Kayaking the Waters of Antarctica

by David Thompson Customer story

The weather changes so dramatically down here that you simply cannot say, "this looks like a great day" if it is one - rather you must live in the moment and perhaps a more appropriate phrase might be, "this looks like a great moment"!
Antarctic Peninsula

Ship: m/v Ortelius

Regions: Antarctica

Destinations: Antarctic Peninsula

Highlights: Kayaking, Basecamp

Kayaking the Waters of Antarctica

The weather changes so dramatically down here that you simply cannot say, "this looks like a great day" if it is one - rather you must live in the moment and perhaps a more appropriate phrase might be, "this looks like a great moment"! After enduring Force 8 winds on the Beaufort Wind Scale the Ortelius (our home during this Antarctica cruise) pulled into calm waters at Georges Point affording us our first close look at the breathtaking scenery (icebergs, glaciers and mountainous terrain).

Preparing for extreme cold weather kayaking is a bit different than kayaking in warm weather and warm waters. The wind must not be to strong. You must dress in layers and then put on a thick wet-suit followed by a waterproof jacket followed by a spray skirt (to keep the water out of the kayak) and then finally your life jacket.

© David Thompson - Davestravelcorner.com

Kayaks are lowered from the upper decks via a wench system. They are then tied to a zodiac and pulled to an outlying area where you carefully get in. A joint effort is required to board safely with the kayaks pulled right next to the zodiac. One dip in this frigid and nearly freezing water would not be so fun. Best to save that for the Polar Plunge!

© David Thompson - Davestravelcorner.com

There is nothing quite like kayaking in Antarctica

Large ice bergs float by along with 'ice fields' which are floating chunks of much smaller ice that are loads of fun to kayak through - sort of like an obstacle coarse. Then you are reminded of the ever present danger here - as large chunks of ice calve off of the glaciers' edge. These sound like amplified shotgun blasts and you quickly look around to try to spot the source of the noise. Larger ice that breaks off sounds like thunder - and sometimes you can see the Tsunami like wave created when the ice falls into the water - or the ocean spray that it creates from its impact.

© David Thompson - Davestravelcorner.com

And in some cases if the calving pieces are large enough eventually this ice will travel and cover the surface of nearby bays.

Then there is the wildlife - especially penguins standing rigidly on shore. Were we watching them more intently then they watching us? We spotted large seals sliding through the water and then popping up on ice or rock to joust with each other. The water is clear as we pass into shallow zones - many colorful starfish live here as well as some unique sponges.

The Ortelius continues to move and adjust itself to stay in safe waters. As a result on the return trip we were blocked from getting to the ship because there was so much ice in the way. We had to navigate far around and find a safe passage through hundreds of mini ice bergs.

Activities & kayaking weather dependent

As in any other activity offered by Oceanwide Expeditions - kayaking is dependent on the weather. The waters must be calm and the winds must be under 12 knots. And when you have calm and clear weather kayakers are treated to spectacular scenery.

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