Starting and ending in Ushuaia (Argentina), ships bound for the Antarctic Peninsula have to cross the dreaded Drake Passage, a trip which is roughly 900 km long. “Rough” would actually be an understatement on a ship rolling about 20° to 30° for two consecutive days. This passage is considered one of the roughest seas in the world. Many people on board were seasick and stayed in their cabins. Not many passengers would show up for the scheduled meals.
Those two days of passage to the Antarctic peninsula also serve for various mandatory drills, such as the usual ship evacuation drills. Additional briefings were held, such as the “Code of Conduct in Antarctica”. These were mandatory for all passengers who wanted to go ashore in Antarctica. Moreover, we followed introductions to the Zodiac operations, and had various gear handed out.
As for the rest of the time in transit to Antarctica, we spent most of it reading books or watching movies.
We arrived on the third day at the South Shetland Islands, where the ships movements calmed down considerably. This was the first time we met the full group of people during meals. Later this day we touched land at Barrientos Island, using inflatable boats – commonly called Zodiacs – for the transfer from the ship to the shorelines. Here, we met for the first time some of the local inhabitants of Antarctic region, Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins. Also, we spotted an Elephant seal, dozing on the shores of the island.
On the following days, we went to Hydrurga Rocks, then Neko Harbour on Andvord Bay, where we made our first continental landing. Palmer Station on Anvers Island, the Lemaire Channel, Iceberg Alley near Pléneau Island, Detaille Island (where we crossed the Polar Circle), Perch Island, Petermann Island, Port Lockroy on Goudier Island, Jougla Point on Wiencke Island, Foyn Harbour and Telefon Bay at Deception Island were other sites along our route – to name a few (see map below for details).
We navigated a total of 3395 km (or 1833 nautical miles) during this journey. Looking at the Antarctic map, we have merely scratched the edge of the continent. Probably this needs another trip to explore more. And I’ll gladly return again.