Photo journal: A journey to the end of the world
My recent trip to Antarctica was an incredibly humbling and exciting journey to the end of the world.
I knew it was going to be special but from the moment I arrived I was totally in awe of this vast white wilderness.
I left feeling extremely grateful to have experienced this fragile environment, that few people are able to witness first-hand.
A bumpy ride
We set sail from Ushuaia in the afternoon ready for two days of open ocean sailing through The Drake’s Passage. The waters here can be very rough, thanks to the uninterrupted circumpolar current which flows around Antarctica. We had quite a bumpy ride but we definitely didn’t feel the full force of the “Drake Shake”.
The expedition crew keep you entertained during the crossing with scientific lectures, tales of historic expeditions and an introduction to all the incredible wildlife on the peninsula. You could feel the anticipation rising as we made our way over the crossing, and when we finally spotted the first iceberg it was hard to contain our excitement. We were finally in Antarctica!
Kayaking through icy waters
As we crossed the polar circle, our expedition ship became the most southern expedition ship in the world, adding to the sense of adventure. I signed up to kayaking, so whilst other guests took zodiac cruises, my fellow adventurers and I kayaked along the shoreline. Spotting leopard seals and porpoising penguins along the way, this was a truly incredible experience. When we weren’t in the water, we were able to set foot on the Antarctic content, visiting historic huts and observing lively penguin rockeries.
Antarctica is an unpredictable continent, and the weather determines each day’s activities. Sometimes it was too stormy to get off the boat, while on other days the sun shone gloriously over Antarctica’s icy sweeps. Itineraries will change at a moment’s notice in Antarctica, so it’s worth coming with a flexible attitude. If you’re a budding photographer, remember to always carry your camera when you’re walking around your boat – you never know what you might see!
My favourite day was kayaking in Charlotte’s Bay – a body of glassy water surrounded by jagged snowy peaks. At the end of the Antarctic summer, these sheltered bays are teeming with whales feeding on krill before the sea ice freezes over. Being so close to numerous humpbacks patiently waiting for their flukes to show was a truly magical experience. The conditions were so calm that we were able to stay out until sunset, and enjoying Antarctica’s “golden hour” is something I’ll never forget.
Our last stop was Deception Island, in the South Shetlands, where we sailed into the caldera of an active volcano. Most of the snow had melted here and the weather was clear, so we set out on a normally inaccessible hike. It was a steep climb up with strong winds but it was worth it – at the top, we were rewarded with stunning views over this lunar landscape. I rushed back down the hill and was one of the last passengers to take on the polar plunge.
It goes without saying that Antarctica is a magical place that’s quite unlike anywhere else on Earth. Kayaking with whales, walking with penguins and “plunging” into the icy waters are all memories I’ll treasure forever. I also really enjoyed putting my camera down, taking a deep breath and listening to the endless silence.
My journey to the end of the world also taught me just how important it is that we protect our fragile planet. The sheer beauty of the landscape and the education from the onboard expedition team inspired an overwhelming obligation in me to protect both Antarctica and the wonderful world we live in.