Passion Points: Active/Adventure
Antarctica is a land of superlatives: the southernmost continent, the coldest spot in the world (the temperature has tumbled to -192.56 F) and the windiest, too (gusts have been clocked at 203 mph). For some, it’s the sheer isolation of the frozen continent that lures them, for others it’s going someplace totally pristine and forever untamed—quite literally the end of the Earth, where majestic ice fields carve out a landscape that’s pure, otherworldly and hauntingly beautiful. “Until you have been there, you can’t imagine just how big and vast and silent it is,” says Candy Isdale. “It’s such an intense experience.”
Owner of Custom Charter Yachts, Isdale arranged an eight-day trip this past February for 105 members of a yacht club. After flying from to Buenos Aires, Argentina, then on to Ushuaia, at the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego, the group boarded the 297-foot Corinthian II to embark on their voyage across the Beagle Channel. They cruised the 620 miles from Cape Horn to the Antarctic Peninsula, crossing the Drake Passage and the Bransfield Strait along the way and making frequent trips ashore in Zodiacs. Stops included Paulet Island, formed by a volcanic eruption, which has more than 100,000 pairs of nesting Adelie penguins. There were fuzzy babies clustered by the water’s edge, waiting for their mothers; older penguins diving through the waves like dolphins; and hundreds more waddling or hopping along the cobblestone beach, arms splayed out. “We walked very slowly and respected their space,” says Isdale, “but the penguins would come right up to us and peck at our legs or try to shoo us away with their little arms.” Throughout their trip, the scenes of local wildlife were mesmerizing: fur seals rolling in the water or sacked out sleeping, piled on each other for warmth; an albatross flying overhead; a whale cresting through the waves. Equally memorable were the icebergs; one Isdale recalls was the size and shape of an aircraft carrier. “Every day, you could hear the icebergs calving,” she says. “It sounded like a thunderstorm. There would be a great roar as a chunk of ice broke free, then an enormous splash as it crashed into the sea. We were far enough offshore to be safe, but you could still feel the waves rocking the ship.” Coming home, the ship faced gale force winds on the Drake Passage, but for just a few hours. The sense of adventure only increased the camaraderie. “We all left fast friends, having shared this incredible experience together,” says Isdale.
When: Most trips to Antarctica run between November and February. “I like February because it’s mid-summer there and the ice is out,” says Isdale. “There’s great sea life to observe and you can make more landings.”
Why: “No person who has not spent a period of his life in those ‘stark and sullen solitudes that sentinel the Pole’ will understand fully what trees and flowers, sun-flecked turf and running streams mean to the soul of a man.” ~explorer Ernest Shackleton
Cost: Trips start at $12,000 per cabin (double occupancy) for ten days for groups of 80-150. Contact Indagare for more details.
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