Expedition to Antarctica
The seventh continent. One of my absolute favorite places on this planet. I never imagined that I'd make make the trek down to this pristine and exquisite desert (yes, Antarctica is technically a desert!), but let me tell you- it is life changing. Surrounded by penguins, whales, seals, and pretty much nothing else, my journey with Polar Latitudes in February-March 2019 was unlike any other.
My voyage began with a flight from New York to Buenos Aires, where I'd spent a night before proceeding on to the southern most point of Argentina in Ushuaia. I recommend spending a few days exploring Buenos Aires and Ushuaia (and Patagonia, if you really have the time) as part of the journey. Argentina is just exquisite, and nothing beats watching dancers tango along the streets! From Ushuaia, I'd boarded Hebridean Sky, Polar Latitudes' premier small ship vessel, to embark upon my 15 day expedition crossing the Antarctic Circle
While Hebridean Sky is indeed a boat, I wouldn't describe the experience or mode of transportation as a "cruise," and I mean this in the best possible sense. I was accommodated in a Promenade Suite cabin located on Deck 4, and it was lofty! The room was generously spacious, featuring two large windows, an oversized walk-in closet, queen-sized bed, sofa, vanity desk with drawers, television console with tons of storage and a mini fridge, and a beautifully appointed bathroom.
Awaiting me upon arrival was my prized Polar Latitudes Antarctica Expedition jacket made by Helly Hansen that I would wear throughout the journey and beyond, as well some token items for keeps (logo mug, aluminum water bottle, post cards, etc.), and a pair of loaner boots required for landings on the continent. I made myself right at home from the start, and the housekeeping team ensured I was always fully stocked with everything I needed. The food aboard ship... absolutely delicious. Multi-course menus spoiled my tummy with delights for every meal. I may have been at the bottom of the earth, hundreds of miles from civilization, but this was a world class experience in every respect.
Sailing to Antarctica means you must cross the Drake Passage, one of the most turbulent bodies of water in the world, and I'm not going to sugarcoat it; it is not for the faint of heart. Our first day at sea, I found myself a little queasy, although adapted rather quickly (having seasickness aids and some crackers to nibble on helps!). I recall asking a crew member if this was considered "Drake Shake" as opposed to "Drake Lake," the calm conditions you can only hope for. They laughed and said, "No, this is most definitely Drake Lake... as good as it gets!" and that sure taught me a lesson. Fortunately, once you're past the Drake, it's smooth sailing from there, and seasickness is a figment of the past... until it's time to cross it again for the trek back to Ushuaia. If I'm being perfectly honest though, crossing the Drake comes as a rite of passage; it makes you feel like you really had to earn reaching the majestic place that is Antarctica. I really wouldn't have spared that experience with my fellow passengers and crew, many of whom I still hold close to my heart today. There's something about taking this journey with a group of like-minded travelers that brings you closer together. If there is one thing that is predictable about Antarctica, it's that it is completely unpredictable, and I felt so fortunate to be guided by the best of the best. With a team comprised of expedition leaders, a historian, geologist, marine biologist, ornithologist, medical doctor, photography coach, and more, whether from the cozy set-up aboard ship, or zipping about the zodiac boats for a landing, I gained soo much insight into this unbelievable place.
So, I did do something a little crazy during my time in Antarctica. Yes, that's me above, taking the polar plunge. The water temperature was .1 centigrade, just a touch above freezing level. About forty of us passengers took the plunge, and you know what- I have zero regrets. Don't get me wrong- it was bloody freezing. When I hit the water, I tried to utter less than ladylike words to convey just how cold it was, but my body must've gone into a temporary shock, because I'd lost the ability to speak for about ten seconds. It was all good though- waiting for us on board were warm towels and glasses of vodka to bring us back to life! Beach music played in the background, the crew cheered for our brave (if not totally daft) souls, and it was a fun time had by all. The funny thing is, once I was out of the water, the air suddenly felt much warmer, and I was in no rush to head back inside. After sharing laughs and pictures with my newest friends, I did eventually head in for a nice hot shower, followed by a BBQ lunch feast from the upper deck.
I can't say enough about my journey in Antarctica, but for now, I'll refer you to my article in the 2020 edition of Sophisticated Weddings, if you'd like to read more about it. I'll just leave off by saying that there is no place in the planet like Antarctica. This one is a gift for the soul.