Many people ask me about my time in Antarctica. “Was it amazing?” “Did you pet a penguin?!” Sadly, I wasn’t able to touch the penguins due to the IAATO rules and regulations. However, the penguins are unbelievably cute and yes, Antarctica is simply breathtaking.
I spent roughly 24 days there between December 2016 and February 2017 and it never ceased to amaze me. Each time I stepped onto the pebble beach or hiked up a hill in the snow, it felt like the first time. I lived for every single moment I was able to spend enjoying the wonders of this majestic place. The scenery was incredible– think Alaska on steroids– and the hues of blue and purple I’d see at times were actually astonishing. I saw some of the most beautiful sunsets, the at-times upsetting reality of nature and the food chain, and the most quirky animals in the world: penguins.
I could write for hours about the snow-capped mountains, the shapes of the icebergs, and the natural beauty I witnessed, but I know you’re all mostly interested in the penguins, so I’ll stick to that (for now!).
These guys (and gals) are some of the cutest, spunkiest, and simultaneously most and least graceful animals I’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter. On land, they waddle and make you LOL from their awkwardness. In the water, they appear to be completely different animals, swimming with all of the grace and poise they don’t possess on two feet. I saw single penguins swimming alone and climbing on icebergs, and I also saw them swimming in a raft, sometimes in unknowingly beautiful formations. They have distinct personalities and have no fear. Some will wander right up to you and stop you dead in your tracks. Others will ignore you and continue keeping their eggs warm. But
please know, there is no shortage of penguins. I must have seen thousands in my few weeks there. All different shapes, sizes and breeds. Gentoo penguins were most common, but I also saw a fair share of Chinstraps and Adélies. In one day on South Georgia Island, I saw hundreds (maybe even thousands) of King Penguins. What I loved most was watching them interact with one another. Protecting each other when Skua birds would fly over in pursuit of little chicks. Chasing each other down for food. Little chicks engaging with their parents. On a larger scale, watching penguins of all breeds interact not only with each other, but with other animals such as seals. It was a beautiful example of animals co-habitating in one of the world’s most natural, pristine environments.
My favorite memories from Antarctica are the two times I went kayaking, and my very first and last days there when I hiked in a snowstorm and when I witnessed some penguin hilarity. The kayaking, while extremely cold on my waterproof glove-less hands, was absolutely amazing! I had penguins and seals swimming right up near the kayak! It was really neat to learn how to maneuver around icebergs. The expedition team members who lead the kayaking trip were so knowledgeable and helpful, especially those few times when I got stuck along the pebble beach!
My first landing day was in the middle of a snowstorm, and I still wonder how I got lucky enough to make it out despite the bad weather! Oftentimes, if we got caught in a storm, they would cancel landings and kayaking for the day. Not this day. I’ll never forget how it felt to step onto Antarctic soil (or snow) for the first time. It was like a completely different feeling accomplishment from anything I had known. I guess it came from knowing that only a very, very small percentage of people in the world ever visit Antarctica, and that I was now part of that percentage. It’s like being in an elite club of sorts. I couldn’t believe I was seeing penguins in their true habitat! The snow falling around me made the whole outing that much more magical. The best part was hiking through the snow up to the top of a hill and seeing this view down below:
Truly a sight I will never forget.
Another highlight of my Antarctic journey was the very last day I spent observing its beauty. I took my time and wandered along the pebble beach of Brown Bluff on February 15th. I observed the penguins moreso than I had in the past, truly taking in all of their quirks and personality traits. I captured them in photos and film, which are now stored on my computer and serve as the inspiration for this blog. I watched as they ate, cleaned themselves, and chased one another, running quickly (and awkwardly) after one another down the beach. These are truly some of my favorite memories.
I pinch myself each day as I think about how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to visit Antarctica and to have captured the beauty and wonder of the ice continent through photos and videos.
I’m happy to answer any questions you may have, and to share any additional insight. You can always reach out to me here or on Instagram. I hope you enjoyed reading a little bit about my Antarctic journey!