We've been incredibly fortunate in our lives to have the opportunity to do things that few people get to do: riding in a boat up a channel of the Amazon River, and watching lions just a few feet away from us in an open-top vehicle in Africa, for example. And this experience is definitely one to add to that list.
As the ship grew closer and closer to the Antarctic peninsula, we wondered what to expect. We honestly thought we'd be a bit disappointed, that the experience of finally visiting the seventh continent would be somehow anti-climatic. We spent the morning hanging out in the cabin and waiting. Every now and then Doug would go out on the balcony to see if he could see anything. At last, he ran into the room and said, "I see land!"
We grabbed our coats and went up to the deck to check it out. Sure enough, we could see snow-covered mountains on the horizon.
I have to say that the experience of standing up on the deck of the ship as it sailed closer and closer to Antarctica was nothing short of stunning. It was cold, yes, but not horribly so, since we were at a southern latitude equivalent to that of central Sweden. The water was incredibly smooth and the sky was blue, and it was unbelievably beautiful. We just stood there and watched the land grow closer, and took a ridiculous number of pictures that we knew would never come close to capturing what we were seeing.
Carter got his fill rather quickly and we took him to the Fun Factory where he could play with other kids and watch Antarctica pass by through the large picture windows. (The staff there said the kids did quite a bit of whale-watching.)
And OH, the whales. I had thought we might see some whales, and they were everywhere. Every direction we looked, there were humpback whales. This sea is one of their major feeding grounds, and there were whales all over. It was hard to get pictures because they would surface, blow, and then disappear before you could focus your camera. Here you can see the spray as a whale blows at the surface.
We have so, so many pictures. Most of them look like this, with snow-covered mountains and chunks of ice floating in the water. I tried to choose a representative sample to post here. The rest will get queued up on our Tumblr blog as soon as I get a decent internet connection.
More attempts to photograph whales.
We spent the afternoon hanging out in the room and on our balcony, watching Antarctica go by. We spent the afternoon in a beautiful bay called Paradise Bay, home of whales and penguins, and surrounded by beautiful mountains.
You can see the location of Paradise Bay on the map below.
The icebergs were stunning. The ice was an incredible shade of green.
It's often hard to get a good picture of Carter...
The person in the black coat is me, and that's Carter in the middle of doing a handstand. Yes, he was definitely over Antarctica by this point!
I think I'm literally holding him still for this one!
Doug finally managed to get a good shot of a whale tail after an hour of trying.
The next day we spent at Elephant Island, which has this huge, stunning glacier.
Elephant Island is famous because it was a place where a crew of an exploratory ship were marooned for two years in the early 19th century. Most of the men survived to be rescued, amazingly.
There were lots of penguins, swimming in groups and leaping out of the water like dolphins.
It was just such a stunning place to be. It exceeded our expectations, and we were so sad to have to leave. We're even more determined now to come again when Carter is old enough to take one of the more adventurous trips on the smaller expedition ships. This is a place we want to visit again if we can.
After two days of these stunning views, we sailed north again. Our next stop was the Falkland Islands, which I'll talk about in the next post.