Antarctica is one of the greatest adventures that anyone could have. It is the final frontier, the dream of a lifetime, and an incredible journey. It will remain a top five travel experience in my life. From sailing through 1,000m high mountains of ice that tower over the ship to taking a polar plunge, Antarctica was full of dreamland experiences that are better than your wildest imagination. These are my top five favorite moments in Antarctica.
Number Five: Sledding at Neko Harbour
At Neko Harbour, impressive glaciers of many shades of blue and white surrounded us. High cliffs of ice rose out of the sea and we heard ice crack as a huge chunk broke off and landed into the water creating a mini tsunami on the beach. Doesn’t it all sound like a dream? Well, witnessing it was even better. Then, we climbed to an impressive view point that overlooked the harbour and we were given the chance to slid down. I wasn’t sure if they were serious at first. It was steep; it seemed too steep for sledding. One of the guests decided to give it a try and he slowly made his way down the cliff and through the snow. Safely, he reached the bottom. What I didn’t consider at the time was that the more people went, the more packed the snow and ice would get. By the time I went down the hill, it was slick. I flew down so quickly that I actually passed someone that went before me. Being in the middle of this awe-inspiring natural wilderness is indescribable but rushing by it at high speeds was even better! Wow!
On latitude 63° south, looms Deception Island, a ring-shaped island with an extensive internal crater. Bark Europa sailed through a small opening called ‘Neptunes Bellows’ into the volcanic crater and dropped anchor. We were brought to the active volcano to hike the rim. The impressive panorama views were unworldly.
Number Three: First Penguin Encounter on Barrientos Island, One of the Aitcho Islands
I’ve taken a lot of selfies during my travels but this was the first with a penguin next to me and the first in Antarctica. It’s a moment that will be ingrained in my memory for life. I wasn’t at a zoo or somewhere where the penguins were out of their natural environment. This was their home and I was a guest. From their reaction, I was a welcomed guest too. I didn’t want to move. I wanted the moment to last. I welled up with tears and smiled for the camera. It was more than I dreamed possible.
Number Two: Swimming in Antarctica
At Pendulum Cove, thermal currents rise and those who so wish may bathe in the geothermally warmed waters, but a polar dip wasn’t on my agenda. I’m naturally cold when others are warm. The thought of it made me shiver. Friends asked if I would go ashore and take photos so I prepared to land. Just before I got on the Zodiac, I decided to run down to my cabin and put on my bathing suit just in case. When we landed, everyone stood around second guessing their decision to swim. Snow and ice surrounded us. It was freezing. Without thinking or even talking to anyone, I started to take off my jacket and snow pants. How bad could it be? I walked toward the water and sat down in the waves. Everyone, including myself, was shocked. The sand was warm and as I wiggled my bottom, it warmed the water around me. It’s not too often that you have a chance to swim in Antarctica. I had to go for it. Others joined me and we giggled as looked at the bizarre situations we found ourselves in.
Number One: Dolphin Luminescence
I don’t have a photo to prove this one. It sounds like a tall tale told by a sailor. (Oh wait, is that what this is?) The most magical thing happened to us during our last watch of the Bark Europa voyage. The water was calm and the moon was full. It was 4 am and I was at the helm steering the ship. The winds were low and we were under sail barely moving north toward Argentina. I heard splashing in the water and realized the dolphins were back. Dolphins love to jump and play in the waves created by the ship and we’d seen hundreds of them during our trip. This scene is amazing enough but the bioluminescent-rich waters created a light around the dolphins. The dolphins’ path was illuminated like a green comet in the water. The ocean was glowing. Dozens of dolphins darted around the ship and everything was alive with magnificent blues and greens. Picture Life of Pi but with dolphins. It was the most beautiful, natural sight I’ve seen and there were only a handful of us on deck to witness it. No one had a camera. No one took a photo. We just marveled at the phenomenon happening before our eyes.
This is life in Antarctica. Even fantastical movies can’t create something better.