Thousands of very curious Gentoo Penguins waddle awkwardly about at Port Lockroy, a British base on the southern end of Weincke Island. Once they hop into the sea they loose their awkwardness and porpoise gracefully through the water. The seals act similarly; their clumsy movement on shore is lost when they slide into the sea and serpentine through the water. Both are beautiful and reasons people travel so far south through some of the roughest waters in the world to see Antarctica. In November and December, when the sun only dips below the horizon for a short time, you get hours of golden light that put the mountains of Antarctica on display. These mountains are why we have been drawn to the Southern Continent of Antarctica.
This was my third trip to the Peninsula and each trip has been very different, this one was unique because we were traveling on the Australis sailing yacht, a 75-foot, 12-passenger boat. Although it would provide a more challenging crossing through the Drake Passage, the Australis would allow us mobility and time to find the best skiing on the Peninsula.
For this trip Doug had invited Kris Erickson and myself to guide a group of six international skiers.The Australis is the same boat Chris Davenport used last year to make his movie, Australis: A ski Odyssey. If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out.
We set off from Ushuaia on the afternoon of November 15th for Porto Williams where we would clear Chilean customs and then continue out the Beagle Channel to the Atlantic Ocean. We enjoyed wine and celebrated the start of our adventure while our Captain, Roger Wallis, laughed as we continually asked about seasickness and ocean swell. Soon we would all disappear into our berths.
The first night on the Drake I slept well and woke excited about some coffee, the boat had a Bialetti Italien coffee maker onboard. Before the coffee was made my stomach started churning. Big swells were swallowing up then burping out the boat making travel rough, I headed back to my room wouldn’t leave my bunk for the next 2 days.
On the afternoon of the 18th we arrived in the South Shetland Islands and went to shore to stretch our legs and check out the Elephant seals and penguins. The moans of the seals and solid ground helped us all feel normal again. But we were there to ski, so we boarded the ship and headed around the corner to the other side of Livingston Island. Here we found a good ramp for our first ski outing. From there we cruised south to the Antarctic Peninsula to a sheltered cove on Enterprise Island. Our first views of the massive terrain in the Gerlach Straight confirmed why we were here.
Our location now put us in position to explore the skiing in a high concentration of mountains. Over the next two weeks we would ski on Weincke Island, Emma Island, Brabant Island, Ronge Island, DeLaite Island, Lion Island, Lemaire Island, Livingston Island and the mainland of Antarctica.