Impressions of an Arctic Expedition

A two week Lindblad Expedition to Antarctica changed my life and understanding forever. More stories this Thursday at the Ritz.

A Lindblad Expeditions/Nat'l Geographic Trip is a learning experience, never to be forgotten.

In preparation for our annual travel show this Thursday October 14th  from 4-7pm at the Ritz Carlton, Search Amelia asked us to write some stories about the type of travel we love to arrange for our friends and clients. The following is a personal reflection on a Lindblad Expeditions trip I did with National Geographic two years ago.
For me this trip was a defining moment in life.

When I booked my trip to Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions, I was so excited!  Then as I shared this excitement I learned that not everyone dreamed of going to the White Continent, including my husband!!  A balanced 50/50 were the responses to my excited announcement that I was going to Antarctica. The reactions were either: “Oh you lucky person you!!” or just an incredulous, “WHY?”
So, off I went without hubby, for the adventure of a lifetime!  I will tell you my why’s but you should explore your own, before committing to this 14-21 day exploration that will awaken parts of your soul you hadn’t even found yet!

First of all, having sent friends and clients on similar trips, I had heard of the dreaded Drake Passage! Watch this video on youTube for a true reflection. The experience did not disappoint!   The trip started off with pitching and rolling far better than any Disney ride, a condition that made moving around a challenge at first.  Meals were fairly exciting and understandably not well attended as the dining area was in the bow!  Luckily all the lectures could be heard in the cabins or much great information would have been missed!

The next day dawned to calmer seas as we approached the Southern Shetland Islands. The morning was spent educating us to the process of loading and landing the zodiacs and the protocol to follow on land as determined by IAATO, International Antarctic Treaty Organization .  Understanding the fragility of this wonderland and the efforts being made to preserve it going forward becomes one of the real reasons for making the trip.

So, off we went to Half Moon Island!  This was a beautiful little crescent beach with a fresh snowfall and hundreds of chinstrap penguins in the early stages of nest building, mate calling, mating (right under our watchful eyes and cameras!) and just generally moving back and forth to the beach.  There were a very few gentoo penguins in the area also.   As we “post holed” through about 2 feet of snow, it brought chill bumps to realize we were the first to land here this season. We all giggled a bit as we got used to our awkwardness, swarthed in long underwear, heavy wool socks stuffed into arctic muck boots, fleece pants covered by waterproof pants, layered tops, ending in our soon to be beloved parkas, gloves, hats, sunglasses, binoculars, life jackets, cameras and backpacks!  Talk about the Pillsbury Doughboy!!   We learned quickly that there is no bad weather, only improper gear!

A geographic impression of where in the world is....?

Our evening ended anchored off the beach for the Captain’s reception and dinner. By now we are beginning to discover our fellow travelers!  Aged from 6 to 88, coming from the US, Ireland, Iran, South America there was a common bond-the excitement of realizing our dream of Antarctica.  It was interesting to learn how many of us had left spouses at home!  The people attracted to this harsh land make wonderfully interesting travel companions!

Our expedition leader was Tim Soper.  Tim was raised on the Devon coast of southwest England.  Qualified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors and the Royal Yachting Association, he worked above and below the sea surface teaching scuba, sailing, and power boating.  Tim also earned an Honors Degree in Ocean Sciences at the University of Wales, where his work ranged from tropical ecology to management of the Polar Regions.  Tim has worked in the world of expedition travel since 1994, as expedition staff, leader, and dive master.  He has explored every continent and crossed every ocean, including high latitude exploration of both the Arctic and Antarctic. Nothing but the best for us!

I mention this only to give you an idea of the quality of the staff entrusted with our education and safety.  Antarctica is an untamed part of the world.  It can be visited safely but it requires experience, careful planning, flexibility, trust, education, communication, and reliable equipment.  When you are ready to visit, choose your expedition company carefully!  Lindblad has been bringing expeditions to Antarctica since 1966.  The National Geographic Explorer was built specifically to standards necessary to ensure maximum safety, comfort, and enjoyment of this environment!

The rest of our days were filled with landings where we experienced penguins (gentoos, chinstraps, and adelies, sea birds, sea lions, leopard seals, remnants of whaling stations, Palmer Station – the US scientific station on the Antarctic Peninsula, and Port Lockroy Station.  Interspersed with the landings were great zodiac explorations among the immense and beautiful icebergs and kayak adventures where possible!  We hiked up peaks for amazing vistas and watched glaciers calving nearby.

While we explored, our underwater photographer was diving in frigid waters bringing amazing footage of the wealth of undersea life to us at our cozy evening debriefings.  One dive produced an amazing, hair-raising encounter with a young leopard seal- a most dangerous predator but graceful and curious in front of the camera!

All too soon our enchanted encounter came to an end and we returned via the even more raucous Drake Passage with gorgeous views of this powerful body of water from the 24 hour open bridge.  Then back in the Beagle Channel we wake up to the view of quaint Ushuaia.   Our heads spinning with all we have learned of flora, fauna, ice, climactic change, stewardship, history, and ourselves, and we are truly overwhelmed as we disembark.  We will forever view the world with different eyes, as we try, often to no avail however, to share the stories we have lived in those short two weeks!

Leave a Comment