Chris Ellis is one of Explore's polar experts and, following a visit to the Arctic last year, he's currently in Antarctica aboard the M/S Expedition for his first visit to the southern wilderness. He's managed to find some internet access and has just sent us this report direct from the ship.
"My journey to Antarctica began in Buenos Aires, where I had a free day to take in some of the iconic sites of this beautiful city. I visited La Boca, famous for its colourful buildings and its football roots, and of course the famous cemetery where Eva Peron was laid to rest.
After soaking up some sunshine and taking in this very European-influenced city, I headed south to Ushuaia to much colder climes. I then had a free day in Ushuaia before my voyage began. Some people used the day to take a trip out to the nearby Tierra Del Fuego National Park, while others took the opportunity to relax and have a look around the town.
When the time to board the ship arrived, we all started making our way down to the port and I was able to get an idea of the profile of my travelling companions. We were a very mixed group, with a broad age range across the spectrum, and a mix of nationalities. Once on board we had a welcome meeting, safety briefings and our first dinner, all with the backdrop of the sun setting across the Beagle Channel.
The next few days we crossed the infamous Drake Passage, and whilst there were no landings, there were plenty of lectures put on to keep us busy and to educate us on all the things we were about to see and do in the next few days. The crossing itself was a touch on the choppy side, a four out of 10 according to the Expedition Leader so there had been better ones, but there had also been worse ones. Still, all of this was forgotten when we awoke on the third morning to one of the most stunning backdrops I've ever witnessed. We were blessed with crystal-clear skies highlighting the huge white-capped mountains and white/blue icebergs as we gently passed by. It was not just the scenery, but also a pod of humpback whales had come to welcome us into Antarctica, 'fluking' and waving at us for at least an hour. This was the perfect set up for our first day here, and it just kept getting better.
Our first landing was on a small island called Cuverville, known to house a large colony of gentoo penguins. We landed in perfect conditions and were able to just sit down and start taking pictures, with the curious young penguins walking right up to us, making for some great shots. We also had some time to walk around and explore the island on our own, whilst the kayakers were having their own unique experience - a humpback whale swimming some fifteen feet from their kayaks.
The second landing of the day took us to another gentoo colony, but this time on the mainland, so it was a chance for some of us to officially mark off our seventh continent. The day was wrapped up with a lecture from some of the ship's experts, going back over what we saw and answering questions we had from the day's activities.
At 10am the following day we all congregated in the ship's communal lounge and raised a glass, celebrating the official crossing of the Antarctic Circle. This was a big moment for a large number of people on board, and we were lucky enough to see it in with good weather and excellent visability. We are now currently cruising further south, past Crystal Sound and are planning to make a landing later this afternoon to see what Antarctica has in store for us next."
Read part two of Chris's blog, live from Antarctica!