Antartica

Stood on deck I watch the port of Ushuaia and the Patagonian Andes slowly shrink in to the distance. My destination the Antarctica Peninsula via the Antarctic Circle.

Its been a frustrating few days. The loss of a tiny bike part requires a replacement sending from the UK, a slow and costly delivery for such a tiny item. Buses out of the city of Ushuaia are booked for a week in advance.

Stuck I have at least a week to contemplate my stupidity whilst the part arrives. Suddenly a last minute departure to Antarctica looked all the more appealing.

Its a strange and impulsive turn of events, as we sail down the sheltered waters of the Beagle Channel. I’m grinning from ear to ear. Its either a very costly bike part or the trip of a lifetime, I’m yet to find out which.

Antartica. The worlds most hostile and least accessible continent. A continent steeped in history from the early explorers like Shackleton and Scott to modern explorers like Ben and Tarka.

They are tales of physical and mental fortitude, explorers pushed to the brink, some never to return. We set sail the day that Scott reached the South Pole 100 years earlier.

In comparision my own journey is unremarkable, the hull strengthened Artic cruise liner I’m aboard is luxuriously fitted. After months spent sleeping in tents, hostels and cheap hotels my only real expectation is that I don’t have bed bugs as company.

As we round Cape Horn we leave Tierra Del Fuego and the landmass of South America behind as we spend the next two days sailing through the Drake Passage the body of water that connects the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Southern Ocean.

The calm passage allows us time on deck to spot many of birds following the boat including Petrels and Albatross.

Antartica

The original plan is to sail through the Antarctic circle (66 36/67 28) and down to Marguerite Bay however the ice pack prevents this and we cross the circle and reroute sailing in to Crystal Sound and then begin daily excursions around the Antarctic Maritime via Zodiac boats to explore the landscapes and wildlife.

The landscapes are simply incredible. Strikingly it is far more mountainous than I had envisioned thanks to the Transantartic mountain chain.

Antartica

Glaciers plunge in to the sea providing the many ice bergs we navigate around starring in awe at the size, shape, colouration and detail.

Ice Bergs

Antartica

Ice bergs

Antartica

The ice bergs and floes provide a safe platform for seals to rest lazily before descending in to the sea to feed.

Antartica

Whales become a daily sight. The familiar sound of them breathing and then a brief scan on the horizon for the fin breaking the waters surface.

Antartica

Occasionally we are treated to them fluking before diving deeper to feed on the abundant Krill in this area.

Antartica

Penguins provide much entertainment as they swim through the water.

Antartica

Sometimes stood like a solitary watchman. Observing us from on high.

Antartica

Penguin colonies prove to be both fascinating and overwhelming in equal measure. The back drops are otherworldly.

Antartica

Antartica

January is a hive of activity as mothers nurture chicks. With so much activity its difficult to no where to focus
Antartica

AntarticaAntartica

The sunsets in this region will stay with me forever.The sun slowly dropping to the horizon, the colours becoming more vivid.

Antartica

Antartica

Antartica

These are prisitine landscapes unlike anything I have seen before. Each look in to the viewfinder picks out new colours and details.

Unfortunately even in Antarticas relatively short history it has been plundered by human activity. Sealers and whalers drove many species to near extinction.

All that remains of these practices are scars on the landscape. Empty buildings stand weather beaten as nature tries to reclaim them.Antartica

Antartica

Historic bases like Port Lockroy exist to illustrate the work of the British Antartic Survey. Many of the artifacts carefully preserved to act as a reminder of the working conditions under which scientists and researchers would live.

Whilst viewing many of the artefacts one thing stands out. Climatological research. This continent may have been saved from the human impact of the sealers and whalers however both the Artic and Antartic face new challenges with the onset of climate change. Much of which still remains unknown.

Antartica

One simple bike part. One life changing experience. The memories from 12 days spent in Antartica will stay with me forever.

Route

Crystal Sound – Renard Island – Argentine Islands – Lemaire Channel – Port Lockroy – Gerlanche Strait – Paradise Harbour – Necko Harbour – Willemina Bay – Deception Island – Graham Land

14 Comments

  1. Debbie
    30/01/2014

    With just a week left before I fly home, I’m laid up with food poisoning (boo!) and having to live vicariously through my favourite blogs until I’m well enough to leave my bed. And what a pleasure to read this entry! Stunning photos as always, and a great write up – if I wasn’t burning up I could almost imagine being there! Greatly looking forward to see how your trip unfolds once your bike is all ready to go 🙂

    Reply
    • Mike
      01/02/2014

      I have to admit to a slight bit of trepediation at the moment. Weeks off the bike, plenty of big steaks and Malbec haven’t been kind to my waistline.

      Hopefully I’ll get a tail wind to push me up Tierra Del Fuego. Gah we will see.

      Anyway I hope you return to health quickly and manage to enjoy what remains of your trip.

  2. Mike Howarth in Antarctica – RickMcCharles.com
    31/01/2014

    […] read his trip report […]

    Reply
  3. Nadine
    05/02/2014

    Beautiful writing Mike. I was transported.
    That trip I’m jealous of.
    What a serene, elegant, and unforgiving, landscape.

    Reply
  4. Cintia
    05/02/2014

    Incredible pictures! I remember your facial expression when you told me you were going to Antarctica, but evidently it was very much worth it. I hope you post lots of pictures, I’m dying to see them. I was so excited to see the pictures. I congratulate you.
    I hope the part for your bike has arrived, and I hope you won’t have to resort to reading this in English. It was a pleasure meeting you!
    Cintia

    Increíbles imágenes! Recuerdo tu expresión cuando me dijiste que te ibas a la Antártida, pero evidentemente valió la pena. Espero que publiques más fotos, me encantaría ver más. Es emocionante. Te felicito.
    Espero que el repuesto de tu bici haya llegado, y espero que no tengas que leer ésto en inglés. Fue un placer conocerte!
    Cintia.

    Reply
    • Mike
      06/02/2014

      Encantador para conocer su opinión. la Castellone era una lucha pero tengo allí! hay más fotos por venir.

      Suerte!

  5. Cass
    06/02/2014

    Wow, absolutely fantastic! The light there is stunning.

    What’s the missing part?

    Reply
    • Mike
      06/02/2014

      I’d managed to lose a part for the Rohloff connecting the spindle and gear shifter. A tiny cog when I removed the backing plate for the disc. All now sorted and back on the road.

      Like you say the lighting was incredible!

      Hopefully catch you on the road, Puerto Montt may be a bit of a push but will be in touch!

  6. Lago Del Desierto: Border Crossings and Fond Farewells | Mike Howarth
    08/04/2014

    […] have played a role in shaping this trip. Without whom I may never have considered going to Antarctica, whose kindness took me in as the Patagonian winds caught me at a low […]

    Reply
  7. Surly Ogre: The Dirt Road Tourer | Mike Howarth
    21/04/2014

    […] at the insistence of one of my ship mates from Antartica, I’m happy to reveal my bike is now called […]

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  8. Tierra Del Fuego: a Baptism of Fire and a lesson in friendship » Mike Howarth
    22/05/2014

    […] back in Ushuaia from Antartica I return to my accomodation and within an hour I have my replacement part thanks to the continued […]

    Reply
  9. anna
    04/08/2014

    Wow! Antartica! I wish I’d had some sort of excuse to end up there when I was down in Tierra del Fuego. So beautiful! Your photos are gorgeous, too, but you know, I’m really most impressed by the sketch of the penguin! It that yours? Or some fellow traveller’s!

    Reply
    • Mike
      13/08/2014

      Thanks Anna!

      I have to admit it was a snap of a fellow travellers artistic capabilities.

  10. dave morgan
    16/03/2015

    Awesome pictures, Mike. That missing part was a blessing on disguise!

    Reply

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