameras placed by Penguin Watch researchers, to monitor penguin numbers and the health of the colony.

Continuing to hop from island to island, we paddled in and out of protected waters. The clouds were heavy and soon snow began to fall. Paddling through a thick swath of brash ice, we picked our way towards a group of crabeater seals hauled out on an iceberg. Space on this particular iceberg seemed to be at a premium. Several seals in the water swam around the base of the berg, making repeated attempts to haul out and join the others. More crabeater seals had found other icebergs to rest on nearby. We paddled over to watch them resting.

Soon it was time to begin to make our way towards the ship. We paddled into the swell, past waves breaking on rocky shoals. Cormorants perched stoically on jagged jutting rocks, watched us paddle past. Nearing the ship, we sought shelter by a colony of Adélie penguins, where we could load back into the zodiacs in calm waters. It was time to return to our floating home.


Polar Plunge

Sweet Baby Jesus I voluntarily jumped in the Antarctic Ocean!  My intent was to definitely do the Polar Plunge and I couldn’t wait.  When we returned to the ship late afternoon, it was announced that today was the day.  We were all sitting in the Nautilus Lounge and I decided not to go because it was too cold.  That didn’t last long.  The thing is, if I didn’t do it, I would have regretted it forever.  You have to take the opportunities that life presents to you when life decides to present them.  It may be the best thing to ever happen to you.

I went to my room, got changed and put on my robe, came back to the Nautilus Lounge and quickly drank 3 glasses of wine.  Ready for the Plunge!

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Danco Island, Neumeyer Channel & Port Lockroy

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Danco Island or Isla Dedo is an island off Antarctica, 2 kilometres (1 nmi) long lying in the southern part of Errera Channel, off the west coast of Graham Land. It was charted by the Belgian Antarctic Expedition under Adrien de Gerlache, 1897–1899. Danco Island was surveyed by the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey from Norsel in 1955, and named by the UK Antarctic Place-names Committee for Emile Danco (1869–1898), a Belgian geophysicist and member of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition, who died on board Belgica in the Antarctic.

Neumayer Channel (64°47′26″S 63°8′21″W) is a channel 16 miles (26 km) long in a NE-SW direction and about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide, separating Anvers Island from Wiencke Island and Doumer Island, in the Palmer Archipelago. The southwest entrance to this channel was seen by Eduard Dallmann, leader of the German 1873-74 expedition, who named it Roosen Channel. The Belgian Antarctic Expedition, 1897–99, under Gerlache, sailed through the channel and named it for Georg von Neumayer. The second name has been approved because of more general usage.  Neumayer Channel is known for its majestic cliffs, an attraction for tourists who come to the region. It is said to be like a maze with no visible exits because of its inverted S-shape. Its entrance and exits both have sharp bends.

Port Lockroy is a natural harbour on the north-western shore of Wiencke Island in the Palmer Archipelago in front of the Antarctic Peninsula. The Antarctic base includes the most southerly operational post office in the world.

Wikipedia


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Our Gang ~ Picture Credit:  Elba Cruz

Video from Elba Cruz:

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Videos from Gavin Avery:


Enterprise Island & Portal Point

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Enterprise Island or Isla Lientur or Isla Nansen Norte or North Nansen Island is an island that is 2.8 kilometres (1.5 nmi) long and lies at the northeast end of Nansen Island in Wilhelmina Bay, off the west coast of Graham Land. Today, a visit to Enterprise Island is often part of Antarctic cruises.

Enterprise Island and Nansen Island were first charted as one feature and named “Île Nansen” by the Belgian Antarctic Expedition under Adrien de Gerlache in 1898. The islands became well known to whalers operating in the area in the early 1900s and the names North Nansen Island and South Nansen Island were used to distinguish them. Since Nansen Island has now become established for the larger feature, the new name Enterprise Island has been given to the smaller island by the United Kingdom Antarctic Place-names Committee (UK-APC), commemorating the enterprise of the whalers who made the anchorage at the south side of the island at Foyn Harbor, a major center of summer industry during the period 1916-1930. Foyn Harbor was first surveyed by T. W. Bagshawe and M. C. Lester in 1921-22. It was named by whalers after the whaling factory ship Svend Foyn, which was moored here during 1921-22.

Portal Point (64°30′S 61°46′W) is a narrow point in the northeast part of Reclus Peninsula, on the west coast of Graham Land. In 1956, a Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey (FIDS) hut was established on the point, from which a route to the plateau was established. So named by the United Kingdom Antarctic Place-Names Committee (UK-APC) in 1960 because the point is the “gateway” of the route.

Wikipedia


Watching these whales play was the highlight of the trip for me.  These whales were so playful interacting with our zodiac.  I wish I could have jumped in the water to swim with them.

There are remains of ships and boats in Antarctica.  In 1915, the Governoren caught fire and burned with no loss of life.  The 85 crew members escaped to land and were rescued by another ship.  A little further away are the remains of a couple rowboats.

Up until this point, we’d only landed on islands.  This was our first time with boots on the ground on the Antarctic continent!  We all laughed, took a lot of pictures, made snow angels and posed with our flag.  For some people, this was their moment of being on all 7 continents.

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South Shetland Islands:  Deception & Halfmoon Islands

Day10_Mar 09_South Shetland Islands – Deception & Halfmoon Islands


Deception Island is an island in the South Shetland Islands archipelago, with one of the safest harbours in Antarctica. This island is the caldera of an active volcano, which seriously damaged local scientific stations in 1967 and 1969. The island previously held a whaling station; it is now a tourist destination and scientific outpost, with Argentine and Spanish research bases. While various countries have asserted sovereignty, it is still administered under the Antarctic Treaty System.

Half Moon Island is a minor Antarctic island, lying 1.35 km (0.84 mi) north of Burgas Peninsula, Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands of the Antarctic Peninsula region. Its surface area is 171 hectares (420 acres). The Argentine Cámara Base is located on the island. It is only accessible by sea and by helicopter; there is no airport of any kind. The naval base is operational occasionally during the summer, but is closed during the winter.

Wikipedia


There are a lot of seals on Deception Island and they squawk at you when you walk by or get to close.  Apparently you just need to raise your arms and yell back.  I never tested that theory and did not want to.

There are a number of old buildings remaining from the whaling industry.

Some of us hiked up to a high spot where there were fantastic views of the island.

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