“One small step for yer man”: Stepping Foot On Antarctica – Barrientos, Aitcho Islands

There it was. The magical. The dream really happenned, and it happened at a place that most of you reading will NEVER have heard of – Barrientos. I stepped foot in Antarctica. Be honest, if you haven’t been to Antarctica, would you ever have heard of “Barrientos”?

So what is Barrientos exactly? OK it is a very small island in a group of cold Antarctic islands known as Aitcho Islands. Aitcho Islands themselves are part of the even larger group of islands called the South Shetland Islands.

The night before our arrival in the continent of Antarctica was a memorable one – we had passed the worst parts of the dreaded Drake Passage and were called into the main lounge bar room for a summing up and preparation for the next day. We were ahead of schedule and Julio, the Gap Adventures leader announced that we were going to have our first Antarctica landing the next day in the early afternoon. Everyone was so perked up by this stage.

The announcement revealed we would land on Aitcho Islands, a group of islands in the South Shetland Islands. Nobody had heard of Aitcho Islands.

And on the following day, after looking out on deck and seeing the land of white magic, I saw with my own eyes….ANTARCTICA. It is that breath taking, it is that awe inspiring. Once you’ve been to Antarctica, the only thing that will beat is is landing on the moon. Seriously.

Out on deck before heading to land on Antarctica for the first time. I was far too overdressed – got very sweaty on that first trip. But you learn from your mistakes. Antarctica will shock – it’s not that cold.

With Lee from England and Joseph from Canada on deck before hitting land.

In the Mud Room on board just before my first steps on this white wilderness.

One of the crew casing the joint so to speak.

And there it is – my first landing on Antarctica, the joy of which befell this unknown island called Barrientos, one of the Aitcho Islands group.

My eye feast on standing on Antarctica.

The beach.

Gentoo Penguins at Barrientos Aitcho Islands.

A Chinstrap Penguin. It was lonely in amongst all the Gentoos.

I’ve done it. I’ve stepped foot in Antarctica!! First ever photo of me on this continent.

Then I saw a dark Weddell Seal. Just amazing seeing such nature in its real habitat. If I had lost any love for animals (or ever had any), I definitely found a love for them now. This seal looked up at me. I was amused.

My first footprint on Antarctic snow. It was just surreal. Very hard to sum up unless you have been there. Probably like when Neil Armstrong pretended to walk on the moon.
The view of the beach as we began our walk round the island.

Looking back at our ship, the MS Expedition.

Lying on the Antarctic snow for the first time.

An antarctic wilderness.

A sun almost shines on Barrientos Aitcho Islands.

The walk through Barrientos involved the leaders being on walkie talkies to each other and calling us to points of the island where there was interesting wildlife. We were summoned to go over a hill and down where lots of seals awaited, including a rare sight of a Weddell Seal lying next to her pup.

The Weddell Seal and her pup.

Flying the Northern Ireland flag at Barrientos Aitcho Islands.

Being caught up on a blizzard on the walk back to the Zodiacs.

Lying down with a Crabeater Seal.

A penguin swimming.

I cannot remember how long I spent on the island of Barrientos. Time stops in Antarctica. It was the most pleasing experience of my life to date. As I boarded the last Zodiac to leave Barrientos that day, I raised a selfish smile thinking “Antarctica – been there, done that, it’s all it cracked up to be, and more…”

Thank you Barrientos and goodnight. Sleep well.

Where Is It? – Barrientos Island, one of the Aitcho Islands group as part of The South Shetland Islands, off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.
The Date – Monday 8th November 2010
Position – 62o24’S/59o47’W

Weather – cold, windy, snowy, blizzardy, non piercing sun

Temperature – Minus 2 degrees

Shops on Barrientos – None

Local Pub – On Board the boat – the Polar Bear Bar

Nationalities Met – Australian, Antarctican, English, United Statesish, Canadaian, Hong Kongese, Israeli, Irish, Belgian, Austrian, Swiss, German, Italian, Scottish, Brazilian, Argentinian, Phillipeno, Penguin, Vietnamese, Panamaniac, New Zealanders, French, Polish (hope that’s it)

Strange Currencies – The Antarctic Air

Transport Used – Ship (MS Expedition), Zodiacs

Animals seen – Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins; Weddell, Crabeater, Fur and Leopard Seals; Cormorants

Moving moment – stepping on land at Antarctica for the first time, thanks Barrientos Aitcho Islands!
How to Backpack your way to Antarctica!! Don’t Stop Living is condemned to a lifestyle of travel!










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