John and I have just returned from Antarctica. Travelling with a lovely group of 11, we thoroughly loved our journey to the ‘seventh continent’. This is the last great wilderness on Earth: one moment ethereally calm and beautiful, the next lethally harsh and unforgiving. We had fine and calm weather around the Antarctic Peninsula and islands and were able to land five times. Each landing was distinctly different with its own landscape and specific wildlife.
One visit took us to a Chilean base, a fairly basic building and it was hard to imagine ‘wintering over’ there. I never tired of watching penguins who were as curious as we were, waddling over to take a closer look at us and peck at our gumboots. The red-beaked Gentoo’s waddling and tobogganing up and down their penguin ‘highways” was hilarious to watch. The grey fluffy chicks were nearly as big as their parents and chased them relentlessly for their next feed.
Cruising by Zodiac was equally rewarding. Seals lolled on the luminous blue icebergs. The icebergs are sculptures of extraordinary beauty. A leopard seal almost as long as the Zodiac cruised past us one day and a dolphin played beside us on another. We made a special trip late one afternoon to see the southern humpback whales feeding on krill. Although not able to land on Cape Horn when the ‘Drake Lake’ turned into the ‘Drake Shake’ with 10 metre waves and swells, we spotted many albatross – superb flying machines, skimming the surface of the waves.
On board lectures every day covered topics ranging from seabirds and penguins, to glaciers, current Antarctic research projects and the Yaghan indigenous people of Tierra de Fuego. The heroism of Antarctic exploration is particularly vivid when you are there and can fully appreciate the courage and resourcefulness of Shackleton’s Endurance expedition through the roughest, coldest seas in the world in a 20 foot open boat, to seek help. This truly deserves to be called a trip of a lifetime and because we loved it so much, we will offer this expedition again in 2019.
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John & Rosanne Matheson – Directors/Tour Managers