Jacada Photo Journal: Antarctica
My trip to Antarctica was a once in a lifetime experience and without a doubt, one of the most memorable ones of my life. While most travelers take the classic route by crossing the Drake Passage, I had the opportunity to experience the fly-in cruise from Punta Arenas to King George Island, where we embarked onto the Hebridean Sky by Antarctica XXI. The outstanding qualities of the fly-in cruise include the minimal travel time (taking only two hours from Punta Arenas to King George Island), the newly renovated boat with luxurious state-of-the-art facilities, and the limited number of guests on board, making each and every one of us feel as if we had our own personal crew.
Arriving at Mikkelsen Harbour, I could not contain my excitement. On the island, there is a Gentoo penguin colony and a variety of whaling remains. The climate is volatile every day, making each landing, every morning a new and unpredictable adventure. Thankfully, we got very lucky with the weather. There were minimal winds, the temperature was warm (-3 degrees Celsius), and the skies were clear blue.
The following day, we embarked on a Zodiac Cruise to Cierva Cove. We were fortunate enough to get up close and personal with seals, whales and penguins, all lounging around in their element. In Antarctica, you truly feel small, as if you are merely the visitors and the wildlife is King. We encountered a massive Humpback whale. The sound of its blowhole spurting out water was louder than I expected, but was nonetheless, music to my ears. For the rest of the afternoon, we all watched in silence, in awe of the majestic sounds of nature around us.
Also known as one of the seven continents, visitors of Paradise Bay can claim bragging rights to stepping foot onto one of the least accessible continents in the world – Antarctica! The main attraction were the glaciers and icebergs. An expert explained to us how each layer, colour and shape of the iceberg told a story about its history; really fascinating stuff! As we were gliding through the still waters, everything laid so calm and tranquil. In that moment, it felt as if nothing else existed. Although I had seen icebergs before, the ones at Paradise Bay left an impact like none other before.
There are two types of penguins that reside on Useful Island. First, you have the Gentoo penguins. They have orange beaks and look as if they’re wearing coral-coloured lipstick! Second, you have the Chinstrap penguins. They have a black line across their chins, giving them their obvious names. Towards the end of December, it is mating season. Most penguins can be found in pairs as they take turns insulating and guarding their eggs or building a nest out of stones. We spent hours just observing the penguins. Some moments were fun-filled and hilarious– numerous times they would clumsily fall onto their bellies; sometimes, they would attempt to steal other penguins’ stones. At other times, we witnessed some not-so-great things– Great Skuas would try to steal the penguins’ eggs and a fight would break out. We definitely witnessed nature running its course.
Whaler’s Bay is located on Deception Island. The bay was named by a French explorer from all the whaling activities that occurred there throughout the 1900’s. The photo on the left depicts the remains of the station, which was evacuated decades ago during a volcano eruption. The black sand at the top is volcanic ash that still lingers atop. Fun fact: Deception Island has heat insulated in its black sand beach, so you can dig a hole and sit in the steam to warm yourself up. While we were there, I did a polar plunge and jumped into the freezing cold water, fully submerged!
Half Moon Island
Half Moon Island lies in the entrance to Moon Bay. The island spans across two kilometers of land and is crescent-shaped, like a half moon. The island is home to approximately 3,300 breeding pairs of Chinstrap penguins (pictured right). Fur seals are often present, and if you’re lucky enough, you can even encounter the occasional Weddell or Elephant seal.
If you are inspired to journey into stunning Antarctica, speak to one of our expert travel designers.