The difference between the two expeditions goes much deeper than the price. Whenever people say they have been to Antarctica, my first question is: “Which part did you visit?” I gauge my opinion on whether they are true Antarctphiles by their response.
Having waited a lifetime to visit the 7th continent, I was determined that, when my time came, I would dig deep and experience as much of Antarctica as I could. That meant going to higher latitudes, and definitely inside the Antarctic Circle (66° 33′ 39″).
I achieved this on my 2013 Ross Sea Expedition, of which I have already written (see other blogs on this site). During that 32-day expedition I experienced so many wonderful things: stepping inside Scott’s Terra Nova and Discovery huts; Shackleton’s Nimrod hut; taking a helicopter into the Taylor Dry Valley; anchoring for 5 days in McMurdo Sound, spellbound by the magnificence of the Ferrar Glacier sweeping around the Transantarctic Mountains.
After I returned (a different person) I felt the ‘Antarctic tug’ that so many feel. I needed to return. Having blown most of my budget on the big trip, I looked around for any opportunity to return. As usual, I found that Oceanwide Expeditions offered the best options, and I chose Basecamp Plancius for my return.
This trip was 12 days, and only went to the Peninsula, but I figured I had seen the best, so this trip would be a ‘top-up’ experience.
And it was fantastic, there is no denying it. I got to go snowshoeing, kayaked around beautiful icebergs, even slept on the ice; although it was not the experience I had anticipated – no tent, but survival-mode camping in a bivvy bag. It was six days of non-stop action squeezed in between three days down and back across the Drake Passage.
Most of the fellow expeditioners were younger, which was to be expected, given the nature of the activities. I couldn’t keep up, but even so, I was proud of my body’s capabilities thanks to months of preparation.
I sat back, feeling a wise old Antarctican, watching the joy and amazement as people saw their first iceberg, their first penguin, whale, seal, their first ice-capped mountain from which tumbled blue glaciers. But I felt like screaming out: “This is nothing! You should see the real Antarctica”.
It was then I realised that what I have said all along is true: the Antarctic Peninsula is an adventure playground. A spectacular one, but just a playground. It is no substitute for feeling horizontal ice sting your cheeks in a 35 knot wind at minus 14 Celcius (the Peninsula temperature rarely dropped below zero), or jumping into a Zodiac in a two-metre swell with the hull of your ship, your guide, the rubber boat, all white with frost and the spray from the waves snap freezing as the winds whips it into the air.
I’m now back from my short adventure, and treasure the friendships made and the challenges I faced – and, of course, the photos of stunning scenery – but it was all over so quickly.
So, guess what? I’m heading back to the Ross Sea in February on my favourite ship, MV Ortelius. I have decided I just can’t live without it.
To see more of my photos, visit http://shutterstock.com/g/dale_jacobsen
And if you, too, can’t live without a true Antarctic experience, there are still a few berths left: Oceanwide Expeditions Ross Sea 2017 Mention gift code “DALE10GIFT” for extra 10% discount.