Chasing the Dragon, Orne Harbor & Danco Island
It is a humbling experience to step onto the seventh continent. When you feel the snow crunch under your boots for the first time in Antarctica, you experience a gratifying sense of accomplishment that is unparalleled. You finally made it.
You could only dream of this place before now, and suddenly those fleeting images in your mind have become a reality. This is the culmination of four full days of nonstop travelling. It feels as though you've climbed an incredible peak, and can now fully take in the vast and frigid landscape.
I'm not standing on a peak when I arrive here, but I do end up climbing up one: Spigot Peak. The climb isn’t too challenging (you only have to set two anchors because it's not the tallest peak), but it is a fun little climb nonetheless. Unfortunately in December, most of the snow has melted from the peaks of the mountains. This limits your ability to summit in most areas, including here.
From the harbor, we take a Zodiac ride around and through the glaciers. This allows us to view them incredibly closely.
After the ride, we head to shore to visit a penguin colony and do a small hike up the mountain. My dad doesn’t have the energy to venture to the top of the mountain, so I start heading up while he goes to the penguin colony. It is around a mile or so walk in snow but it isn’t too difficult.
Something you should know about the penguins is that they are protected in Antarctica. This means that in addition to a number of regulations in place, you cannot approach one within 200 feet. You are, however, permitted to station yourself at that distance and allow them to venture to you, but you cannot directly approach them.
As I start the path up the mountain, a penguin pops up directly in front of men from one of the shoots and starts walking in the same direction that I'm headed. I end up playing follow the leader for 45 minutes, watching this penguin waddle its way up the mountain.
When I got to the top of the mountain, I had an incredibly inspiring moment. I'm sitting alone, taking in the view of the landscape, and I realize that there are no signs of of civilization in my view. The wind whipped in my face and chills came over my body as I looked out into the surrounding mountains. I was sitting by myself in Antarctica. In that moment, I felt on top of the world.
As amazing and wonderful as this moment was, it came with a new hunger that bubbled up from within me-- a desire to "chase the dragon," if you will. I have to see more. This is only one part of thousands. I have to see as much of the world as I possibly can.
- If you have difficulty with sea sickness make sure you take all the necessary precautions before getting on a boat to travel through the Drake Passage.
Photography Gear Recommended
- 24-70mm lens
- 70-200 lens
- 200-400mm lens or 2x extender for your 70-200
Get a pair of gloves that allows you to pull off the fingers. Constantly being in the cold (and possibly wet) makes it increasingly challenging to get the shots you want.
Antarctic Heritage Trust is a long-term cold conservation project to protect the legacy of the late 19th and early 20th century explorers. There were five main expeditions during that time, most notable of which was lead by Sir Ernest Shackleton and Captain Robert Falcon Scott..
Their goal is to protect the expedition bases located in Antarctica for future generations, and inspire people through the values associated with adventure, discovery, and endurance.