Number of Days: 3 (it was supposed to be 4 days but a storm with 35 foot waves came in so we had to high tail it out - we still felt 12 foot swells while we crossed Drake's passage)
Times we took the: Boat/Ferry - 1 Bus/Minivan - 0 Train/Subway - 0 taxi/car - 0
Where we stayed: Star Princess
Favorite Restaurant: n/a
Best of: Stunningly beautiful scenery!
Worst of: We were unable to go onto the ice itself as our ship was too large (our ship held 2,300 people and the maximum size allowed for disembarkation on Antarctica was 200). We knew this in advance and still opted to go ahead as the small ships charge a minimum of $4000 per person for 10 days and our cruise was $1000 for 16 days...it was a no brainer for us and worth every single cent.
Saying that the scenery in Antarctica is stunning just doesn't do it justice. In our three short days there we saw more ice than imaginable (Antarctica is 99.8% covered with perpetual ice)! Not only is the continent covered in ice, but there are countless Icebergs and Bergie Bits floating in the water. Icebergs generally are the size of houses or larger and the surface area is only 10% of the total mass, the rest being submerged. Bergie Bits are the actual technical term for icebergs the size of a car or smaller. In either case, the ice breaks off from the Glaciers and takes on a life of their own. The wind and water transform each piece of floating ice into their own unique works of art.
In addition to all of the ice we witnessed penguins porpoise in the water, dolphins and even several whales! There aren't words to describe it all so instead of trying I think it's easier to show you some of our favorite photos!
20-Feb-09 - Antarctic Peninsula (Elephant island)
*The top photo is a group of penguins porpoising through the water. On the final two shots you will see that the water is two shades of blue. The lighter shade is a top layer of fresh water melt from the glacier (in the middle of the last photo) and the dark blue is salt water.
21-Feb-09 - Antarctic Peninsula (Iceberg Alley, Admiralty Bay & Esperanza Station)
*Esperanza station (2nd photo) is one of the largest communities on Antarctica and one of the few where people live year round, including families. The first person born on Antarctica was born here. The last photo is a photo of the group of scientists our ship picked up and took to Ushuaia, Argentina.
22-Feb-09 - Antarctic Peninsula (Gerlach Strait, Neumayer Glacier & Channel)
*The blue ice is the "oldest" ice and the blue color is caused by a compression of the particles over the years.
The ship sailed all the way to the 65th parallel which was the southern most point they were allowed to sail to. Beyond that point, boats are uninsurable and enter waters at their own risk and cost. Had we had spent no less than $4000 each, then we could have went farther and stepped on land, but given the cost differences and the fact that two of those ships ran aground during our time there, we feel pretty good about our choice.
On our last day in Antarctica, the captain informed us that we would have to cut our time a little short on the white continent due to a huge storm coming our way. We were sad to leave a little early, but excited to be able to see Cape Horn and the Beagle Channel in the light of day!