The Bradshaws Take A Bucket List Trip to Antarctica

Last Thanksgiving, Steve and Kitty Bradshaw from the Springs section of Sterling on the Lake checked off the number one item on their bucket list with a Viking Expedition to Antarctica. Unlike many cruises that just “drive by,” this one included five landings by Zodiac. The trip began with a flight to Buenos Aires. After a brief overnight stay, they flew to the most southern city in the world, Ushuaia (population 100,000), at the tip of Argentina. From there they boarded the Viking Octantis for their journey to the Antarctic Peninsula.

Two days in the Drake Passage gave them ample time to get their sea legs. The Octantis holds just under 400 people. It is designed specifically for this trip since ships with more than 500 people cannot send anyone ashore. Instead of balconies, the Octantis has large, 6x8-foot roll-down windows. Although this is an expedition ship, the food was on par with most cruises. They even had an Italian specialty restaurant.

Each evening they listened to wildlife lectures tailored for the next day’s visit. They learned much about whales, seals, and penguins. The expedition office kept track of wildlife sightings throughout the trip and by the end, they had seen four types of whales, 34 types of birds, and four types of penguins. One fact stood out to them: A bit gross, but the southern giant petrel (a sea bird weighing up to 17 lbs.) defends itself by projectile vomiting up to 40 feet with accuracy. It is impossible to wash out.

As it turned out, their favorite landing was not even on the original itinerary. The weather forced numerous audibles and a couple of cancellations. Cuverville Island has the largest population of nesting Gentoo penguins (over 6,500 pairs) in the world. They took many funny videos of the penguins, sharing many on the Sterling Facebook site. They will provide us with smiles and laughs forever.

The Bradshaw’s were overwhelmed with the majesty of the place and the surprising amount of wildlife. Going during the "summer" and wearing the proper gear, they were never cold. Ironically a few weeks after they returned it was 20 degrees colder in Flowery Branch than at any time on their trip.

The Octantis encountered 35-foot swells coming back through the Drake Passage, making any onboard activity difficult. But they managed the cafeteria, although everyone did walk like they had been drinking — and probably some had. Once they got back to Ushuaia, they had a rough last night because they had gotten used to being rocked to sleep.

Steve and Kitty highly recommend this trip. “It was even more awesome than we imagined.” The combination of Zodiac boats, special ops boats, kayaks, and two submarines made for endless adventures, and going ashore is what made the trip. Just bring good gloves and thermals, hats, and a good gaiter. Viking provides jackets (complimentary) and loans out pants and boots. Leaving from Ushuaia instead of Buenos Aires saved four sea days.

With a 20-year Air Force career and 35 years in international marketing, Steve has visited nearly 50 countries, but this trip fulfilled his quest to do all seven continents. Kitty is a retired teacher who taught in DOD schools in Germany. They hope to visit Africa soon to complete her seven-continent quest.