Packing redux

A post about how my packing worked out.

I always have a hard time packing for weather that I’m not in right at that very moment, and this was the ultimate “hard to imagine what I’ll feel like wearing” trip. It was mainly a case of making sure I had the right layers.


Here’s the post where I first detailed my packing list, if you want to look back: Layers, layers, layers

So how did it all work out? Did I pack the right things?

Nano puff jacket. (Patagonia Nano Puff) Never really needed this. I brought this onto shore on all our landings just in case, so it was nice to have something that packed down small. Jeff wore his as his outer layer a few times on the deck of the ship instead of the big yellow parka.

Ski pants. (NorthFace insulated ski pants) Perfect. Kept me warm and dry, no complaints.

Fuzzy warm fleece jacket. (Patagonia Los Gatos fleece jacket) I didn’t really need this. It just wasn’t that cold.

Hiking pants.  (Prana Halle pant) These are what I wore on the ship between landings and on sea days. I’d just switch out of the ski pants into these, over a pair of long underwear.

Gloves. (Freehands photo gloves—these ran really small so I needed a large.) My photo gloves were perfect. Kept my hands warm and I loved being able to just let my index finger and thumb peek out to work the camera controls. I had a backup pair of waterproof gloves with me but never needed to use them. I also packed some Smartwool liners, thinking these might be good for working the camera and still protecting me from the cold a little, but I never wore these.

Long underwear bottoms. (Patagonia capilene) Two pair of Patagonia capilene, one cap 4 (expedition-weight) and one cap 3 (medium-weight). Two pairs was plenty. I washed them out in the sink a couple of times. They did a great job of keeping me warm and dry. I definitely worked up a sweat on some of the hikes, and the long underwear never even felt damp.

Long underwear tops. Two Patagonia tops, one cap 3 and one cap 2. Same as with the bottoms. Great performance, dried fairly quickly when I washed them out in the sink, too. Two tops were enough.

Fleece. (Basic fleece from the Gap that I’ve had for years, so no link.) I wore this as my top layer onboard the ship, and then wore the yellow parka (which also has a fleece lining) over it when I was outside. Plenty warm outside in these layers.


The three of us hanging out on the bridge of the ship.

Fleece-lined wool hat. Worked great. Sometimes was hot when I was hiking, so I’d take it off and put it in a pocket.

Polar buff. (Fleece buff) Could be used in lots of ways, but I never used mine even once. Jeff wore his as a hat/face covering as you can see above.

Sports bra. (Under Armour sports bra) So glad I had this. Like I said, I broke a sweat on several hikes, so it was nice to have wicking material next to my skin.

Smartwool ski and hiking socks, plus liners. (Smartwool) Never needed the liners. The smartwool socks were plenty warm on their own.

Underwear. I packed enough for a new pair everyday without needing to wash any on the trip.

Swimsuit. For the polar plunge!

Sunglasses, two pairs. In case I lost one.

Hiking shoes. These are the only shoes I brought. They worked well for hiking in Tierra del Fuego NP in Ushuaia and had good traction for wearing on the ship’s deck.

I also packed a pair of jeans and a couple regular long-sleeved shirts for wearing before & after the trip. If I’d really needed the space, I could’ve skipped these, but there was no reason to, as I had plenty of space in my pack.

So that’s it for my clothes. We packed everything in soft-sided luggage (backpacking packs) because we weren’t sure what space in our cabin would be like. As it turned out, there was space under the beds, so we could’ve stored hard-sided suitcases there with no problem.

Other things I packed:

Hothands hand warmers. Never used these.

Vicks. I’d read that penguin poop really stank, so I brought this to put under my nose to kill the smell. But I never really noticed a bad smell other than on one landing (Neko Harbour), and even then it wasn’t bad enough that I felt like I needed Vicks.

Sunscreen. Besides that the snow is reflecting the UV rays, there’s a hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica. The good thing is, you’re so covered up in clothes that really the only exposed skin is your face, so you don’t need a ton of sunscreen.

Phenergan, SeaBands, Dramamine. I was determined to be prepared for whatever the Drake threw at us. In the end, only the phenergan helped me at all. I was so glad to have this!

Woolite travel laundry soap. These are what I used to wash out my long underwear in the sink.

I think that’s everything. In a real pinch you could probably buy everything you really needed from the ship’s gift shop, although you wouldn’t have many choices. But they did seem to stock all of the essentials, so if you forgot something, you wouldn’t be completely out of luck.



I’m honored to have some of my photos of penguins and seals featured today on’s Daily Cute. I mean, that guy above is super cute, right? And you don’t know how hard it was not to reach down and pet the fuzzy little penguin chicks who walked right up to us.

They post a lot of cute animals, so if you go to this site, you may not get anything else done for the next hour. (And thanks, Daily Cute, for the feature!)

I’m working on more posts now, but what else about this trip are you interested in knowing about? I know I need to post a review of what I packed—what I used, what I didn’t, what I’d do different. Though now that the Antarctic season is over there’s probably no rush on that one. No one’s going that way for a few more months.

Day 8: Humpbacks and the polar plunge

After lunch this day, as we sailed to our next destination, we encountered a bunch of humpback whales that swam all around the front of our ship, like they were playing with us. For at least 15 or 20 minutes they swam and jumped, over and over, showing off their beautiful tails. It was totally incredible.
How you spot a whale: blow. Different whales, according to our whale expert, Jimmy, have different types of blow, so you (well, HE) can identify the type of whale just from the blow.


A bunch of happy passengers

Some of the whales were THIS CLOSE to our ship. Remember Tom, who I told you takes as many pictures as I do? That’s him practically on top of the whale. AMAZING.
And the sun finally came out!

Then we reached Useful Island, which the team had chosen for the site of our polar plunge. (How do they choose? I do not know. The previous two days Alex had mentioned that we might do it that day, but for whatever reason, it got postponed both times. I thought if we kept putting it off we were going to have to polar plunge in the Drake, but luckily, we found a good spot this day.)

Alex announced over the PA that it was time and to come on down to the gangway as soon as you were ready. The water was a balmy 3 degrees Celsius—about 37 F—which was warmer than I was expecting. The outside air was about the same.

Jeff, Allen & I left the cabin at different times, as soon as we each were dressed in our swimsuits, and thus we ended up in totally different places in line. The gangway is not very large, so people lined up in the order they arrived, snaking down the hallway and leaving room for the drenched folks who had already jumped to walk past us.


Line of people waiting their turn for the polar plunge

Vodka shots when you got back on after your jump. (That’s Absolut Sea Cruise Edition Vodka. Google tells me this special edition bottle is available on various Caribbean cruises. Antarctica, too, apparently.)
The view as we jumped.
Allen & Jeff going in. One of the Quark team was positioned in a zodiac where he could photograph us as we jumped. Jeff wore his GoPro. I’ll post his video later.
A fellow passenger who was up on deck took this shot of my jump.

They sent us down one person at a time on the gangplank. Jeet (the doctor) was at the door of the ship. There were two guys at the bottom of the plank. One fastened a harness on me. And then I said, “So I just jump? Like, whenever I’m ready?” The hardest part for me was the moment before…making the decision to actually jump. But then I did it, and I yelled out, and I jumped in. What struck me wasn’t even the cold, it was the salt.

I jumped in, came up, immediately turned around and started trying to figure out how to get out. It was over pretty fast (I’ve seen the video Jeff took) but it felt longer.
Came back up the gangplank, someone handed me a towel and then a shot of vodka. Overall, not as bad as I thought it would be.

All in all, 36 of the 117 passengers on our trip did the polar plunge. Two of the guys went to the back of the line and did it a second time.

After this, we showered, had the recap and dinner, and then did a landing on the actual continent after dinner…which was one of my favorite landings of all. (But it’s hard to rate them, really, because every single one of them was amazing.)

Day 8: Port Charcot

This morning we were hoping for an early morning landing at Cape Tuxen before breakfast. This was our first attempt at a continental landing, but it was not to be. It was too stormy and the water too rough to land there. Alex came on the PA for our 6am wake-up call with the news that we couldn’t do that landing after all, so we could all go back to sleep.

Instead, we repositioned to a more protected area where we would be able to land safely. After breakfast, we did a split-landing—half time on land at Port Charcot, half time on a zodiac cruise. Allen, Jeff & I were in the land-first group.
This is probably my favorite photo from the entire trip. (If I had to choose just one.)
Taking photos from the ship as we wait for our zodiac group to be called
Hey, seals.
Getting some GoPro footage
This was a private French yacht with a team on board who were filming underwater wildlife. Snorkeling in Antarctica is serious bzness.
I did not know until this trip that penguins jump out of the water like this as they swim! We saw this many times, and every time it was just as fun to watch.
It was snowing lightly this morning.
Penguins like to enter the water in groups, in case there’s a predator waiting.
Penguin highway…white means coming, black means going.

And then it was time to hop in a zodiac for a cruise through some spectacular ice.
There’s a waterfall coming off this one…see it?
More of the awesome jumping penguins
And even more penguins.
Double arch!!
Look at all the seals swimming together.
Then we came upon this seal chilling on a hunk of ice. We cruised right by him, very slowly.
He was mildly curious about us.
And then it was time to go back on the ship. Next up…humpback whales and the polar plunge!

Ship life

Life on the ship! I’ve showed you a lot of penguins and icebergs and seals and amazing things outside the ship, but what were things like inside the ship?

Here was our room, cabin 200. Allen slept in the bed on the right; I got the bottom bunk, and Jeff took the top. He never fell out of bed (I was worried about this crossing the Drake!) but it seemed like at least once a night we’d hear a *thud* as he banged a knee or arm on the ceiling. (Actually, crossing the Drake I was more worried he’d get sick and it would end up on me. Luckily, that didn’t happen either.)


Our porthole

Bathroom. It was small but got the job done. Body wash and shampoo were attached to the wall. There was also a clothes line strung across the shower that you can make out if you look closely. Every couple of days I’d wash out my long underwear & socks in the sink and hang them to dry. The towel rack behind the toilet was also heated…a nice touch. There were some shelves next to the sink with railings to hold things in.

The view from the beds toward the door. The TV didn’t play regular TV channels, but instead there was a channel for the daily program, a channel that broadcast whatever was happening in the main lounge (lectures, recap, people getting cookies & tea…haha), and a couple of channels where they played movies about Antarctica.

The first day on the ship someone told us to talk to reception if we had hotel issues, like if we weren’t happy with the chocolates on our pillows. I thought they were joking, but no! Each morning housekeeping made up our beds, and each night during dinner they did turn-down service that included chocolates on our pillows.

I did get hit in the head once with Jeff’s chocolate when he’d forgotten it was there and accidentally flung it off the bed down to me.

The white board was just outside the main lounge in the reception desk area. The guides often wrote notes to us there…reminders about things, or tips on things to look for. This is also where there was a running list of wildlife that was spotted each day.



Our flight map showing where we are

A room we spent a lot of time in…the main lounge. This was during one of the recaps.

Jeff reading as he waits for a lecture to start. When we weren’t in there for lectures or recaps, this is where I would go with my laptop to download and backup my photos and to scan through what I had gotten so far.


Stuff about Antarctica

They put together a daily newspaper for various countries each day so people could keep up with what was happening in the world. Our passengers were pretty evenly divided among USA, UK, Australia, and Canada, with a few other nationalities thrown in, so there were editions for each of those places.

There was also a map of the Antarctic peninsula where each day they labeled where we’d stopped.

The ship library. There were tons of books on the Arctic and Antarctic. This is also where there were two computers we could use to check email, and where they had a laptop for uploading photos to share with everyone.

There was also a very small but very packed gift shop. It was open various times when we were on the ship (not during landings). They sold souvenirs (stickers, shirts, keychains, anything penguin you can think of) and gear (dry bags, long underwear, waterproof gloves, fleeces, GoPro cameras, etc.).

So that was ship life. What else do you want to know about the ship itself?

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