On January 29th, 2013 just ten days after our beautiful wedding in Hobart, James and I set sail aboard L’Austral from Ushuaia, Argentina. We were headed for Antarctica and the perfect adventure to begin married life together.
The ship was luxurious, the service without fault and the people we met from all over the world amazing! But what truly made the journey were the captain and the naturalist guides on board. They went out of their way to ensure we would experience Antarctica for the remarkable place it is and undertake activities which we felt privileged to be a part of.
Our first full day of sailing saw us cross the Drake Passage, or the ‘Drake Shake’ as it is affectionately called by seafarers… I learned why! We had swells of 30-40 foot high and I was violently sea sick no matter what treatment I received from the very helpful ship’s doctor. I even at one point wished I had never come on the trip and thought there was no way it could be worth that horrible gut-wrenching feeling. Boy, was I wrong.
Our captain had urged us to wake early as we would be entering our first channel on the Antarctic Peninsula at about 6am. So bright and early (and having overcome the sea sickness) I woke and pulled back the thick curtains. I have to say that this was the first time I have truly been breathless. We were sailing slowly down a channel, surrounded by ice cliffs and icebergs which towered over our ship. The sea was so still it was like a mirror and the sky the bluest I have ever seen. All around us penguins darted in and out of the water. I squealed with excitement and with my new husband James readied ourselves for the day ahead.
I could go on about the 11 landings we were able to do during our cruise, the amazing little bases we stopped at and the fascinating people we met, but what really made the trip for us was all the wild life. Being an animal lover I was going to be happy if we saw even one whale. Well, by the end of the cruise we had seen close to 100 whales, including many baby humpbacks, killer whales and minke whales. But perhaps the best encounter was one which occurred four days into sailing when we were getting ready to get into the zodiacs for a trip off the ship one afternoon.
Peering over the edge of the ship, we spotted a young minke whale playing in the ship’s bubbles. “She” was so beautiful and graceful, and I hoped it would still be nearby when we had loaded into the zodiacs. What a treat we were in for! As we cruised around to the front of the ship she came right up next to us, spraying us and within arm’s reach rolled over onto her side to take a look at what we were doing. Our naturalist, Hannah, was just as excited as we were and commented that even though she has done close to sixty trips to Antarctica, this was something she had never seen! What was amazing was that at any time the whale could have swam away, but she chose to be with us and seemed to enjoy the encounter as much as we did. This moment is something I will never forget.
Another highlight for me was the baby penguins. They were probably the cutest thing I had ever seen. As with all the wild life in Antarctica, they were not bothered by us and just went about their daily business as if we were not even there. I was constantly in awe as to how close they would be as they waddled past us on their way to their nests. By the end of the trip we estimated that we had seen well over 100,000 penguins of varying species.
A favourite of my husband’s were the seals. We saw leopard seals, weddel seals, crabeater seals and Antarctic fur seals. One leopard seal even popped the zodiac we were in when he was trying to work out what we were!
I was simply not prepared for the shear awesomeness of Antarctica. The amazing landscapes, the abundance of wild life, the perfect weather and the life changing experiences we would have. Antarctica is a place I cannot do justice to with words or even photos. It is somewhere you must visit to understand and we will be back.
Photos from Joanna’s collection
Ms Gingham says: If this doesn’t make you want to pack your bags for Antarctica then nothing will! What an awesome adventure to have on your honeymoon! Thanks so much for sharing it with us Joanna!
Joanna says: “My name is Johanna, I’m 24 and I got married on January 19th of 2013. I then left for a month long honeymoon during which we even got to go to Antarctica.”