Black and white and blue all over

Our read­ers share tales of their ram­bles around the world.

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - To tell us about your own trip, go to wash­ing­ton­ and fill out the What a Trip form with your fond­est mem­o­ries, finest mo­ments and fa­vorite photos.

Who: Ellen K. Sch­wab of Bethesda and Peggy Strand of Ar­ling­ton.

Where, when, why: We went to Antarc­tica for two weeks in Fe­bru­ary with Quark Ex­pe­di­tions.

Ellen: Lots of peo­ple asked “Why?” when I told them where I was go­ing, and it was hard to an­swer. But I had wanted to go for at least 20 years. It would be a chance to set foot on my sev­enth con­ti­nent and a way to see pen­guins, as well an op­por­tu­nity to go some­place un­like any other.

Peggy: Antarc­tica is a con­ti­nent with­out gov­ern­ment and ded­i­cated to science, un­in­hab­ited by per­ma­nent res­i­dents. I went to see this vast, cold, iso­lated place that is largely free from in­ter­na­tional con­flict.

High­lights and high points: We en­joyed see­ing huge ice­bergs in fan­tas­tic whites and jew­ellike turquoise blues, dra­matic moun­tains and glaciers in ev­ery di­rec­tion, whales and seals swimming sev­eral feet from our rafts, and, of course, pen­guins. Our first stop was Cu­verville Is­land, home to thou­sands of them.

Cul­tural con­nec­tion or dis­con­nect: It was a treat to be on a ship with 100-plus happy pas­sen­gers from all over the world — we were all so happy to be there!

Big­gest laugh or cry: There were so many things that were purely de­light­ful, and many had to do with pen­guins. We watched a pen­guin feed her baby by re­gur­gi­tat­ing food. We could also look out our cabin win­dow and see pen­guins swimming, pop­ping in and out of the wa­ter.

Peggy: I was struck by the se­vere and stark beauty of the land­scape, all blues, whites and browns. In ad­di­tion, I loved be­ing able to look out my cabin win­dow and see noth­ing but wa­ter, waves and big swells.

How un­ex­pected: The most un­ex­pected el­e­ments of the trip had to do with the weather. We were lucky to have a calm Drake Pas­sage to cross on the way back — that only hap­pens twice a sea­son, said one of the staff. But we also ex­pe­ri­enced an Antarc­tic hur­ri­cane while on the ship. It was ex­cit­ing, with winds gust­ing up to 90 knots and sea swells up to 18 feet. It wasn’t re­ally cold: Be­cause it was sum­mer there, the av­er­age tem­per­a­ture was in the mid-30s. The weather was much worse in Washington when we re­turned.

Fond­est me­mento or mem­ory:

Peggy: I couldn’t bring it home, but I held gla­cial ice in my hands that was more than 15,000 years old. Antarc­tica re­minds one of ge­o­logic time, an in­sight into the role of hu­mans and our history.

Ellen: It was more what we didn’t come back with: pen­guin poop on our boots (you had to scrub your boots when­ever you re­turned to the ship) and a peb­ble from Antarc­tica (we were told not to pick up any). I will ad­mit to buy­ing one pen­guin thing from the Po­lar Bou­tique on the ship — a sil­i­cone tray to make ice cubes in the shape of tiny pen­guins. I couldn’t re­sist.


Ellen K. Sch­wab, shown above on the deck of the ship at the Antarc­tic Penin­sula, and Peggy Strand ven­tured fromWash­ing­ton to Antarc­tica in Fe­bru­ary for the com­par­a­tively balmy weather. Well, and to see its de­light­ful (non-hu­man) res­i­dents, be­low, stun­ning land­scape and mil­len­nia-old ice up close.

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