The infamous Drake Passage, 700 miles of open water separating Cape Horn from the Antarctic Peninsula, was unusually kind to us, but even so, half of the 64 passengers were confined to cabins. As we edged our way across, wandering albatross and storm petrels followed our wake, gracefully swooping and soaring in their endless search for food.

We arrived at the South Shetland Islands disembarking by zodiac onto a rocky shore where a noisy (and smelly!) colony of gentoo penguins were on hand to greet us. Disinterested elephant and fur seals reclined on the beach, barely moving as we knelt to take too many photographs. In the afternoon we sailed into the flooded caldera of Deception Island, the old whaling station gradually giving up its soul to the harsh weather. More penguins and seals.

A night’s sail took us through the archipelago to the mainland, a sense of insignificance enveloping us all as we took our first steps on the White Continent, an area larger than Australia where not a single animal can call their home. More penguins, this time the little Adele identified by the white ring around their eyes. A landing at a Chilean research centre made us wonder quite what you had to do wrong to end up with this posting.

The following morning was spent in zodiacs cruising beneath ice cliffs which soared hundreds of feet above us waiting to crack and form another slowly moving iceberg. Later we arrived at Port Lockroy, the home of the Antarctic Heritage Trust which proved a fascinating insight into living in Antarctica. Excellent shop as well as a British post office so we all wrote cards home but then discovered we had missed the last boat of the summer and nothing would be picked up until October.

And then the sun came out and the true surreal, majestic beauty of the place came to life. We cruised in a bay without a drop of wind, mountains reflecting in the still waters, humpback whales arching through the water, flocks of penguins searching for food, seals basking on icebergs. A truly remarkable and unforgettable moment in time.

A final excursion to see chinstrap penguins and more seals, and all too soon we were heading back towards Ushuaia, even calmer than before, allowing us to round Cape Horn, an old naval chart reminding us of just how many ships have foundered there over the centuries. Without question one of the greatest trips, I have ever made.

Find out more about this cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula

Watch Nick’s film of his voyage taken in March this year:

Thanks for reading

Author: Steppes Travel