Astounding Antarctica: Surreal Terrain with Unpredictable Weather

It’s been eight months since we went on this expedition, and I have been a very bad blogger as I have failed to document hardly any of the eight countries we have traveled to over the last eight months. This has partly to do with the fact that I have absolutely no clue how to break down the Antartica trip and its many facets. I have literally thousands of photos from the tour that are all sitting unorganized on my phone(s). I have pages upon pages of notes written down that are only partially organized. Since eight months have flown by, the memories are no longer fresh as they once were. I think I will have to hunker down and get it done. Here goes!

Paradise Harbor is home to Base Brown, one of the many research facilities on the continent. The harbor was also our second zodiac outing. The afternoon started out promising with the sun peaking through the clouds periodically. Alas, Mother Nature had other plans in store for us, and a snow storm moved in shortly after we headed out on the zodiacs. We were saddled with the Intrepid photographers and writers, so it was a touch rowdier crew than our last quiet bunch. We were regaled with their antics mixed with seals, birds and cracking ice for ambiance.

The mainland landing site for this excursion was apparently tricky, and for us, impossible due to the fact that it was blocked by mounds of ice, and the snow would eventually white out our views. We skipped landing and simply went on a zodiac cruise around Paradise Bay. The operator was fantastic, maneuvering through a massive field of ice and ‘bergs. He was finally able to break through the glacial mass, and landed us in a still part of the bay partially void of ice. Once we were fully committed to another ice cove, of course the snow really started to intensify.

My dampness this trip was not due to dozens of splashings, but from the heavily falling snow. Phones, cameras, and electronics got soaked. My waterproof gloves failed me, and my fingers quickly became completely numb. So much so that they were intensely painful. Note to anyone who elects to go on an Antarctic Cruise: Invest in sufficient, waterproof gloves with a thick exterior. You’ll thank me later. Anyway, our driver made the command decision to head back to the boat once the blizzard thoroughly obstructed our view of the Ocean Endeavor. Safety first!

The elements continued to snow on our parade for the next several nights. We elected to spend a night camping on the mainland, an extra $400 cost for ten hours freezing our tails off cocooned in a coffin-like sleeping bag/tent. Yes, we gave the tour company more money for such an experience. After warming up and drying off after our snow-laden exploration earlier, we had yet another safety briefing. This time, to ensure proper usage of the camping equipment, especially, the camp toilet (aka. communal urine bucket). The crew even demonstrated how to use the canister properly, and explained we would be squatting bare bummed while surrounded by snow, ice and wind… while being watched by penguins and seals. I can’t wait to use it! Cue the massive eye roll. As it would turn out, however, we were never given the opportunity. Twenty-five knot winds forced the crew to cancel camping that night. The following night, snowy conditions would decimate our plans again. After that, they ran out of suitable locales for a campsite.

The fickle weather followed us for the remainder of the cruise. It was as if we used up all our good luck on the Drake over from Argentina. We were even forced to depart the continent early in order to avoid getting trapped in a terrible, incoming squall. We almost missed the TRUE polar plunge because the weather decided to be such a little asshole. Moral of the Story: Should you elect to go on an Antarctic cruise, but prepared for a little disappointment if the climate decides to take a turn for the worse on you. It was still completely worth it, though, and the next day we were greeted by sunny skies.

2 thoughts on “Astounding Antarctica: Surreal Terrain with Unpredictable Weather

  1. Yeah, I suppose there more than anywhere (other than maybe Mount Everest or the Arctic), flexibility must be the word of the week. I guess if you go into it knowing that it maybe takes some of the sting out of the cancellations and altered plans??

    I hope they gave you a full refund for the $400 and didn’t pull any of that “in the event of cancellation, your feel will be credited toward your next Antarctic cruise” malarkey. 😉

    1. Alas, someone claimed they had heard we were getting a refund, but I never saw that money come running back to my account. In all likelihood, I could probably contact the company and get $800 in travel credits, but we almost immediately departed for Costa Rica and Panama after the cruise, and my follow up was subpar. Now that I’ve FINALLY typed this post, perhaps I shall bug Intrepid about their failure… Thanks for the inadvertent reminder! 🙂

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