The Last Untouched Wilderness
Are you looking for a holiday with a difference? Somewhere unique that none of your friends or colleagues have visited before?
Somewhere that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stick up from its sheer size and splendour? You′ve found it here with Antarctica! Peter Gibbs, House of Travel, visits the “last great continent’ and is blown away by its beauty.
Feeling like the explorers of old, with great excitement and anticipation, we stepped onto the Antarctic continent. It felt as if we were the first to visit this amazing land. Penguins stopped to look, seals basked on a slope above the stony beach, while giant Petrels wheeled overhead.
We set sail on our Peregrine Adventures cruise from the Patagonian port of Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. After a gentle cruise down the Beagle Channel, we crossed the notorious Drake Passage, encountering migrating humpback whales, and headed on towards Antarctica, described as the loneliest, coldest, driest and windiest continent on earth. Lectures on bird life and the history of the Antarctic prepared us for our first landing on Iacho Island, where several bemused Adelli penguins welcomed us ashore. After a rigorous walk, we set sail for the Antarctic Peninsular.
The next four days were a magical mix of breathtaking scenery and close encounters with wildlife. Huge snow and ice fields, icebergs of all shapes and sizes, and the blue of the sea and sky were stunning, as were the ‘lighted’ blues glowing from the icebergs. We travelled on a 6,500 tonne Russian ship built for scientific and polar research. This comfortable and safe vessel could manoeuvre through floating ice and get close enough to shore for landings by Zodiac. With only 50 passengers aboard, we managed 11 landings, from a few hours ashore to extensive 3-hour walks. Each time we were surrounded by hundreds of inquisitive penguins and dozing seals. One evening, we had the opportunity to camp on the ice. Although the almost 24-hour daylight made it difficult to sleep, it was worthwhile waking up to a slow majestic dawn of amazing blues, whites and pale oranges. I have now camped on all five continents!
All too soon our journey was nearing an end. We had time for a stop on volcanic Deception Island, then a brief dash across the Drake Passage, a sensational rounding of Cape Horn and we were once again in the tranquil waters of the Beagle Channel. Our wonderful adventure made me admire even more explorers like Shackleton, who navigated their wooden sailing ships through uncharted waters.
One of our planets last great jewels, the Antarctic is a place that overwhelms with the sheer grandeur and scale of the scenery. No photo or words can adequately capture the translucent blue of the ice, the stunning white of the ice fields, the subtly of changes in light. We all returned ambassadors for the protection of this ‘the last great continent’ on earth.