From a young age I’ve been dreaming of visiting the Antarctic. I figured this southernmost continent would be a trip to add to my bucket-list and dream of for many years to come, so you can imagine my excitement when my entire family decided to visit Antarctica last December. It was a magical trip full of penguins, beautiful scenery, and incredible people. We went with National Geographic and Lindblad, which truly enriched the experience and included a staff full of incredibly knowledgeable biologists, photographers, experts on climate change, and all around amazingly friendly guides.
During our trip we saw three species of penguins, the Adelie, Gentoo and Chinstrap. Penguins are at the same time majestic and cuddly, stunning and adorable. They waddle along on the icy shores and porpoise in and out of the water next to the zodiac boats. I spent one afternoon just sitting on a pebble beach watching a group of Gentoos walk back and forth from the water to their nests. I was thrilled to be there during hatching time when all the tiny baby penguins were coming out of their shells. The baby penguins were ridiculously adorable and being able to watch their parents care for them was incredible.
In addition to the penguin chicks I was incredibly lucky to witness another amazing wildlife spectacle. On New Year’s Day a large pod of Orca whales approached our boat and swam in our slipstream, just like I’ve seen dolphins do many times in Hawaii. It’s an extremely unusual behavior to see from killer whales and was an amazing moment of the trip as everyone gathered together on the bow to see these incredible mammals swim alongside us.
A highlight of our adventure was a visit to the old, decommissioned French and American bases from the 1950’s, now sitting like preserved time capsules providing still-life vignettes made of old aspirin bottles and paintings of 1950’s pinup girls.
There was never a dull moment on our trip and with the 24-hour sun there was always something to see. Every time I looked out my porthole I’d see something new; a glacier, a mountain, a passing iceberg. Each iceberg looked like a sculpture carved into spectacular shapes with dazzling blues and whites. We even saw a leopard seal sunning himself on one of the ice floes. Amongst all the incredible beauty in Antarctica there was a somber moment when I took in the fragility of the landscape that lay before me. The clearest sign of climate change can be seen firsthand in the calving glaciers and receding ice. I felt incredibly lucky to see the white continent in person and hope future generations have the same opportunity to visit.
National Geographic Expeditions
Rebecca Yale is a documentary and portrait photographer living in New York City who loves to travel the world photographing causes she is passionate about, like conservation and child protection.