I wait for a break in the raging waves before doing my thing after stepping down the gangway of the cruise ship with care. To be in my tiny rubber boat, I took one fast stride.
Within just a short period of time, our small exploration group bounced through a napping seal and chunks of floating ice that shimmered blue. As I finally stop on a rocky beach, I gather my feet above the zodiac to get to the northernmost area of the Peninsula of the Antarctic.
Walking by blocks of beached ice, my senses are struck by a tremendous sight and a pungent guano smell. Happy, waddling penguins reaching hundreds were surrounding me and it was nice to watch them. Their number soared high past a rocky slope, around where my eyes could reach.
It's our first landing on this remotest of continents, and already the two day cruise from Ushuaia, Argentina, through infamously rough seas is paying off. Increasingly, tourists across nations learn how much this vast crystalline wilderness situated at the bottom of the world is worth all the hassles in traveling.
Yearly, the number of visitors increase and some 26,000 visited last year. Patterns of swirling blue are broken by lectures on global sneaky penguins.
This may be known to be the coldest continent of all, but then during the austral summer's December days, the weather is remarkably pleasant. Temperatures often get above freezing even into the 40s on the peninsula. Trips are usually held from November up to March.
This 100 meter long cruise ship is capable of traversing through icy waters travels the seas for around 11 days and carries around 100 travelers most of the time. The ship is comfortable, but not fancy. Many passengers go to its library, auditorium and even their bar and lounge.
Aboard tiny yachts, people troop to Antarctica. We go and leave the port this coming Friday night. We could barely wait for the next day, when we get to see birds in flight, most especially the albatrosses which parade their graceful arcs and exceptional glides.
In their aim to pass time while cruising the sea, tour guides inject lectures by different experts from a marine biologist, geologist, bird expert, historian and an artist that teaches them how to draw and paint penguins and icebergs. All throughout the trip, surprisingly, global warming was not discussed, but this was often in discussions.
Many of the trip's highlights happened during landings on the continent and nearby islands. Hearing the stentorian clapping boom of a calving iceberg or perhaps gazing at a thundering avalanche are truly remarkable experiences. So many things, right on the decks of the ship, can be seen. Thanks to short hours of darkness, tourists maximize their trip.
It would be proper to be heavily dressed to keep the icy winds from making you uncomfortable while you look at the beautiful wind carved iceberg sculptures floating by, shimmer in shades of blue and others in brilliant white.
We went through glorious white landscapes in high mountains glazed with glaciers that hang high. Some times, whales would be seen. A long glorious sunset paints the sky with bright hues of red and orange.
As we returned to the ship, we got word that an older passenger got so ill and had to be evacuated as soon as possible.
This translates to the need for taking a long overnight detour and heading back to the Islands of South Shetland just to grab an airstrip. Because of evacuations like this, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, many tour groups highly recommend that passengers get medical evacuation insurance.
Once the man got his medical evacuation and was sent to Chile, we sent ourselves to where newly Gentoo penguins were being fed, in the Island of Ardley. The parent penguin puts the chick?s head into his mouth cautiously to leave a slimy strand connecting their beaks as she regurgitates a snack of krill unto the young one?s mouth.