“When we asked Dad where he would like to go for his 80th birthday, we thought a trip to Noosa or the Great Barrier Reef would be on the cards. The last place we thought he would say was Antarctica.”

What is it about Antarctica that sparks such intrigue and longing, to the point of a lifelong obsession?  The voyage down there involves losing any glimpse of land for two entire days while resigning yourself to the mercy of the infamous Drake Passage. Will she stir up a stomach churning ‘Drake Shake’ that has your gin and tonic dancing off the table or is she in a serene enough mood to grant a ‘Drake Lake?’

 

Antarctica-Drake-passage

 

The conditions on arrival can’t be predicted either; sparkling sunshine may kiss the Peninsula one day, while the katabatic winds might cast their fury the next. Yet this destination is seen as the ultimate, the seventh continent we dream about, the one we save for a milestone birthday. Seeing penguins and icebergs are a given, but it is the flurry of emotions attached to this wilderness which are surprising.

 

EXHILARATING ELEMENTS

penguins_Antarctica_glaciers

The first sight of dry land after a couple of days at sea is always welcome, especially when this land is a rarely seen island, springing from the ocean and tinged with the dusky pink glow of an Antarctic sunset. The first whip of frosty air as your Zodiac cruises through crackling ice fields to the backdrop of turquoise hued glaciers; the first foot on land which is only shared with your fellow passengers and the penguins; the first touch of the two-degree water on your bare skin as you take the ‘polar plunge.’ Such purity results in sheer elation.

 

STRENGTHENING BONDS

Antarctica_sunset

Elation in Antarctica can quickly tumble into heartbreak. The flawless beauty of the enormous landscapes and its inhabitants who glide, leap and waddle their way around so cheerfully unaware of the outside world can leave you feeling overwhelmingly humbled. Sharing these sights with your expedition companions creates unspoken bonds, and the different rationales behind visiting this special place are soon divulged – conquering illness, dealing with loss, making the journey in a loved one’s honour.

 

STEELY DETERMINATION

CHimu-Antarctica

Once the sadness has waned, a newly found motivation takes hold. Onboard lectures from the inspiring expedition crew highlight Antarctica’s fragility and you will emerge with fresh ideas of what you can do to reduce your impact. The decisions you were brushing away before boarding feel a little less daunting and the new friendships forged are a comforting reminder of what matters in life

Antarctica challenges your emotions. You will never forget it, words and images will never be able to sufficiently describe it, and my gosh, are you glad you didn’t miss out on it.

Most of Chimu’s Destination Specialists have been lucky enough to experience Antarctica first hand. They offer Australia’s largest selection of Antarctic ships and can organise an itinerary based on your tastes and budget.

 

Written by Frances Armitage at Chimu Adventures.