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Antarctica Recap + Gallery

It's been about two weeks since I've returned from my trip to Antarctica and I still feel like I haven't processed how special this trip was, and how I don't know if I'll ever be able to recreate those feelings of magic, awe and inspiration that I felt while I was there. I've had a ton of people reaching out to get the full details of the trip, but even if you're just here to check out the gallery of photos, I'm happy to have you. :)

We had quite the trip to even get to Antarctica, coming from Bend, Oregon I had a long way to go. I flew to LA, then to Dallas, where I met up with my friend Gaby, and we ate some dinner in the admirals lounge (thanks Gaby!!), we then flew to Buenos Aires on an overnight flight. Once in Buenos Aires, we headed out to explore the city, try the new food and enjoy the culture. We only had one night there before we headed to Ushuaia the next morning. Once we were in Ushuaia, we immediately planned to head to see the National Park, got some last minute tattoos, and ate some amazing King Crab at a cool restaurant. Our nerves were at an all time high however, once we saw our ship on our last morning in Ushuaia, in comparison to the huge cruise ships that were docked right next to the Plancius. After hearing about the 60 foot waves in the Drake Passage, we were just imagining how they would be covering the entire boat. Within a few hours we boarded the boat, and our adventure began.

Once we were aboard the Plancius, we were explored the boat, our quad room, the bridge, the lounge and all the decks. We were greeted with champagne in the lounge and sat down to meet the crew and passengers that we'd be spending the next 13 days with on the expedition. This was the point where the crew talked to us about the next few days, what crossing the Drake passage would be like, and the weather forecast. They showed us a map, as well as talked about how big the waves would be. This was the point where we all got nervous, knowing we would be getting around 20 foot waves, with some high wind as well. I wasn't worried at this point, since I hadn't been sea sick before (spoiler - this didn't hold up) but I was more worried about the waves being so big and capsizing the boat. After we met everyone, we had one of the most amazing sunsets through the beagle channel to send us off on our adventure, and even had dolphins swimming along the boat in the golden pink colored waters reflecting the sky. The vibes were high at this point, until around 10 PM when we entered into the Drake Passage.

We had a little over two days to cross the Drake Passage. After a night of being shifted from one end of the bed to the other, I woke up to go to the bathroom and brush my teeth and immediately got sea sick. Within 1 minute, I had to sit on the floor in the bathroom and practically crawl my way back into my bed (which was a top bunk unfortunately). I had never been sea sick up until this point, so did not know this feeling. I had to make my way up a few stories to the lounge since there was some mandatory safety briefings, but even just trying to walk in the hallway or upstairs made me incredibly sick. I even ran into the ship's doctor and he said I was as pale as the wall behind me. They anticipated this sea sickness though, and had the hallway lined with barf bags. I unfortunately had to use these a few times. I did end up also having to buy prescription strength sea sick patches from the doctor on board, but I took them too late and pretty much had to wait it out. Luckily the next day wasn't as bad, but I wasn't 100%.

On our third day on the boat, we made it to Antarctica. Our first order of business was kayaking, at 8 AM the morning we made it there. We hadn't looked outside yet and had no idea what to expect but as soon as we got off the boat and into our zodiac we were greeted with insane mountain peaks, a calving glacier, giant icebergs and hundreds of penguins. It was one of the most beautiful places I had seen and we had only seen it for 1 minute. We got into our kayaks from the zodiac and started our route, immediately coming up to three sleeping humpback whales. We stayed there for a while, and also enjoyed the penguins swimming around us and seeing the incredible blue color of the ice. We did hear the glacier calve a few times, which was pretty scary because sometimes we could hear the lound thundering noise but not see the ice break off. We had to be ready to turn our kayak towards any waves that would be produced by ice breaking off.

As expected, the biosecurity to get onto Antarctica was taken very seriously. One of the Drake Passage days before we even got there, we had to bring all of our other layers and our shoes to be cleaned and inspected by the crew to make sure we weren’t bringing any seeds, crumbs, trash, etc. with us. For those who know me, you know I have a golden retriever, and yes had to even vacuum out my clothes multiple times to get off every last hair that was stuck onto me. Every time we got off and back onto the boat, we also had to disinfect and scrub our boots, as well as anything else that would touch the ground (walking sticks, tripods, etc.) and we were not allowed to have anything else touch the ground except those things. That also meant no sitting, kneeling, putting your backpack onto the ground, or anything. 

After kayaking, the next activity we had planned was a night of open air camping. This is something we weren’t 100% sure we were going to do, as with all of the activities offered It’s fully dependent on weather and there is the possibiliy that you may not be able to go. We got all of our stuff ready, with all of our layers, and headed to the gear room to pick up the rest of our gear. We had a water proof bag that inside had a liner and a sleeping bag. After a short zodiac ride, we landed at Damoy Point and got right to work. It was actively snowing and high winds were forecasted for the night, so we had to build somewhat of a shelter out of snow. We were given shovels and then had to create a small hole and a wall, which is where we would then put our sleeping bags in and sleep for the night. It was around 11 PM at this time, but since it was summer in Antarctica it was still light out. We weren’t allowed to have any of our gear touch the ground, so once our shelter was built, we switched off getting into our sleeping bags to then put our normal bags and outer wear back into our dry bag that was approved to be on the ground. That night, it was rainy, snowy and windy all night. I didn’t get any sleep, and actually, unfortunately had to get up to go to the bathroom at 2 AM in the rain/snow mix. I had to put all my outer wear and muck boots back on without touching anything else to the ground, and then went to the approved bathroom area, which really just was a bathroom built out of snow. We had to use this, which went into a bag, to then pack out and bring back onto the ship. Leave no trace! I got back to my little ice wall and we stayed there until around 5 AM. Once we were up, we had to knock down the ice wall and flatten the snow out to make it seem like we were never there to begin with. We took a photo at this point and all joked around because it looked like body bags were all around us. Over night, we had penguins waddling around the camping area, and we heard a huge chunk of ice fall off the glacier we were right next to. When we got back onto the boat around 5:30, they had coffee, tea and pastries for us. After grabbing some, we headed straight to bed since none of us actually slept. 

The next activity we did was mountaineering. We had to pick up snowshoes with spikes on the bottom, as well as a harness to tie us all together. The guides that were taking us mountaineering were very adventurous and wanted to find a new spot. We got on the zodiac and ended up about 45 minutes away from the Plancius, and we found a glacier to hike up. We got onto the beach and tied each other together and started our ascent. The scenery was magical, the weather was perfect and aside from the slightly steep incline, the whole activity went great. We learned about crevasses and actually saw one right next to our path, which is one of the reasons we all have to be tied together. This was one of my favorite activities of the trip. 

The last planned activity for the boat was the polar plunge at deception island. From all the videos we watched of the plunge, people were jumping off zodiacs and immediately got back onto the boat. Apparently they don’t do it this way anymore because of safety, so it is now a walk in plunge, which makes it way harder. We got onto deception island, which is actually an active volcano as well. We were all bundled up, and once we were ready, everyone started taking all their layers off and running into the freezing water. I am not used to cold plunges at all, so this was a very painful experience. After getting in, we had to run back on the rocks back to our layers (which at that point, the rocks felt like glass on my feet), put our layers back on while we were wet, and then take a zodiac to get back to the boat. This was definitely something that the crew explained to us was type 2 fun, which means it was not fun while we were doing it but fun to tell people after. I’m so glad I went for it while I was there. 

Aside from the planned activities, we had a ton of  zodiac cruises and landings at a variety of  different spots along the antarctic peninsula. We had endless sightings of gentoo, chinstrap and Adelie penguins, saw fur, elephant, wedell, leopard and crab eater seals, and saw humpback, minke and orca whales. While on the zodiac we were able to get to close to all these majestic creatures, frequently so close to them that they would be swimming underneath us, or so close that I could’ve reached my arm out and touched them. One of our favorite days, we saw over 6 whales, with three of them constantly swimming underneath and around our zodiacs. I had my zoom lens on and they were so close to us that I couldn’t even get photos on my camera. At that point, I just put my camera away and took in the full experience. I’ve been whale watching before but this is something that I’ll truly never be able to beat. 

Oceanwide Expeditions was also amazing. The entire expedition crew, the hospitality staff, the captains and everyone were above my expectations. The food and drinks were great, our room was cleaned daily, we had lectures daily about the wildlife, exploration and history of Antarctica, and even had some photo workshops. Every day I learned so much and had so much fun. They always found ways to keep the boat entertaining as well, like when we got back from mountaineering they had an entire BBQ on the back deck and free drinks, which then we ended up moving the tables and having a dance party in the middle of the bay in Antarctica. There was one night we also were having a few drinks at the bar lounge and then decided to do some ship hide and seek - but stayed inside for safety reasons. 

This trip was one of the most insane, remote, magical places I’ve ever been, and probably will ever go to. I feel like I will forever be chasing the high of this trip to recreate in some way. I truly have endless stories to tell about this trip and am so excited to be sharing this with all of you and are more than happy to answer any questions! Reach out via email or IG if you’d like to chat about it! 


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