It’s Penguin Season Again! – Antarctica

This post is part 3 of 3 in the series Antarctica

November marks the beginning of summer in Antarctica, summer being relative term, and the beginning of the Antarctic travel season. Right about now boats of various shapes and sizes full of passengers of various shapes and sizes are leaving Ushuaia (the southernmost town in the world), braving the Drake Passage and heading for Antarctica as the short tourist season opens. Penguins rule the frozen continent. The rest of us are just visiting. We visited Antarctica last year right about this time aboard the MV Antarctic Dream and, as we posted at the time it was a dream come true:

Right now we’re debuting some videos we shot in Antarctica–shown for the first time here.

Penguins, orcas and seals

Penguins are adorable. Orcas are deadly. Seals are way bigger than you think. We got close to all of them. Check it out.


Gentoo penguins in Port Lockroy

More penguins, this time they’re swarming around the research station in a rocky, windy place called Port Lockroy.


Aboard the MV Antarctic Dream

The truth is that you’re going to spend most of your Antarctic adventure on board the boat traveling to various points of interest and/or waiting out bad weather. Much of this video was shot from onboard the MV Antarctic Dream, including up in the bridge as well as from Zodiacs during excursions away from the ship.


A (relatively) calm day on the Drake Passage

The Atlantic and Pacific oceans bump bellies at a spot called the Drake Passage. This notoriously rough stretch of sea must be crossed immediately leaving Ushuaia and again returning to port in Ushuaia. It takes two to three days to get through the Drake Passage and seas are usually rough to hellish. We lucked out with swells peaking at just 30-40 feet (moderately rough). Here’s a taste…
If we’ve helped inspire your own Antarctic dreams, check out our tip-filled newspaper story about How to Make the Most of an Antarctic Adventure and our piece about all the fun you can (hopefully) have with the humans in Antarctica.

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2.5 Years, 250 Posts, 7 Links Worth Re-Visiting

We started our Trans-Americas Journey blog 2.5 years ago and we’ve produced more than 250 posts since then.

When we were nominated by Immersed in the World to contribute to the “My 7 Links” project on Tripbase it felt like the prefect time (and perfect reason) to take a little stroll back through blog history and fulfill the pretty simple mandate to come up with seven posts that fit into the following categories.

Some posts are old favorites, others are unsung heroes but they all deserve a second look!


Our Most Beautiful Post

You Know You Want It: MORE Antarctica Photos

Even the word Antarctica is beautiful and we made the most of the wonders of the white continent (penguins! glaciers! killer whales!) during adventure aboard the MV Antarctic Dream.



Our Most Popular Post

What’s In Your (Travel) Wallet?

Our own frustration at being charged foreign transaction fees when using a credit card outside the US  inspired a whole lot of digging until we uncovered the one, the only credit card that makes sense for serial travelers like ourselves who just can’t bear giving someone money for nothing. Which credit card is it? You’ll have to read the post (like more than 7,000 other travelers have) to find out.


Our Most Controversial Post

Rockstar in the Bullring

Spaniard Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza is not just a rejoneador (a matador who fights bulls on horseback). He is the world’s best rejoneador so when we had the chance to watch one of his fights during his most recent tour of Mexico we had to go. Whatever your feelings about bullfighting (and, trust us, there ARE feelings) the experience gave us an amazing glimpse into Latin culture and an amazing display of horsemanship.



Our Most Helpful Post

How To Have A Mexican Road Trip

After 18 months and nearly 25,000 miles on the road in Mexico we learned a thing or two (sometimes the hard way) about how to have a Mexican road trip. This comprehensive post covers all the bases from topes warnings to how to get out of a police shakedowns to which insurance to buy to the pros and cons of toll roads.  Read this before you drive over the border (we sure wish we’d had a resource like this before we left). You’re welcome.



The Post Whose Success Surprised Us

Fiesta de 188 Aniversario – Union de Tula, Jalisco, Mexico

We went to Tula with our friends in the Delgadillo family from Guadalajara. The patriarch of the family, who was born in Union de Tula, returned with his family to his home town to celebrate the 188th anniversary of its founding and we tagged along. We had a lovely time being welcomed to each neighborhood’s food and tequila and music-filled street parties and we produced a very nice post about a very nice Mexican town. End of story.

Nope. This post was an instant, huge hit. It rocketed through the roof and instantly to the top of our most popular posts list and stayed there for months. What readers were (and still are) after are the two videos embedded in the post–one of an adorable 5-year-old cowboy dancing up a storm in front of a band and another of couples dancing (very closely) to banda music in the town square. To date, these videos have been viewed more than 54,000 times. That accounts for more than 25% of all the views of all of the 150 videos on our YouTube channel.

Turns out, a high percentage of those born in Tula now live and work outside Mexico–mostly in the US (we met the two long lost sons, below, during our time in Tula) and they’re homesick. Very, very homesick.



The Post We Feel Didn’t Get the Attention It (totally) Deserved

Children of Semana Santa – Antigua, Guatemala

Come on! This post has adorable children and one of the most famous and colorful religious events in one of the most popular destinations in Guatemala. Did cold-hearted readers care? Not so much.



The Post We’re Most Proud Of

Flower Wars: Is Your V-Day Bouquet Destroying the Jungles of Belize?

Published just prior to Valentine’s Day, this post alerted many readers to a hidden problem with that annual V-day bouquet. Besides being more than a bit trite as love tokens go, many bouquets use an innocuous-looking palm frond as cheap, long-lasting filler. This frond is from a species of xate palm and almost all of it is harvested in the jungles of Belize (having already been seriously depleted in Guatemala and Mexico) and sold to huge international floral companies.

Where’s the problem? Let’s see…illegal border crossing, animal poaching, jungle clearing, theft, violence and all of it in vast tracts of untouched jungle where endangered species like the harpy eagle are trying to regain a foothold. Makes chocolates look like a genius move.



To keep the ball rolling, We’d like to nominate the following great bloggers to take part in the My 7 Links project:



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This New Map Puts our Posts in their Place

With a little help from Google and our Geo-Mashup plugin we’ve created a map that allows anyone with a really boring job, a doctor’s note ordering bed rest or a passion for maps to instantly see where our blog posts correspond to, geographically speaking.

Roll over the markers to see the post title. Click on the markers to see a portion of the post. Click on the post title to open that post in full. You can move around the map, as well as zoom in and out as you would with any Google map.

It’s like a “Where’s Waldo” for our blog posts and we hope you’ll return to this post (where this map will live in a continually updated state) and check out this graphic way to see where we’ve been and what we’re talking about.


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Our Latest Work: The penguins & people of Antarctica and Valentine’s Day Salvation

We finished two freelance travel stories reported during our recent adventures in Antarctica. The first, for the Toronto Sun, is full of tips for making the most of your Antarctic Adventure. Hint: bring ski goggles. The other feature, published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune,  is about having fun with the human animals you encounter in the White Continent. Hint: bring a Snoopy Snowcone Machine.  Minneapolis Star Tribune Antarctica travelWaited a bit too long to make plans for a special Valentine’s Day getaway this year? Our latest feature for Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, about 10 of the most romantic hotels in the US, will save your procrastinating butt.

 Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, about 10 of the most romantic hotels in the US

Visit the Published Work page of our website any time to see all of our freelance travel stories in one place.

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Photo Essay: Even More Antarctica

This post is part 2 of 3 in the series Antarctica

Because penguins are adorable and no one believes we were THIS close to killer whales or that icebergs get to be the size of skyscrapers, we’re sharing even more of Eric’s photos from our recent Antarctic adventure aboard the M/V Antarctic Dream.

The beauty of Antarctica.

The crazy blues created by icebergs in Antarctic water.

An excursion away from the M/V Antarctic Dream in small zodiacs to get closer to wildlife and icebergs.

Gentoo penguins are impossibly charming.

Gentoo penguins with our home for 11 days, the M/V Antarctic Dream, in the background.

Gentoo penguins in Port Lockroy, one of the shore excursions on an Antarctic adventure.

It was tempting to travel through this arch created as wind eroded away an iceberg, but that’s strictly forbidden since icebergs can capsize at any moment.

Antarctica, land of the midnight sun.

A killer whale welcoming party.

The crabeater seals were curious but cautious.

It’s clear how chinstrap penguins got their name.

Gentoo penguins at Port Lockroy, one of the land excursions during an Antarctic adventure.

Gentoo penguins were busy collecting small stones to construct their nests with when we were in Antarctica.

It was tempting to travel through this arch created as wind eroded away an iceberg but that’s strictly forbidden since icebergs can capsize at any moment.

A change in the weather had us traveling through surface ice that was clearly beginning to re-form.

Colder temperatures created conditions that made us glad our M/V Antarctic Dream ship was built as an ice-breaker with a reinforced hull.

This is what passes for flirting as gentoo penguins woo their partners so they can do what they came here to do…

…which they are not shy about at all.

Iceberg art in Antarctica.

Navigation charts keeping us on course and away from the bergs in Antarctica.

Check out the feature we did for the Dallas Morning News including tips for making the most of your trip to Antarctica and our feature for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about all of the onboard adventures you’ll have.

Here’s more about travel in Antarctica


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The White Continent or Bust – Antarctica

This post is part 1 of 3 in the series Antarctica

We just got back from an 11-day trip through Antarctica, aka the white continent, on the M/V Antarctic Dream. Here are some just-back highlights from this trip of a lifetime including penguins, icebergs whales, and humans.

Our home for 11 days: the M/V Antarctic Dream

Just-back highlights from Antarctica

Followers of our Journey know that we’ve been anticipating our Antarctic adventure since August and the planet’s most remote continent totally lived up the hype and went well beyond our expectations. Take a look.

And that’s not even a BIG iceberg by Antarctic standards.

The penguins of Antarctica

Penguins are even cuter than you think and we saw thousands of them–mainly gentoo and chinstraps.

Gentoo penguins near Port Lockroy, one of the shore excursions during an Antarctic adventure.

Gentoo penguins near Port Lockroy, one of the shore excursions during an Antarctic adventure.

Gentoo penguins near Port Lockroy, one of the shore excursions during an Antarctic adventure.

We also got a rare and exciting sighting of a lone emperor penguin (the four foot tall stars of March of the Penguins) on an iceberg far, far from its usual home.

A lost and lonely emperor penguin adrift on an iceberg.

The icebergs of Antarctica

Icebergs, which can reach more than 10 miles (16 km) in length, were stars of the trip as well. They came in intricate wind-swept shapes, impossible blue colors and the ice is ultra-clear, like glass. We know because Karen braved the frigid water and reached in to retrieve a small chunk to enjoy in an on-board cocktail.

The tip of the iceberg in Antarctica.

The whales of Antarctica

We did not put our hands in the water during a zodiac excursion during which our inflatable boat was surrounded by a pod of seven killer whales. We also sighted minke whales on a couple of occasions and crabeater seals and Weddell seals also made appearances.

Our zodiacs were surrounded by pod of killer whales during one shore excursion in Antarctica.

That killer whale dorsal fin is at least three feet tall and its heading straight for our shipmates.

The humans of Antarctica

There were also many human highlights on the ship including “Ernie Shack, Adventure Addict”, the captain’s wife, the crazy defense attorney from New York who brought along her Snoopy Snowcone maker, el Capitan Guapo, The Glen (who went skinny dipping one day and performed a necessarily brief yet impressive re-enactment of the loping way penguins swim), our fearless leader Pablo and, of course, Maxi. Oh, and Jacques Cousteau’s granddaughter Céline Cousteau was on the ship with a film crew working on a series of TV show about the waters around Chile.

Our shipmate The Glen (who has a tattoo of the Antarctic continent on his back) went skinny dipping in the frigid Antarctic waters off Deception Island.

To learn more about travel to Antarctica, check out the feature we wrote for the Dallas Morning News including tips for making the most of your trip to Antarctica and our feature for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about all of the onboard adventures you’ll have.

Antarctic travel tips

All travelers to Antarctica are required to have a medical evacuation insurance policy just in case something awful happens out there in the middle of nowhere. On Call International has covered us on our Trans-Americas Journey for more than a year now so we didn’t have to worry about arranging coverage (or dealing with a catastrophe). Because we were already covered we could focus on just being excited about this trip of a lifetime.

We weren’t taking any chances with the notoriously rough waters of the Drake Passage where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans crash up against each other, so we went the prescription route and used a Scopolamine patch. But we also armed ourselves with homeopathic remedies including a pair of Sea Bands. These simple, cheap, reusable devices–picture an old-school wrist sweatband like McEnroe used to wear with a plastic ball embedded in one side–stave off nausea caused by motion sickness (or morning sickness) by applying pressure to a specific point in your wrist. The combo worked and we made it through the passage without getting seasick.

Our route from Ushuaia, Argentina at the bottom of South America, across the Drake Passage and on to the Antarctic Peninsula.

No, we didn’t drive to Antarctica. Our thanks to LATAM Airlines, which flew  us to Ushuaia and back and to the M/V Antarctic Dream which took us from there.

Here’s more about travel to Antarctica

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