Date: February 2016
Activity: Sailing from Buenos Aires Argentina, to Elephant Island Antartica!
One of our biggest dreams was to have the opportunity to visit the 7th continent and check it off of our list. Antartica was the final frontier …the one last bean we needed to add to our burrito, so when we saw a deal come up on face book to take a 14 day cruise from Buenos Aires Argentina to Paradise Bay Antartica, with all of the ports in between, we decided it was something we just had to do. So 13 months before push off we booked our cruise with, Cruise Directors, a company out of Utah, and gathered a group of three other couples to go along with us for a trip of a lifetime!
Our cruise was to begin on Valentine’s Day in Buenos Aires and would stop in Ushuaia Argentina, Around Cape Horn of Chile (the southern tip of South America), over the rough seas of Drakes Passage, through Schollart Channel, Paradise Harbor Antartica, through Garlache Straight, around Elephant Island, then around Deception Island, stop in Port Stanley of the Falkland Islands, and Puerto Madryn Argentina, Montevideo Uruguay, and then back to Buenos Aires. We were all set to see the bottom of the world and check off this long awaited continent.
Only 32,000 cruisers are able to visit Antartica every year. Sadly there is not a place to dock the boat to step foot on Antartica unless you are with a scientific expedition or have paid the big bucks to climb Mount Vinson on the other side of the continent. So we would just be cruisers enjoying the beautiful vistas, glaciers, icebergs and mountain views from the boat as we made our way close to this magnificent piece of land.
Then entire voyage to Antartica was exciting. We had watched crazy videos of how rough the seas can be when passing through Drakes Passage that is the neck of water between South American and the Peninsula of Antartica. Though we did at one point have 20 foot waves, and 20 mph winds it was nothing compared to other cruisers through this infamously dangerous neck of water. I can’t say I was disappointed because I didn’t want to risk my life to see Antartica but I do know some of our party was a little. However it was rough enough to push some people out of their beds at night and have stacks of plates come crushing down in the dining room so that was enough excitement for me.
While visiting Antartica we had to pick up an iceberg pilot to help our ships captain maneuver the icebergs of the area. One iceberg after another really gave us the feel that we were literally dodging icebergs. The most beautiful stop was when we arrived in Paradise Harbor and were surrounded on three sides of the beautiful landscape of Antartica. There were even penguins swimming off of some of the icebergs and it lived up to every thing I had imagined as a child. With whales following our ship and blowing in our wake it made for some great whale watching as well. The views were majestic and I don’t think I’m able to really describe the beauty of God’s creation in this little blog post. It is and will always be a spiritual experience for me.
At one point our captain admitted that we were very lucky and were able to come closer to the land than he had been able to do in the last two years of traveling to the area. The day was clear and sunny and made for fantastic photo ops as we all ran around the boat trying to find the right lighting to capture the grandeur of the glaciers. The glaciers really are blue, and we learned a lot of the explorations of Shackelton and even stopped to see where his crew had shipwrecked on the Endurance. To learn about his story and the perseverance of man in such a harsh climate is inspiring.
Our only disappointment was the foggy conditions we encountered when we went over to see Deception Island. This is where Nathan Palmer first discovered Antartica. We had to slow our voyage down at this point as the weather conditions came in to our captain and a huge storm was over Drakes Passage. Though we were scheduled for two sea days to get back to South America so we could visit Puerto Madryn we had to putter around and it took us three sea days and we had to cut out Puerto Madryn from our itinerary to avoid the huge storm that would have hit us in the passage. Cutting out Puerto Madryn did make for more sea days than we wouldn’t have liked, but having such great friends with us on the ship, and cruising with a great company ship like Celebrity, made it bearable and even fun. We had card games, paddle ball, putting contests and the ships entertainment, and great food to keep us busy. Visiting Antartica in the lap of luxury without the penetrating, unescapable cold like the scientists, or the mountain climbers, made a few extra sea days well worth it!
Safe and Happy Travels!