• Sal Schmidt

Hurtigruten Pole to Pole - Week 13

Patagonia & Antarctica Ultimate Adventure - Antarctica


In the final week of our 13-week Pole to Pole cruise on the MS Roald Amundsen with Hurtigruten Expeditions, we experience the big white wonder of the world and our 7th continent - Antarctica.

Day 85 - At Sea, Cape Horn & Drake Passage

We started the day off with the news we had been waiting for over 85 days, we won the lottery for Kayaking in Antarctica, and we were in Group A, which provided us with the highest chance to get out on the water should the weather permit.


We were very fortunate, as most of the 400 passengers also had this activity on their bucket list, with only four landings scheduled, a maximum of two sessions per landing and with eight kayaks per session; you do the math, we were two of the lucky ones.


It takes about two days to cross the Drake Passage; we had heard so many horror stories over the past few months from fellow passengers who had experienced the 'Drake Shake', so we were very fortunate to be blessed with the 'Drake Lake' for our crossing.

Yesterday we were scheduled for a landing on Cape Horn. Unfortunately, the winds were too strong, resulting in a no-go, so we continued on our path to the Antarctic Peninsula.

When we first set out on this cruise, we were unaware that the chances of landing on the mainland of Antarctica were very low, as we had booked a Pole-to-Pole cruise.


As most are quick to let you know, our landings would be on the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula; this is not Antarctica. Therefore you haven't really visited Antarctica.


Although we suggest otherwise, as we have come this far, the peninsula is part of visiting Antarctica in our book. A little like you have visited Tasmania, and then to find out you haven't been to Australia, or you have been to Koh Samui, but have you really been to Thailand - yes, of course!


Today was making the most of a relaxing sea bay before the big arrival.


Day 86 - Half Moon Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctica

Welcome to our final continent; all seven are now ticked off!

This continent has always been on our bucket list, and finally, setting foot on the icy continent of Antarctica has been fulfilled.

As the fog lifted this morning to present the majestic views, they were breathtaking, like nothing we have ever seen.


Blessed to be joined by the sun and blue skies, we cruised closer to the first land we had seen over the past few days. The pictures were priceless and a great taster of what was to come.


So much ice! The elevations were surprising; these mountains are enormous! We later learned Antarctica has the highest average heights in the world.

Our kayaking adventure was postponed due to the stronger winds, so we layered up for the landing on Half Moon Island.

As we approached the island, we could see all the little penguins and spotted a few whales, so we were excited! Especially as it is usually too early in the season for whales.


The landing took us across to land where we could experience being up close and personal with the penguins, two breeds; the main colony were chinstraps who come to breed (up to 15000 eventually) and then the Gentoos who come to hang out by the water.



They were all incredibly cute and clumsy as they would make their way down to the sea to feed, constantly tripping over their own little feet; you could sit by and watch them all day. They didn't seem to be bothered by us humans, so they continued getting on with their day.


It was cold, around zero, so thankfully, we layered up and enjoyed the hour on land and were mesmerised by the natural wonder and adorable penguins surrounding us.

As we were leaving, we sat with the penguins, just enjoying being in close proximity to these birds full of character; watch the following carefully for a giggle, the one on the left:-)


We can't wait for the next few days to experience this majestic place on Earth.


Day 87 - Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica

Today was fascinating; let's start in reverse! Heavy snow set in during dinner, and we scored a window table to make sure we could experience heavy snowfall as we were cruising; the first time we had been on a cruise and the ocean with snow, it was pretty surreal and beautiful, especially being in Antarctica.

It was heavy snow, and the snowflakes were the size of a cotton plant; it was what movies and picture books are made about. As dinner progressed, the deep blue ocean that engulfed us transitioned into a tinge of foggy grey; it was freezing over as the snow settled, and a thin layer of sea ice was beneath us.

Let's jump back to the morning; it was an early start as our Kayaking was scheduled; take two. We made sure to fill our bellies with some fuel, and during breakfast, the news came it was cancelled. The weather was changing rapidly, and snow was gracing us with her presence; we did enjoy the morning show with the seals relaxing on the icebergs as we cruised by.


The ship fast changed its navigation from our original destination Orne Harbour to a new location Wilhelmina Bay, where we could bring out the zodiacs and all get a chance for a scenic cruise through the sea ice and flows and be within inches of the icebergs.

Before lunch, we explored the ship; it was a surreal experience seeing it covered in snowfall.




After lunch, we geared up; as the snow settled in, we loved popping back to our room to measure the snowfall; it felt like a winter wonderland with snow filling your balcony and a little like Christmas. We love it.


Brendan was our host and zodiac driver through the sea ice for one hour, providing us with lots of insights on the icebergs, sea ice and all about the nearby birdlife as he expertly dodged and weaved all the ice flows and icebergs with limited vision.


It was also fascinating to be part of the sea as it began to ice up. It has the same texture as a slushy; the water on the surface becomes a light shade of grey and is mushy.





Great work, and thank you, Brendan, for keeping us safe.

After being woken up on the water and showered with snow, we were back on the ship to bring our body temperature back to normal, prepare for dinner, and wait for the boat to unveil our next destination as we explore Antarctica.

Unfortunately, the passengers who had booked the camping on the ice due to the weather were also cancelled.


Day 88 - Neko Harbour, Antarctica

Will we kayak in Antarctica is becoming the million-dollar question. Another early morning for take 3 for us kayakers who were the fortunate ones in Group A (this means we were first to kayak before all other groups). It was 8.05 am, so time to pop into our cold suits, one leg in and the announcement popped up that it had been cancelled, and the wind was picking up. So close!

Fortunately, the zodiac was still on, and we happened to be in the first group of the day, so we dressed up for the cruising and went down to the expedition landing.

We were first on the boats and surprised it was a little warmer than yesterday, much more civilised with only light snow dust.


We navigated the sea ice and enormous icebergs on the hunt for some sealife; penguins were the spot of the day.

The icebergs glistened in the water as the sun peeked through the clouds. Just remember that the visible part of the iceberg is only 10-20% of the actual size, so most of the berg lives underwater. We could see the entire length with the water pristine, and it was just wow!


On the way back to the ship, we came across a sensational raft of gentoo penguins.



Forty-five minutes later, we were back on the ship, and the weather was closing in, and the captain was concerned with all the sea ice also closing in on the ship that we could potentially be iced in the harbour, so it was time to pack up and move on.


We made our way for Danco Bay, and take 4 of Kayaking was on the schedule, fingers crossed. The ship changed direction again, and a new destination was on the map until the wind blessed us with her presence at up to 90 knots at one stage, so the ship maintained its position to keep us all comfortable and to wait out Mother Nature.



Later in the evening, she cruised along the majestic coastline of Antarctica, filling our senses with icy mountain peaks and wonders.


We sailed into Damoy Point, a rocky headland on the west coast of Wiencke Island, filling us with more delight with the size of the glaciers.


Where the ship decided to spend the evening as the weather conditions were good, and activities looked promising for our last day in Antarctica tomorrow. Let's go Kayaking!

Today was spent enjoying the changing weather and genuinely appreciating the perils of the weather. I was fortunate to sneak in a 'patchy video' call to Mum and Dad to share the experience of the wonders of the world.


Day 89 - Dorian Bay, Antarctica

The million-dollar question has been answered, and we have hit the 'Kayaking in Antarctica' jackpot! 🛶

This morning we woke early to calm waters and weather, it was take five, and we were positive it was going to happen!

On with our cold suits and straight to the meeting point, there was no time to waste. The sooner we were on the water, the sooner it was to become a reality. Fourteen of our fellow kayakers were on the same page, and everyone was set to go. We were given finishing touches to our Kayaking outfit, a special life jacket and gloves to keep us dry and hopefully warm.


We piled into the zodiacs for a short five-minute cruise across to the waiting kayaks, and one by one, we were loaded into our kayak, two per kayak. Wayne was in the back, and I was seated up front as the head photographer. Fine by me, as poor hubby would need to do all the paddling (which, after knowing my rhythm, he much preferred to take control).

Before we embarked on this magical experience through sea ice, we had a quick practice and 101 on manoeuvring the kayak and, of course, staying above the water.

This moment was one we had been waiting for. It is nearly 90 days since we departed Vancouver, and we were hoping to kayak in the Arctic Circle; unfortunately, the weather continued to close the opportunities.

The paddling commenced, and it was surreal. We were all lined up, navigating on the water's surface through large chunks of sea ice; the paddles driving their way through the ice chunks were eerily sounding but surreal and peaceful.



We arrived at the most magnificent turquoise iceberg to capture pictures up close and personal.


Unbeknown to us - this same iceberg would calve and start the process of tipping over a few hours later, which we were fortunate to witness from our balcony - play with sound.


We continued closer to Damoy Point, a research station home to a Gentoo penguin colony. The station was being prepared for the arrival of four female researchers to spend the summer in a few weeks, so we all floated amongst the sea ice and bergs to enjoy the serenity, overshadowed by dramatic icy mountain peaks.




We watched the penguins go about their day, swimming and diving, waddling and even swimming beneath our kayaks in the crystal waters beneath us. It was one of those magical moments that will remain with you forever.



After about 1.5 hours, we made our way back through the sea ice. We were all becoming familiar with paddling through (or, in my case, my darling hubby was); I was too busy trying to get my little fingers and toes to circulate again and keep the phone from going for a swim in below-zero waters).

We approached the ship and were to wait for our zodiacs to pick us up and take us back to our cosy cabins; they were running a little behind, so we took the opportunity to row around the ship. It was magnificent to experience this impressive vessel from the exterior and at the water level; very surreal indeed.

We were shortly picked up once we reached the stern and delivered back to the ship. A huge thank you to Molly and Orto from the Expedition team for a very memorable experience kayaking in Antarctica; it truly was the perfect ending to our three months onboard.


The afternoon was spent enjoying a lazy lunch, reviewing the incredible photos we captured, and celebrating ticking off another bucket list experience.

Kudos to Hurtigruten Expeditions for being the first cruise ship to launch Kayaking in Antarctica this summer; we were the first group out on the water this season 👏


We were scheduled for a zodiac landing later in the evening to walk through the snow and see another penguin colony, but we decided to opt out, as it was on the peninsula. We were all hoping it was on the mainland; therefore, we wanted to stay on our natural high from the morning; it was our perfect ending to Antarctica.

Dinner was spent back in Lindstrom chatting with our new Aussie friends and enjoying drinks as we entered the Drake Passage, all with fingers crossed it would bless us with a crossing of the 'Drake Lake', not the 'Drake Shake'.


Day 90 - Drake Passage

The Lake is slowly becoming the Shake! Therefore it has been a slow day. We managed to enjoy lunch and a bottle of wine; then, the afternoon was spent hiding away in the suite to stay horizontal! We find it much easier on the body; as soon as you wander around, the motion sickness creeps in. Fortunately, it takes quite a rocky ship now to upset us, and we know how to avoid it!


Dinner was quick, and back to bed! One of those days! A little penguin love and kayaking highlights; I hope it gives you as much joy as it does me:-)



Day 91 - Drake Passage

This marks our last day at sea for three months. Fortunately, the Drake was easing up as we approached land around noon. We enjoyed our last day over a lazy lunch at Fredheim, thanking the team and preparing to pack our cases and disembark for the morning.

Before dinner, we enjoyed catching up with the Pole-to-Pole guests for the captain's farewell; drinks were overflowing as everyone was sharing all the unused bottles of bubbles and shipboard credit, as you can't take it with you.

This was followed by a fun evening with a group of lovely Aussies we met on this segment; it was full of laughter and entertainment from the crew.

We were incredibly grateful to the lovely crew, who took care of us throughout the cruise; you all made our trip more delightful. Thank you, team; we will miss your friendly smiles and daily chats.


Beautiful moonlight glistened over the ocean as we were welcomed by our next and final destination Ushuaia.

Thank you for travelling with us as we embarked three months ago on our 'once-in-a-lifetime' cruise from North to South Pole; we hope you enjoyed our travel moments as much as we enjoyed visiting parts of the world on our bucket list.


We look forward to sharing our next adventure, the 'Argentina Chapter, ' with you soon.