Antarctica Journals!


My husband, Jim, handed me a travelogue he kept of our Antarctica trip in 2008. I had forgotten that we both had written trip journals and it is interesting to see a lot of the details I had forgotten. The following include excerpts of these travel journals that weren’t included in my prior post.

Day 1-2: Jim’s notes state that we cross the 400 mile Drake Passage with Beaufort force 3 winds. The Beaufort Scale winds range from force 1-12, and relate wind speed to observable effects on land and sea. Force 3 winds are gentle breezes that create wavelets that begin to break, causing whitecaps, i.e., easy-peasy seas.

We pass the Antarctic Convergence in the afternoon. This is a continuously circling body of water where cold Antarctic waters converge with warmer subantarctic waters, causing the colder water to sink, leading to upwelling where marine life is intensely prevalent, including pelagic birds such as several types of Albatross, and Skuas.* The Antarctic convergence is the largest biological barrier on earth. Crossing the convergence marks entry into the Southern Ocean which has it’s own currents. We are entering the world’s largest wilderness, with the highest concentrations of wildlife on the planet. It is also the coldest, highest, windiest, iciest and least visited of all the continents i.e. PARADISE!

Map of Antarctica Convergence:


Day 3- Reach Elephant Island part of the South Shetland Isands, that is named after resident elephant seals. Along with the seals there are several species of penguins. Air & water temperature mid-day, 1 degree. Floating icebergs becoming impressive. Our naturalist explains that most of the bergs we are seeing now come from The Wedell Sea, via The Antarctic Sound. When we leave this area, we will be sailing on seas that will be covered in sea ice all winter.
Day 4- Cross the Antarctic Sound enroute to the Esperanza Research Station run by Argentina. Winds are force 8, which is gale force, wind knots 34-40, waves 18-25 feet. Cannot attempt Esperanza due to conditions. By mid-afternoon, weather improves dramatically, captain sets course towards to Admiralty Bay on King George Island. We reach the Chilean and Polish Research Stations and visit with the Polish Scientists, who after many attempts board our ship for dinner. By now penguins are everywhere in the millions, Gentoo, Macaroni, Chinstrap and Adele. Later we will see Kings. The weather is excellent and the scenery magnificent. Sun sets at 1 am rises at 4 am.


Day 5- Captain sets course south through The Branfields Strait. Continue southerly course. Navigate through the incredible Gerlach Strait. Force 3 winds, air temp 1 degree mid-day. Ice surrounds us everywhere. The ship, navigated by the ice pilot, seems to sail through ice not water. It is daunting. Growlers slam against the hull. We hold our breath when the ship approaches the larger ones, they bang along the hull making constant noise.

Day 6- We head to the Neymayer Channel with incredible scenery, glaciers calving into the ocean, craggy cliffs, ice precipes and peaks, boundless untouched snow and ice, sea mammals, birds and penguins everywhere. They are friendly and approach. We see Wedell, Crabeater and Leopard Seals, Orca, Humpback and Minke whales.

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Day 7- Course to Deception Island, a collapsed volcanic caldera. Deception Bay is stunning and the island is full of very smelly, very friendly penguins. The waters are warmed by volcanic process which also makes the island the most ice-free that we saw. You can take a dip if you choose. The water is a mixture of very hot and cold currents, moving in little riverlets around you. Weather this day was gray, foggy, and overcast.

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Day 8- Course north back through The Drake Passage. As we cross the convergence, the temperature rises to 7 degrees, the warmest in a week! Again we have smooth seas and the albatross are our friends. Enroute to the stunning Beagle Channel and Strait of Magellan.

Towards the end, we get our roughest weather yet, force 9 winds, 41-47 knots, waves 23-32 feet. Strong gale. Wow! It was spectacular and unforgiving. And then we are in the blissful Beagle Channel, through the straight of Magellan to Chile.

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We are going back in 2013, to Patagonia & The Beagle Channel. Less than 30,000 people are visiting Antarctica annually now.

* Note: we saw a similar fascinating upwelling phenomena crossing out of the Sargasso Sea which is essentially a large gyro, an ocean bounded and defined by currents. We sailed through the Canary Current where the upwelling attracted scores of Blue Whales, Pilot Whales, Orcas and other marine life, everywhere in incredible quantity! The Sargasso Sea itself seems desert like. Crossing it for eight days, we saw no animals, birds, or ships. Will write about this trip, that we did this year, in another post.

103 thoughts on “Antarctica Journals!

  1. I know, I’m a wimp…, but this place, beautiful as it is, just looks way too cold for me. I like the warm places so much better. Beautiful pics, Cindy.

      1. It will not be easy to post photos, as it was in the 1990s and I did not have a digital camera. I went about the same way, from Ushuia to the Antarctic peninsula. I hope to tell more later.

      2. Looking forward to it! I was really surprised that my grandfather’s 1960’s photos scanned so well. So, if you decide to scan and post I would be fascinated to see them and so would everyone else!

    1. Exactly! I resented mightily having to take bathroom breaks because I might miss something! Watching the Leopard seals hunt the penguins was pretty incredible. There was a Japanese whaler hunting the basically tame (non-fearful Minke whales), stuff happening every minute….Humpback whales spy hopping right next to the boat and watching you with their one huge eye. Just wonderful!
      I voted for you for the expat award and left a comment. Let knew if I did this wrong because I think you should win!

  2. Cindy, these photos are gorgeous. It truly looks like another world — one I likely will never see in person, so all the more I thank you for sharing your journey with us!

    ~ Cara

    1. Dom-
      We rounded the Cape Horn and I have read many of those books, and was a reading translated Magellan crew member’s diary, when we rounded it, so it was quite a thrill and the ocean was calm!

    1. Lorelle-
      I was toasty warm. Probably more so than anyone! I had this incredible fake fur coat that covered me from head to ankle….warmer than my ski gear! I never got chilled and could stay out forever! Thanks for visiting. it was incredible!

  3. Your descriptions (both photos and narrative) have inspired me and my Eskimo husband to set a goal to travel farther south, particularly to experience these breathtaking and rugged places. Thank you for a beautifully inspiring post!

  4. I think the idea of a travel journey is stellar!! It is a way to re-live the entire, magnificent adventure over and over again…otherwise there is a lot of details that can be forgotten. A great post!!!

      1. About a year ago, we were standing in an airport security line with a fellow that worked at one of the cruise-lines headquarters. We asked about cruises to the Antarctica. He said that there was a good possibility that those cruises would no longer be available due to environmental costs of running the ships in that specific habitat. So, I think that you were very lucky indeed to have that adventure. And we were very lucky to have you share it with us…

      2. Rebecca-
        This is exactly true. They are limiting tourist entre to Antarctica for good reason…..That said there are still reputable operators if you want to go!!!!! 🙂

      1. WOW! Thank you so much, my friend for your amazing post! Your thoughtful comments and warm introductions were stellar! So glad that we connected over the blogger miles. I am looking forward to seeing whether you can find a blogger from Patagonian!!!

  5. Cindy, thank you so much for sharing your fabulous trip! I am amazed at Tabular Berg and really love the edginess detailed within the monochrome pictures of Deception Island. Loving the penguin too!

    I hope you don’t mind if I reblog your link on my reblog page?

    1. Judy-
      It a real honor to be associated with your wonderful blog! Thank you!
      The tabular bergs were so impressive. One can’t really get the sense of scale from the photos because there are no comparison markers. The sides were often hundreds of feet high. Just massive. Little caves in the photos were mammoth yaws a hundred or so feet wide. Just HUGE & impressive!

  6. Stunning photos, what an amazing trip. I thought thost two photos were black and white till I read the description, they are very atmospheric and very cold looking.

  7. What an amazing trip, so many great photos and wonderful memories for you. I must admit I felt cold just reading this post, time to put the fire on, haha! 😉

  8. Weirdly enough, as I am sensitive to cold, I didn’t feel it and was out continuously. I think my adrenalin kept me warm. I was psyched by Antarctica! My husband couldn’t stay out as long as I, which is usually the opposite. There were a couple of us who basically only went in to sleep, eat, etc.

  9. Well that was a very illuminating blog, loved the photos and the travel journal details. Quite the adventure and you’re going to do it again – overwhelming and with all the history of not so good ship results in that area – kind of scary. And here I get a bit twitchy when I’m kayaking on Lake Superior. Did you try the water at Deception? Did anyone?
    And thanks for visiting and liking my blog posts.

    1. Our go back this time is to Patagonia, The Beagle Channel and Buenos Aires, not Antarctica. Our trip to Antarctica was so unusual, perfect weather, perfect everything, that I am not hopping to redo it. I would like to go back with my adult children though. So when they can, I’ll go again. And yes, right before we left, a ship sunk. So yes, that was on my mind before we left, but once I was among the splendor, I never even thought of it. That’s how I am, I worry before something, not during it, which makes no sense! And yes, tried the water, strange mixture of hot & cold riverlet currents. Kayaking in the ocean can be intimidating if there are lots of waves or wind. Never tried it on a lake, but imagine Superior could get intimidating.
      Love your blog and your photos! Thanks for popping by & cheers!

  10. Such magnificent scenery, you are so right…. Paradise! It blew my mind when you mentioned the Antartic containing the highest concentration of wildlife on the planet. My favorite are the tabular bergs, feels like my own personal Island!

    1. It was a truly surreal experience. I am so glad we did it, and yes the tabular bergs, just awesome. The photos don’t give perspective to their immensity. Have lots of good things to learn from your blog. Thank you for visiting!

  11. All the photos were amazing. One day I will be brave. Take a trip to the cold places. I was in the Army for 15 years. Always send me to warm tropical places. Thank you for the photos.

  12. This is so beautiful, beyond gorgeous! I just love the ice, the iceberg, glaciers, sometimes even great icepics can move me to tears. I thouroughly enjoyed myself travelling wirh you, thanks for sharing, Cindy. And I believe you, when you see something like this, when your heart goes for it and you burn for something, you don’t feel cold, you can stay outside for hours.

    A very Merry Christams to you and your family from the Far North

    1. Yes. Exactly. You understand. I am somewhat hesistant to go back because the experience was a spiritual one for me. It was just PERFECT!
      Your blog photographs are ethereal!
      The merriest Christmas to you and your family as well in gorgeous Norway. Have a Norwegian Christmas waffle for me! 🙂

  13. Incredible! Brings a person into a state of contemplation. Beautiful photos. Why not go back? After seeing all the comments here, it appears you bring happiness to many people. Merry Christmas!!

    1. What wonderful words! Thank you. I think the experience was so perfect, I hate to replace the memory. But, that said, I would really like to take my adult kids! So, when they are ready…… Merry Christmas to you. Popping over to your blog now……

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  15. Hi Cindy, popping in by way of Defeat Despair. What a fantastic excursion. Did you set sail from California or fly to South America and board your vessel? I’d get totally nervous about sailing thru ice, darn you James Cameron. Sounds like your home is in adventureland, ha but it’s always nice to see the world.

    1. It was quite an epic adventure that I highly recommend if you like such things. We flew into and out of Buenos Aires. If we did it again, I would board the ship in Ushuaia, for a quick jaunt across the magnificent Drake Passage. I enjoy your blog & appreciate your comments. Cheers to you~

    1. How fascinating. Yes I am interested. Thank you for the link. I never really thought about cooking in Antarctica. Our ship did deliver fresh produce to the Polish Station if I remember correctly. It was quite an ordeal as the Polish team had to reach and board the ship by zodiac and due to inclement weather, this process was hazardous and difficult. They were determined though and persisted, which speaks to the allure of fresh produce in Antarctica! We went to Antarctica from Ushuaia in 2008. I have never been as blown away by a place. Everyday was a spiritual adrenalin rush, with huge whales spyhopping to look you in the eye with their plate sized eyes, and millions of penguins popping up out of the water like toast. I want to go back. It is the wildest place in the world, full of animals that don’t fear humans because they see so little of us.
      You are an amazing chef. I wish I could eat your food. Thank you for the link.

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