Posts Tagged ‘antarctica’

Photo Friday: Antarctica
Friday, January 25th, 2013

Today’s Photo Friday comes from the ends of the earth – Antarctica! Meet, Plan, Go! co-founder Sherry Ott recently cruised to Antarctica with her father and had plenty of great stories and photos to show for it.

Interested in checking out Antarctica on your career break? Don’t miss Sherry’s post about what to expect when cruising to the seventh continent. And to read more about Sherry’s travels, check out or follow her on Twitter as @ottsworld.

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Cruising to Antarctica on Your Career Break
Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Career breakers plan their itineraries in all kinds of crazy ways – some itineraries are driven by a themes such as volunteering or service, food, geographic areas or photography; some are driven by budget; some are itineraries are decided by love, or skill building and some are determined by a bucket list.  However you decide your itinerary is personal to you – the important thing is to simply GO!

I frequently get asked how I decided where to go on my career back back in 2006 – and my answer is always the same,  “I decided that I would do everything I ever wanted to do because, well, finally in my life I could.”  I started by ticking big things off my bucket list such as climbing Kilimanjaro, going on a safari, taking cooking classes in Italy,learning how to sail, seeing the Taj Mahal , and camping in the Sahara Desert.  But there was one thing that eluded those original career break travels until now – Antarctica.

I recently returned from a very special cruise to Antarctica with my father  and for those who are dreaming of setting foot on the Seventh Continent as part of your career break itinerary – here’s some helpful information on what to expect.

What do you do on a cruise to Antarctica?

Once in the Antarctic region/peninsula, each day there were two zodiac landings – one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  We could choose whether to go on them or not.  After the landings of the day were complete, a debriefing took place in the Discovery Lounge for the current day’s landings as well as the next day’s planned landings.  Each night after dinner, we could watch a movie in the Discovery Lounge or listen to music and socialize in the Polar Bear Lounge/bar that stayed open into the very early morning hours!

I also kept very busy each day as the kayaking group would meet and go out during the landings too.  Normally I did one zodiac landing with my father and one kayaking excursion a day.  The kayaking excursions typically lasted about 2 ½ to 3 hours.  Kayaking was by far my favorite activity – and these are some of the reasons why.

When we were cruising through the Drake Passage to get to/from the Peninsula, we could listen to two morning lectures and two afternoon lectures on various topics ranging from Antarctica history, to wildlife, to geology.

There was always something to do.  In fact, some days I was simply exhausted from all of the activity!

What were the Zodiac landings like?

All passengers were assigned to one of four groups.  Two groups would be called down to the mudroom (the loading/unloading area) at once.  Once in the mudroom, you put on all of your gear, which normally consisted of a warm coat, waterproof pants & coat, waterproof boots (provided by the boat), mittens, cap, sunglasses, life jacket, and backpack/camera.  Then you queued to get on a zodiac boat.  You ‘checked out’ of the ship via a swipe card, stepped in a solution to disinfect your boots  (ensuring no foreign critters/bacteria made it to Antarctica) and got on a zodiac.

The zodiac would take you to land and upon landing, an Expedition Leader greeted you and explained the layout of the island, where various penguins or seals were located, what trails you could walk on and what was off limits.  They would also tell you when the last zodiac would be going back to the ship so that you knew how much time you had.  After the briefing, you were on your own to explore and take photos! You typically had about 1 to 1 ½ hours to walk around on your own.   Once you went back to the ship you were checked back in via your swipe card and went through the disinfecting process again.

What was the ship like?

The MS Expedition was built in 1972 and was refurbished in 2009.  It was 345 feet long and 61 feet wide.  It was staffed with 52 crew and about 10 Expedition Staff.  There were approximately 130 passengers on board the ship for our cruise.  It had a reception area, 3 main living/cabin levels, a mud room, a sauna, a large lounge that held all passengers, a dining room, an exercise room, library, computer room, gift shop, and a bar/lounge.

We had a Class 3 cabin, which consisted of two twin beds, a desk & chair, another reading chair, a bathroom with shower, and a decent sized window.  Some of the cabins slept 3 or 4 people and had bunk beds.  There was a daily cleaning service and a nighttime turn down service.

There were plenty of places to lounge around the ship and read or just look out the windows.  You could also go outside on deck or go up to the bridge and visit the captain and crew.

What wildlife did you see?

The expedition staff and crew were wonderful at pointing out the animals and providing you loads of information on them.  In addition, the Captain was thoroughly skilled at maneuvering our large ship very close to the wildlife but not so close that it scared them.  We saw penguins, seals, whales, and a variety of seabirds.  We saw some pretty spectacular sights when it came to the animals – about 50 to 100 Orca whales hunting/aggravating Minke whales, a leopard seal and a pup nursing, and so many penguins it was just a blur of black and white.

In addition to wildlife, we actually visited some human life on Antarctica!  We visited research bases, got our passports stamped, learned about what it was like to live at a base, bought some souvenirs, and even sat and had a drink at a bar in Antarctica!

Still have more Antarctica questions before you include it on your career break itinerary?

Feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments and I’m happy to answer them to the best of my ability!  Also, you may want to check out the ExpeditionTrips website for more information on cruising to Antarctica or simply call their hotline and talk to an expert!

Disclosure: ExpeditionTrips and G Adventures hosted my Antarctic Peninsula Cruise with my father. However, all of the opinions expressed here are my own

Sherry Ott is a co-founder of Meet, Plan, Go!, who is passionate about teaching you how you can take your very own traveling career break or sabbatical.  She is a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer seeking out unique travel experiences and writes about her around the world adventures on

Photo Friday: Aurora Australis – Antarctica
Friday, December 17th, 2010


This Photo Friday of the Aurora Australis in Antarctica is from Keith Martin, who this week shared with us his career break experience in Antarctica (Part 1 & Part 2).

During his final days in Antarctica, Keith was able to finally capture the photo he had hoped to get – that of the Aurora Australis over the Discovery Hut.

I went to hut point and managed to get pictures of [Discovery Hut] with multiple bands of green and blue auroras streaming in large ribbons in the sky to the west of town. The lighting was just right to illuminate the hut in a nice moon glow and the horizon was lit by the setting sun making a surreal sight that I will not ever forget. Those auroras were likely the last of them that I will see on this trip since the night is leaving us quickly and the days are getting long, but I can’t think of a better way to say goodbye to them – I have been trying to get pictures of the Discovery Hut with auroras all winter and I was finally successful on the last night and with some the best auroras I have seen all winter. Goodbye Aurora Australis, I will miss your company!

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Career Break to Antarctica – Part 2
Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

In “Career Break to Antarctica: Part 1” Keith Martin beautifully described his arrival to Antarctica. How did he make the adventure happen?

Keith MartinI have never been one to give up on my dreams easily, so I started looking for other ways to get to Antarctica. Everything I found, from the cruises to mountaineering trips on ski-equipped planes, was exclusively reserved for wealthy travelers. I got my break when I came across a news story that talked about the research going on in Antarctica. That article led me to the website for the U.S. Antarctic Program (currently, which, in turn, led me to the website for Raytheon Polar Services, the scientific support contractor for the U.S. Antarctic Program. I devoured every tidbit of information I could find regarding the Antarctic Program and working in Antarctica and quickly decided that I was going to work down there. The problem was solved, sort of…

There was no question about whether or not I was qualified for the jobs down there, since there were job postings from dishwashers and janitors all the way up to engineers and helicopter pilots, but getting those jobs proved to be another problem. The first year I applied to all of the jobs that I was most excited about: Field Camp Manager, Search and Rescue/Field Training and Equipment Staff, Antenna Rigger – All jobs that would get me out in the field exploring the amazing wilderness. I also applied to the engineering positions, since I am an engineer, but I ignored all of the ‘unskilled’ jobs. In hindsight it is no surprise that I didn’t get a single call.


Career Break to Antarctica – Part 1
Monday, December 13th, 2010

Ever since childhood, Keith Martin dreamt of exploring the far reaches of Antarctica. And in January of 2005, that dream came true as he tackled Antarctica as part of his career break. But it didn’t come easy.

Keith Martin

It was unnaturally hot and, making things even more uncomfortable, I was wearing several layers of expedition-weight fleece, some extreme-cold-weather (ECW) overalls and a set of white, rubber clown boots that made my feet sweat. I was crammed into the back of a C-141 Starlifter, one of the U.S. Air Force’s antiquated workhorses, with several people I would become well acquainted with over the following nine months. We had been airborne for hours, flying southward over a vast ocean of icebergs and ferocious storms.

It had been beautiful and warm when we boarded the plane in Christchurch, New Zealand, yet the rules required us to wear the full compliment of ECW gear we had been given during the flight. Most of us had shed the thick red parka within minutes of take off, but the interior of the Starlifter was still a smothering inferno. I found a bit of relief from the heat when I got up to use the restroom, which for the men was a 55-gallon drum with a funnel and a curtain (the women were sitting in the front of the plane and got to use the flight crew’s bathroom.)

There was an icy draft shooting in through the cracks of the rear cargo door and several people were congregating in the narrow gap between the fuselage and the large pallet of baggage and supplies soaking up the natural air conditioning – I joined them. Despite the discomfort of the hot, cramped quarters, everyone on board was excited. For some people the flight was taking them to a place they thought of as home, for others, myself included, it was rocketing us southward on a grand adventure. A garbled voice materialized out of the jet noise and told us to take our seats – I hadn’t been able to make that out, but the people standing around me were veterans of the program and had been expecting the call.


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