Pictured: Dan and Mary Lou Ponder, right, and their Antartica traveling partners Bill and Pam Moench
My bucket list visit to Antarctica has been around a long time. Little did I know that this particular trip would exceed my wildest imagination. Originally, I understood that our trip would likely involve visiting only the outside of the Antarctic Circle, like 95% of the people making this voyage.
As of today, we have spent three days below the Antarctic Circle, with two excursions each day. Our expedition leader commented during our daily briefing today that he had been to Antarctica 153 times. Of those trips, he was only able to travel below the Antarctic Circle just over 20 visits. This particular voyage was the first time ever that he was able to complete six excursions in a row below the circle. Even with his vast experience, the leader was still amazed at how perfect this trip has been.
All good things must come to an end. Our weather has taken a turn for the worse. All excursions have been delayed and we have been sailing in increasingly strong winds. Everyone has donned their scopolamine patches to battle sea sickness. The winds got up to 40 knots and the waves are causing the ship to bob and roll frequently.
Nevertheless, it has been a fair trade to see three perfect days below the Antarctic Circle in exchange for high seas and winds. It is part of the experience. We all have earned our sea legs and learned that more naps in rough seas can be a blessing.
Thus far, we have probably seen a couple of thousand icebergs. They are all shapes and sizes. Of all my travels, I equate this most to my first visit to the Grand Canyon. As the sun sank at the end of the day, the views of the various stone formations in Arizona seemingly changed every few minutes.
Likewise, the same iceberg can present different lighting and hues as the sun moves in and out of the heavy cloud cover. If I have seen a thousand icebergs, each one has been different. It is mesmerizing and captures your imagination from every angle. The sizes range from a bicycle to a skyscraper.
If watching the magnificent carvings of the ice was not enough, we have delighted in seeing the seals, penguins, birds, and an occasional whale. Just this morning we saw Orca whales for the first time. They take your breath away and you never tire of seeing just one more.
Of course, it does not hurt to be traveling on one of the most luxurious ships in the world making this journey. We enjoyed meals as simple as a hamburger or hot dog, while also feasting on other delicacies from around the world.
For those a bit more adventuresome, i.e. younger, than me, the Polar Plunge was something to behold. While I watched otherwise normal people jump in the freezing water, I realized they were either younger or more stupid than I am. It is more fun to watch than take part, at least in my opinion.
I am asking myself if the reality has been as great as the expectation of this long-planned trip. I have reflected on this repeatedly since we first made our way onshore. The trip is not exactly what I expected in some respects, but at the same time it has been amazing. More than I could have hoped for.
We hope to have another pleasant day or two left to enjoy.
Last evening, we watched the howling winds and thick fog almost obscure the giant icebergs that seemed to come dangerously close to the ship. That was part of the trip I expected as well.
There will be one more article before we return home. Our adventure still has pages to be written. A trip of a lifetime, for sure.
Dan Ponder can be reached at email@example.com