Going South

Friday 16 February 2024 – Just one sleep to go before what is very likely to be an epic journey, at least for Jane and me, both in terms of distance travelled and of cultures explored. For this is definitely an exploration: travelling to Antarctica.

Similarly to our Canada trip, the timing of this one has been bedevilled by events.  We started planning in 2019 for a 2020 trip which fell foul of the first pandemic lockdown.  Subsequent rescheduling then fell victim to the current unpleasantness in Ukraine, which trapped our vessel where it couldn’t get away in time. The excitement has been building, therefore for the best part of five years, and we owe a great deal to the patience, persistence and good humour of Joe Johnson at Sunvil for actually pulling the whole thing together for us.

The vessel we’ll be travelling on, M/V Hondius, is not simply a sort of floating Selfridges, it’s a proper exploration ship – “the first-registered Polar Class 6 vessel in the world, meeting the latest and highest Lloyd’s Register standards for ice-strengthened cruise ships.”  So there.

This is comforting in a way, particularly the knowledge that a Titanic-style end probably doesn’t await us. But I’m finding the overall trip to be a daunting prospect, principally on two counts.

Firstly, given that we’ll be travelling via, and staying for a couple of days in, Buenos Aires (current temperature 29℃) via Ushuaia (9℃) and Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands (12℃, winds gusting to gale force 8) to the pointy bit sticking up to the north of the Antarctic continent* (anywhere from freezing point to -40℃, as far as I can work out), how to pack for the variety of conditions?

Secondly – and much more importantly – the strictures placed, quite rightly, on visitors to the Antarctic and South Georgia are quite draconian.  There is a huge emphasis placed upon biosecurity generally and fighting avian flu particularly.  Whatever the conditions, we will be obliged to wear waterproof trousers and jackets, being careful about carrying everything with us in only one waterproof bag, and only being allowed to stand once we land: no sitting, squatting or putting anything down on the ground.  I absolutely understand and support the need for and the importance of these, but it’s going to make handling camera gear into a non-trivial task, complicated further, of course, by the need to wear robust enough gloves.

Here’s our cruise itinerary, spanning some three weeks in total.

This is, of course, only an initial plan – specific destinations will be subject to weather and sea conditions, as you’d expect.  But it’s an exciting prospect as well as a daunting one.

I’m hoping to get some suitably dramatic scenery photographs of snow and mountains (somewhat different from my recent skiing holiday vistas). Also, of course, there will be plenty of opportunities to take photos of the wildlife – seals, whales and a wide variety of birdlife, from albatrosses to terns. Among all the possibilities there are nearly a dozen types of whale, over half a dozen varieties of seals and penguins, five sorts of albatross and nearly two dozen different kinds of petrel.  So I doubt there will be a petrel shortage (indeed, I expect to Fulmar boots) and I might even get a shag out of the trip. But please don’t skua my pretensions, at least for the moment.

There are many challenges ahead, almost none of which are of any great pith or moment. What photographic gear to take? Will I be able to cope with being offline for possibly days on end?

I will write about them as I go along, but I have no idea as to when I’ll be able to publish anything. I hope you’ll be patient enough to wait for and then read about the trip, so watch this space!


*   Yes, I know that everything sticks up to the north of Antarctica

12 thoughts on “Going South

  1. Peter Rae

    Best wishes to you both! Sounds like an awesome trip, especially to Mrs P. Hope you have a great time. Looking forward to the photos. Safe travels.

  2. Katharine C Burridge

    I am so excited for you both…and of course The Blog (when it comes thru!)
    There was a spot on the morning telly here about their reporter travelling to Antarctica. She said it was her best trip, except for the boat. Lots of waves between South America and there. But she managed quite well. And said she would do it again. And this reporter climbed Kilimanjaro (sp?).).
    Have fun! Spot our those cameras!
    Love, Kate

  3. Karin Wennås

    I’ll follow you as usual and am like all here also looking forward to your photos. That way we’ll travel with you both, in our minds.


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