Antarctica Cruise - to the Bottom of the World
By: Dave Ellis
Antarctica is the fifth-largest continent in area after Asia, Africa, North America and South America. Some 98 percent of Antarctic is covered by ice, which averages at least 1.6 kilometres in thickness.
It was mid-February and I travelled to the coldest, driest, and windiest continent where there’s no permanent human residents or any evidence of any pre-historic indigenous population. It lies in darkness at the bottom of the world. It's a vast unknown, like an afterthought of creation. My Antarctica cruise would prove to be an adventure that makes life worth living. At 26 years of age I wanted a different kind of experience knowing I had the rest of my life to reminisce what wonders I would come across.
I got that and more.
From Argentina's capital and self proclaimed "City of Cool", it was another three hour flight to the Tierra del Fuego and its capital Ushuaia, where I embarked on a 19 day trip aboard the Akademik Sergev Vavilov to the South Shetland Islands, Faulkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica Peninsula. The Valvilov was built in Finland in the late 1980's for the Russian Academy of Science. Akademik Sergev Vavilov's original mission was to perform sensitive hydro-acoustic ocean research. As such, she is exceptionally quick, quiet and stable. Vavilov is recognised as one of the finest expedition ships to ever sail the polar seas.
The Drake Passage - The Roughest Stretch of Water in the World
Getting to the Antarctica is no mean feat. This is the body of water between the southern tip of South America at Cape Horn and Antarctica. It’s called the Southern Ocean and is the ocean that circumvents the Antarctic. It’s the fourth largest ocean in the world (after the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Ocean, but larger than the Arctic Ocean). This passage held up to its reputation as the roughest stretch in the world. On the big sea days people tend to retreat to their cabins, so pack the seasick tablets!
Other Ship Board Amenities
On warm days (Think we had about 1hr over the whole trip) I swam in the top side pool then warmed up in the sauna. There’s something surreal about relaxing in a sauna in the middle of the Southern Ocean at the end of the world.
During the day I attended the odd lecture about the animals and global warming. After all the excitement for the day we would get to the bar early and settle in for the card games and a few quiet drinks using the ice we brought back to the ship.
If you get bored watching icebergs/whales floating by (if that’s possible) you can catch a movie or read a book in the library.
I knew I was not going hungry. The exquisite welcome-aboard buffet set the tone for the cuisine on the cruise. There are several places to eat. The Seven Continents Restaurant has menu service for breakfast, lunch and dinner or the top-side Lido Café and Yacht Club Restaurant are two other alternatives. One of the best things about the trip was I remained the same weight coming on board that I did when I disembarked.
Zodiac Cruising, Penguins, Ice Bergs, Seals and Sun
I was mesmerized from the first moment I set eyes on the continent. It was a place that expanded my senses of time. It was gracefully peaceful. I listened to the silence outside my porthole. The skies were flawless blue with marshmallow clouds. The sun was shining for 17 hours a day and the temperature about 0 degrees Celsius.
It was truly another world. I found what I was looking for. When weather permitted, as it did for most of this cruise, I took shore excursions (zodiac cruising) among icebergs to the continent itself. And it was Saturday at 1 pm that I first stepped foot on Half Moon Island part of the 7th continent of the world, Antarctica. I became one of the approximate 35,000 people to do so each year. There was a sizable rookery of Chinstrap and Adelie penguins and an abundant bird population of terns, petrels, cormorants, wandering albatross and whales. I saw stunning views of surrounding volcanic mountains.
The highlight by far was the South Georgia stop’s, it’s an absolute wonderland for wildlife. Words cannot describe the amazing scenery that I came across, from a colony of breading King penguins (about 300,000 +) to meeting around 95% of the world’s fur seals on the one place! Words cannot describe this incredible place, I have traveled to most parts of the world but nothing comes close to my favourite travel destination in the world – South Georgia!
Would I Return?
In a heartbeat. The vastness of this white continent made me feel like I was the only person on earth to really understand what travel is all about.
Today's Cruise Specialist:
Dave's passion for travel started 6 years ago at the start of his round world trip. On his return, travel has continued being a large part of his life and for the past 4 years it's been a pleasure to be able to share that passion with his clients. Dave is delighted to bring his extensive knowledge to Cruiseabout Belmont to assist booking all kinds of holidays from flights, accommodation, land tours and most importantly cruises. His cruise wish list includes Greek Islands sailing, Singapore to Rome via the Suez Canal and New York to Rio De Janeiro. To get in touch with Dave you can call him on 1300 092 305, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org