Day 1 and 2: Traveling to Chile, Cabo De Hornos Hotel, Spots around the hotel
This was also our first trip to South America . I learn the hard way to book the flight early, book with the non-USA sister company, and don’t wait for the upgrade. Thankfully, we had a few flights that weren’t full and we were still able to enjoy the lounges. In the lounge, I entertained myself by doing a cocktails vs mocktails challenge. Once in Chile, we met our Antarctica 21 crew at the airport and our adventure began. We stayed at Cabo De Hornos Hotel in Punta Arenas, Chili. The lobby was very nice and the rooms were ok. I most enjoyed that we had a window facing the water. After unwinding , we headed to orientation and then had a huge dinner with Pisco sours and local wines. When in Chile, you have to try the Pisco sours and Calafate sours.
Day 3: Flying to Antarctica, Frei Station
I think I was most afraid of the flight to Antarctica. Small planes have freaked me out since Aaliyah died. This plane’s capacity was 70 passengers and most commercial planes have a capacity of over 400 passengers. Ironically, the flight was one of the smoothest I’ve had. Once we arrived to Frei Station, it felt like we were on another planet… taken over by penguins. I kept saying I felt like I was on Mars. I know Mars is red, but the terrain (minus the red) was what I imagined Mars to be like.
We got off the plane and then headed to the zodiacs by bus. The zodiacs are rubber boats that we used to get to and from the ship. I absolutely loved riding in those things. It was such a thrill. From the shore, we could see the beautiful Magellan Explorer, our ship for the duration of the expedition.
Day 4: Mikkelson Harbour, Cierva Cove (Citizen Science)
Our first destination was Mikkelson Harbour. Mikkelson Harbour lies on the on the southern coast of Trinity Island at the northern end of the Palmer Archipelago. Mikkelson Harbour, like many of the sites, was frequented by whalers in the 1900s. Whaling was a huge industry at that time and they used every part of the whale for various things from food to typewriter lubricant. This site was my first close encounter with penguins. They are so fascinating and cute, but stunk. Those birds pooped, shot guano, everywhere. I used to think the smell at aquariums was mishandling, but it was closer to the real deal than I could have imagined. In Mikkelson Harbour is also learned that this was going to be a very educational trip. The expedition leaders were like museum tour guides and each had an expertise from sea birds, ecosystems, history, and more.
During lunch, we were told there would be a science boat to research around Cierva Cove. Antarctica is a goldmine for researchers for various reasons, but it’s not an easy place to visit. Therefore, universities partner with expeditions to get samples and data. The Citizen Science program offered Oceanography, Glaciology, Ornithology, Marine Biology and Meteorology research opportunities on the expedition. The science boat’s job was to get samples from the water. I can go on and on about all the things I learned, but my favorite fact was that at least 50% of the earth’s oxygen comes from phytoplankton.
Day 5: Snowshoeing at Peterman Island, Yalour Islands
Peterman Island lies just south of the Lemaire Channel, southwest of Hovgaard Island. I had my first experience with snowshoeing at this site. Overall, I preferred the snowshoeing to the DIY hikes that were offered at each site. The DIY hikes were professionally set up. The expedition team scouted the sites ahead of time and put markers for safe and scenic fun.
The Yalour Islands were full of Adélie penguins. The majority of penguins that we saw were Gentoo penguins. The first half of the day was action packed and the weather wasn’t that great, so it felt like I had the island to myself.
Day 6:Lemaire Channel, Orne Harbour( Citizen Science), Polar Plunge, Useful Island
The Lemaire Channel is narrow, full of icebergs, and a challenge to maneuver. For me, it was a beautiful area in which there was scenery on both sides of the ship. The scenery was nothing less than breathtaking.
Orne Harbour lies on the northwest side of the Arctowski Peninsula, near the northern entrance to the Errera Channel. It was significant because the other sites were on islands and this site was on the mainland of Antarctica. We did the same research on Orne Harbour as we did at Cierva Cove.
After the first site, they sprang on us that the polar plunge was happening. I knew I was going to do it, from the day I knew it was an option. The first shock with the plunge is how deep you go. It’s the ocean. You come up quickly, but you’re so cold that you’re delirious. Many of the other jumpers said that they were completely out of it or had trouble breathing. With that said, I think it’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience that’s worth trying. Part of me wanted to jump again and some people did.
Useful Island gets its name from the fact that its summit was “useful” for scouting. At the summit, there is a 360 degree view of the island. The summit may have been useful, but it was not easy to get there. Amidst the rocky terrain, there was an abundance of penguin guano to make the trek slippery and eventful. This was one of the sites where we were able to see Chinstrap penguins.
Day 7: Hiking at Whalers Bay, Yankee Harbour
Whalers Bay was out of this world because it was on an active volcano. The terrain was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The site had a plethora of abandoned whaling equipment and remains from the last eruption in 1967. The other cool aspect of the site was the geothermic activity. Cooked krill washed up on the steamy shore. I put my hand in the water and it was surprisingly very hot to touch.
Yankee Harbour lies between Glacier Bluff and Spit Point on the southwest side of Greenwich Island. This site had so many seals. A lot of the sites had no shortage of penguins, but it was refreshing to go to a site where the seals were the highlight. Many people sat this site out, so I was able to enjoy the last site in serenity.
This was an incredible trip. We were fortunate to go on this trip while in our youth. Although a majority of the other vacationers were older than us, there is no guarantee that we would be as adventurous or able when we are their age. I would highly recommend flying to Antarctica. I couldn’t imagine being in expedition mode after suffering through the Drake passage with its 20 foot waves. The waves that we experienced on our ship were enough to get me sea sick. If you are planning to go to Antarctica, this is the perfect time to start planning because rooms sell out quicker than expected. The itineraries are available for the 2023/2024 and 2024/2025 seasons. The expeditions in Antarctica are beyond what anyone can convey or explain. I want to thank Antarctica 21, the Magellan Explorer crew, the Magellan Explorer expedition staff, and our fellow travelers for an amazing adventure.
Please comment below if you found this blog helpful, liked the video, have a trip planned for Antarctica, or have any ideas of some expeditions we should pursue in the future.