My Vacation: Frolicking With Penguins in Antarctica
The author of The Boomers' Guide to Going Abroad to Travel, Live, Give, Learn, and a blogger for Huff/Post50, Doris Gallan and her husband have traveled around the world twice, setting foot on all seven continents, visiting more than 50 countries and living in five of them between 2006 and 2011.
When asked "What was the best part of the journey?" the two never hesitate to say the trip to Antarctica. Gallan shares this report.
The millions of penguins (Adelies, pictured above) we saw in one place, the five species of whales and five more of seals, icebergs as large as mountains, the lone sail boat we watched in the distance, meeting other adventurers, and seeing the closest thing on Earth to purity. Not one memory but many, many recollections of an amazing place.
The amazing sunset-sunrise combination of the almost-24-hour days. The night we stayed up for the on-deck barbecue party we were up late enough to witness a palette of pinks and yellows as the sky never got completely dark but shifted from sunset to sunrise in a spectacular display of light.
The opportunity of exploring small bays and inlets only possible by going with a small ship. Because of our size (only 50 passengers and 50 crew), we discovered beautiful areas large cruise liners could never approach. We were able to get closer to the land/ice leading to more frequent opportunities to walk on land and could disembark several times a day which isn't always the case with larger ships. Also, when we spotted a pod of whales, we were able to change our itinerary to follow it at a distance.
Probably the first meal we were able to eat after crossing the dreaded Drake Passage (pictured above). Only the English passengers -- I'm convinced they're born with sea legs -- were able to survive with little illness as the rest of us intimately understood what happens when the Southern (also known as Antarctic) Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean. This is the disadvantage of going on a smaller ship, but the advantages far outweighed the inconvenience of being seasick for a day or two.
Every evening we got together with the other passengers in the small lounge over drinks and exchanged stories about what we'd experienced. We'd look over each others' photos and videos, got to know each other better and learn more about the others' cultures (there were people from all over the world). We're still in touch with the British friends pictured above.
What I learned:
Our ship had four scientists on board so we learned more about their areas of specialty than we ever thought possible. Who would have thought krill could sustain the entire ecosystem? Or that there could be so many different shades of white in ice? Or that elephant seals (pictured above) need to expel so much gas build up from their 20 to 60 minute underwater swims?
Make sure you bring the right clothing including rubber boots, ski pants and jacket. These are especially important when disembarking from the rubber zodiacs to go on shore. Some passengers wore leather boots and these were ruined within days as the sea salt ate away at the leather, threading and glue holding them together. Shops in Ushuaia -- where ships leave from South America -- rent all the necessary clothing including suspendered winter pants and heavy jackets so you don't need to bring anything from home except hats, gloves and long underwear.
My Vacation is an occasional series featuring photo essays by SecondAct readers. Do you have a great travel photo you'd like to share? Submit it to travel[at]secondact.com.