I wait for a break in the raging waves before doing my thing after stepping down the gangway of the cruise ship with care. I sat into a small rubber boat after just one stride. Just after a few minutes, our small group of explorers bounced through amazing objects, like a napping seal and chunks of brilliant blue ice. I head to the northern part of the Antarctic Peninsula after putting my legs over the zodiac once my boat stopped along a rocky beach.
A precious sight complemented by a strong guano smell overcame me as I walked along the beach, laden with large blocks of ice. In front and around me, hundreds of adelie penguins waddled. As far as what I could see, their numbers rose up a craggy slope. And this would be the first landing we have on this remotest of continents, and I can indeed say that the two day cruise through rough seas, from Ushuaia, Argentina, is paying off indeed. More and more tourists are beginning to understand today that traversing this crystalline jungle is worth every penny or ounce of sweat.
Just last year, 26,000 visitors poured in and the number rises each year. Patterns of swirling blue are broken by lectures on global sneaky penguins. Come the December days of the austral summer, the weather is pleasant and relaxing, far from its image of being the world’s most mercilessly coldest continent. Going above the 40s on the peninsula, temperatures can become cruelly way beyond freezing point. The time when trips usually run is from November to March.
This ship, 100 meters long goes on an 11 day cruise with its tough exterior and is always almost full, capable of welcoming around a hundred passengers on board. Even as the ship is not fancy, it gives people utmost comfort. It has a bar and lounge with a small library and an auditorium. Small yachts are able to reach Antarctica. We go and leave the port this coming Friday night. As we open our eyes on the next day, we marvel at the birds from the southern seas flying gloriously, especially the wandering albatrosses as they show off their glides and arcs.
Tour guides creatively incorporate the expertise of a visual artist the teaches passengers how to paint and draw penguins as well as informative talks from experts like marine biologists, bird specialists, a geologist, and a historian who all make creative ways to enjoy as they cruise around the sea. During the tour, global warming lectures were not present even as this was often a topic of discussion.
Events in the nearby islands as well as during the landings on the continent is mostly where the highlights of the trip were. It is truly unforgettable to hear the loud crack of a calving iceberg or witness an avalanche in motion from afar. So many things, right on the decks of the ship, can be seen. Tourists are able to make the most out of the trip thanks to short hours of darkness.
As you climb up the deck to witness the huge array of wind crafted icebergs parade themselves, glorious in either blue or white shades, be sure to dress up to stay warm against cold, strong winds. Passing through breathtaking landscapes, high mountains brimming with jewel like glacier caught our eyes as they hang. At some times, whales would rise into view. A beautiful and long lasting sunset makes the sky its canvas of red and orange colors.
We were alarmed to hear that an elderly passenger was ill and had to be evacuated, as soon as we got back on the ship. Basically, this means that we need to get an airstrip way back in the Islands in South Shetland after a very long detour overnight. Evacuations such as this one, which can cost a patient up to tens of thousands of dollars are pushing many passengers aboard group trips to truly consider getting medical evacuation insurance.
After the sick man was sent to Chile for medical evacuation, we went to Ardley Island, where tiny penguins, newly Gentoo ones were fed by their doting parents. An adult penguin delicately puts in the head of its young chick to regurgitate a snack of krill unto its mouth and a gooey strand from beak to beak follows after.
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