Stories from Antarctica: My Favorite Heroes

Burton Shackleton's Grave

As told to by A&K Expedition Team Member and Antarctic History Lecturer Bob Burton

Bob BurtonWhen I was the director of the museum at South Georgia, I used to weed Ernest Shackleton’s grave. When we visit Grytviken with A&K guests and come ashore, we go out to the cemetery where he’s buried and I lead a toast to “The Boss.”

Shackleton first set off with his men to cross the Antarctic from South Georgia. When his ship ‘Endurance’ sank, he managed an amazing 16-day trip on one of its rescue boats (the ‘James Caird’) from Elephant Island across stormy seas back to South Georgia — and then traversed it, which was another notable feat. Eventually, he came back to South Georgia on another expedition in 1922 and died there. So, he’s very much connected to the island.

When Shackleton and his two companions were crossing South Georgia, it wasn’t far as the crow flies, but it was quite a circuitous route between the mountains. They completed it in 36 hours nonstop because they knew that if they stopped and rested, they wouldn’t wake up. On one occasion, Shackleton told them they would have a meal and a rest. After they ate, he let the other two fall asleep. After a few minutes, he woke them up and said, “Right, you’ve had a good long sleep.” They felt better and off they went. 

'Endurance'

I used to say that my hero was Shackleton because I’ve spent a lot of time on South Georgia and I’ve studied his expeditions. But as Shackleton became everyone’s hero over the last couple of decades, I decided I needed a new hero. Continue Reading ›

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Stories from Antarctica: Nothing Compares to This Family Vacation

Antarctica Family Zodiac

As told by A&K guest David Jacobson

Jacobson Family in AntarcticaWhen our boys were seven and nine, my wife and I took them on a seven-month trip around the world and visited 21 countries and six different continents. Antarctica was the only one we didn’t hit. We recently got back from A&K’s Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands with our now 13- and 16-year old boys and consider it one of our best trips ever — in the top two to three for sure.

The driving force to go wasn’t really about Antarctica being our seventh continent, but more about the chance to experience the novelty and uniqueness of this place that we imagined in our minds — and that proved to be true. Antarctica is so different than anywhere else we’ve been. None of us had seen an iceberg or a penguin up close. And then we went and saw penguins, and realized the experience is so much richer than that. It reminded me of the plains of Africa in that it’s one of those places that make you feel like you’ve punched through to an alternate reality.

Whale Sighting from Zodiac

One of the best moments happened on New Year’s Day, when we were approaching the Antarctic Peninsula on a Zodiac and came across five or six humpback whales. They were bubble-net feeding and, I mean, just right there in front of us. Our naturalist driver turned off the motor so we could watch and listen as they blew bubbles and jumped up. It was a bright sunny day, so we could see them clearly, plus we could hear everything. It was an amazing, full-sensory experience. Continue Reading ›

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The Top Five Reasons to Visit South Georgia

Top Five Reasons to Visit South Georgia

From unique scenic beauty to a wealth of biological diversity, South Georgia is a can’t-miss stop on any Antarctic journey, and a compelling destination all its own.

It's the land of a millions kings

1. It’s the land of a million kings

King penguins are the largest penguin species apart from emperors, and just one of these colorful, three-foot-tall birds is a memorable sight. Imagine, then, setting food amid a colony of hundreds of thousands of king penguins gathered at Salisbury Plain or Gold Harbor, their cries audible for miles around.


You'll see a cornucopia of species

2. You’ll see a cornucopia of species

When people think of wildlife in the Antarctic region, they usually think penguins and not much else. South Georgia is actually one of the most biodiverse places on earth, a result of its large size and isolation from the mainland, and visitors can count on seeing a tremendous variety of mammals and birdlife, including the nesting wandering albatross. Continue Reading ›

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Why Your Kids Will Love Antarctica

Artboard 1

A Lot of ‘Wow’ Moments Sailing the Southern Ocean

By Eileen Ogintz from ‘Taking the Kids’

“Wow!” exclaimed ‘Le Boreal’ Captain Etienne Garcia when he’d get on the loudspeaker to alert the passengers that they should grab their cameras and head on deck.

“Wow,” there are humpback whales right next to the ship!

“Wow! A lone Emperor penguin! I haven’t seen one in three years,” he declared.

The 34 kids and teens on board the 200-passenger ‘Le Boreal’ for Abercrombie & Kent’s family holiday trip to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands had many wow moments during the 17-day trip:

Walking on “fast” floating sea ice 3-feet thick on New Year’s Day. The kids were served juice while their parents had champagne. “I’ll always remember this,” declared Olivia Gembarovski, 10, from Melbourne, Australia. “You don’t see people walking on ice in the middle of the ocean every day.”


NekoSnowSlide

Sliding down a slushy hill on their backsides, no sleds needed, at the bottom of the world in Neko Harbour on the Antarctic Peninsula, and trudging back up in the sunshine to do it all again.  “The best day of my life and that’s only a little exaggeration,” said Conrad Kistler, 12, from Orange County, California. Continue Reading ›

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Stories from Antarctica: A Birder’s Paradise

King Penguins

As told by A&K Naturalist Guide and ornithology buff, Brent HoustonBrent Houston

Some of my favorite animals on earth are easily seen in Antarctica, especially if you visit the very beautiful and remote island of South Georgia and the warmer, wildlife-packed Falkland Islands. From the bright-white snow petrel that is unmistakable among the pack ice, to the predatory brown and south polar skuas — those marauders of the penguin colonies — the flying seabirds we encounter as we cross the Drake Passage rival the more popular show-stopping penguins of Antarctica for their beauty, grace and adaptability.

Speaking of penguins, the Adélie is my absolute favorite, because what they lack in colorful plumage, they make up for in comical displays, vocalizations and general goofiness. The funniest thing is to watch them gathering pebbles for their nests, especially when they steal each other’s pebbles at the same time. This goes on throughout the breeding season and is a source of endless entertainment.

Adelie Penguins

Adélies are also fun to watch when entering the water. One or two by themselves do not want to go in for fear of a leopard seal, which can eat up to ten penguins a day. So, they wait until there is a group and then they start calling in a frenzy, pushing each other from behind and — all at once — go tumbling into the sea. I always say it takes ten Adélie penguins to make a decision. Continue Reading ›

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Stories From Antarctica: Sensory Overload on the Southern Ocean

Sensory Overload on the Southern Ocean

As told by Scott M., A&K Guest

I’m a visual person, so before I went to Antarctica, I was always drawn to the colors and all the crazy blues I had seen in photos, how sculptural the icebergs and mountains were, and how these landscapes didn’t look like anything else. Now that I’ve just returned from Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands, these incredible landscapes — that exceeded every expectation — are also what stay with me the most.

Part of that is just the sheer size of it all. On our luxury expedition cruise, we experienced landscapes like a crescendo that went from small to big. The Falklands are definitely hilly, but the slopes are gentle with rocky outcroppings. South Georgia Island is a full-on mountain range with these 7,000 to 8,000 feet peaks — they’re not small! — that seem to pop up from the ocean as if out of nowhere. Contrast that with Antarctica, which is made up almost entirely of glaciers (95 percent) and even more extreme and impressive with its ice.

antarctica-landscape-3

For me, though, nothing tops the small bay of Gold Harbour, which is situated at the east end of South Georgia. The island itself is full of these amazing glaciers. You see them coming out to the ocean, up on hills, retreating back up the mountain and even transforming the landscape with newly formed hills. Continue Reading ›

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Ten Reasons to Visit Antarctica Now

Ten Reasons to Visit Antarctica Now

Penguins, icebergs, a top-notch Expedition Team — there are countless reasons why an Antarctica voyage is a true trip of a lifetime. Here are ten of our favorites.

Penguins, Penguins, and more penguins

1. Penguins, penguins, and more penguins

The unofficial ambassadors of Antarctica, penguins come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from the small black-and-white Adélie to the orange-trimmed King, both found exclusively in the Antarctic region. Penguins have no innate fear of humans and visitors often find themselves approached by the curious birds.


Every picture is postcard-worthy

2. Every picture is postcard-worthy

If you have a passion for photographing wildlife and spectacular scenery, Antarctica is the place for you. You’ll see animals you won’t find anywhere else, along with landscapes like the Lemaire Channel, fondly known as “Kodak Alley” for the incredible photo opportunities it affords. All the while, an onboard Photo Coach is at hand to help you capture that perfect shot. Continue Reading ›

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