Even though I’d been cruising, kayaking and exploring my way through the Antarctic peninsula for a few days, I still hadn’t actually set foot onto the Antarctic continent itself.
Though sailing to many of the islands on the outskirts of the Antarctic peninsula is certainly nothing to sneeze at, I really wanted to make it official and achieve a ‘continent landing’ – which is exactly what it sounds like – officially landing on the frozen continent!
On Day 6 of our expedition, I finally got my chance.
The wind completely backed off, and with such peaceful weather, it was with ease that our zodiacs arrived at Base Brown, an Argentinian research station.
It was the perfect place to finally jump up and down on my final continent, and jump up and down is exactly what I did!
When I think back to how I felt in those few first moments actually on Antarctica, I really struggle to find the words to describe it.
Snowflakes were gently fluttering onto my face, the snow felt crisp and crunchy beneath my feet, the water was as still as a statue, my smile was so wide that my cheeks had really begun to ache and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment washed over me.
There are a lot of things I have done in my life that I am proud of.
I have brought (at least) a few hundred babies into the world. I was so determined to travel that I worked three jobs whilst studying full time at university. I was the first person in my immediate family to finish university. Also, this one time, I successfully built a piece of IKEA furniture all by myself.
But the thing I have done that makes me proudest?
At just 24 years old I had successfully made it to every single freaking continent on planet earth!
Plus, as if achieving such an awesome feat wasn’t already enough; as an added bonus, Base Brown was stupidly pretty to look at!
I could not have asked for a more perfect and picturesque place to dance around on my seventh continent.
Located in the aptly named Paradise Harbour, Base Brown dates all the way back to the early 1950s, but has only been functional intermittently over the years.
Of all the many things that caused this base to be temporarily closed, the most hilarious would have to be the story from 1984. In April, the then doctor of Base Brown was ordered to stay on base over winter – something he wasn’t particularly happy about.
He displayed his dissatisfaction with the order by burning the base to the ground on April 12th, before being rescued and moved to United States’s Palmer Station.
Unsurprisingly, after being rebuilt, the base was demoted to ‘summer only’ status.
The base has not been operational in recent times, and in the absence of humans, a small colony of gentoo penguins have since made themselves very much at home; and with views like this, I can’t say that I blame them!
The penguins were just as entertaining to watch as ever, and in fact, it was much more enjoyable on this day than it had been in the past. This was most likely due to the unbelievably lovely weather. With almost no wind and just a light sprinkling of snow, there was none of the frustrated wiping at camera lenses and zero wind chill inducing physical discomfort that had been present on past days.
We got to hang around on the base for a good long while, during which time I got to penguin watch, take pictures of my stunning surroundings and generally just soak up the beauty that is Antarctica.
This particular landing was a ‘split landing’. Basically, this means that one third of the passengers were out doing various activities (eg. kayaking or mountaineering) whilst another third went to Base Brown and the last third went zodiac-ing through the harbour.
I wasn’t on the schedule for activities on this day, which meant that after I was done at Base Brown I would get to go and do the latter.
At the time I thought that Base Brown was Antarctica at its ‘peak beautiful’, but I had no idea what was to come.
Getting to Ushuaia: Ushuaia is well connected to Buenos Aires and El Calafate
Oceanwide Expeditions: An 11 night Basecamp Ortelius voyage starts at around $9650 USD
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with a M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 lens
Remember: In Antarctica, nothing (except gentoos) is guaranteed; the weather runs the schedule, so be prepared that a true continent landing will not be possible for every voyage