Sarah Tucker visits Antarctica
I was on the ship that didn’t get stuck in the ice at Christmas. In the wake of Prince Harry who trekked there and was airlifted back, I went via Patagonia and Buenos Aires (a phenomenal city where they genuinely dance in the streets and they miss their archbishop), to take myself and my son to see icebergs, penguins and whales for a white Christmas to outwhite all white Christmases.
Two days there and two days back, crossing Drakes Passage, 80 passengers on a Russian Ship, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, designed for scientific research with a couple of penguin counters (they call themselves that but they are in fact highly qualified biologists who amongst other things, genuinely count penguins).They’re sort of like wildlife accountants. According to them, we saw 25,000 during the three days we were there but I couldn’t tell you as they all look the same. Icebergs hovered like Henry Moore sculptures around the ship, whales sang like the Fat Lady and the penguins were a noisy fish smelling, tap dancing (not really but they do look as though they do) chorus of disapproval who pinch each others stones and sqwark at each other when they find out. A true natural soap opera was played out before our eyes.
Our Russian captain was dour but very competent (we didn’t get stuck whereas the Chinese captain of another vessel did) and we had a white Christmas on Christmas morning. We landed on a live volcanic island called Deception Island at a volcanic ash beach that was heavy with snow. Originally a whaling station, the buildings remaining were like huge sleeping giants as the passengers arrived in kayaks and zodiacs in the blanket white silence. Thirty or so decided to go swimming in the Antarctic waters because “it’s something to say you’ve done”. I’ve bungee jumped, sky dived, pot holed and aerobatic planed but there was no way I was going to do that. Bonkers. Some said it was like diving into powdered glass. Fun or what?
The South Pole was a phenomenal adventure. We sailed with fascinating guides who knew their stuff. Sunny Sunniva, the woman who was in the all women team to reach the South Pole by sledge and foot 20 years ago was amongst them. They didn’t get sponsorship she told me because the companies “all thought we were lesbians as we shared tents and we should be looking after our husbands”. Nothing has changed of course. Sir Ranulph Fiennes never had that problem.
Sarah and Tom Tucker visited Antarctica with One Ocean Expeditions. Prices for such tours start at around £4,700.
Follow her on Twitter @madasatucker
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