A journey to the White Continent
The outer deck on the expedition cruise is the favourite spot to soak in the incredible landscape of Antarctica.
By Rahul Jagtiani
Often referred to as the last great wilderness on earth, Antarctica, the giant land mass of ice offers an experience as exotic as they come. Getting there itself is a feat and one can proudly claim to have graduated to the level of an explorer once they cross the infamous Drake Passage—one of the roughest water bodies in the world and a journey of 48 hours that leaves from Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world.
The expedition cruises that ferry passengers to Antarctica are considerably smaller than the popular all-inclusive holiday cruises around the world that have a capacity of several hundred passengers. The Antarctic Treaty only permits a 100 people to disembark on the continent’s soil at any given time.
The amenities aboard expedition cruises, although fewer in number, offer four- and five-star luxury with breathtaking views all around. Itineraries generally include at least two visits daily—for a couple of hours each—to explore various islands in the region as well as the Antarctic peninsula.
With no permanent residents, Antarctica is the only continent that has been completely insulated from the Covid-19 virus that has plagued virtually all corners of the globe today.
The clouds offer a dramatic backdrop against the islands of Antarctica.
The expedition cruise navigates through narrow channels and around icebergs.
Massive icebergs are a jaw-dropping sight in Antarctica. However, what we see in this particular one is just a quarter of it as three-quarters of it is submerged under water.
Visitors are taken on zodiacs (motorised rubber boats that carry 8-10 people) to get to the islands and to witness the icebergs up close.
Beautiful landscapes such as these are a common sighting in Antarctica.
The Holy Trinity Church is located on a Russian research station in Antarctica. It is the southernmost Eastern Orthodox church in the world.
Penguins getting a bit of sun at Mikkelsen Harbour. Named after a Norwegian whaler, Captain Klarius Mikkelsen, who in the 1930s—and unusually for those times—had his wife Caroline accompany him. She became the first woman to set foot on Antarctica.
A Weddell seal enjoys an afternoon siesta. This species is named after James Weddell, a British sealing captain who led expeditions to the Southern Ocean in the early 1800s.
Kayaking in the chilly waters of Antarctica is a popular activity.
A couple of Gentoo penguins, a common sight in Antarctica, go about their day at Mikkelsen Harbour.
Visitors can sign up for an overnight camp on Antarctic ice. The conditions can be brutal, with cold rain and hail, and no access to restrooms, but offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience to the adventure traveller.
Antarctica enjoys 24 hours of daylight during the summer months. This photo was clicked at midnight.
A zodiac heads back to the expedition cruise ship from Deception Island, an active volcano. In the background are boilers that were used to extract whale oil.
Rust-coloured boilers that were used to extract whale oil at Deception Island. This island was a bone of contention between Britain, Chile, and France in the 1940s-50s with all three countries claiming the sovereignty of this piece of Antarctic land. Today, Spain and Argentina (in accordance with the Antarctic Treaty between nations) conduct scientific experiments here during the summer months.
The author is an entrepreneur and founder of Plush Plaza, a lifestyle company. He is also a producer and host of Plush Places, an award-winning travel series. He can be reached on Instagram @rahul.jagtiani.