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.

TravTalk - India - - ANTARTICA - The writer is Tarique Hus­sain, Co-founder, CruiseClub Va­ca­tions

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!

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