Penguins and seals lie thick on the ground. Birds dot the sky. The ocean blusters around me. The landscape is not welcoming. It is vast, isolated, majestic and malevolent. In any other place on our planet, running superlatives ragged would be an overstatement. But on the Antarctic Peninsula, accessible to visitors from November to March, everything is more extreme than elsewhere.
It has been a few days, and we have finally arrived in Antarctica, via stops at the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, pitching and squirming over miles of ocean. The planning for this odyssey began a year earlier because though there are many kinds of ships that make the journey, the suites on the specific expedition vessel we wanted were disappearing quickly. Budget outlined? Check. Vessel type? Check. Scientists on board? Check. Gear organized? Check. The research that went into customizing our experience was worthy of its own dissertation, so ensure you plan well ahead.
Antarctica is a part of the world where size matters. According to regulations set by the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, only 100 passengers can disembark at any one time. Our ship is of the expedition variety or size XS. We’ve selected this vessel not only for the intensity of zodiac (inflatable boat) cruising and landings it allows, but also because it does away with the frills of entertainment on sea days. The focus in that in-between time is on lectures that revolve around glaciers and penguin habits, the British polar explorer Ernest Henry Shackleton, and sea ice. It is all the stimulation we require to enhance our forays onto land.
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