So proclaimed Robert Falcon Scott on reaching the South Pole, where he found the Norwegian flag already planted there by Roald Amundsen—indicating that he had been beaten to it. This month, polar enthusiasts commemorate Amundsen’s expeditious arrival 100 years ago on December 14, 1911.
But “awful” or not (we think not!), Antarctica continues its status as the pinnacle of “once in a lifetime trips.” Traveler Thom Benson is there now and he updates his blog daily, transporting armchair travelers to the land of seals, penguins, icebergs and breathtaking beauty.
TravelWild Director Joe Van Os also wrote of his recent tour with our sister company, Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris. The 4-week-long Ultimate Antarctica photo cruise took a small ship of 80 photographers to the 7th continent and circumnavigated South Georgia, with stops along the way.
Our landing site was strewn with giant Southern elephant seal beach master bulls with harems of 10 or more females. Seemingly as big as school busses, the giant males bellowed and belched clouds of steaming breath as interloping smaller males moved in on the harems to partake in this extraordinary beach orgy. The deep vibrato of their vocalizations resounded up and down the beach—allowing potential rivals a way to assess the size and stamina of those big males holding the best female-catching beach real estate.
Aggressive males plowed through newborn and “weaner” pups, scattering throngs of king penguins by forcing them to run in all directions to avoid being flattened by these two-ton “raging bulls.” Down the beach we could see the colony of hundreds of thousands of king penguins, but first we had to shoot our way through a menagerie of other species, including introduced reindeer, gulls, skuas, giant petrels and the occasional Antarctic tern.
The king penguin colony at St. Andrews Bay is among the most photogenic penguin settings on earth. Meandering streams of glacial melt water artistically bisect it and the streams make the colony photogenic from almost any angle. Tens of thousands of images were produced that day. (Now, back on the ship, I’ve seen incredible images from the day being converted on people’s laptops!) We shot chick feedings, courtship displays, ecstatic displays, squadron of birds coming and going from the sea, squabbles and slap fights, chick crèches, molting adults—the list goes on and on.
Ecstatic displays, two-ton raging bulls, harems of 10 or more females, and penguin cocktail parties… For an idea of some of the wildlife species you’ll see on a trip to Antarctica, check out our Antarctic Wildlife page. Then join the party!