It’s Monday 2nd March 2009 and Jo and Robin are back from Antarctica

I cannot remember when I first wanted to go to Antarctica but over many years the desire has been getting stronger. But when you mention this to people they can always think of reasons for you not to go.

South GeorgiaRobin and Jo - ddressed for the weather

Robin was not at all sure about the “roaring forties” telling me that I really had no idea how bad they could be. Well it turned out that the “roaring forties”, “furious fifties” and “screaming sixties” were all purring cats and not enraged tigers! Our first night at sea was our only challenge when the swell caused the boat to rock side to side. We got NO sleep until around four in the morning – none. The chair was sliding up and down and anything loose was scattering around. We were on the top deck and I had noticed how there was very little below decks. (It turns out there was lots of ballast of course). So at two in the morning I was pretty convinced that we were in danger of tipping over. This was discussed as we experienced the washing board effect (we were lying aside to the boat). Luckily my very experienced sister in these matters had given us the tip of wedging the life jacket at our feet. Helped wedge you in. I asked the 2IC (second in command) the next morning how close were we to tipping. He of course laughed and showed me the instrument that measures the tip factor. We tipped to 30 degrees and you are safe until 50. Well – it sure felt close. Someone else asked him how high were the waves – his response? “What waves?” And that was our only night to mention. The others were mostly calm. The run between South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula was in a dead calm “oily” sea.

The view from the boat deckA ghost town of an old whaling station

Oh the cold they say. Again my sister Martha came to the rescue as indeed the clothing list is long! You need layers they say and wind proofs, oh and water proof feet and and and…… Well Martha is a natural history producer for the BBC and worked on Life in the Freezer amongst other polar films. Hubby Frank spent a year as a cook on a small yacht there (before they met!). So their two brimming chests full of “The Gear” worked a treat. Dress well and you are not cold. I never once felt a chill other when I was under-dressed on the deck. And did I mention – the temperature ranged from 0 – 13 degrees. Try a business trip to Chicago in January at minus 20 degrees as Geno did this year! That is cold.

Landing with the penguinsPenguin colony

What about living on a boat? Of course – there is the issue of living with 50 other tourists in a confined space. Being in the tourism industry and talking to people all the time we found that we wanted to retreat and so were very pleased that we had booked one of the three suites. I would recommend that. In previous boating trips in the tropics we had spent lots of time on deck when sailing between landings but there were of course long days of cold or fog and so this was not always inviting. The suite and two very long books worked! And of course everyone is there for the same reason and are great people.

Jo and sealPenguins, sea lions and fantastic scenerey

Is it not too remote and dangerous? Well we love remote – and love to be away from civilization. We missed the post at South Georgia by a day and were told that the next post was in a month! Only a handful of people live there in the summer at one tiny base. And that is it. Otherwise no one. If there is an accident that requires more than first aid you simply have to sail back to the mainland (3 days). No 999 helicopter to winch you off.

IcebergPenguins on an icefloe

So despite the concerns – there we were, at a place I had dreamed of for many years. Did it meet expectations? I cannot even put the experience on a scale. It rockets off the top. I am grieving for it all now and wish I could shape shift into an albatross (who would probably be quite surprised to find itself in the sunny Luangwa Valley!) and fly there – today. I don’t want to let the memories fade and am trying to keep them very strong. I go through it all in my mind at night – remember landing by landing. It was life changing.

Humpback whaleWhale vertebra

I have not given you the details – there was so much to say. But if you want to see more (100 photos in total, and where we went) then take a look at this powerpoint presentation (5mb!). I had to upload it onto the web from the Luangwa so the photos had to be reduced in quality (as we are on remote satellite connection). But it will give you a great idea of what we saw and where. Click here to download powerpoint viewer.

So…..Antarctica…..it was superb.

Jo

PS we went with Oceanwide Expeditions – whom we highly recommend.

Glorious light on the icy mountains

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