An internship on the coldest continent in the world. That’s something I didn’t see coming when I wrote down ‘The Backpacker Intern’ on a piece of cardboard, 14 months ago. But dude! It happened! It was a once in a lifetime trip where I’ve made eye contact with more than 50 whales, thousands of penguins, dolphins, leopard seals and albatrosses. I made a polar plunge, slept one night on the ice in my own built grave and not to forget I was in the company of an amazing crew and group of people on our One Ocean Expeditions ship; the ‘Akademik Ioffe’.
Our journey started in the most southern part of the world, Ushuaia in Argentina. Here we got transported to our vessel, the Akademik Ioffe. The marine crew were highly qualified Russian officers and the ship is operated by a select group of international specialists brought together by One Ocean, a Canadian company. The cool thing about this ship is that it’s not a normal cruise ship. It is and looks like a research vessel and still has the technologies for it, but from the inside there are beautiful cabins, a dining room, library, sauna and there’s even a Jacuzzi on the deck!
One Ocean Expeditions offers small ship expeditions that focus on people and environmental values. They made clear how important social responsibility and global mindedness for them and the whole Polar cruise industry is. For us it was really cool because we had a few researchers on our ship as well. All of them were well-experienced polar adventurers with loads of knowledge and stories. During our trip they gave workshops and seminars to upgrade our Antarctic vocabulary and minds.
Ushuaia is the closest city from where you can get to Antarctica in the world, but it’s still around 2 days sailing to the 7th continent. It can be a pretty rough ride as well, since you have to cross the so-called ‘Drake Passage’ a.k.a. ‘The Drake’. This get-together of the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean is one of the reasons why there are hanging puke-bags every 10-meters in the ship. I felt a little bit dizzy and got some headaches but managed to survive The Drake pretty smoothly compared to some other people on the ship.
When I woke up in the morning on day 3, we were officially in Antarctica! It was my 5th continent as The Backpacker Intern and my 7th continent as a traveller. Boom! I can kick that one off my bucket list!
I shared my cabin with Dor Shpitzer, a cool, laidback Israeli guy who’s been travelling around South America solo for 8 months. We were super excited about our first encounter on Antarctica and when the expedition leader asked us to move to ‘The Mud Room’ our smiles became bigger than ever. ‘The Mud Room’ is a place in the ship where you change your flip-flops into boots. It’s where everyone is getting ready for the outdoor expeditions.
One Ocean Expeditions provided all of us with flaming red Wetskins. This suit prevents you from the Antarctic wind and water (but you still need at least 2 layers of clothes underneath it.).
We left our mothership with ‘Zodiac’s’. Those are little boats with a lot of power. After a few minutes of crossing the Antarctic water we found land. The landscape was stunning! Some of the icebergs were as big as skyscrapers. The sun was fighting her way through the clouds and the polar wind gave us a gentle but chilly welcome. When our Zodiac bumped onto the land, the moment was there; I was finally setting foot on the 7th continent. The first thing I saw was a penguin greeting me. The little fellow was one of the thousands that followed. It was so unreal!
Man, I’ve experienced so much during my 11-day trip that I can almost write a book about it. To make it easier for you guys, I’ve summed it up with my 7 highlights.
1) Pushing the Limits with a Polar Plunge
Yes. I went for a swim on Antarctica. Yes. It was frrrrrreakin’ cold. It’s actually so cold that your body doesn’t feel it, it kind of goes into a shock. It was awesome though!
2) Making Eye contact with Whales (a lot of whales)
They don’t call ‘Wilhelmina Bay’ ‘Whalehelmina Bay’ for nothing. On one morning we took off with our Zodiacs and saw more than 15 humpback whales up close. It was breath taking. The serene silence. The strange smell of whale-breath. The moment when the immense bodies enter the surface. It was an experience I will remember forever.
3) Sliding Down, March of the Penguins style
After hiking up another beautiful snowy mountain amongst thousands of penguins, One Ocean Expeditions had two surprises for us. First of all the amazing view. Second of all, we had the option to slide down. On our back. Head first. I didn’t have to think one second about it and took the ride. It was so cool that I ended up going three times.
4) The World’s First Antarctic Zodiac Party
On one afternoon we were zodiac cruising through amazing formations of Icebergs in the so-called ‘Iceberg Graveyard’. Our zodiac driver: the amazing Russel aka Rusty Rides. One of our group members was Nick Onken, a great guy and talented photographer. Luckily for us he took his Beats by Dre Pill (portable soundsystem) with him on the Zodiac. It didn’t took long for Nick to start the party. I can never ever listen to ‘Turn Down For What’ by Dj Snake & Lil John again without thinking about the awesome ‘World’s First Antarctic Zodiac Party’.
5) Sleeping One Night in Our Own Ice-graves
“For the folks who want to sleep one night on the ice, the Zodiacs leave in 10 minutes.”. That was my wake-up call through the ship’s intercom. I was so tired from all the excursions (okay and we had some drinks at the bar) that I just crashed and fell asleep. I didn’t want to miss this one for gold so I quickly grabbed my stuff and got dropped on the ice. Here we had to dig our own graves. I slept one night on Antarctica in 3 layers of clothes, 2 sleeping bags, under an amazing sky full of stars and with penguins and leopard seals just 10 meters in front of us. Amazing!
6) 11 Days Without Internet in Pure Nature
I’m online all the time. Whether it’s working, social networking, discovering music, reading blogs or watching double rainbows. Good to know; there’s no Wi-Fi on Antarctica. Good to know too; it’s perfect. Because any form of Internet did not distract me I was enjoying the pure beauty of Antarctica to the max. It’s the perfect place for a social (media) detox.
7) Antarctic Wedding of an Awesome Couple
Last but not least there was a famous wedding during our trip. A wedding! On Antarctica! Taiwanese-American host Janet Hsieh and Singapore-based actor-host George Young decided to get married on the 7th continent. They brought a group of friends from all over the world with them and Discovery Channel to film their adventures. It was so cool because Janet immediately made me part of their group and that made my whole trip so much more special. Thanks so much for that! I wish Janet & George all the luck in the world for the future. It was wonderful meeting you guys.
All of these highlights happened because I managed to get an internship at One Ocean Expeditions and got supported by Beluga Adventures. In exchange I’m publishing exciting content about this trip. More to come soon. Thanks again for making this happen both of you!
If you ever have the chance to visit Antarctica; do it. If not; create your chance. It is, by far, the most amazing trip and experience I’ve ever had in my life. If you want to book a trip to Antarctica like I did, check out One Ocean Expeditions. If you’re Dutch or from Belgium I recommend to talk with Beluga Adventures. I hope more people will have the opportunity to visit this amazing part of the world.
My final shout out goes to the One Ocean Expeditions crew and the rest of the awesome passengers on the Akademik Ioffe (you know who you are) thank you so much for making this trip extra extraordinary!