Antarctica was a childhood dream, which I was drawing on maps during class hours. After 35 years with a last-minute deal I had a chance to make this dream alive.
The dream started with a challenging beginning through the Drake Passage. If you are lucky enough, it takes 2 days to reach the White Continent. You feel that as a human being you do not belong to that continent, and more than this the continent is whispering that it does not welcome you.
Finally reaching the South Shetland Islands, we landed on the Aitcho Islands where you are immediately welcomed by more than 80,000 penguins as well as the seals suntanning by the seaside. As you step up to the hills you realize the wildlife goes on in front of you as you witness the fight between the penguin families and the petrels. During the journey, even though you have an initial plan, nothing can be promised due to rapidly changing weather conditions. So we departed to our next destinations with hope and crossed fingers.
The journey continued to Bailey Head and Whalers Bay – Deception Island to face the historic imprints of whale hunting and got shuddered. Here you also have the opportunity to swim (Polar Plunge) in the freezing water of the Peninsula. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I could not miss this. Once you dive, you feel that your nervous system connections are cut.
We reach Paradise Bay, a fantastic view on the way. Our first sea kayaking experience was another unique experience to deeply feel the continent. Then you have a chance to step on the land with Zodiacs to visit the Chilean base where you should not miss the opportunity to have their Base Stamp on your passport.
Passing through the Cuverville Islands and Ronge Island, with a fantastic view of the Errera Channel, you feel that this is the real home of God. During a sea kayaking experience, you even experience small penguin colonies passing by your kayaks ignoring you. As every day you get more to the south, you realize the floating icebergs and little ice pieces covering the water surface more.
On day 8 we were ready for camping on Ronge Island. During the night you feel that you are alone in Antarctica. You see and feel the penguins and seals sleeping in front of your tent or passing by. In the tent despite of all of your layers of clothes and the camping equipment and shelters, once you touch the ground you feel the cold land which has never gotten warm.
Reaching to Port Lockroy where the British base is located,we had another adrenaline experience by the attack of a leopard seal to our Zodiac. And finally we were charmed by the reflections of the white mountains on the water and floating ice in Booth Island and Charlotte Bay. When it was time to return back, I felt deep misery and left my heart in Antarctica. I know that one day, for sure, I will return back.
Watch a video recap of Ufuk’s Antarctica adventure here: A trip to the bottom of the world, Antarctica on MS Expedition Video.