Breaking the ICE
The southernmost continent and site of the South Pole, Antarctica is a virtually uninhabited landmass. But a handful of adventurous Indians are now including it in their bucket list.
Iarrived in Ushuaia, Argentina, located at the tip of South America after a longish flight via Buenos Aires to board the expedition ship ‘Sea Spirit’. I was pleasantly surprised by the ship’s cabin size especially since it was one of the smaller expedition ships. After dinner we were issued our official Quark Expeditions’ bright yellow parkas which we would get to keep as a souvenir. The waterproof parka was good quality and lined with a warm removable fleece that would keep us warm and dry. We also collected waterproof rubber boots (a loaner) for wet landings.
We crossed the Drake Passage on day three and four. The Drake Passage is widely considered the world’s roughest passage to sail through. A lot of the guests had carried seasickness patches and put them behind their back on the afternoon of departure as a precautionary measure. I, on the other hand, survived on the drake diet (green apples) instead! We spent the next two days in open seas preparing for the exciting days ahead. The expedition team had organised lectures and interactive sessions to familiarise us with the type of birds, mammals and ice we would encounter.
As the continent’s coastline made its first appearance, we got ready to set foot on the seventh continent. The morning landing was at Mikkelsen Harbour. A penguin colony, along
The Drake Passage is widely considered the world’s roughest passage to sail through. Some guests carried seasickness patches as a precautionary measure
with seals and an old whaling boat and whale bones made it an interesting place.
The next day we dropped anchor near a small island called Cuverville. We first spent some time on land with the penguins and then took to the water in zodiacs for a cruise and some whale-watching. Early next morning we entered the Lemaire Channel. Guests emerged from their suites to capture ‘The Kodak Channel’ — one of the most photogenic locations in the Antarctica.
Our next destination was Pleneau Island — a beautiful place commonly called the ‘Iceberg Graveyard’ because large icebergs get carried into this passageway and trapped by a series of shallow rocks. As we got back on the ship some guests were getting ready for their Polar Plunge — 22 brave swimmers dived into the icy waters!
We then made our way to Port Lockroy. It was renovated in and now hosts a museum, gift shop and post office operated by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust. The small rustic building is manned by three staff members each summer. They maintain the station as a living museum and monitor the effects of visitors on the penguin rookeries. It’s also the only place we visited that sold authentic Antarctic souvenirs. I got my passport stamped and mailed some postcards home, that'd take three months to reach India!