Going To Antarctica: Lemaire Channel

When Kirk asked if I wanted to go to Antarctica months ago, I didn’t actually think out the logistics. Like just how far we’d have to travel. How many planes my butt would grace. How long it takes to fly from Seattle, Washington to the end of the world, Ushuaia, in Argentina. Ushuaia is the city, capital and port of Tierra del Fuego province, in Argentina, on the Beagle Channel. It lies on the main island of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago at the southern tip of South America. When they say it is the end of the world, it is. Yet, it is booming and has over 82,000 people living there – which is more humans than live on the island I live in the PNW of the US near the city of Seattle.

While a road does exist (it is part of the Pan-American Highway), it is very remote and nearly everyone flies in.

The flight into Ushaia was on a chartered flight on Aerolineas Argentinas, and the flight back was on Fly Bondi. I’d say this….both are bare bone airlines. Strap yourself in and enjoy the turbulence and the landing in Ushaia with 46 mile sustained winds was interesting. The plane was on a roller coaster and when we landed it bounced side to side with the winds, right down the tarmac.

But, as you walk out of the airport, the views are worth that hard landing. For I didn’t realize just how beautiful it would be down there. I realized just why so many would choose to live there, in an environment that is hostile – and looks like alpine tundra. Few places hit me that hard – you are surrounded by the end of the Andes Mountains, sitting in Argentina, but right next to Chile, It’s mountains, glaciers, snow fields, howling winds that are about to knock you over (yes, that strong) and open water. I never felt in fear during the landing. I realized this isn’t the route newbie pilots fly, and they know the wind. So I enjoyed the views…and the free roller coaster.

(That is the view as you walk out of the airport)

Fly Bondi flight attendants don’t take mouthing off from entitled travelers either. They tell you to shut it, and park your carcass in your seat – and get your damn seat belt on. For that I applaud them. I was giggling internally. Made the forever turbulence manageable. Tip? Even when your phone is on plane mode, Google Maps works in South America while flying. Doesn’t in the USA. At least I could see where I was on those miserable flights.

Had I thought this out….maybe I’d have gone to Alaska instead. (Maybe I am kidding, maybe I am not). Nah, it was worth it. It just takes a lot of time to get there, to even start your trip.

Going to Antarctica is worth it, but it isn’t easy. It’s a commitment the entire way – from the cost, to the time. 18,000 miles or so round trip. It’ll definitely pad your miles account.

We left Ushaia as the sun set, with a half moon over the peaks. I hadn’t slept in 36 hours and I staggered off to sleep as we slipped down the Beagle Channel, as we headed out to start the Drake Passage crossing. The crossing over was not bad. It wasn’t the Drake lake, but it wasn’t bad. The ship barely rocked. (Just know that means you will probably get the Drake Shake coming back…which we did.)

The crossing was relatively boring to be honest. A lot of nothing. Grey skies, rain, sleet, hail and snow. Too windy to do much. So I read a lot in bed with the door on our patio open to the sea. It howled like sea wolves.

Drinking espresso kept me chipper…..the level of luxury was nice I won’t lie.

When you wake up to seeing land after 2 days of crossing the Drake Passage, and it has been grey monochrome the entire trip – and it stays that way for another 2 days, it’s very bumming. This is a truth, it’s not the lies we tell ourselves. I was feeling very down. Where you doubt why you even came here.

But the morning we slid into Lemaire Channel it changed. We entered as the sun was rising. Only some woke up for it. I was up and outside with barely any light visible. I had that feeling I didn’t want to miss it.

The sky was just different. The wind had died. It wasn’t snowing. The light in the sky at the end of the channel was just starting to change.

Lemaire Channel is a strait off the Antarctica Peninsula, between Kyiv Peninsula in the mainland’s Graham Land and Booth Island.

Steep cliffs hem in the iceberg-filled passage, which is 6.8 miles long and just 1,700 yards wide at its narrowest point.

It was flat in wind, the reflections were amazing.

Peaks thrusting out of the water.

We slid slowly thru here.

The farther in, the more ice in the water.

Icebergs were everywhere.

So were whales.

Whales surfaced, penguins swam by, where they surface 2 or 3 in a row, jumping. We saw seals as well here, in the protected waters. Every time I saw a whale, my camera was not in hand. But I saw so many, it is the season where soon they start their long swim to the Arctic for the summer in the North.

See here for a video I posted on Facebook.

As we left the channel, the weather started snowing. It was time to retreat for now, and maybe go have a carb coma……


2 thoughts on “Going To Antarctica: Lemaire Channel

    1. Not as much as wanted, because of the weather. Most days the wind was VERY high 🙁 But still, the views were amazing!

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