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Plan Z - Unpredictable Antarctica

Antarctica is notoriously one of the most remote, harsh, and unpredictable places on the planet. I knew this, and yet I was still amazed at how truly dynamic it is. Every day spent there was a humbling experience and a reminder that mother nature is a force to be reckoned with. We are not in control.

When you board an Antarctic expedition cruise, the captain and expedition team have an ideal schedule in mind. They have mapped out which landing sites you will visit and where would be most ideal to do some activities like camping or the polar plunge. However, as we quickly learned, plans change in Antarctica. They change quickly and they change often - and it's OK! Anyone who is used to operating on a strict schedule will quickly have to learn to go with the flow on one of these cruises!

On day 1 of our cruise, we had a briefing during which we met the entire expedition team and ship crew. Our expedition leader, Pablo, was a seasoned veteran celebrating his 20th season leading expedition cruises to Antarctica. We were in good hands. And yet, the first thing he told us as we all settled in, buzzing with anticipation, is that we had not even left the port of Ushuaia yet, and our plans had already changed. You see, our cruise was supposed to be traveling below the Antarctic Circle. Every attempt would be made, but as the team monitored conditions and sea ice, it was looking rather iffy.

This routine continued nearly every day on board. During the re-cap each night, the expedition team would tell us what we had planned to do and what we were doing instead. There are countless reasons why plans will change so frequently in Antarctica. Most of them have to do with weather - wind, sea ice, storms, etc. But there are some situations that you can't wrap your head around until you hear your guide telling you "We can't land at this site today because there are too many penguins." Only in Antarctica, right?

The continuously changing plans did not affect our experience one bit. Each day was seemingly better than the last. We were cruising the peninsula for eight days and got out for two excursions almost every single day. Our expedition team was beyond fabulous at making sure all passengers were having a good time and, more importantly, understood that our safety was their first priority and that decisions were being made based on that every minute of every day.

An open mind and flexibility are key to making an Antarctic expedition cruise successful, safe, and incredible for all involved. For the umpteenth time, a big thank you to our amazing expedition team. I am forever grateful to them for keeping us all safe and creating memories with us that will last a lifetime.

A map of the region found at a research base
A map of the region found at a research base (Molly Hutchison)
Our expedition crew
Our expedition crew (Molly Hutchison)

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