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Aim, Focus, Shoot - The HyPyC blog
Antarctica - Reflections

Antarctica – The trip of a lifetime

Just over a year ago today I would have been sailing somewhere through the Antarctic Peninsula on the MS Expedition on the back end of my Antarctic journey – Needless to say it is the single most exhilarating and memorable thing I have done in my life; it doesn't compare to any of the other destinations I have travelled to and is definitely a unique experience, it will stick in my mind forever and I would go back again in an instance if I had the chance.

Snow covered land and rocky outcrops on the Antarctic Peninsula

Listed below are some of my thoughts, memories, photos, tips and things to consider if you are wanting to plan your own Antarctic journey - It is not a straight forward trip, and no matter how spontaneous you want to be you will need to plan this do some degree. If you have been to the White continent I would love to hear about your own experiences so drop me a line!

Small Chilean base outside Paradise Harbour Huge Icebergs in the bay of Neko Harbour A dramatic Antarctic landscape

The bad bit – Cost

One thing to remember about any trip to Antarctica is that it will be expensive; there Is no getting around that unless you are lucky enough to work for a tour company that does trips to Antarctica and you can get a discount. Firstly there is the tour itself which will be the bulk of your cost, then there are the flights which will either be to Ushuaia or Australia/New Zealand, and then you have the cost of your expedition clothing, and finally any accommodation at your starting point and spending money. Below is a rough breakdown of the cost of my trip, please note these prices were in 2014 and the company I travelled with was G Adventures:

  • Classic Antarctica In-depth tour: £3500 (Quad cabin, I.e. the cheapest option)
  • Flights from the UK to Ushuaia: £ 900 (Changeover at Buenos Aries)
  • Accommodation at Ushuaia: £:160 (Hotel Albatross 2 nights)
  • Clothing: £150 (Parka coat was included in the tour)
  • Spending money: £500
  • Total: £5210

So, yes this was expensive to say the least, at £5200 for one person I could have easily used that money elsewhere and planned about 5 different trips; but then I would never have visited Antarctica, never seen Gentoo Penguins swimming in the water, never witnessed the silent beauty of Paradise Harbour, never met the American staff working at the palmer station. For me the cost was justified and one thing to remember is that I didn't do it the cheapest I could have – I could have found cheaper flights myself, and also cheaper accommodation at Ushuaia, and even rented clothes instead of buying them, so the above cost is worst case scenario (unless you do a Falklands & Georgia island tour too which come in around £10k!).

A Giant Petrel prepares to take off on Barrientos Island Iceburgs float in the bay surrounding Danco Island

The don't get this wrong bit – Clothing

Clothing is one of the most important aspects for an Antarctic trip; I can't stress this enough, get it wrong or go underprepared and you risk serious damage to your health, and you might not enjoy the excursions and zodiac trips as much as you could have. I have written a couple of articles on both base layer and outer layer clothing that you should consider when travelling to Antarctica, I would advise reading them both and taking note – The weather can be bitter and harsh, and change in an instant so you need to have the correct gear when facing the elements.

A fellow traveller battling against the elements at Deception Island Towering mountains on the Gerlache straight Cabins at the Palmer research station on Anvers Island

The bit that sticks with you - Memories

I have so many amazing memories from my Antarctic adventure, and to describe them all in-depth would take pages and pages of this blog, so listed below is a selection of my favourite moments from the journey; I hope they inspire you to start your own!

  • Arriving at the Southernmost city in the world - Ushuaia
  • Watching Fir Seals an Cormorants in the Beagle Chanel
  • Crossing the turbulent Drakes Passage to reach Antarctica
  • Watching Albatross & Petrel's fly around the ship in the Southern Ocean
  • Seeing the first colossal iceberg float past the ship
  • Making my first Zodiac boat trip in the choppy Antarctic waters
  • Setting foot on the actual continent of Antarctica
  • Walking among colonies of Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins in their natural habitat
  • Playing darts with fellow travellers in the polar bear bar
  • Listening to the lectures on wildlife and penguins from the expedition staff
  • Setting foot on British Antarctic Territory and visiting Port Lockroy
  • Witnessing the sublime beauty of Paradise Harbour in the early morning sun
  • Climbing the side of a mountain at Neko Harbour and then sliding back down it
  • Battling through the extreme wind and snow at Damoy Point
  • Visiting the Palmer Station on Anvers Island (A working research station)
  • Swimming in the freezing Antarctic waters at Deception Island
  • Seeing Gentoo penguins return to land for the first time at Danco Island
Gentoo Penguins march to their breeding ground Icebergs in the bay of Danco Island A Zodiac boat is dwarfed by the huge Ice-shelves of Anvers Island Picture perfect landscape of Paradise Harbour

The interesting bit – Preparation

I love to prepare for trips whether it be writing down notes on what I want to do, or a rough itinerary, or researching the history of a place or finding out things to do and historic places to see. If I do this I find it builds up a picture of the place in my mind and also builds up my excitement and intrigue, the more I learn the more obsessed I become. I had been "preparing" as such for my Antarctic trip for years beforehand, without even realising that I would one day be travelling to this remote part of the world, mainly from watching BBC documentaries such as Frozen Planet and Planet Earth and hearing David Attenborough narrate about this beautiful yet hostile land. Listed below are some useful references I would recommend reading & watching if you want to immerse yourself in the history of Antarctica:

And of course check out the various articles and photos essays I have written about the white continent in my Antarctica blog section!

Gentoo Penguins at Neko Harbour Sleeping quarters at the historic Bransfield House in Port Lockroy
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