It was the compelling silence that first struck me as we entered the Antarctic Sound.
The weather had been quite feisty around the Falklands, the wind had been strident and clamorous, especially under my parka, so this blissful silence was music to my ears. The tranquility was indeed audible......
Our cruise from Montevideo, around the Cape Horn to the Antarctic, then back up to Santiago, was into its third week and had been absolutely fabulous thus far.
Of course the Antarctic is the ultimate prize and there we were.
After two years of visiting the grandkids in Sweden, we were up to the task - conditioned to freezing temperatures, all the right clothing helps and having just left Kiruna, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, we felt the Antarctic would be a breeze!!
As soon as you set eyes on the continent of Antarctica, you are left awestruck by the building-sized icebergs, the craggy mountains, the blinding white expanses of ice and snow and the incredible blue of the sky. It's undeniably quiet and peaceful and the air smells more pure than anywhere else in the world.
Featureless divides of white snow and blue sea take central stage. Vibrant orange rock contrasts with the turquoise water, indeed some of the most spectacular scenery of the planet. The featureless titans of rock were stark against the snow covered crags where the terrain resembled delicate webs of snow, criss crossing the rock faces. They were in fact immense tracts of ice clinging to the mountainside in motionless cascades - the legendary icebergs.
There were immense icebergs everywhere, some fifty miles in width and above, carved creatively from the vast glaciers, almost as if chiselled by some gargantuan artist, pure white tabular monoliths, some with translucent turquoise mini skirts.
One of the worlds biggest icebergs, which is believed to be as big as Connecticut, broke free from Ross Ice sheet in 2000, and held enough water apparently, to supply the entire world with fresh water for over a year!!
Antartica has a portion of every single time zone in the world. However, this means that time zones are a bit useless anyway. After all, the summer and winter seasons are either dark or light all day, so it doesn't really matter what time it is!
But we had been warned.. Antarctica has an unpredictable temper, so we found as we entered The dreaded Drake Passage. We had also been warned 'we cannot promise anything except ice and bad weather!' The Drake Passage with its mighty swell, took its toll on countless passengers and left some of us pleading for mercy!!
The most powerful convergence of waters in the world, it grabbed our giant cruise ship, like a toddler in a bath, and threw us about savagely and with unkind abandon!! Mighty indigo waves, 6 meters high, kept us crashing and sliding for 24 hours, it was a thrilling crossing to say the least!!
Of course many islands and passages are named after the intrepid explorers who brought is continent to life and Names on the Antarctic Peninsula were enchanting.. Deception Bay, Forbidden Plateau, Palmer Archipelago, South Sandwich Trench, Elephant Island, Wilhelmina Bay, Terror Gulf, Ross Ice Shelf. All culminating in a dramatic history for those who dared to explore these terrifying waters, so long ago.
The lectures onboard had been enthralling as we were cajoled through the lives and adventures of intrepid brave explorers like Ross, Scott, Shackleton, Amundsen. We were also invited into the lives of the Hump Back Whale, Gentoo, Chin Strap and Adelie Penguins, fur seals and the magnificent Albatross.
As we gazed over the calm waters of the Plata Passage, flotillas of penguins, forming swathes of rafts in the sea, dived for krill. Penguins are fascinating creatures, their babies live in 'creches', they toboggan down the ice slopes into the water, and a group on land is a 'waddle'. The smell of penguin guano drifts across the freezing deck.
The Hump Back whales send giant plumes of water as a prelude to their bubble feeding frenzy, also for krill.
Antarctica - the final frontier - the most remote and difficult continent to visit - the ultimate travel adventure, and we were there......