Dec 16, 2022
The last and best-kept secret planet Earth has hidden is fearlessly protected by a body of water that would swallow you whole if you do not have a healthy amount of apprehension as you make the crossing to what lies beyond.
Antarctica, many people’s final continent and ultimate bucket list destination, is no longer as inaccessible as it was in the past. Ernest Shackleton’s famous voyage, and ultimate rescue of his crew members in this remote area of the world, has drawn scientists — as well as tourists — from all over the globe.
For anyone who does not know, Shackleton was an Anglo-Irish arctic explorer (b.1874-d.1922). His goal had been to reach the south pole.
There are a few launch points throughout the world that expedition boats will leave from in order to get to the White Continent. All of them are in the southern hemisphere, notably Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and probably the most popular of them all is Ushuaia, Argentina where the dreaded Drake’s Passage is located.
What makes the infamous Drake’s passage so dangerous and PTSD-inducing? A quick look at a world map will show you the Southern Ocean that separates Antarctica from the rest of the world does not have any continents or significant land mass to break up the waves that build along the circumference of the planet at roughly 60 degrees south of the Equator. This gives the waves a chance to build uninterrupted — a sailor’s worst nightmare.
The tourists are entertained by the cutlery and glasses sliding off the table, oblivious to the worries, concentration, and nautical skills needed to navigate this treacherous crossing. Walking sideways along the corridors is an everyday occurrence for the staff working on board. Each wave tries and fails to break the enthusiasm the expedition team shows as they lecture about the aspects of Antarctica: history, ornithology, and recycling of plastics.
Neko Harbour. All photos by Jocelyne Brisson.
You would wonder to yourself why people would subject themselves to this form of torture willingly. Recently, a rogue wave in the Drake Passage was responsible for the death of an American woman on the ship’s route back to Argentina. So why do it?
Having experienced this crossing first hand, I can say that if you are going to make the choice to go to Antarctica then make sure that you are ready to go into the void (Drake Passage). There is always the option to fly, but it is not always practical and flights are regularly grounded due to fog. Pick the best option for you.
When it comes to flying, my opinion is that you would miss out on the experience of a true expedition, which is the closest thing to adventure most people come to nowadays. Anything worth getting to, or having, is worthy of the time and struggle we put into it.
The one promise I can make is that what awaits you on the other side of this veil is Mother Nature at her finest. You will experience outdoor activities such as snowshoeing, kayaking, and the polar dip for those truly brave souls organized by your expedition.
You will also get to witness the wonder of seeing penguins up close and personal, whales that happily wave their tails at you, and seals who lounge around waiting for their photo op.
When you are the only person that people know who has made a landing on mainland Antarctica you get a lot of questions, but the one that is most often repeated is: ‘Would you do it again?’
The answer will always be, in a heartbeat, but do not take my word for it. Make the ultimate pilgrimage to the absolute wilderness and majesty of Antarctica and see it for yourself…if you dare.