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The last continent I have not been to was the Antarctica – here are the pictures.

Most people called me crazy to fly from cold Europe into the cold Antarctic. Well it was not that cold, it was summer down there and temperatures around freezing (and not -35 Celsius as some thought 😉 !). It is an expensive trip but worth every penny. The cheapest option is to take a „normal“ cruise ship from Ushuaia. For everybody who has a big cruiseliner in mind – wrong. There are very strict conditions in the Antarctica. Especially for landings, only 100 People are allowed on shore at one time! The „biggest“ ships that do landings have between 200 and 300 passengers. Just imagine to land only every third time… This was no option for me, so I chose the smallest ship available that was not a sailing boat. This ship was called Ushuaia (like the starting harbour) and is an old refurbished research ship that only takes 84 passengers. Perfect for me. I did not feel beeing on a cruise ship but on an expedition ship.  I booked the cheapest cabin, no windows, down almost on the machine level (the air was very oily) – 4500 Euros per Person! I got lucky, the ship was not fully booked and I got the cabin for myself :). But I did spend most time upstairs anyways… Most people on bord were a lot older, but luckily also some my age. We had a good time with all the icebergs and a pineapple called Monte :).

After the loong trip to Ushuaia via Frankfurt and Buenos Aires plus a waiting day in Ushuaia it took another 3 days to reach the Antarctica. The Drake Strait takes most of the time, 2 full days in most cases + the day you leave Ushuaia in the evening is needed for the Beagle Channel. So out of a 12 day/11 nights cruise you are 6 days in the Antarctica doing landings.  For landings Zodiacs are used. You put all your (photo) equipment in a backpack and off you go. I did not buy any special equipment I can not use afterwards, but I took everything double just in case of extreme weather. My normal ski trousers were fine plus my winter Jacket. There were even people with Jeans (there seems to be no Snowpants store in Florida…) that made everything, but they had to be careful. In the sun without wind it got very warm. Canadian TShirt weather ;). For the photo equipment I can only say that more mm is always better, even if the Penguins come close. I saw great pics shot with a 600mm lens. Tripod was most of the time useless I would not take it again. I used a 70-200mm 2.8 most of the time sometimes in combination with a 2xTeleconverter. In theory you have to keep 4-5 Meters distance to the Penguins, usually it was 2-3 meters, and most penguins kept their 2m distance to us ;). Even if they were very curious sometimes.

From the wildlife we saw 3 types of penguins – the „cool“ Gentoos, the aggressive Adelie, and the Chinstrap. The time I was there (10-21 Dec) they were protecting their eggs. I think another 1-2 weeks until the chicks start running around. Beside Penguins there were lots of birds, some attacking the Penguins trying to get the eggs. Also we saw a lot of seals, especially the elephant seals were impressive. Beside elephant seals there were wedell seals. Also we visited on Argentine Station (Esperanza Station) to get the passport stamp.

On interesting landing was inside an old still active vulcano. You can enter the caldera with the ship and at one of the beaches the water was hot enough to go swimming. It got very cold 3-4 meters away from the beach I can tell ;). From the weather it was great. The Drake was calmer than usual, the sun out for 2 full days on the Gerlach Strait. Basically no rain at all. Perfect!

Down below there is a list of the landings/excursions we did:
– Weddell Sea Ice Cruise
– Browns Bluff
– Madder Cliffs
– Argentine Station Esperanza
– Gourdin Island
– Hydruga Rocks
– Foyn Harbour Zodica cruise
– Neko Harbour
– Useful Island
– Paradise Bay
– Desception Island
– Aitcho Island

PS: Sorry it is not possible to bring Penguins home 🙁

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