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How Antarctica challenged and changed me

written by Michael Sadowski December 17, 2014

In 2014 I set out on the adventure of a lifetime to the coldest, highest, driest place on the planet: Antarctica.

This 10-day expedition challenged me every step of the way. From bouts of seasickness across the roughest waters in the world to exhausting treks to the top of glaciers and mountains.

It is as much a mental test as it is a physical one. You confront fears, overcome adversity, and in return, are treated to a truly unforgettable travel experience. Nowhere in the world are the journey and destination so inextricably linked. It is, in every sense, a life altering endeavour in the world’s last great wilderness.

Antarctica_blue-ice

The Journey

Saying “yes” is, of course, the first step. For some, this is the hardest part, but it shouldn’t be. Always say yes to adventure.

You pack your warmest clothes and head for the southern-most city in the world: Ushuaia, Argentina. For me, this involved 12,000 km, six airports, two lost bags, two taxis, a bus and a train. And this was just the beginning.

Ushuaia is a beautiful city in its own right, where brightly colored homes and shops skirt the base of the Patagonia Mountains as they slope abruptly toward the sea. This is where you catch your boat. It’s where the real journey begins, and it’s the last solid ground you see for two and a half days.

It’s time to cross the Drake Passage. Widely considered the roughest body of water in the world, the Drake is not to be taken lightly. We encountered a storm on the first night, and I awoke to a loud crash as a chair flew across the room and then slid back against the desk. Cards, shoes, papers, all scattered across the floor as forty-foot waves tossed our little boat across the 1000km passage.

Antarctica_chinstrap-penguins

Seasickness can be severe if not managed or prevented, and many people on our excursion were bedridden. But even in the throes of a storm, as glasses shatter in the dining room and an overwhelming nausea compels you to lie down at all hours of the day, you never lose sight of how worthy the journey is. There’s never a moment of, “why did I do this?” You already know the answer.

The Destination

As soon as I stepped foot on the continent of Antarctica, I was treated to an array of sensory firsts. Never have I seen icebergs or mountains or sky so large, blues so blue or whites so blindingly white. Never have I heard the distant crunch and rumble of a glacier calving, or smelled air so fresh and pure.

Antarctica_sunset_Lemaire-Channe

Each day is different. The harshness of the elements dictate what you can and cannot do, but I was lucky to have calm waters and mild weather for the duration of the trip—the Drake Passage excepting. This meant two or three excursions daily, snowshoeing up icy hills and trekking from penguin colony to penguin colony. It’s exhausting, but in the happy, ‘I’m-going-to-sleep-well-tonight’ kind of way.

You stay awake each night to watch the sunset over the mountains, waiting until almost midnight for the pink sky to darken. You wake early to head out once again, when the sun has long since risen.

Whales circle and dive below you, seals drift past on ice flows, and dozens of birds circle overhead. Animals have not learned to fear humans, and it’s humbling to think you are the least of their worries.

Antarctica_Orca-ice

The history, the sights and sounds and smells of this destination are unparalleled. I arrived tired, perhaps even skeptical of this seventh continent. But it challenged my expectations as it challenged me physically and emotionally. It challenged my point of view, my established routine and my sense of self.

Antarctica changed me forever by reminding me that there are places still unadulterated, unfettered by human impact. I challenge everyone to keep it that way, and to go and see it for yourself.

Ready for the trip of a lifetime? An Antarctic adventure with Intrepid awaits.

 

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9 comments

Susan Crawford November 25, 2018 - 7:11 am

The adventure sounds amazing, but it’s definitely too cold for me! maybe in the future I’ll go and visit!

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ashley hoober September 18, 2018 - 7:00 am

this trip sounds wonderful. Ive been trying to gather the courage for some time now to take a liberating trip such as this. Great post! Thanks for sharing

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marie douglas May 11, 2018 - 8:15 am

This trip sounds absolutely amazing. I truly believe everyone needs to encounter somewhere that gives them a bit of culture shock – to be so unaware how vast and different our planet truly is!
Thank you so much for sharing and inspiring my next trip xx

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J Ski April 16, 2016 - 2:39 am

Thanks for sharing your great experience at Antarctica

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Diane Warzecha February 2, 2015 - 6:15 am

I just got back from a cruise to Antarctica and it was absolutely amazing Michael, it was colder when we landed in Dallas (20 F) than we ever felt in the South Georgia Islands (31 F) or Antarctica (40 F). Amazing adventure and I will plan to go again!

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John January 30, 2015 - 2:07 am

Sounds like an awesome adventure. Just curious what the whole ordeal cost you? I’m definitely game for the challenge but my wife would never go (too cold), so it would have to be a solo journey for me.
Cheers Michael.

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Rivero Tracraze January 29, 2015 - 12:54 pm

To Michael Sadowski,

Great post Michael! Many dream it, you’ve lived it.

Was the trip planned through a travel company/agency, or did you come up with the itinerary yourself?
I ask because I’m curious as to how one would go about planning/scheduling a trip to Antarctica (especially if you’re inexperienced traversing extreme climates….)

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Mario Hernandez January 29, 2015 - 12:43 pm

What is the cost of an aventure like that?

Mario

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James Shackell January 30, 2015 - 9:20 am

Hi Mario, thanks for getting in touch. We’ve got a range of Antarctic expeditions, ranging from AUD $7,300 all the way up to a 23 day cruise for AUD $22,000. You can check out the full range of trips here or give our customer service team a call on 1300 797 010. They can help you pick one that fits your budget.

Cheers
James

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