"With two and a bit days of crossing the Drake Passage [between South America and Antarctica], it was a sublime way to be introduced to Antarctica.
"A sunny panorama welcomed us to Half Moon Island and I was rooted to the spot, just watching, awestruck. Antarctica grabs you from the very first moment you lay eyes on it and we couldn't wait to get ashore.
"We didn't need to be told twice to get ready! We layered up with warm clothes then a Zodiac delivered us to the southern shore of Menguante Cove, where snow and ice and lichen-covered rocky spires dominated the landscape and we saw chinstrap penguins and a solitary elephant seal. I was blown away.
"We deposited our lifejackets with a staff member and joined a moving line of expeditioners, walking up the rise. We sank to our knees in the snow with every second or third step but it was a thoroughly enjoyable part of the experience.
"There were industrious - but argumentative - chinstrap penguins nesting on the rocky outcrops and, overhead, the Antarctic skuas (seabirds) were patiently waiting, knowing it was only a matter of time before the penguins would kindly supplement their dining.
"On the ridge, we looked around and could see the Polar Pioneer in Menguante Cove, the Argentinian base, Camara, on the hill and, in the distance, the snow-covered landscape of Livingstone Island.
"To descend, we had the option of walking or dropping on to our rears to 'toboggan' down - strictly away from the penguin pathways, so we wouldn't do any harm to their environment. We all took the 'toboggan' option. At the shoreline there was a further opportunity to try to take it all in. The penguins were coming ashore and following their pathways to the rookeries and we saw a few gentoo penguins among the chinstraps.
"Half Moon Island provided us with the most fabulous introduction to Antarctica: its landscape, inhabitants, contrast and beauty. Still, today, I can't believe we were actually there. The impact and beauty of Antarctica will stay with me for all time."
Value for money
"All the shore excursions were part of the tariff for the cruise and it was a fabulous no-fuss way to do it. You can't put a price on this type of experience - it is so very different to what most of us would have ever experienced before. We will be talking about Half Moon Island for a long time to come."
WHO Scott Ivery from Sydney's Sutherland Shire, on his first cruise since university days.
WHAT First taste of Antarctica.
WHERE Half Moon Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula.
THE SHIP Scott and his family of five cruised to Antarctica on the Polar Pioneer, operated by Aurora Expeditions (auroraexpeditions.com.au).
As told to Jane E. Fraser
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