Graeme Bruce is a very lucky man. In 2009 one of his lifelong dreams came true when he won a Peregrine trip to Antarctica. Here's Graeme's story...
From when I was a boy, I always wanted to go to Antarctica - it held a strange fascination for me. Over the years, my impatience grew, as I didn't think I was ever going to get there. Then in 2009, after the Black Saturday bushfires, I attended a fundraising event to aid the bushfire victims. On offer at this fundraiser auction, was a trip for two to Antarctica, donated by Peregrine Adventures. I took the opportunity to bid on this trip and I won! From that moment on, my lifetime dream began to unfold.
Our ship, a Russian scientific vessel, was just perfect. When we slipped away from the dock at Ushuaia (the most beautiful town on earth by the way) at the very southern tip of South America, we began our fabulous cruise. The staff from Peregrine, particularly Woody and Annie, attended to our every need and made us feel absolutely welcome. As we sailed along the Beagle Channel, we entered the crossing of the Drake Passage, that notorious stretch of water between South America and Antarctica, where the Pacific and Indian Oceans collide. I am incredibly fortunate that I do not suffer from sea-sickness, so I loved the feeling of being out in the air, feeling the spray of the wild seas on my face, the wind getting colder with every day as we journeyed south.
On the third day we saw our first iceberg, and some time later we saw the mainland, the continent of Antarctica. Our first sighting of this massive white land was splendid, and it just got better from there. Some things are difficult to describe in words, but the feelings of expectation, longing, excitement and sheer beauty were all encapsulated when we saw Antarctica. And later we boarded Zodiacs, and finally set foot on Antarctica - how good it was.
We enjoyed several days of shore hopping at various points of the Antarctic Peninsula. One such landing was at Port Lockroy, a British scientific station, operated by four young English women who greeted us wonderfully as they sold us stamps and momentos at their shop - that's right, a shop in Antarctica! I posted a card back to home with the postmark 'Port Lockroy, Antarctica'.
This all took place for me in December 2009, yet the memories are as fresh today as they were back then, such was the impact of the adventure. To walk on a continent where few have been before, to face the sheer cold and the 'bloody bloody wind', to be surrounded by Adelie penguins, see sights of southern creatures, seals, whales, the occasional albatross, and the vivid colours and various shapes of icebergs gives one an impression that this is a magnificent place to be.
The cruise lasted ten days. It was not long enough. For me it could have lasted ten months! It is now more than two years since that cruise - I want to go back again. I know that it will all be the same, but everything will be different! The colours, the clear crisp cold air, the icebergs, the wretched wind, all part of a land where I have been and it has left an indelible impression on my mind.
The ship is very well appointed and most comfortable, the meals were wonderful (I don't know how the chef kept such a high standard). I could go on and on, but if you never never go you'll never never know just how good it is to be alive in Antarctica.
It is difficult to pinpoint highlights on a totally wonderful experience, but I will try...
- Crossing over the Drake Passage (twice) where in earlier times many seafarers came to grief, and seeing Cape Horn
- Actually standing on a continent where the early explorers, such as Shackleton and Amundsen, undertook their amazing tales of exploration
- Last but equal with the others, cruising with a group of people who knew their job, and they did it very well - the crew of Peregrine made it all possible for me - I will never forget them or Antarctica.
Graeme's tips for travellers to Antarctica:
- Clothing - plenty of layers, ie. thermal underwear, skivvies, jeans, bathing wear for swimming in the waters off Deception Island (Antarctic Peninsula). Take anything compact that keeps the body warm.
- Also sunglasses are a must as the glare off the snow can be severe.
I am forever indebted to Peregrine for providing me with such a fabulous experience - cruising from the southern tip of South America along the Antarctic Peninsula. It was the most amazing holiday that I have ever had.
Have you dreamt of visiting Antartica? Or have you already lived your Antarctic dream like Graeme? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
Why not take a trip to Antarctica, and see these unforgettable sights for yourself? Take a look through all our trips to Antarctica and find the one for you.