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The only true luxury vessel that visits the Seventh Continent, Antarctica, is Silverseas's Prince Albert II. She sails two itineraries and I selected the one that visited South Georgia Island.

 

This is the island where the famous explorer, Ernest Shackleton, returned in an effort to save his crew during his ill-fated expedition. It is also the location of Grytviken, an infamous whaling and meat processing center, that is now just a collection of rusty buildings and piles of whale bones.


 

Modern travelers have the opportunity to reflect on the history of the island, but the true attraction are massive flocks of penguins. When I arrived in January I was awestruck by presence of penguins from the shore all the way out to the horizon. It is believed to be the largest colony of nesting penguin pairs in the world. Nearly half a million of them waddling about either caring for eggs or fluffy juveniles. They have no fear of humans, in fact they will come up to look at you closely.

 

Not only is this an amazing opportunity for photographers but it is also an overpowering lesson in how Life thrives in one of the harshest climates on Earth. Although penguins have adapted to cold and wind, they cannot modify their place in the food chain.  

 

These penguins are the favorite food of Leopard Seals. These clever beasts are fierce and voracious. I cannot forget seeing a King penguin being flipped into the air and virtually turned inside-out in a matter of seconds, as a Leopard Seal had caught it for lunch. That seal is pictured here, it seems very satisfied and actually appears to be smiling.

 

 

Our cruise ship continued on to the Antarctic Peninsula. This region is the source of weather patterns for many areas in the Southern Hemisphere. The small size of our vessel was ideal since we were allowed to set anchor (larger ships are not permitted here). Taking Zodiacs ashore we were overcome by the vast, stark landscape of this ice-covered expanse.

 

For most tourists, it was the culmination of a lifelong dream to step foot on the final continent in their world-travel portfolio. The cruise line provided a champagne celebration which was a great moment of comraderie for passengers who had came from all corners of the globe to take part in this adventure.


 

Travel to Antarctica is restricted to their Spring and Summer months. Although prepared to endure extreme cold, I was amazed that temperatures were around 30-40 degrees Farenheit. Some passengers even went swimming on deck! The ice conditions still dictate each vessel's itinerary. Global warming is very apparent in Antarctica. Animal populations at all levels of the food chain are being negatively impacted by significantly warmer average temperatures. I am very grateful to have seen Antarctica, and encourage anyone who shares this lifelong dream to make their travel plans sooner than later.

Yours,
J Kliger