“Great God! This is an awful place.” Robert Falcon Scott, referring to the South Pole
We had not actually been on the Antarctic continent itself until we reached Orne Harbour on the 6th day. This was a major milestone for us as this was our 7th continent and the biggest challenge, we had to climb a 200 metre high mountain to enjoy terrific views of this incredible continent and meet the Chinstrap Penguins for the first time. This was a very difficult climb and many people struggled however it was worth it to glimpse the place that was discovered on December 14th 1911 by the Norwegian expeditionary Roald E.G. Amundsen as part of the Terra Nova Expedition.
South Shetlands – Baily Head
The last day of our incredible land excursions started with the approach of Baily Head on Deception Island, which is the largest of three recent volcanic centers in the South Shetlands. Most of the island are covered by glaciers and volcanic ash. On Baily Head there is around 78,000 pairs of Chinstrap penguins (as counted from a satellite picture) and their poop, a very spectacular, loud and quite stinky experience.
Our final and voluntary activity in this cold and unreal environment took place at Whaler’s Bay which is inside an active volcano. It was used in the 1870’s for whaling activities and you still find remains of the Norwegian whaling station and a British Antarctic survey base that was evacuated during the last eruption in 1967. While we explored the black beaches of the bay, we got the opportunity to do the polar plunge, which is basically what it sounds. We took a very quick dip in the arctic waters around 2 degrees, a very refreshing but freezing experience (announced by the expedition team as the activity where boys become girls) Our recovery was helped with the shot of vodka given by the staff after we came out of the ocean.
Our trip back to Ushuaia was calculated with 2,5 days and we were asked to ‘Drake secure’ our cabin and to take seasickness tablets. This time it would be rougher as we expected 55 knots wind and 6 meter high waves. Imagine a 48 hours roller-coaster in slow mention and you come close to the feeling we had on our way back. In bed you slide up and down and everything that is not secured will sooner or later end on the floor or on your head.
This last 10 days have been a fantastic and wonderful experience that has given us an insight into the mysterious continent. We have also met some interesting people on the way that are united in the spirit of adventure and are constantly looking to broaden their horizons.
There are no pictures or words that could describe this incredible journey, the sound of thousands of penguins around you or a communication between a Weddle seal mum and her pup, the excitement in you when you spot Orcas for the 1st time in your life and the deepest respect you feel for nature when you pass million year old blue shimmering ice bergs.
This was by far the most impressive trip we have ever made and has given us a taste of further things to explore. We hope this will not be our last visit to this amazing world.
“People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.”
Sir Edmund Hillary as part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition