McMurdo Dry Valleys: Visit Mars Without Leaving Earth

Taylor Dry Valley, Taylor Glacier, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica

What it was like to visit the McMurdo Dry Valleys.

Do you guys remember back in early 2017 when I went to Antarctica with Oceanwide Expeditions? Well, you all know how I have a penchant for visiting far-flung, extremely remote, and simply the most difficult locations in the world. Oceanwide definitely delivered on this one. We made a landing at one of the more difficult places on Earth to get to: The McMurdo Dry Valleys.

*Disclaimer: I visited The Ross Sea region of Antarctica on a semi-circumnavigation of the southern-most continent in partnership with Oceanwide Expeditions. Of course all opinions are my own.

The McMurdo Dry Valleys which sit between the Transantarctic Mountains and the Ross Sea, are among the most hostile, inhospitable, and driest places on earth.

Meet the three McMurdo Dry Valleys:

There are three major valleys that carve out of the Transantarctic Mountains and toward the Ross Sea. The three McMurdo Dry Valleys are:

-Taylor Valley: The furthest south of the three valleys and home-sweet-home to Taylor Glacier and the infamous “Blood Waterfall”. Iron-oxide is what’s actually spewing out of the side of Taylor Glacier, although its resemblance to blood.

-Wright Valley: The middle of the three valleys and home to the Onyx River, the largest river in all of Antarctica.

-Victoria Valley: The northernmost valley of the McMurdo Dry Valleys and the location of Lake Vida, the largest lake of the three valleys.

-Meet the others: There are more valleys that comprise the McMurdo Dry Valleys than the three giants. They are: McKelvey, Belham, Barwick, Alanta, Stuiver, Wall, Virginia, Priscu, Pearse, Miers, Garwood, and Marshall.

Taylor Dry Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica

Life in a place it shouldn’t exist.

In 1903 Scott and his party of explorers arrived in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. Upon arrival it was quickly believed that life did not exist here, it just could not exist here. Between the extreme, cold, harsh winds and extreme lack of humidity it only made sense. Since then scientists have proved otherwise. Researchers have found Endolithic photosynthetic bacteria within rocks found in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. These anaerobic bacteria survive by metabolizing sulfur and iron found beneath Taylor Glacier inside Taylor Dry Valley. These findings are what give the glimmer of possibility of life on Mars.

So how did the McMurdo Dry Valleys get so dry?

Antarctica is almost completely covered in a mile or more of ice. And then there’s the Dry Valleys, sitting there nearly snow-free. Strange isn’t it? What causes this, you may wonder: Katabatic winds paired with the natural barricade formed by the Transantarctic Mountains preventing ice from the East Antarctic Shelf from entering the dry valleys and continuing on down into the Ross Sea, making the extreme climate of the McMurdo Dry Valleys unique and oh-so-extreme.

Transantarctic Mountains meet katabatic Winds.

Crash course real quick here: Katabatic Winds are caused when dense and cold air are being pushed downward. The wild and extreme katabatic Winds of the dry valleys partnered up with the mountainous Transantarctic barricade make McMurdo Dry Valleys into one of the driest places on Earth. These katabatic winds can reach 200 miles per hour (320 KPH). When the high speed katabatic winds descend, the wind heats up and will evaporate any snow, ice or water in their path. With all that said, the valleys are typically windy and can see temperatures hover around a balmy -67ºF (-55ºC).

Landing in McMurdo Dry Valleys.

McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica

Flying high above the frozen Ross Sea en route to McMurdo Dry Valleys.

This has got to be what a Mars landing would look like. Okay, minus the part where we flew up over the iced over Ross Sea. Once you reach the coast it quickly becomes a brown and tan universe. Am I in Antarctica anymore?

Hiking on Mars on Earth.

All I could do was stand in the wind-whipped silence, surrounded by the barren floor of the Taylor Dry Valley as the helicopter disappeared into the dry thin air. Then a quick turn and a short jaunt lead me to the face of Taylor Glacier, a glacier in a valley that seems impossible for an ice-pack of that mass to exist. How can a glacier exist in such a dry environment?

Mummified to the core.

McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, mummified seal, Taylor Dry Valley

One of the interesting relics of the McMurdo Dry Valleys are the mummified crab eater seal carcasses strewn throughout the valleys. Life has existed here, big life. Radiocarbon dating performed by zoologists at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand and the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia have estimated that these mummified seals found in the area are approximately 560-780 years old. What I’d really like to know is how? How on Earth did they get out here?

Say hi to one of Earth’s only cold-based glaciers.

Taylor Dry Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica

Taylor Glacier is one of the very few cold-based glaciers on Earth. What is a cold-based glacier, you ask? Cold-based glaciers are frozen to the ground underneath them. The ice is slowly pushed forward over the course of years by their own immense weight. This explains the glacier’s movement as it spills down from the Victoria Land Plateau and into Taylor Valley. Cold-based glaciers are somewhat unusual in appearance to their wet-based counterparts as they appear free of those deep, Tide-detergent-blue crevasses. In comparison, most glaciers the world over are wet-based and as they move they scrape over bedrock beneath, creating major erosion and picking up debris along the way.

The strangest Waterfall and good ol’ Antarctic disappointment: The Blood Waterfall.

I’ll get the bad news out of the way first: I didn’t reach the Blood Waterfall. With lowering clouds coming in quite rapidly, we could not get up close to the strangest waterfall on Earth. And trust me, I am not complaining (This would have to top the list of first world problems). If Antartica, and particularly, the most remote regions such as the Ross Sea territories are in your crosshairs, you should expect that you will not make every landing on your itinerary. Everything can change in an instant out here, and even being able to step foot in Taylor Valley is a privilege that very few people get to experience.

So why exactly is Taylor Glacier Bleeding?

Shortly after the discovery of the Blood Waterfall, red algae was thought to be the original culprit. Upon further research it was found that Taylor Glacier’s knicked artery is due to iron oxide from an ancient saline lake trapped under the glacier, somewhere around two million years ago.

On leaving the McMurdo Dry Valleys: the world’s most remote desert.

The time was all too short, but every minute there on the ground was definitely unforgettable. Walking where only a few hundred humans have ever stepped foot out out of the seven-billion plus of out there makes you realize how lucky you are (except for the one miserable, sniveling asshole passenger who will remain unnamed). Crazy to think the harshest desert, with the loneliest glacier in the most unlikely location would be so hard to leave.

Taylor Dry Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica

Want more on Antarctica?

Check out these posts:

10 Reasons to Visit Antarctica.

Antarctica Travel Guide.

10 Reasons To Visit Antarctica

10 Reasons to Visit Antarctica

Looking reasons to visit Antarctica? Still pristine and barely touched, Antarctica is more than barren ice covered landscapes. Unspoiled by mass tourism and beaconing you to visit its icy shores, now is a better time than ever to visit the polar continent.

*I have a business relationship with Oceanwide Expeditions and traveled onboard the M/V Ortelius sailing South to the Ross Sea and Antarctica as an independent press & media representative. All opinions are my own. Trust me, Antarctica is f*&!#^@ awesome!

1. Penguins.

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Hey Ladies 😉.

Really, who doesn’t love penguins? They’re the cutest and aren’t usually scared to get right up close and personal with Antarctic explorers.

 

2. Ice Bergs.

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Iceberg, dead ahead! See them while you still can.

With icebergs larger than several small countries that have broken off the continent there’s ample opportunity to see Antarctica’s center stage star: the ice. But get there quick! With changes in the climate the continent’s famed ice is melting faster now then ever.

 

3. The Desolation.

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A lonely Adelie Penguin just off Franklin Island, Antarctica.

Looking to get away form it all, literally? There’s no better place to escape the crowds, hectic city life and depressing fake news than Antarctica.

 

4. The History.

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Cape Adare, the first documented landing site in Antarctica by Carsten Borchgrevink and Henrik Bull. If you look closely you will see Borchegrevink’s Hut on the shore.

History buffs rejoice! Walk in the footsteps of Antarctica’s explorers… Borchgrevink, Scott, Shackleton, Amundsen… just to name a few. These guys all had ample reasons to visit Antarctica, do you?

 

5. The Birding.

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The Southern Royal Albatross nesting on Campbell Island.

Did you know Antarctica is chock full of exotic birds? Less colorful than their tropical counterparts, but oh so much more rare. Watch the graceful dives and spins of Skuas, Petrels and giant Albatross.

 

6. Glaciers.

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Glaciers on glaciers on glaciers! Get here quick, they’re melting and not showing signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Antarctica is bursting with glaciers. There are thousands upon thousands. So many that several aren’t even named. But just like the Antarctic ice, glaciers are affected by the warming sea temperatures and melting at an astonishing rate.

 

7. The Lemaire Channel.

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Sunset reflections don’t get better than in the Lemaire Channel.

Easily the most scenic location in Antarctica. Sunset here is unbeatable with mirror like reflections in the calm guarded waters of the famed channel.

 

8. Whale watching.

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Watching orca whales from the helicopter just off the pack ice in McMurdo Sound area of the Ross Sea.

Keep a pair of comfy slip-on shoes handy for that early wake up call to come across the intercoms of your ship yelling at you to get on deck because the ship is surrounded by thousands of whales.

 

9. Face to face with seals.

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This Leopard Seal inched all the way across an ice flow in the middle of the Ross Sea to come over and peer straight down at us into our zodiac.

Nothing is more an adrenaline rush than staring eye to eye with a giant seal that outweighs you 10-fold.

 

10. Unreal Landscapes.

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The landscapes are one of the best reasons to visit Antarctica. From the idyllic spine of mountains bisecting the famous Antarctic peninsula, to the flat barren nothingness of South Pole Station, to cruising the ice floes of the Ross Sea with Mt. Eberus looming over you from ashore: Antarctica has a landscape for everyone.

Need more reasons to visit Antarctica?

Antarctica Travel Guide -Everything you need to know to plan the trip of a lifetime.

Campbell Island New Zealand: The Subantarctic -New Zealand’s little known offshore island.

10 Reasons to Visit the Ross Sea -It doesn’t get more remote than the Ross Sea!

Antarctica Travel Guide

*This post contains affiliate links.

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The Antarctica Travel Guide

Everything about Antarctica will have you constantly picking your jaw up off the floor. Whether it be the darling penguins, the massive seals, whales or the gem in the crown: Antarctic Ice. Wanting to visit the world’s most remote continent? In this Antarctica travel guide you will find all the information you need to know in order to start planning your trip!

*I was able to visit Antarctica in early 2017 for a whole month. I have a business relationship with Oceanwide Expeditions and traveled onboard the M/V Ortelius sailing South to the Ross Sea and Antarctica as an independent press & media representative. All opinions are my own. 

Getting to Antarctica:

You can get to Antarctica three ways: By cruise ship (most common), by chartered yacht, or by flight.

Cruises:

By and far the most common way to get to Antarctica. There are many sailings each year that leave from South America to Antarctica and back, there are a few sailings that depart from New Zealand and Australia as well.  Most cruises range from 6 to 23 days in length, however there are a handful of longer trips typically offered each year. During the summer season October-March there are cruises that depart almost daily. One important thing to note; It usually takes between 2 and 3 days to cross the Drake Passage when sailing between the Tip of South America and Antarctica, each way. So remember that accounts for 4-6 days of your cruise alone.

Advice for choosing an Antarctic Cruise:

-It is best to choose a ship that takes 100 passengers or less. These ships (typically taking 50-100 passengers) can get to places that the bigger ships cannot.

-In accordance with IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) regulations, ships carrying more than 500 passengers are not allowed to make landings on the continent. Choose carefully.

-Cruise ships typically only allow 100 people at a landing site. Therefore, if you go on a ship with 200 passengers for example, 100 people will go ashore and must be brought back before the next group of 100 can land. This will likely limit the time on land to only 1-2 hours per landing.

-Larger ships tend to be more comfortable and luxurious.

-Not all cruises are created equally. They can offer different routings and different activities. The Antarctic Peninsula is the most common area for ships to visit. Cruises such as Oceanwide Expedition’s M/V Ortelius have helicopter landings as part of your itinerary, some cruises will include kayaking and even camping. Some ships are more luxurious than others.

Antarctica, Antarctica Travel, Antarctica Travel Guide, Android Bay, Ortelius

Zipping around in helicopters above Andvord Bay looking down at home-sweet-away-from-home, The Ortelius.

Which cruises can I personally recommend?

I cruised to Antarctica on Oceanwide Expeditions’ Ross Sea Crossing cruise from Bluff, New Zealand to Ushuaia, Argentina in February-March of 2017. They have experienced and knowledgeable staff. I have included their booking form below so that you can begin searching cruises.

Where do the ships leave from?

Most ships will depart from Ushuaia, Argentina. Other common embarkation points are Punta Arenas, Chile; Bluff/Invercargill, New Zealand; Christchurch New Zealand; and Hobart, Australia (Tasmania).

Chartered Yachts:

Several chartered yachts do trips from South America to Antarctica. Many will include stops in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) as well as South Georgia. Most yacht trips tend to last between 3 and 6 weeks. Many of these chartered yachts are members of IAATO. Yachts can be a rewarding experience for people looking for a more adventurous Antarctic trip. Yachts won’t be as luxurious as larger ships but will give more flexibility and freedom. I personally have met Darrel Day who owns Spirit of Sydney and does expeditions down to Antarctica from Ushuaia during the summer season. Yachts are a great option for scientific researchers, film crews, skier/snowboarders, mountaineers, kayakers, divers and whale watchers.

Planes:

It is possible to fly to Antarctica, as there are 28 landing strips and 37 helipads.  This is the least likely way to visit the continent as weather is extremely unpredictable in and around Antartica. Flights are typically restricted to the summer months (because of daylight).

Aerovias DAP offers flights to King George Island in Antarctica from Punta Arenas, Chile.

Antarctica Flights, based in Australia offers overflights to Antarctica (they do not land in Antarctica, they only fly over it) from Sydney and Melbourne. Prices per passenger for one seat range from $1,199 to $7,999.

Some cruise companies offer ‘Fly & Cruise’ options but expect these to cost substantially more than just cruising.

*Note that weather in Antartica is erratic and flights are often delayed. 

Cost of going to Antarctica:

Let’s face it: Antarctica is NOT cheap, and it ain’t getting cheaper! When I announced I was going to Antarctica on my blog this was probably the #1 negative feedback I got in e-mails and comments from readers. Yes, getting to Antarctica is expensive. What are your other options to get there? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Unfortunately this is a trip that will require some saving, but fear not. There are ways to get to Antarctica for much less than what you find when you begin a search online. One thing to consider is taking one of the shorter trips to Antarctica, these of course come in much much cheaper.

Other factors that can effect the cost of your trip will include flights from home to your embarkation point and of course back home, travel insurance (yes, it is required), and if you need to purchase cold weather gear or travel gadgets.

Tips for getting the best deals:

-Keep an eye out on Antarctic cruise and yacht company’s websites and sign up for their e-mail lists. From time to time you will find deals and sales. For example, the 32 day Ross Sea trip I did with Oceanwide Expeditions original price for a quad room (the cheapest available) was a little over $24,000 per person! Eventually the trip did go on sale for $17,450. Yes, I know: it’s still expensive. It’s more than I spent to purchase my car in 2012 brand new! But nonetheless that is nearly a $7,000 savings.

-Watch online for last minute deals. These cruises don’t want to leave port with empty berths. Sometimes cruise companies will begin slashing prices. With that said, many of these trips (especially specialty cruises) tend to book up well in advance.

-Cruise prices tend to be somewhat cheaper in November, late February and March as there isn’t as much wildlife to be seen making these sailings less popular than their December and January counterparts.

-For travelers on a stricter budget with flexibility of schedule that are already in Ushuaia there is the possibility of going to the port each morning to see if there are any ships departing with any empty berths and ask for ‘dock price’. As mentioned before these ships don’t like to leave with empty berths and are likely to offer discounts. There are reports from travelers claiming to have paid $3,500-$4,000 for 10-12 day cruises to Antarctica which would usually run in the $8-12,000 range. Remember that demand for sailings to Antarctica are skyrocketing and getting on last minute is proving more difficult as time goes on and prices for these trips are getting higher.

Lemaire Channel, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

The Lemaire Channel, Antarctic Peninsula.

When to go to Antarctica:

Tourism is pretty much limited to the Antarctic summer from November to March. Why only November through March? That comes down to the lack of accessibility in the winter due to thick ice locking in the continent and darkness. Antarctica is shrouded in darkness from May to July as the polar winter sets in. Because of these factors, Antarctica’s summer is the best. Expect prices to be more expensive in the months of December, January and early February as there are more wildlife spotting opportunities.

By the month:

November: Pristine ice is abundant for photographers looking to shoot the perfect icy blue hues. Many penguins start to head ashore.

December: Days get longer and night disappears as the calendar approaches the solstice. Later in the month on the Antarctic Peninsula the cute, fluffy chicks hatch and rookeries are full of birds. Humpback whales show up back in Antarctic waters.

January: Ice is beginning to break up allowing expeditions to reach beyond 66ºS (the Antarctic Circle), this is the time to access the historic huts of Scott & Shackleton. The baby penguins are cute and fluffy and their parents are busy feeding the needy chicks. Temperatures tend to be on the warm side and can reach as high as 15ºC/60ºF. Days are still quite long.

February: Chicks are very active and curious. Young penguins begin to moult, penguin rookeries are full of the cute birds. February is the best time to spot whales and with the ice receded to its maximum is the best time to head as far south as possible by ship or yacht.

March: Penguins are very curious at this point in the year and a very attracted to the color yellow. March is the best time to catch the stunning sunsets and sunrises you see in photo books as the days start to get shorter and the sun finally starts dropping below the horizon fully at  night. Whale sightings are still optimal in this month and if headed to South Georgia expect to see plenty of King and Macaroni penguins.

Where to go in Antarctica:

Antarctica can be divided up into 5 sections as shown on the map below. The Antarctic Peninsula (purple), Ross Sea Ice Shelf (pink), South Pole (black dot, dead in the middle), West Antarctica (blue), East Antarctica (green).

Antarctica, Antarctica Map, Antarctica Travel, Antarctica Travel Guide

By Peter Fitzgerald, view the CC license here.

Antarctic Peninsula:

Antarctica’s premiere destination. This is the most visited part of the continent and easy to see why! Not only is it easiest to access- only 800 km (500 mi) between Cape Horn in South America and Livingston Island (Shetland Islands) Antarctica, but it’s the most visually impressive. A stegosaurus like spine of mountains runs along the peninsula and is in fact, the continuation of the Andes Mountains. Popular destinations on the peninsula include the Lemaire Channel, Port Lockroy, Deception Island, Palmer Station, Andvord Bay, and Vernadsky Station.

Ross Sea & Ice Shelf:

The typical destination for cruise ships departing from Australia and New Zealand. The Transantarctic Mountain Range is viewable from McMurdo Sound along with the famed volcanoes- Mt. Erebus and Mt. Terror. Another important feature is the Ross Ice Shelf, which is the biggest ice shelf in the world. For history buffs- many historic huts are accessible in the Ross Sea, including Scott’s, Shackleton’s, and Borchgrevink’s Huts. Popular destinations in the Ross Sea region include McMurdo Base (US), Scott Base (NZ), Ross Island, The Ross Ice Shelf, Cape Adare, Cape Hallet, and Franklin Island.

South Pole:

Reachable by expedition and typically depart from Punta Arenas, Chile by flight. Adventure Network, White Desert, Arctic Odysseys, Ice Trek, Polar Explorers, and Voyage Concepts all offer expeditions to the South Pole. Prices start at $40,000 per person and go up from there. At the South Pole sits Scott-Amudesen Station as well as the Ceremonial South Pole.

West Antarctica:

This is the whole of the continent falling in the western hemisphere (except for the Antarctic Peninsula). Much of Western Antarctica is vast, barren, nothingness. Mount Sidley- Antarctica’s highest volcano and Vinson Massif- Antarctica’s highest mountain all fall within Western Antarctica. In contrast, the lowest place on Earth not covered by ocean- the Bentley Subglacial Trench is here. Very few visitors make it to Western Antarctica.

East Antarctica:

This is the bulk of the continent and it sits in the eastern hemisphere. Barren is a great descriptor. Home to Vostock Station- the holder of the world’s coldest ever recorded temperature. Mawson’s hut and The South Pole of Inaccessibility are two of the more popular tourist draws for this rarely visited region.

leopard seal, Antarctica, Ross Sea

Up close wildlife viewing!

What to do in Antarctica:

There are so many options for activities in Antarctica. Ice, wild landscapes and the wildlife are the usual draw for most visitors.

Wildlife Viewing: Penguins and Seals and Whales, oh my! Find yourself sitting amongst curious penguin chicks with the bravest of the youngsters climbing right up onto your lap! Antarctica is a birder’s paradise- you’ll be lucky to peel your eyes away from your binoculars the entire trip both in the Antarctic and Subantarctic with Petrels, Albatross and Cormorants at every turn. Whale watchers will have plenty of opportunity to view the largest of the mammals usually in the months of February and March. And finally the seals will steal the show.

Hiking: Quite a few landing sites give visitors the chance to trek into the frozen expanses.

Photography: There’s a photo op just about every minute of any trip to Antarctica. The main show stealers will be the ice and the up-close wildlife. Even if you aren’t into photography you’ll likely find yourself snapping photo after photo.

Zodiac Cruising: Zodiacs are the main transport that cruise ships use to ferry their passengers onto the ground. These excursions will likely include zodiac cruises where you’ll likely find yourself face to face with the Seventh Continent’s wildlife.

Kayaking/Paddle Boarding: Many yachts and ships carry kayaks and some even have paddle boards aboard. A lovely quiet experience to have paddling between ice floes with penguins and seals watching you as you float on by.

Mountaineering: The Antarctic Andes and the Transatlantic Mountains are just a start. This is a harsh wilderness alluring to explore but only the most prepared should dare.

Skiing/Snowboarding: Easy to arrange on many yachts. Looking to say you’ve rode on every continent? Here’s your chance!

Camping: Want to sleep overnight in Antarctica? No problem! Many sailings include camping excursions on the peninsula. Personally my dream would be to go back, late season and camp- but this is mostly because I’d love to get lucky and get a shot of the southern lights, the milky way and some ice!

Scuba Diving: Extreme divers with the proper certifications can dive off the coast of this frozen stretch of the planet.

Polar Plunge: Take a jump into the icy cold waters. A good bragging right when at a bar back home.

Packing for Antarctica:

This is a tough one. Everyone feels temperature differently. I will list below the absolute essentials. For a detailed packing guide check out this post on Oceanwide Expedition’s Blog. Remember Antarctica is likely warmer than you imagine (trust me, it still isn’t the tropics), but for where you’re probably visiting you can plan to leave the extreme Arctic gear at home. When on land you will be moving around and walking so you will stay fairly warm so longs you’re not sitting stationary. Layers are essential.

Required Documents;

Passport– Make sure it’s got at least 6 months validity.

Visa/s– If the ship departs a country or arrives in a country you need a visa to visit. You are responsible for arranging it if necessary. Contact your nearest embassy for details.

Outerwear:

Warm water and windproof jacket– The most important thing in the jacket you bring is that it’s waterproof. There’s a good chance you’ll get splashed with water on zodiac rides. Some ships/cruiselines include a jacket in your ticket price. Check with them when you book to find out if you really need to bring your own or not. 

Waterproof pants– Snow/ski pants are a good option. Rain pants with a couple layers on underneath can do the trick as well.

Hat– Duh. Most your body heat escapes through your head, so if you’re cold cover your noggin.

Gloves– A heavier pair for colder days and a thinner pair for warmer is a good idea.

Scarf or Neckwarmer: When the wind picks up, this is always the first part of me to get cold if I forget one.

Footwear:

Knee-high rubber boots or (Wellies, gumboots, galoshes…)– Most every landing in Antarctica is a wet landing, i.e. stepping off your zodiac into the water and wading through shallow water to the shore. The most important is that the boots are fully waterproof and sturdy with a slip proof sole. Good boot brands to consider are Muck Boots, Viking Boots, and Xtratufs. Some ships/cruislines provide rubber boots, check when booking to find out if you need to bring your own.

Comfortable shoe: Think something easy to slip on and off (preferably no laces) incase your lying in bed and the ‘WHALES, HUNDREDS OF WHALES EVERYWHERE!‘ announcement comes across the intercoms. *Some ships have exercise rooms aboard, if you plan to use it bring sneakers too.

Clothing:

Note: Leave the formal wear at home, some cruises do have a captain’s dinner in which you might want to look presentable, but formal wear is not expected. Bring comfortable clothing, and remember the ship is heated!

2 Tees– Good for layering and days at sea.

2 Long Sleeves– Again, layering and days at sea.

1 Tank– For warmer days onboard or extra layers.

1 Hoodie or Sweater- Good for colder days to wear under jacket.

2 Thermal pants/lined leggings– Wear under rain pants for extra warmth.

1 Sweatpants (optional)– Good option for lazing about on sea days.

1 Pair Athletic Shorts (optional)- If you tend to run warm you’ll end up wanting these on the days above the Antarctic Convergence, it’ll get real warm in the ship.

2 Pairs of Regular Socks– For warmer days and for wearing with your ship shoes.

2 Pairs of Thermal/hiking Socks– Good for cold days and layering up in boots.

Undies (optional)– This may be too much for you….. I don’t wear underwear, plus it wastes space in my bag. However those of you that do wear undies, I think two should suffice.

1 Bra– if you have the parts necessary for one.

1 Sports Bra– Same reasoning as above.

Accessories:

Sunglasses– Ever heard of snowblindness? It’s real and it hurts.

Goggles– Especially if going skiing, but work great for windy zodiac trips where you don’t want to worry about them blowing away.

Electrical Converter with Adaptor– Keep charged.

Camera + Camera Gear– All largely dependent on what you shoot with and how into it you are. Make sure to have all necessary batteries and accessories (tripod, filter, lenses, shutter release, etc.) to go with.

External Hard Drive or Spare SD/CF Cards– You’ll likely take more pictures than you will expect. Bring extra space! Or film in the case you still shoot on a film camera.

Waterproof Bag/Backpack– Something to carry your electronics ashore with.

Binoculars- For wildlife viewing.

Water Bottle– You are allowed to bring plain water with you ashore.

Toiletries:

Sun Cream- Yes you can still get sunburnt when it’s cold.

Thick Lotion/Oil- Antarctica is the driest place on Earth.

Prescription Medications- This should be a no-brainer. Any Rx med you take, BRING IT WITH YOU! And be sure to bring enough to get you through the entirety of your trip.

Sea Sickness Patches or Pills- Better to be safe than sorry, many people do get sea sick. Can usually be purchased on board from ship medic if you’re on a cruise.

Soap- You will probably have some in your cabin already, if you need anything special it is best to bring your own.

Shampoo– Same as mentioned above about soap.

Conditioner– If you have long hair you’ll need it. Bring something thick, it’s extremely dry here.

Tampons/Pads/Diva Cup– If you have a vagina and it still does that bleedy thing every month.

Laundry detergent– If you plan to do your own laundry aboard you’ll need laundry soap. Some cruise ships have a laundry facility for you to use, otherwise yo can always wash some clothes in your shower. Most cruise ships offer a laundry service, but this is an additional cost and can be expensive.

Accommodation:

If going by ship or yacht, that will be your accommodation. Cabins on cruise ships can vary in comfort depending on how much you’re willing to spend. Some trips include camping expeditions in which your tent is typically provided. These are questions to ask upon booking.

Travel Insurance:

Antarctica is remote. Like really, really remote. Operators require proof of a travel insurance plan. Make sure the plan you choose has medivac coverage as you will likely have to be medivaced in the event of an emergency.

I personally use Allianz for travel insurance every time I travel. I have only ever had to make one claim (stitches that I had to get after a motorbike wreck in the Philippines) and the claim process was quick and easy. I submitted my receipt and bill from the clinic and within a couple of weeks I had received the news that my claim was approved. An important note on travel insurance is that in many cases you will have to pay up front when getting medical service overseas and then the insurance company reimburses you.

Safety:

Antarctica is pretty safe in regards to most things people are terrorized by media outlets with. Yes, I’m talking terrorism- by and far the least likely way any of us will die… Antarctica is pretty much free of that. The biggest dangers in Antarctica would likely be getting to close to a seal and being eaten, losing an eye to a penguin peck, frostbite/frostnip, slipping on ice and busting your ass or a hip (or any body part for that matter), falling overboard, etc. Just like anywhere else, pay attention and be careful. People on more extreme expeditions such as visiting the South Pole, scuba diving or skiing have more dangers to be concerned about than the typical visitor to Antarctica.

Now who has the Antarctica Travel Bug?

I still can’t believe I was here not even two months ago. Have any corrections on the Antarctica Travel Guide? Email them to me at adventureslilnicki [at] gmail.com.

Want more Antarctica?

Check out 10 Reasons to Visit The Ross Sea.

Adelie penguins, Weddell seal, penguin, penguins, Weddell seal and adelie penguins, Cape Adare, Ross Sea, Antarctica, Antarctica Travel, Antarctica Travel Guide

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Offshore and Off The Beaten Path New Zealand: Campbell Island

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Beeman Hill, Perseverance Harbor, Northwest Bay, Campbell Island, New Zealand, Subantarctic, Subantarctic Islands

Beeman Hill with the Northwest Bay to the Right and Perseverance Harbor to the Left.

Campbell Island: Off Shore & Off The Beaten Path New Zealand.

*I have a business relationship with Oceanwide Expeditions and traveled onboard the M/V Ortelius sailing South from New Zealand to visit Campbell Island on the way down to the Ross Sea as an independent press & media representative. All opinions are my own.

When people think of New Zealand they typically think of the two big players in the game: The North Island and the South Island. But did you know New Zealand encompasses more islands than just its two superstars?

New Zealand includes a number of other islands and island groups, actually over 600! Here I’ll name a few of its Subantarctic Islands:

Campbell Island (Motu Ihupuku)

Auckland Islands (Motu Maha)

The Snares (Tini Heke)

Bounty Islands

Antipodes Islands

All of these island groups lie south of New Zealand in the Southern Ocean between the Antarctic and the Subtropical Convergence.

Campbell Island:

Want a 2 minute tour of Campbell Island? Check out this video by Kyle Sullivan. I met Kyle on my trip to Antarctica, in fact, he actually won the contest put on by Oceanwide Expeditions. Plus, he makes pretty awesome videos.

The Campbell Islands are New Zealand’s southernmost subantarctic island group. The group is comprised of the main and largest Campbell Island, with Dent and Jacquemart being the next largest. Other islands include:  Isle de Jeanette Marie, Gomez Island, Folley Island, Hook Keys, Wasp Island, Monowai Island, and Survey Island.

The island group’s size comes in at 11,331 hectares located 700 kms south of New Zealand’s South Island at 52º 33’S. The islands were discovered by Europeans on 4 January 1810 by Captain Frederick Hasselburgh on the Perseverance and was reserved in 1954.

The island group is known for its flora and fauna, much of which is endemic to Campbell Island and other Subantarctic Islands, with some species only found in the Campbell Island group and nowhere else on Earth.

Sheep (for farming) and rats (on accident) were introduced to the Campbell Islands long ago but have since been eradicated due to extensive efforts by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. Since the eradication it has allowed the native flora and fauna to bounce back.

Getting there:

Helicopter or chartered vessel.

Most visitors come via expedition cruise ship from Invercargill/Bluff or Christchurch. I visited Campbell Island in February 2017 on the M/V Ortelius with Oceanwide Expeditions.

Perseverance Harbor, Campbell Island, New Zealand, Subantarctic, Subantarctic Islands, New Zealand Subantarctic Islands,

The M/V Ortelius in Perseverance Harbor.

Weather:

Cloudy, windy, wet and cold. 75% of the year expect around 63 kph gusts in a day. 300 days give or take per year you can expect precipitation to fall in the form of rain or snow.

What to see:

The unique flora and fauna of course.

Campbell Island Daisy, Pluerophyllum Specious, Campbell Island, New Zealand, Subantarctic, Subantarctic Islands, New Zealand Subantarctic Islands, Daisy, purple daisy

The Campbell Island Daisy, or the Pleurophyllum Speciosum. A vibrant megaherb on Campbell Island.

Anisotome Latifolia, Campbell Island Carrot, Campbell Island, New Zealand, Subantarctic, Subantarctic Islands, New Zealand Subantarctic Islands, Megaherb, Megaherbs,

The Anisotome Latifolia, or the Campbell Island Carrot. A megaherb endemic to the Campbell and Auckland Islands.

Pleurophyllum Hookeri, Megaherb, megaherbs, New Zealand, Campbell Island, Subantarctic, Subantarctic Islands, Silver-leaf Daisy, Sage-green Rosette Herb

Pleurophyllum Hookeri or known by its other names: the Silver-leaf Daisy or Sage-green Rosette Herb. This is one of Campbell Island’s unusual Megaherbs.

The Campbell Islands are home to unusual plants, including its famous megaherbs. Many of the grasses and megaherbs are endemic to The Campbell Islands or at least to New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands.

The Campbell Islands are albatross central: Six different types of Albatross breed on Campbell Island, one of which (the Campbell Island Mollyhawk) breeds no where else. The other species who breed on the islands include the Light Mantled Sooty Albatross, the Southern Royal Albatross, the Antipodean Albatross, the Grey-Headed Mollyhawk and the Black-Browed Mollyhawk.

Albatross, Southern Royal Albatross, Campbell Island, New Zealand, Subantarctic, Subantarctic Islands, New Zealand Subantarctic Islands,

The Southern Royal Albatross

Other seabirds who breed here include the rare Yellow-Eyed Penguin and the Eastern Rockhopper Penguin.

rested penguin, Subantarctic, Subantarctic Islands, Campbell Island, New Zealand

A crested penguin

Other birds to be spotted on the Campbell Islands include the New Zealand Antarctic Tern, Northern Giant Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, White Chinned Petrel, Subantarctic Diving Petrel, Grey-Backed Storm Petrel, Subantarctic Skua, and the endemic Campbell Island Shag.

Subantarctic Skua, Skua, Subantarctic, Subantarctic Islands, Campbell Island, New Zealand

A zodiac full of passengers observing Subantarctic Skua.

Campbell Island Shag, Subantarctic, Subantarctic Islands, Campbell Island, New Zealand

The endemic Campbell Island Shag.

Land birds also call the Campbell Islands home. These include the Campbell Island Teal, the Campbell Island Snipe and the New Zealand Pipit.

Mammals: The Northwest Bay of Campbell Island is the best place to spot New Zealand Sea Lions and Southern Elephant Seals. New Zealand Fur Seals can be spotted around the islands as well. For whales Northwest Bay in the winter will be your best bet to spot the Southern Right Whale. However you’d be more likely to see them in the Auckland Islands (another New Zealand Subantarctic Island group).

New Zealand Sea Lion, Sea Lion, New Zealand, Campbell Island, Subantarctic, Subantarctic Islands

A New Zealand Sea Lion crawling onto the boat launch.

The Basalt Columns of Perseverance Harbor are a unique geological sight to see on Campbell Island.

basalt, basalt columns, Campbell Island, New Zealand, Subantarctic, Subantarctic Islands

Basalt columns in Perseverance Bay.

Looking to get off the beaten path in New Zealand?

Beeman Hill, Campbell Island, New Zealand, Subantarctic, Subantarctic Islands

Taking a moment to appreciate Beeman Hill.

Need Travel Insurance?

Start shopping plans over at World Nomads.

10 Reasons Why ‘Visit The Ross Sea’ Should Be On Your Bucketlist

10 Reasons Why You Should Visit The Ross Sea

Are you looking to find ‘off the beaten path Antarctica‘? Look no further than the remote and rarely visited Ross Sea region. The Ross Sea was named after Sir James Clark Ross who discovered the sea in 1841 and is home to abundant wildlife, the largest ice shelf in the world and is the closest open water to the South Pole.

*I have a business relationship with Oceanwide Expeditions and traveled onboard the M/V Ortelius sailing South to the Ross Sea and Antarctica as an independent press & media representative. All these opinions are my own, but trust me, the Ross Sea impressed far far more than it disappointed.

The Ross Sea is as remote as remote gets.

Shrouded in mystery and thick pack ice the Ross Sea is cut off from the world for majority of the year. In the short Antarctic summer the thick ice will finally give way, allowing access to the Earth’s most remote and pristine waters. Doesn’t get much more off the beaten path than this. The only thing around to bother you are the next culprit on the list.

Ross Sea, McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, ice

Can’t beat these wide open vistas.

The wildlife.

The nutrient packed waters of the Ross Sea support a plethora of plankton which allow for its waters to be teaming with wildlife. 10 mammal species, 6 bird species, 95 species of fish and over 1,000 invertebrates are known to frequent the Ross Sea. Some of the stars of the Ross Sea wildlife scene include: Adelie & Emperor Penguins, Weddell, Leopard & Crabeater Seals, Skua, Antarctic & Snow Petrel, Antarctic Toothfish, and Killer & Antarctic Minke whales.

Ross Sea, Antarctica, Emperor penguin, penguin,

An Ice floe fit for an emperor… penguin, that is.

The Ross Ice Shelf is the largest in the world.

Coming in at nearly the size of France the Ross Ice Shelf is 487,000 square kilometers of solid ice (188,000 square miles). The ice shelf covers a large portion of the southern reaches of the Ross Sea as well as all of Roosevelt Island.

Ross Ice Shelf, Ice Shelf, Ross Sea, Antarctica

The famed Ross Ice Shelf. Don’t let those mountains towering above convince you otherwise, IT’S MASSIVE!

As close to Mars as you can get.

Did you know Antarctica is home to one of the most inhospitable, extreme deserts on Earth? Welcome to the McMurdo Dry Valleys. Scientists consider the Dry Valleys to be the closest terrestrial environment to that which exists on Mars. Even weirder is the blood waterfall located on Taylor Glacier here in the Dry Valleys.

McMurdo Dry Valleys, Taylor Valley, Antarctica, Ross Sea, Oceanside Expeditions

Hovering above Taylor Glacier, in the southernmost of the three McMurdo Dry Valleys- Taylor Valley.

The History.

Follow in the footsteps of some of Antarctica’s most famous explorers. Borchgrevink, Scott and Shackleton all led expeditions in the Ross Sea. Cape Adare, Cape Evans, Hut Point and Cape Royds all house well preserved historic huts important to the legacy of exploration of the most remote continent.

Scott Hut, Cape Evans, Antarctica, Ross Sea

Inside of Scott Hut, Cape Evans.

Ice, Ice…. You know the rest.

Imagine waking up to a sea of pancake ice surrounding you and giant icebergs teaming with penguins and seals staring right back at you. This is an all-to-regular occurrence here.

Cape Adare, Icebergs, Iceberg, Antarctica, Borchgrevink, Ross Sea

zipping between giant icebergs by zodiac near Cape Adare.

The Pristine Nature.

Owing to its remote location, the Ross Sea is home to some of the cleanest waters and untouched, raw nature on Earth. Its even gained the nickname of ‘The Last Ocean’.

Adelie penguins, Weddell seal, penguin, penguins, Weddell seal and adelie penguins, Cape Adare, Ross Sea, Antarctica

Seals and Penguins, galore!

The Ross Sea is the world’s largest marine reserve.

In October 2016 an agreement was finally reached which will protect 1.5 million square kilometers (983,00 sq. miles) of the Ross Sea, that of which no fishing will be allowed in 1.1 million square kilometers of the marine reserve. Read more on the agreement here.

leopard seal, Antarctica, Ross Sea

And come face to face with giant leopard seals!

See Science Live in Action.

In the heart of McMurdo Sound sits McMurdo Station (US) and Scott Station (New Zealand). And nearby Terra Nova Bay is home to Gondwana Station (Germany), Jang Bogo Station (South Korea) and Mario Zuchelli Station (Italy). If you’re lucky enough to get clearance you can visit these stations and find out what the scientists down here do and get a peak into their super remote lives.

McMurdo Station, Ross Sea, Ross Island

Touring around McMurdo Station.

The world’s Southernmost active volcano.

It’s a land of fire and ice. Mt. Erebus has been active for roughly the last 1.3 million years. Erebus is located on Ross Island towering around its inactive neighbors- Mt. Terror, Mt. Bird and Mt. Terra Nova.

Mt. Erebus, Erebus, Antarctica, Ross Sea, McMurdo Sound

Mt Erebus towering over Emperor Penguins out on the ice.

Need any more convincing? 

If you’re ready for a once-in-a-lifetime style adventure and to meet some of the most interesting fellow travelers out there Antarctica, particularly the Ross Sea are the place for you. I have just returned from Oceanwide Expedition’s Spectacular Ross Sea Crossing. Check out the sailings they have coming up for next season, it’s never to early to start planning!

Franklin Island, Antartica, Ross Sea

Franklin Island.

Preparing for Antarctica

Preparing for Antarctica.

I'm going to Antarctica

via Flickr

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Hi, my names is Nicole and I hate packing.

Yet, here I am going to Antarctica where you probably would pack more than anywhere else you’d visit. At least I live in Alaska so I already own most any component you’d need to survive in sub zero temperatures.

Tomorrow I embark on a 32 day voyage from Bluff, New Zealand across the Ross Sea to the Ross Ice Shelf, many an island, The Antarctic Peninsula, Drake Passage and several research stations with Oceanwide Expeditions. And what I’m going to talk about today is what shit I’m lugging around down there with me. Afterwards I’ll tell you how it went and what I’s change.

*I have a business relationship with Oceanwide Expeditions and will travel onboard the M/V Ortelius sailing South to the Ross Sea and Antarctica as an independent press & media representative. Follow my travel blog as I visit the Ross Sea & Antarctica.

Camera gear:

I’m bringing all my normal stuff, except with one change. I was given a Canon EOS M3 mirrorless camera body as a gift, so I’ll bringing that instead of the 600D. Read up or watch the video on my travel photography gear.

Outerwear:

I’m bringing my good old Oakley Gretchen Bleiler Jacket that I wear most the winter long at home and my Volcom snowpants. I’ll look straight out of the 80’s like usual. I am a bit of a beanie lover so I have quite a few to choose from to bring with, including my new ‘messy bun beanie’ for the gigantic ball of hair that I can tie up on top of my head. For gloves I’ll bring my weird wool ones that the fingers all flap back off of and people just seem to be mesmerized by and my waterproof mittens I snowboard in. Then of course I’m a self-proclaimed scarf whore, so they sky’s the limit.

Footwear:

Thankfully Oceanwide Expeditions provides rubber boots for their expeditions on the Ortelius! It saves me a ton of weight, as I do have a really nice pair of insulated muck boots (yes, I’m an Alaskan who doesn’t have a pair of Xtra Tufs. A true rarity.) and I do not want to carry them as they weigh nearly a metric ton. The last epic adventure I went on I only carried two shoes with me: my Merell hiking boots and my Crocs (no not the ugly clog ones, but a cute pair that look like ballet flats). I usually only bring 2 pairs with me and that’s it. But this trip, this trip is different. I’m also bringing my Sorels, don’t worry their small and not clonky.

Clothing:

Normally I only pack a dress, a legging, an elephant pant, one pair of shorts, two t-shirts, two tank tops, 1 pair of undies, 2 hiking socks, 2 normal socks, two sports bra, a normal bra, a hoodie and two bikinis. That is it! Of course if I’m going somewhere on the chilly side I’ll pack a long sleeve shirt.

But this time layers are key, and the fact that it’s summer in the southern hemisphere as thrown a wrench in my plans. I’m packing for summer, eternal winter (although technically summer), summer.

For this trip I opted to bring long sleeve tops, leggings, sweatpants, a couple hoodies and some undies. In addition to this I’ll be lugging around the summer clothing that I needed for Australia & New Zealand, and of course a swimsuit for that polar plunge.

Other Stuff:

Most importantly I’m bringing my Delrome Inreach yet again so that I can keep in touch with people while I set sail into the wide open abyss. Otherwise there is internet aboard the Ortelius but from what I understand it’s painfully slow, think like 1995 speeds… Not conducive to me getting any online work done on here… Don’t worry I’m writing up posts that will release on here while I’m away to keep everyone occupied.

So there it is. I’m sure it’ll be entertaining comparing what I’m bringing to what I think I should’ve brought after I get off the ship.

See you when I make to Ushuaia!

Travel Insurance is a must for Antarctica

Start shopping plans over at World Nomads.

Got Antartica on your mind? Start planning here:

Oceanwide Expeditions Antarctica Itinerary

Antarctica Itinerary with Oceanwide Expeditions.

As you already know if you follow along here regularly, I’ve just gotten to Sydney today. In one week I’ll be packing up again and heading off to Auckland to road trip around New Zealand for a couple of weeks making my way down to the far south to catch the ship in Bluff, NZ to Antarctica.

Today I’m going to give you an outline of what all is on the Antarctica Itinerary for my upcoming cruise with Oceanwide Expeditions.

*I have a business relationship with Oceanwide Expeditions and will travel onboard the M/V Ortelius sailing South to the Ross Sea and Antarctica as an independent press & media representative. Follow my travel blog as I visit the Ross Sea & Antarctica.

Antarctica Itinerary:

Day 1: Embark in Bluff, NZ. (Feb 15)

Hop on the expedition shop, the Ortelius M/V in the later afternoon.

Day 2: A day at sea. (Feb. 16)

Making way to Campbell Island.

Day 3: Campbell Island. (Feb. 17)

Campbell Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is part of NZ. Known for it’s flora & fauna as well as its Southern Albatross. Eastern Rockhopper, Erect-Crested and Yellow-Eyed Penguins all breed on the island and populations of Elephant Seals, Fur Seals and Sea Lions have made recoveries after being hunted to near extinction.

Day 4, 5, 6, 7, 8: 5 days at sea. (Feb. 18-22)

These days will be spent sailing towards the entrance to the Ross Sea. Weather dependent, there will be a stop at Scott Island should the seas and skies behave. There are naturalist lectures, photography workshops and more on these expedition cruises, so I’m hoping to get in on some of these while cast away at sea here..

Day 9: Cape Adare. (Feb. 23)

Here we hope to see a colony of moulting Adelie Penguins that live around the Borchgrevink Hut.

Day 10, 11: Ross Sea. (feb. 24-25)

Here we will continue to sail south through the Ross Sea. Depending on weather, sea and ice conditions stops will be attempted at Cape Hallet, Terra Nova Bay, The Drygalski Tongue and The Mario Zucchelli Station.

Day 12, 13, 14, 15, 16: 5 Days in the Ross Sea. (Feb. 16-Mar. 1).

Hopefully if weather allows we will make a stop at Ross Island where you stand below the towering Mount Erebus, Mount Terror and Mount Byrd. There are also intended stops at Cape Evans, McMurdo & Scott Bases, to hike Castle Rock, and to hike Taylor & McMurdo Dry Valleys.

Day 17: Sailing the Ross Ice Shelf. (Mar. 2)

We’ll continue east along the world’s biggest ice shelf.

Day 18: Helicopter landing on Ross Ice Shelf. (Mar. 3).

If conditions allow for it we’ll try to land on the Ice Shelf to explore it.

Day 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24: 6 Days Sailing along the Amundsen Sea. (Mar. 4-9).

Along here we’ll be sailing along the ice and on the look out for Emperor Penguins, as well as all eyes on the sea looking for Minke Whales, Orcas, and Fulmarine Petrels.

Day 25: Peter I Island. (Mar. 10).

If weather behaves a helicopter landing here is in order. This rarely visited island is claimed by Norway and is located in the Bellingshausen Sea. The island is volcanic and completely uninhabited.

Day 26-27: Sailing the Bellingshausen Sea. (Mar. 11-12).

Sailing along the sea looking out for wildlife.

Day 28-29 The Antarctic Peninsula. (Mar 13-14).

This will be the first time we’ll technically be able to set foot on the 7th continent. Planned stops are Detail Island, Fish Islands, Prospect Point, Pléneau Island, Peterman Island.  We will also get to head through the famous Lemaire Channel and toward Drake Passage. On and along the Antarctica Peninsula we hope to see Adélie Penguins, Blue-eyed Shags, fur seals may, Gentoo Penguins, Kelp Gulls and South Polar Skuas.

Day 30-31: Drake Passage (Mar. 15-16).

We’ll be sailing along the Drake Passage looking out for wildlife and making way toward Ushuaia.

Day 32: Ushuaia (Mar. 17).

The morning of 3/17 I’ll finally step off the ship for good in Argentina’s southernmost city in Tierra Del Fuego.

This is just one of the many expeditions offered by Oceanwide Expeditions.

Visit their website here to start planning. They also do sailings to other parts of Antarctica, The Falklands, South Georgia Island as well as to the Arctic!

 

I’m going to Antarctica!

….yeah you read that right…

I’m going to Antarctica!

And I figured I’d make it official and all and announce it on here.

I’ll be traveling with Oceanwide Expeditions on the M/V Ortelius. The trip will last a month and cross from Bluff, New Zealand to Ushuaia, Argentina via the Ross Sea!

*I will be an independent press & media representative onboard Oceanwide Expeditions´s vessel M/V Ortelius sailing South to the Ross Sea. Follow my travel blog as I visit the Ross Sea & Antarctica. And just like normal, my colorful opinions are all my own, and we all know how brutal they can be.

But first, on January 21st I’ll be headed to Australia, location still to be determined. Really, suggestions here please! I’m fully aware that a week in Australia isn’t enough but that’s what I got! From there I’ll go to Auckland and make my way down to Bluff over the course of a couple weeks… then it’s Antarctica time! This trip will also knock out my visits to my 6th and 7th continent.

Back to Antarctica…

I’ll be on a 31 day expedition crossing the Ross, Admunsen and Bellingshausen Seas with what looks to be an awesome itinerary. A few highlights will include the Ross Ice Shelf, the Antarctic Peninsula, penguins, penguins, and did I mention PENGUINS? I’m obsessed with penguins, true story. Clearly you can tell I’m trying to hide all my wild excitement, especially about all the penguins. Naturally, I’ll be going on this trip locked and loaded with more photography gear than my puny body wants to really carry. That telephoto lens of mine is going to see the most action its had since I brought it to the Galapagos back in June 2016.

What will Antarctica be like?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Realistically I don’t know other than, you know, cold. I’m guessing Alaska-esque just colder and different wildlife. The one plus here is that I do have all of the necessary gear being from the Arctic. What will the expedition cruise be like? I don’t know. From what I’ve seen so far it sounds amazing, but only time will tell. I’m hoping it’s great.

So as you probably guessed it I’m beyond excited to head off to Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and Argentina. Of course it’s not to late to book an Antarctica expedition for this season, go check out Oceanwide Expeditions to see different itineraries. It’s also never to early to start planning either! This is very obviously one hell of a way to kick off 2017.

What are your travel plans for 2017?

Are you thinking about a trip to the Antarctic or even the Arctic? Start your plans here: