Well, I went. I donít think anyone who met me over the last few years doubted Iíd make it as I was pretty determined to go. Or maybe they did, who knows!
Having met a few people who had been to Antarctica during my South America travels in 2005 I had my heart set on the trip, and in January 07 spent ten days on the Lyubov Orlova out of Ushuaia in southern Argentina.
Iíll leave more details of the practicalities to another section. For now Iíll sum it up by saying it was definitely the greatest trip Iíve ever taken. I suppose that was to be expected in many ways, but it managed to exceed expectations in so many ways that even I was surprised.
Firstly the ship and crew were amazing. It is expensive and you do get treated very well. The ship is very comfortable and the cabins great, even the cheaper lower deck ones! The communal areas were varied and catered for everyone, although I specialised in the bar section. The library and aft lounge were also very comfortable. The mess/restaurant was amazing. The meals which were prepared could not have been better, and it was staggering considering how far we were from civilisation of any kind. And the staff were mainly Russian, and there were a few cuties amongst them.
The expedition crew, as opposed to the shipís staff, comprised the tour leaders, an ornithologist, geologist, historian, the doc, his wife the morale officer, and a few other wildlife experts, like Jamie the krill lover. They worked hard to ensure we saw as much as possible, and knew what we were seeing. It barely seemed like working they all seemed to enjoy it so much.
Antarctica itself is as unbelievable as you might expect. No great surprises in that we saw a lot of ice, glaciers, sea creatures, and birds, which of course included about seven zillion penguins. I went on about them all in my daily diaries, so I wonít repeat myself here. I will say the following though:
Antarctica is big, and there isnít much there. We sailed south along its peninusla for about three days and saw a lot of coastline. Though repetitive in its ice covered mountains, rocky outcrops, occasional beaches, endless glaciers, and teeming wildlife, the staggering realisation that behind it all was just so much more of the same. We only saw about half of the peninsula, so a tiny amount, as we only saw what you could see from the sea. And that was huge. Beyond belief. The knowledge that there is so much more beyond was hard to comprehend but if you got a decent glimpse of the fact in your mind, well it was belittling.
And the best thing is that it is covered in penguins. It must be impossible not to love the critters. All that snow and ice might, for all its beauty, not be enough to enthral anyone but the most avid adventurer. And the other bird sightings and occasional whale and seal or two were great. But it was the penguins which captivated us, and reflecting on it, it is them that I miss the most.
Iíll go back.
A Quick Note About This Page
There is a lot of text on the page so each part is divided up into sections and they are all over there on the right, in case you missed them. I've matched up the photo galleries where they exist with each day, or with the relevant topic.
Akos and the Albatrosses
Our ornithologist was a crazy Hungarian called Akos Hivekovics
. He is helping with the Save The Albatross campaign and has donated his pictures to the campaign in the form of a book which you can buy with the proceeds going to an albatross charity. I've ordered one! You have until April 15.
6 Jan, 07
Day 0 - Ushuaia
This is a cleverly named arrival day in which we stay on land and makes the tour seem a day longer. Not that I mind as is not the length of the tour that I am excited about. We are gathered into a few hotels and I meet a few others who will be with me on the boat. I did a little shopping for stuff I couldn't carry around with me, though in the end it really is just some ski pants now, and sunglasses. Sorted that out and a few other items and am ready. Have another Argentinian steak dinner and go to a pub for a couple of pints.
7 Jan, 07
Day 1 - Leaving
We start the day with a trip to a national park. It is really nice but I sense that most people are too excited about the trip coming to really concentrate on it. I am comforted by the fact that there are a lot of people my age doing the trip. I had worried that most people would be older, and a lot are - most in fact. But there are about 20 people my age or younger, which is nice. And the older people are of course interesting as well, but I had been a little worried about being one of the only people under 50. Had nothing to worry about it seems.
After the park we have about an hour for last minute shopping and then we have to be ready. We clear customs out of Argentina and are taken to the boat.
The ship is really nice. We meet in the aft lounge and are wait to check in. I'm meant to be sharing a cabin with another bloke, so am wondering who it will be. I've paid a bit more than most mainly as by the time I chose to go on this boat all the middle range stuff seemed to have been taken, and it was either lower deck triples or upper deck doubles. So I'm in a nicer room with an opening window and a TV, though the local stations below the Antarctic circle leave a lot to be desired apparently. It does show whatever in-house movies they are playing, or somehow a lot of Russian MTV.
We have one move coming up which is a seemingly light-hearted look at the effects of global warming and the survival instincts of the animal inhabitants of the planet during an era in which many species became extinct. Ice Age II it is called.
My room is great, and I got really lucky in that they didn't sell the other berth so I have it to myself. I can spread out all over the place, which I immediately did. We have a safety meeting and then head to the decks to wave goodbye to Ushuaia. After this we are ushered to dinner and the first meal is awesome. Like a fine restaurant, and all our meals will be like this. Pretty happy about that. Start meeting all the people and we head up to the deck to watch the Beagle Channel go past. We see some penguins, the first I am guessing of many, many of these. And some albatrosses too.
The ship doctor has given us motion sickness pills which he said will also make us drowsy, so we take them and they work. I wasn't sick for a day and slept like a log even though once we hit the Drake Passage the ship started rolling a bit.
8 Jan, 07
Day 2 - Drake Passage I
The weather is not too bad though, and we are told we are having an easy crossing. Still the ship rolls a bit which would normally have me an odd shade of green, but not a problem, so I guess the pill is working. We have a great breakfast and then a lecture from the ships bird expert. Interesting enough but I can barely keep my eyes open and as soon as it is over I'm back to bed. I miss the mid-morning history lecture and am up for lunch. Still a bit drowsy though but the pill is finally wearing off. Not taking another unless I have to.
Spent the afternoon watching for birds a little on the deck and a lecture on volcanoes and tectonics by the ship's geology expert, again really interesting. The bird-watching is largely unsuccessful though. I slept through the first sighting of a wandering albatross which I'm disappointed by, but we'll hopefully see more. Often the bird life is abundant here but the peaceful weather which is giving us a fast and easy crossing is also poor conditions for watching birds which require winds for flight. We are told that one albatross can travel 17,000km without flapping its wings, though this requires good winds. Anyway, a fog has also come in in the afternoon making bird sighting even worse, and so we just chill out and have dinner and hit the bar.
We manage to stay up until the barman kicks us out. Not unusually we are an Aussie, an Irishman, a couple of Scots, and an American.
9 Jan, 07
Day 3 - Aitcho Islands
I just make breakfast before it shuts at 9am, and have the news confirmed that we are going to make a landing today. Our expedition leader Susan and also the captain of the boat both say this has never happened - we have had the fastest and easiest crossing of the Drake Passage in their considerable experiences. So we are given a lecture on rules and an initiation on Zodiacs (small, mostly-inflatable boats) and have lunch, and are then called up group by group to head to land.
This is our first footing on Antarctican soil, so it is pretty special. These are islands of the coast of the continent, sure, but they are definitely Antarctican. As much as Tasmania is Australia or England is European. I'm sure I'll also find the moment of stepping onto the main part of the continent special as well, but this moment was not lost on any of us.
Of course we are completely distracted by the welcoming committee of hundreds and hundreds of penguins. Everywhere. I won't go into descriptions of the colonies to which the photos will do more justice, but I will try to describe the impression. You are at their place, they are at home and relaxed. They aren't scared of anything as generally they have no predators. They wander around amongst us, although we have a fair few rules about giving them the right of way and keeping our distance. There is a smell of course as they poo everywhere, but it isn't overwhelming or particularly smelly, just an added sense of being in their place. Would probably smell awful in warm weather. They have a lot of personality, more than most animals or birds I've seen. The way they waddle is hilarious and their posturing is just downright cute. And we have come as their chicks are still a little too young to fend for themselves. They are being fed by their parents, which involves them eating regurgitated fish from their parents' throats. They are also developing a new, more adult coat of feathers, and need all their energy for this and so stand still. So they have a parent guarding them and feeding them, and others out swimming and eating. They waddled down to the sea, dive in, and swim around. They jump out of the water completely all the time and I spent loads of time trying to capture that.
In one photo too I caught a bit of a leopard seal which was swimming close to the shore. Also on shore their were three elephant seals dozing, yawning, and farting loads. Apparently the yawning is a threat, meaning they were wary of all the humans about.
For our first day out the weather isn't too bad. No rain or snow, and it is about 2 degrees. Very foggy though. When we left the boat we couldn't see land, but we were promised it was there. During the visit, which lasted a few hours, the fog lifted and we could see for miles. It turns out that the ship was only 100m from shore.
We spent the whole time looking at them. You can simply sit and watch the penguins continually it seems. I didn't get bored at all. They have so many little habits it is fun to get used to them all. There were two types of species on this island, colonies of gentoo and chinstrap penguins.
Generally they have no predators but we did witness some brown skuas attacking them. I missed the first but they took a penguin chick and ripped it up and ate it in the middle of the gentoos' nesting area. Really gruesome.
I didn't miss the second one. We were about to get back on the Zodiacs and my friend Anne saw one of the skuas grab a chick from a hillside and it brought it down about five meters from us. Two skuas ripped it apart in front of us. It was alive when they landed but not for long. The two of them skinned it in about two minutes. It was shocking and gory, and at the same time simply very natural and fascinating. I felt guilty watching though I didn't know why.
Back on the boat and I am quickly downloading my photos and excitedly checking them all out, as are many people. We have a lecture on penguins, which our expert says he usually gives before we see them up close. After dinner we are going to have another bonus, a trip through a bay with a few research stations and glaciers to see. We are south enough now it is never going to get fully dark. (I can currently make out ripples on the water a hundred meters or so from the boat, at 12.30am.) The bay is nice but the major bonus is some whale sightings. Especially the first ones, an adult and a younger humpback whale. We twice saw the adult fully breach the surface - completely in the air. It was amazing. Had it jumped a third time I might have caught it on the camera, but it didn't, and I don't think anyone got a snap. Shame, though as with most things here, first I want to see them, and then record them. (Apparently they had previously jumped a few more times before I saw them.)
We saw a few more, though not jumping, and then we all hit the bar and discussed the day. I made the last call again, which is worrying as we're being woken at 5.30 tomorrow. Today.
10 Jan, 07
Day 4 - Deception Island
A very early start sees us having breakfast at 5.30 or something ridiculous and then getting ready for the boats out. Our group is first today and we get on board at 7am. It is colder today, windier, and snowing. We're getting a better taste of Antarctican weather at last. The zodiac ride is bad enough. We're visiting Half Moon Island, a very small island with an Argentine base on it and, of course, penguins. Almost all chinstraps, though there is also one macaroni penguin living amongst them. Not sure why. Cute fellow with a yellow colouring on his forehead.
Watched him for a while and then moved on to let other people get a view. We walked towards the other end of the island to the base and had a gander. Nobody was there though they were expected back sometime soon. We headed back to the zodiacs and the Orlova. Nice little visit but the weather wasn't great and we were sleepy. I was anyway. Slept til lunch. Missed a history lecture.
In the afternoon the ship had made it to Deception Island. The island is an active volcano. It erupted eons ago and blew away most of the inside of the volcano. When everything calmed down the interior was unstable and it collapsed, leaving a ring of ridges. Water invaded and the island is what is left. And it steams and the soil is warm. A few inches below the surface and it is hot. However we found out that the deeper water is really cold. It was time for a swim. After looking around at the remains of a whaling station and climbing to one part of the ridge which is lower and an excellent viewing spot, many of us stripped off and hit the surf.
I think I was the first one to dive in and thought I might pass out. Due to it being in a volcano the water here was a few degrees warmer than outside the island, and it was a few degrees above zero, possibly four. So very cold, though not dangerously so. I turned to walk back but found it had gotten deep quickly and swam back. Lay around in the shallow water with the girls for a bit and got warm. Different experience.
Before the swim we also went into one of the old whale oil tanks which is an excellent chamber for singing. Everyone had goes. An American girl Tara sang a nursery rhyme and it was mesmerizing. The sound was everywhere and it was awesome. Then I did some Waltzing Matilda and a Dutch guy sang his national anthem.
That was the day, and after returning to the boat we had a meal and a few drinks. Except they turned into a session and we were completely tanked when the bar called it quits on us at 2am. Splitters.
11 Jan, 07
Day 5 - Port Lockroy
So I felt bad this morning. Really bad. Last thing I needed was an early morning trip to anywhere. Actually it wasn't too early. Breakfast was at 7.30 so I skipped that as I doubted I could eat anyway. Just made the last boats a bit after 9am and we were taken on a zodiac trip. We were in a bay called Paradise Harbour. A natural harbour which provided protection for whalers back when that happened. Glaciers empty into it and there is ice floating throughout. There are beautiful mountains all around and we saw seals and whales. Oh, and penguins. And other birds.
We scooted about and saw the glaciers calving into the harbour. We saw a seal relaxing on a small iceberg which even had a little pool inside it. Other boats had a rare experience with a young minke whale playing around the boats, though I didn't see it. I saw some more humpbacks but barely got a photo.
After our zodiac cruise we were let loose on another Argentine base to take a look around. This was significant as it is on the continent, so this was to be my first step onto the Antarctican mainland. I got Tara to record the moment and then took pictures of her and Mari as well. I'll have a write a chapter on Mari at some stage.
So the hallowed steps were taken and then I looked at penguins. There was a hill to climb as well but I was way too ill for that, so instead I watched the gentoos standing, waddling, swimming, fishing, and pooping a lot. And a bit of fighting too, mainly with the sheathbills which wander amongst them, looking for food. They eat penguin poo.
The afternoon excursion was taken after a sleep until lunch. I still felt awful through lunch but perked up again soon afterwards.
Port Lockroy is another harbour which is now used as a historical site and as an English heritage site. They make money by selling merchandise and running a post office. I sent some postcards and bought a shirt and some trinkets. While half of us were there, the others were on another small island watching penguins. It is still awesome.
The weather was great today, not sunny but no rain and not too cold. A little fog higher up preventing us from seeing the extent of the mountains. So we had a barbie. The back of the boat has a deck and it was used for an outdoor feed. Loads of meat and salad and I was able to face a beer or two again.
After that the sun came out and we hit the decks for some photos as the fog was gone and the scenery was breathtaking. The sun was setting there were two other boats about, another cruise vessel and a controversial Uruguayan naval vessel which shouldn't really have been in these waters. Had a few beers and retired for an early night, only to find it was already 11.30 and I still had two days writing to catch up on. Watched two episodes of Lost (got some on the laptop - thanks Denise) while I wrote all of this and now it's time for bed. 1am and outside I can clearly see the glaciered coast about a mile away.
12 Jan, 07
Day 6 - Lemaire Channel
Our first trip today was to a Ukrainian research station. It was bought from the Brits for a pound and now they have a staff of 13 on the station mainly measuring ozone levels and high atmosphere thingamies. We saw lots of equipment recording data and sending it to the Ukraine and Cambridge regularly. A decently sized station and it looked fairly comfortable. It was also the southernmost point we would make on our journey. 65.15 south, which is about one degree short of the Antarctic circle. We'd have needed to take a cruise a few days longer to make that.
We then went to another place to see some more bloody penguins. Getting sick of gentoos! Not really, but we got to see a new species here. Adelie penguins have these bright white rings around their eyes and a fully black head. They look pretty cool and you can see that in the photos. There was a stray gentoo hanging out with them so I strove to get a picture of them together, and did. We also went over to the far side of the island where there was a spectacular view of a small bay full of icebergs and the most glorious colours in the water. Seals and penguins fishing and just chilling out.
Back for lunch and some free time before our third expedition of the day. A busy day. This was a zodiac cruise only, so no landing. There is this 'iceberg graveyard' which is a bay where icebergs get stuck in and melt away, and we went there. Lots of icebergs in beautiful sunshine in all sorts of shades of blue. Deep blues higher up and lighter as they meet the sea. They're melting away as well, so there are little falls of water coming off them, or they have a ledge above you raining down. The photos do them some justice. It was about 5 degrees outside so a great day for it. Positively tropical. The other thing on the bergs was seals. We saw about 30 or 40, often in large groups, sunbathing and generally being lazy.
There were penguins swimming around and the usual birds like kelp gulls abounding as well.
However one had been eluding us and though I'm not overly interested in birds, the pictures I'd seen of snow petrels looked really cool. I'd been asking Akos the bird expert about them for days and he promised to find me one, but they are a little rare it seems. Still, I saw a little white bird flying around and checked with our guide and also Graham, my new paddy buddy who knows his birds, and it was a snow petrel. We followed it around an iceberg and sat and watched it flutter around. Very white and really stunning. Got a few snaps of it though you really want a better camera than mine to do it justice. Still, I was so excited and was telling everyone. Eventually found Akos and he hadn't seen it. Marked it off the wildlife board very happily.
Our evening meeting was sped through and we were treated by the Russian crew girls to some traditional dancing. That went for a while and then we had a traditional Russian meal. Not too many drinks in the bar as we had an early start.
13 Jan, 07
Day 7 - Danco Island
Before breakfast we went to Neko Harbour for a landing. We saw some penguins of course, and climbed a hill to get a view of a glacier calving. We sat for a while taking photos and enjoying a peaceful morning watching gentoos playing in the ice and occasionally seeing huge chunks of ice fall into the bay. A nice morning, and then we left the continent for the last time as we were made to get onto one of the last zodiacs back for breakfast.
My group were first for the tour in the late morning to Danco Island, our final landing. A great little island where we best witnessed the 'penguin highways' in use. The penguins moving from the nests to the water do so in organised lanes and carve out chutes they waddle along. Very cute and we spent hours just sitting and watching them.
Going back for lunch meant our last steps on land as well, so a morning for farewells.
A final afternoon trip on the zodiacs among some narrow canals and icebergs enabled us to see a few seals, including a fur seal for the first time.
Then the session started and drinking games abounded. It was Saturday night, in Antarctica after all.
14 Jan, 07
Day 8 - Drake Passage II
Very ill in the morning, skipped breakfast. Tried to have lunch but it didn't want to stay down. Went back to bed. Got up again for dinner but same story. Even my late night apple wasn't keen on me. The sea was quite calm too, so I thought it was just the hangover. But it had lasted too long so it must have been a combination.
As an afterthought I'll mention this. After lunch didn't work I went out on deck to see if fresh air or seeing the horizon would help. They didn't but Graham was there watching for birds. Apparently there was a wandering albatross in the distance he'd caught sight of a few time but I didn't see that. We did have a light-mantled sooty albatross with us though, very close. Though it is a small albatross its wingspan is still 2m, and it really is such a stunning bird. The way they glide rather than fly is simply breathtaking.
Didn't help my hangover though.
15 Jan, 07
Day 9 - Drake Passage III
The sea was angry that day my friends. A good Seinfeld quote to describe a change in the night. A 6-7m swell and gale winds meant the mighty Lyubov Orlova was rolling with abandon. As were we inside. I was awoken to the contents of the desk in my room no longer being on the desk, and from then on any movement was difficult. Went back to sleep and got up for breakfast, which was nearly impossible to eat with the ship moving so much, but I was at least feeling better so it stayed with me. Still, standing or sitting made most people feel queasy, so I was back to bed, waiting for lunch. Then we had lunch. Same deal. Back to bed after.
My friend Julie called so we hung out for the afternoon and at about 4pm came the announcement that Cape Horn was in sight. We went to the deck and saw the southern tip of South America looming through the mist. From then on the ship was steadier as we were near land, and a few hours later we headed back into the Beagle Canal and all was calm again.
A night of sharing photos and a few drinks ensued, and then we all hit our cabins for our last night on the Orlova.
I doubt you could go on a trip like this and not meet some great people. The average age was fairly high, which was expected, but there were still a lot of younger people as well. Hell, I'm no spring chicken these days.
There were even a few kids travelling with their folks, like the Aussie lad, the Portugese girl, Julie, and Josh.
I met a few Scots and an Irishman who helped me keep the bar open on a few occasions, along with Josh and Julie and Tara and Mari and Anne and Marius and more, and a bunch of the staff.
My 'mum' for the trip was Robyn from Darwin, whose hubby had decided against the trip and gone fishing. Robyn and I loaned each other a bit of cash as needed as families do, and she sewed a button on my shirt for me. Made me feel homesick!
Plenty of nationalities on board, with people from every continent, with the exception of the one we were visiting.
A great crew which made it all the more enjoyable. Especially those in the Charcot group!
I donít know if it is necessary for an Antarctica expedition to have a mascot, but we did. Mari Sudo is a lovely girl who definitely went to Japanese tourist school. She had about five cameras, no exaggeration, and about three other electrical devices. She managed photos of and with everyone, and in front of pretty much everything.
Very polite and very sweet, she made friends with the whole ship. Obviously making friends is a trait of hers as she had a lot of postcards to write. Unlike most of us sending a good half dozen, she managed 180. All hand-written except for the addresses which sheíd had the sense to prepare. She is nothing if not dedicated. She had polaroids taken of herself with everyone and had a file of those. She had a book we all had to write in. She had an origami kit and there was a session of making cranes or something. A Japanese flag we all signed.
And, of course, a penguin costume. When she first came out as part of a crew briefing wearing it, we assumed it was the shipís. But no, she came aboard with a full sized outfit. As you do.
The trip was an amazing experience regardless of Mari being there, but she made it a lot more fun for everyone. I think I miss her as much as the penguins, possibly as she looked like one so much of the time.
As I prepared for my trip I went through a bunch of stages and I thought Iíd write them down now, while theyíre reasonably fresh in my mind.
To start with I had to select a tour
. I searched the net and came up with about three main operators. I quickly realised that you can book the same tours through a bunch of sites, and tried to hone in the sites closest to the people who actually operate the ships.
The variety in prices is obviously a major issue, though I was a little less worried about it than some other factors. Still, you want to get decent value for money. I canít say I remember the operators I compared to Quark, who I eventually went with, though there were a few I might have gone with had they had availability.
I had left it a bit late, and I quite specifically wanted to leave about a week into January. Ending up with Quark seems to have been a blessing. I canít say whether they are better than any other operators, but they certainly did a great job. I would recommend them to anyone. And do.
Prices on the Orlova varied from about 3k-6k USD for a ten day trip. (All of the operators add the day in Ushuaia at the start as a day. It isnít really, but if one is going to then they all have to I guess.) Really we spent nine nights on the ship and one in a hotel in Ushuaia.
There were a couple of tours you could do down towards 2k USD, but that is as cheap as youíll get. And youíll have to book early. I felt skimping on the price was not necessary as I wanted to maximise the enjoyment of the trip, and Iím glad I didnít. It helped though that the pound was so strong when I paid.
My only disappointment was missing out on one of the smaller ships. These allow kayaking and ice-camping, which is a night sleeping on the ice in a tent. Not everyoneís cup of tea, but I was really keen. Maybe next time. Our ship took 100 passengers which, other than those activities, is the ideal size. More than that and youíll spend too much time waiting, as 100 is the most that operators can take on a landing at one time.
So I settled on Quark and the Orlova trip was simply to Antarctica. Others take in the Falklands and maybe South Georgia Island as well, which would be fantastic too. More pricey though, as they take longer.
Flights and Ushuaia
So I had picked a date and had to be in Ushuaia on January 6th. I gave myself an extra day and flew in on the 5th. That was precautionary as I donít really have a lot of faith in some of the airlines in South America. I had nothing to worry about it turned out, although on my way out of the town after the trip some airlines were struggling and all the boats were delayed leaving on their next voyages.
Two hotels near the pier are really nice, the Beagle and the Albatros, next door to each other. Both are pricy, the Albatros more so and not as nice. There are some cheaper ones around Iím sure, but those two are very central, which is handy. I organised my night after the trip at the Beagle as well before I left, as Iíd allowed an extra day afterwards.
A lot of people flew out the day of arrival back in Ushuaia after the trip. I thought I wouldnít want to do that as Iíd be wrecked, but really I could have. The last night on board is really spent waiting to dock, and you do so very early in the morning. There was little chance youíd miss an afternoon flight out if you wanted.
Still, a night in town wasnít bad either. A chance to relax and have a dinner and a few pints with some of the others from the boat who were staying again also.
Other than a night either side though, there isnít much need to stay in town longer. There isnít a lot to do. If I was doing it again Iíd land the day the tour starts, as that first night is in a hotel anyway. Iíd leave the day of arrival back as well probably, though only if I was only flying as far as Buenos Aires. I flew to Santiago, which isnít much further but involved two landings on the way, so took a long time. Glad I had that day to relax.
As for packing
for the trip, this had concerned me a lot. The literature the company sent out was fairly scary, and obviously you expect that Antarctica will be harsh. And Iím sure it is in the middle of winter, and can be in summer too, but we had good weather almost the whole time. So our days tended to have maximums of 2-5 degrees Celsius, which is not bad. We also arenít outside much at night, so the minimums are fairly irrelevant.
So packing like youíre going on a ski holiday is probably the idea. The instructions were very specific about materials and strengths and brands and the like, which meant I was worried about what to take. But really, ski pants and a ski jacket will do the trick. A really good fleece will set you up warmth-wise in the upper body and thermal underwear is handy too. Definitely necessary in fact. I bought a few pairs of thick socks and took two pairs of skiing gloves, one too many, but I might have needed both if weíd had worse weather. I also bought a thin pair of indoor gloves too for wearing around the ship, so going on deck wasnít a problem, and a little hat too. And one of the best things I took from my ski kit was a neck warmer.
All of this you can buy in Ushuaia too. I bought the ski pants, thin gloves, socks, and hat there. And sunglasses. I normally never wear them, and really didnít get a lot of use out of them, but there is the possibility of snow-blindness on a bright day and you donít know when the UV levels are going to be low.
I had to do a fair bit of the shopping in Ushuaia as I was travelling for three months and couldnít carry everything I needed. Otherwise I probably could have had most of it with me. I ski in very light waterproof and windproof leg coverings, with thermals on underneath. Nothing more. I wished Iíd just brought those for this trip. Instead I spent a bit on some ski pants which I messed up and had a size too large, maybe two. They were really annoying and I left them with the ship as I never wanted to see them again.
Footwear was provided for us so we didnít have to worry about that.
Thatís about it except I wanted to mention electronics
. Obviously everyone is at a different level photography wise. I am a very amateur photographer and though there are some good shots here, the place is so stunning it can be hard to take a bad shot. I didnít take a particularly professional camera. Mine is a pocket digital, though a decent one. Nikon Coolpix S4. I really like the Coolpix range and that was my second one. It is also excellent as it has a 10x optical zoom, which helped a lot.
I finally like it as it takes normal sized AA batteries, rather than some random camera battery. It meant I could buy spare rechargeable batteries easily enough, and that was actually handy as I forgot my charger anyway. So I bought one in Spain and it came with four batteries and I was set. All the power sockets on board were European style.
I took my laptop too. I thoroughly recommend doing this if you want to look at your photos immediately. A lot of people did. Good photo viewing and organising software is handy and I recommend ignoring whatever software comes with your camera and just using Microsoftís excellent MS Office Picture Manager. It comes free with a lot of installations. (Check in your program files under MS Office and then MS Office tools.) Works really well, and allows decent editing and file renaming in bulk, which is just so handy.
CD burning is handy if you want to do some photo sharing, and my burner was running overtime on the last day. DVD burning is even better. Obviously though, you arenít likely to be accessing the internet very easily. This ship did offer some basic emailing if you had to, but even an internet junky like me managed to do without it. There was too much else to do.
Here are a few links which are relevant to my trip.
First, the expedition company itself was called Quark, and all the information is here
Our ornithologist was a crazy Hungarian called Akos Hivekovics
. He is helping with the Save The Albatross campaign and has donated his pictures to the campaign in the form of a book which you can buy with the proceeds going to the charity. I've ordered one! You have until April 15, 2007.
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