Explore polar expert Chris Ellis recently shared his experience of his first few days in Antarctica and here he talks about the rest of his experience in this great wilderness.
"This place just keeps delivering! The past few days have been a concoction of amazing wildlife experiences, beautiful landscapes and huge icebergs, compounded by some of the stories of Antarctica's history.
The day of the 15th March saw us travel to Vernadsky, an ex-British research base now manned by Ukranians. We learned a little about some of the research they were carrying out, what overwintering in darkness was like, and even had an opportunity to try their own home-grown hooch! That evening approximately half of the ship disembarked to spend a night on the ice, camping next to a penguin colony. I was sensible enough to stay in a nice warm bed, but the brave souls that did it said it was an amazing experience, albeit very, very cold!
The next two days were filled with unique wildlife experiences; we had the opportunity to witness a leopard seal attack and kill an Antarctic shag, with the action happening just metres from our zodiac. The best experience though had to be cruising amongst a pod of curious humpback whales. We had six whales swimming around and even underneath our zodiac, fluking for us and spy-hopping just a few feet away. It was a truly humbling experience with these giants of the sea that were really just gentle and curious about us and our boat.
After these special moments the weather started to draw in, so we headed back north, towards Deception Island and the South Shetlands.
At Deception Island, we navigated straight into the belly of a collapsed volcano, and had the chance to hike for a few hours in this very different, volcanic landscape. That afternoon came the time most people were dreading - the infamous 'Polar Plunge'. This basically involves stripping down to your togs and voluntarily running down the beach and into the water - measured at a cool zero degrees Celsius!
Just to make things more 'authentic', we had blizzard conditions with snow and wind arriving as if on cue, when the time came to strip down.
We actually did it on the beach right next to some fur seals, and a few people found themselves unwittingly swimming with seals, and we even had a penguin photo-bomber in some of the pictures! (Keep an eye out for some photos coming soon!)
This trip has been experience after experience, and just summed up for me the true, raw beauty of nature, when completely untouched, and un-interfered with by man.
I think Frank Wild summed it up best when, after an expedition to Antarctica, he said: "Much of our finest art is surpassed by nature...once wedded to nature there is no divorce - separate from her and you may hide yourself amongst the flesh-pots of London, but the wild will keep calling and calling forever in your ears. You cannot escape the little voices"
I, for one, don't want to escape that call."
Find out more about Explore polar voyages.