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With strict laws meaning no ship can land more than 100 tourists on Antarctica at any one time, we smugly congratulate ourselves on picking a ship with less passengers than that magic number and head towards the inflatable Zodiac boats, which will transport us to shore, 10 at a time.

Minutes later, we’re pulling up at Yankee Harbour, on Greenwich Island in the South Shetlands.

Lying 75 miles north of the Antarctic Peninsula, the weather that meets us is fierce.

The 40-knot winds bluster while intermittent rain and snow beats down. But none of us care.


Penguin party

Seconds after touching land, a couple of the island’s 8000 gentoo penguins swim up to greet us.

Barely 70cm tall, and with red beaks that make them look as though they’re wearing lipstick, the gentoos are immediate stars.

Sleek and streamlined in the water, our new best friends are an entirely different story on land. Put simply, it’s like they’re members of the Muppet family.

They slip and stagger, flap and falter, the whole time looking lost in the world and completely bemused by our appearance.

They approach us fearlessly, staring for long periods, heads cocked, before jumping off again, invariably falling on their faces.

Calling them adorable just doesn’t do them justice.For a few hours we wander happily among the gentoos, many of which have painfully cute week-old chicks.

Bundles of thick grey fur, the chicks cower under their parents for warmth as we form our paparazzi lines just a few metres away.

Nearby we also spot chinstrap penguins, similar in appearance to the gentoos, except with a perma-smile black line replacing the lippy, and some skuas, large seabirds that are the penguin chicks’ most dangerous predator.

Despite the harsh conditions, we eventually head back to the Zodiacs, feeling totally exhilarated.

The great white

Yet our elation proves short-lived. Next on the agenda is a sail south through the Bransfield Strait, which I now discover to my dismay is known as the “mini Drake”.

Some passengers had previously expressed regret at not experiencing a notorious Drake storm, to which our assistant expedition leader, Agustin Ullmann, had replied they might change their minds once they’re in one.

 “It’s fantastic for the first 10 minutes, but 48 hours later you want to kill yourself,” he said.



Antarctic adventure: Glittering icebergs, glacial waters and heart-stoppingly cute wildlife are yours to discover on a polar cruise
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