"A Dream Come True" in Antarctica

Clare Gelnar

15 Mar 2019

NWS client Clare recounts her experience in the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctic Peninsula

We embarked on our Antarctica adventure in January 2017. This would be a dream come true… the ultimate continent! Arriving at Ushuaia was an adventure in itself. It really felt as if we were at the end of the world, partly because nearly every shop advertises it as such! Fin de Mundo. However, we were lucky enough to be going even further to the end of the earth, via the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctic Peninsula
Sailing away on the M/S Expedition, we were so fortunate with the weather virtually the whole trip, although very high winds and swell meant we missed the famous St. Andrew’s Bay full of penguins… but… hundreds of thousands of penguins awaited us at every other stop.
We had a charming crew of 13 nationalities and an excellent expedition team, all so friendly and with a great sense of humour, with backgrounds in marine biology, South Pole expeditions, professional photography, research… We also had a super cabin, with even shower gel and hairdryer included! Our welcome talk stressed that this is not a cruise but an expedition, however there was more luxury than we had imagined, and the meals! Dinner was five courses with waiter service and as you could sit anywhere, lots of enduring friendships were made.
This is an educational adventure with fascinating lectures in between trips on the zodiacs. There are strict rules for cleaning boots and the bottom of your waterproof trousers so that the ecosystem is preserved on each island. Warm, waterproof jackets in a gorgeous red were provided for us to keep, as well as warm, waterproof boots for the duration of the trip. Great fun was had the first evening practicing life jackets, putting on immersion suits (not flattering!) and lining up for life rafts. Thank goodness none of this was required on the trip.
Nature greeted us from the moment we left harbour – albatrosses, petrels, fur seals, dolphins… then our first penguins (rockhoppers) when we landed on the Falkland Islands, nestled together with black-browed albatrosses. Can you imagine the noise? At Saunders Island, we saw king, gentoo, rockhopper and Magellanic penguins – the noise, the smell! My arm already ached from holding my camcorder to catch every squabble, every walk to the sea, every time a parent returned with fish for its youngster.
My husband climbed Mount Tumbledown with a group, a moving experience, while some of us explored Gypsy Cove and ate diddle-dee berries, watching king penguins on the Caribbean-like beach, off limits to people because of the mines.
South Georgia: mountains rising steeply from the sea, bays and beaches full of penguins, and the most unusual barbecue in the freezing cold on deck! We admired seal pups (while avoiding their very protective mothers) as we climbed above Godthal Bay to enjoy gentoo penguins. We walked in Shackleton’s footsteps, climbing the last part of his journey before he finally reached the whaling station and set off to rescue the rest of his crew; then a whisky at Shackleton’s grave, another moving moment.
Once we reached the islands of the Antarctic Peninsula we engaged in fin whale spotting, and saw a variety of albatrosses and giant petrels. We were welcomed by hospitable Argentinians at a research station in the South Orkneys, and were surrounded by icebergs which continued to accompany us as we sailed into a white wilderness. The elephant seals of Elephant Island were loud and smelly, but seeing humpback whales was so exciting.
The most southerly post office in the world? This is Port Lockroy! Postage £1 to anywhere in the world! The girls running the post office and museum live there surrounded by gentoo penguins busy pinching stones from each other’s nests! Further south still and some passengers slept on the ice for the night!
We only turned north after the Captain treated us to a landing on an ice floe amongst Adélie penguins leaping out of the water and tobogganing their way to their nests, a highlight of the trip together with the Polar Plunge, the gigantic glaciers, the icebergs, the millions of penguins…
Two exciting days in Buenos Aires completed our trip of a lifetime. Thank you Natural World Safaris!

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Comments

Sylvia Forder

18/3/2019 5:04 PM

This is an excellent report of your ‘trip of a lifetime’, Clare - very descriptive & well written, so I feel as though I was there too! Super photos & very useful information for travellers. Well done & thank you for sharing your adventure!

Arabella Worthington

18/3/2019 10:55 AM

What a wonderful blog Claire. Thanks so much for putting it together. Amazing photos and really makes me want to head south!

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