Flying to Antarctica : From Punta Arenas into King George Island #missioncurrypenguin

Our Antarctic trip was delayed by almost 48 hours!! When you lost almost 20% of your trip because of weather and being stuck in Chile, one is bound to be impatient and unhappy.

However, you will have opportunities to see a departure board with Antarctica … you’re probably never going to see this destination at another airport outside of Ushuaia.

Most people were fed up and frustrated at the wait in Punta Arenas. Some people were preparing or waiting for this trip their entire lives and most were very excited to ring in the New Year on the continent, which was an opportunity that was lost.

Boarding that plane was definitely a relief for us!!!

We did bring up the New Year at the Dreams Hotel, but this was a hollow New Years celebration – in the end, we were promised something on the ship to make up for it.
For most people on the trip, this was an opportunity that was lost forever. When we finally got permission to take off, there was a palpable sense of relief and you can feel this as we were getting ready to touch down …

The landing itself was quite unique … it was so low to the ground and with the sight of glaciers, volcanic rock and stormy seas made for a fantastic visual. I was very happy that we had landed safely … although my source of anxiety was never the flight but rather the sea voyage back to the mainland. That is a worry that I would have to shelve till the end of the trip.

Now if you’re wondering what the airport or the landing strip looks like in King George Island, then you won’t have to stretch your imagination very far. If you can imagine a volcanic road in Iceland, then you know what the landing strip here looks like. Spartan isn’t even the word I would use to describe … I would use the word “Rudimentary”

After getting your safety briefings and warming up in the tents, then you have to make your way to the zodiacs that will take you to the ship. If you’re wondering how we felt … I think the picture sums it up

Zodiacs are a cross between a boat and a catamaran, with an outboard motor and rigid floor. A Zodiac comfortably holds 10–12 passengers plus the driver, who stands in the centre at the back.

Here are some tips and details that helped me to understand and enjoy my Zodiac rides

  1. Why a Zodiac is special
    This small, inflatable, rubber motorized craft is swift, stable and maneuverable. It’s ideal for navigating rocky shallow waters. You get close-up views of places regular boats cannot access.
  2. The Sea Adventurer’s fleet
    They had 12 Zodiacs. Each accommodates 10 passengers plus the skipper.
  3. Number of trips
    You normally make two Zodiac excursions per day, one in the morning, the second in the afternoon. Each lasts approximately 1.5 hours.
  4. Types of Zodiac trips
    Most are landings, others are sightseeing cruises through iceberg-dotted bays and channels.
  5. Wet landings
    There are no docks, so you have to make wet landings. This means you slide off the Zodiac into shallow water averaging a depth of 30 centimeters or 12 inches) and walk ashore.
  6. What you see
    You observe large rookeries of waddling penguins and their charming chicks, beaches spotted with lazing seals, cliffs sporting a myriad of seabird nests, and spectacular icebergs and landscapes.
  7. Always try to be on the first group … so you avoid your yellow jacketed friends
    I always tried to be on either the first or last departing Zodiac. This always allows the freedom to take pictures unimpeded by your cabin/seatmates. I also tried to be at the front of the zodiacs, so I would have non-obscured shots during the rides

On your way to the Zodiacs, we passed through the walls of ice on either side. On each side of the ice was the Chilean or Russian side. The one thing I did notice was that everyone seemed to work together. I guess in the coldness of Antarctica, you have to be your brother’s keeper in such a harsh environment.

This was the Chilean side of the ice …
This was the Russian side of the ice…
This was a Russian showing his side of the ice. Did the sign clue you off?
Wanna know how you can identify the Russian side of the ice … when there is a Russian Orthodox church … who builds a church in Antarctica? Da Russians! More to come on that story!

Here is the video of us walking through the ice between Russia and Chile … on our way to the Zodiacs.

It’s definitely a preview to all the ice you will be seeing on the last continent. Everyone was excited, even while jumping through puddles, kicking ice blocks and falling into the mud.

After all that walking, we were within sight of the zodiacs. At this point, I got word from the Russians that we could steal off to see the Russian Orthodox church. I can’t even try to explain how the Russians explained my Trinidadian presence at their church in Antarctica to the Russian authorities, but they managed to do it.

On ships like the Sea Adventurer, guests have almost unrestricted access to the bridge and you can look and ask questions about the nautical technology on display.

Sitting in the Captain’s chair!

Throughout the ship, you’re constantly reminded of where the ship and the position via these display screens. I thought that this helped a lot when trying to orient yourself on the boat.

After all the chaos with the weather, rocky flight and conditions, it was a relief in the end that we could enjoy our first Antarctic sunset.

About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at

Check Also

Port Lockroy Museum and the Naked Ladies

Port Lockroy is a natural harbour on the Antarctic Peninsula of the British Antarctic Territory. …

Curry Penguins and Postcards in Port Lockroy, Antarctica #missioncurrypenguin

If ever you’re looking for a Penguin cookbook, you have to head no further than …