The Travel Episodes

23 days Antarctic

Happy Antarctica

King Pengu­ins. An ice-water bath. Storms on the polar seas. Susanne Baade and Dirk Lehmann travel to Antarc­tica on the hunt for happi­ness.

The ship rises again. A little more, a little more – it hovers for a moment that feels like eter­nity – then it cras­hes back down onto the water. A tremor runs through the hull. The sea spray reaches as high as the sun deck. There’s anot­her wave – this time the MS Bremen just ratt­les. But the sea is alre­ady gathe­ring itself once more…

We’re lucky. A heavy storm is raging across the Antarc­tic Ocean. The captain of the Bremen, Mark Behrend, explai­ned the situa­tion with the weather two days ago. There’s a major area of low pres­sure approa­ching, and we have two opti­ons: go east or go west. Just don’t go through it. The waves at the centre are appar­ently ten to four­teen metres high.

So nobody had any objec­tions when the captain said he was going to skirt west­wards round the storm, as the waves in that direc­tion would only be up to six metres high.

And yet, as we’re being buffe­ted back and forth, up and down, day and night, we realise how rela­tive luck is.

Susanne asks, can you imagine what it would be like if the waves were twice as high? I shake my head.

There are many things we have to rele­arn: slee­ping at sea; brushing our teeth at sea; showering at sea; getting dres­sed at sea; and eating and drin­king at sea while glas­ses are perpe­tually threa­ten­ing to tip over and bread is constantly sliding off the plate. Still, there are some amusing moments: as you walk past someone else finding their sea legs, you tend to wobble into each other, a smile on your face. You don’t take yours­elf so seriously any more, at sea.

It suits our style of travel. Our five-month trip around the world has been a search for five expe­ri­en­ces on five conti­nents: endu­ring lone­li­ness in Canada; sensing the breath of history in Portu­gal; learning humi­lity in the Hima­la­yas; encoun­tering the animal king­dom in Austra­lia; and – with the MS Bremen – travel­ling into the Antarc­tic.


Our once-in-a-lifetime jour­ney into perpe­tual ice begins five days before the storm, on a grey Novem­ber day in Monte­vi­deo. The ship is lying in an equally grey harbour, white and spar­k­ling, with the words ‚Expe­di­tion Crui­ses‘ embla­zo­ned in enor­mous letters on the hull. We’re gree­ted with cham­pa­gne.

It’s a small ship, 111 metres long, with space for 164 passen­gers. There’s no enter­tain­ment programme, but it’s got the highest ice class a passen­ger ship can have.

As the ship departs from the greyish-brown Rio de la Plata into the South Atlan­tic, we get acquain­ted with our cabin. It’s sixteen square metres, with a narrow bath, a large double bed, a real window, a seating area with a table, chair, sofa and tele­vi­sion, and a mini­bar. There’s more welco­m­ing cham­pa­gne. This is our home for the next twenty-three days. We get comfor­ta­ble. But we’ve hardly had time to unpack before the emer­gency drill begins.


Rituals and recaps

The first ritual is an evening one: eating. We’re in luck there, too. We’re sitting at a round, eight-person table with a doctor from the Allgäu, in southern Germany, an elec­tri­cian from Vienna, a couple from Berlin – civil servants – and a hote­lier couple from Switz­er­land. We’re going to have a lot of fun at table 42. 

The next ritual is the infor­ma­tion session in the ‚Club‘, later also refer­red to as the ‘precap’ or ‘recap’. The captain intro­du­ces his team: navi­ga­tor, chef, hotel direc­tor and cruise direc­tor. It’s surpri­sing how many of the employees at the floa­ting Hotel Bremen are from Austria, that sea-faring nation in the Alps.

Our route will take us to the Falk­land Islands, South Geor­gia, the South Orkney and South Shet­land Islands, and finally through the Lemaire Chan­nel. On the way back we’ll pass through Drake Passage, past Cape Horn and onwards to Ushuaia in southern Argen­tina, where our jour­ney will end. So far, so good.

‘At least, that’s the plan,’ says the captain. The weather chan­ges quickly, he tells us, so it’s best to see it more as an inten­tion than as an itinerary. The cata­lo­gue adds the caveat, ‘subject to deci­si­ons made by the captain, based on weather and ice condi­ti­ons,’ and the man with four golden stri­pes on his shoul­ders explains, ‘it’s my job to take unpo­pu­lar deci­si­ons some­ti­mes.’

During the first few days that’s hard to imagine. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and the guests are snoo­zing on loun­gers on the heli­cop­ter deck. We explore the ship. There’s a gym, a hairdresser’s, a sauna and a small pool, as well as a lounge, two restau­rants and a lido deck behind the ‘Club’, with tables bene­ath elec­tric heaters. Mostly we’ll eat outside, swadd­led in blan­kets, enjoy­ing the world.

The Bremen is an open ship. If the doors aren’t locked, visi­tors are welcome on the bridge. We get to know Mark Behrend. The captain lives in Bergi­sches Land, in western Germany, but spends about eight months of the year on the ship. He’s a friendly man with a beard and laug­hing eyes, who always wears short-sleeved shirts and often strikes a thought­ful note. He shows us where he works, and the weather chart. 

There’s a storm in the offing. Will it catch us?
The captain slowly shakes his head. Maybe. 

The passen­gers are much preoc­cu­pied with the weather. If it’s too unplea­sant we won’t be able to go ashore ever­y­where as plan­ned. But that’s the special thing about expe­di­tion crui­ses like these – that you can cross over to small islands on black rubber dinghies called Zodiacs. 

For these Zodiac excur­si­ons we’ve been kitted out with parkas and wellies, so that our feet will stay dry even if we have to make a ‘wet landing’, where you slide out of the dinghy and walk to shore. How many landings are wet and how many are dry? Every landing is a wet landing. Right.

Later we’re stan­ding on deck. A gossa­mer strip of pink sepa­ra­tes the steely blue evening sky from an ocean that stret­ches out before us like ink. It’s colder than it was; when we speak our breath conden­ses into thin, cotton-wool clouds in front of our faces. At a rate of fifteen knots, the Bremen approa­ches the Falk­land Islands.


* * *

Two / Falkland Islands


We’re looking forward to the Zodiac adven­ture. Our first landing: New Island, the Falk­land Islands.

A pier is faste­ned to Deck 3. The crew let down the scou­ting boat, so the expe­di­tion leader can find the best place to land. Then dinghy after dinghy – the sailors alre­ady on board – are floated on the surface of the water. We’re sepa­ra­ted into four groups: blue, green, red and white.

They explain how to operate a dinghy. As you get on, you grab the sailor’s forearm near the elbow, steady­ing yours­elf. Once in the boat you sit down at once, sliding into your assi­gned place. No stan­ding! Hold onto some­thing as you make the crossing! When you reach the landing spot you straddle the side – keep your eyes on the sea! – and swing one leg, then the other, over the edge. Head imme­dia­tely to land! The expe­di­tion leader shows our depar­ture time on a board. Each group has ninety minu­tes.

Then we’re off, hurt­ling towards New Island across water glit­te­ring in the sunlight. Yellow gorse glows against green hills. A wreck is lying in the bay. Landing and getting out we do ever­y­thing correctly, then we follow a 1,000-metre-long path along a cliff edge, the sea bene­ath us, past thousands of birds broo­ding in nume­rous colo­nies.

We notice a rock­hop­per penguin on the way to its nest. We see an alba­tross, its white plumage shining, imma­cu­late make-up around its eyes.

It’s surpri­sin­gly peace­ful in this busy, densely packed land­s­cape, where blue-eyed cormo­rants are perpe­tually taking off and landing.

We realise why the pengu­ins are called rock­hop­pers, as they hop from stone to stone. 

Time passes quickly. Soon we’re perched once more on the edge of the Zodiac, the boat boun­ces across the shal­low waves, our hair flies in the wind, and it’s clear from others’ expres­si­ons how satis­fied they are with the expe­ri­ence of their first landing.

Back on board the Bremen, we try to find out what time our Zodiac group’s turn is the next day. We can hardly wait to go on anot­her explo­ra­tory trip.

They call it the Zodiac virus.

Volun­teer Beach is a sickle-shaped cove with turquoise water and a beach of fine sand. It would be a credit to any Carib­bean island. Yet during the summer in the Southern Hemi­s­phere it gets no warmer than five to ten degrees. Why is this beach still a dream desti­na­tion? Because many thousands of king pengu­ins nest here.

We observe the animals, how they stand on the beach in large groups, slowly waddling over to the water, waiting, then – as if at a secret command – stor­ming into the sea. Pretty soon we’re star­ting to anthro­po­mor­phise the pengu­ins. Look, that one looks like an old man on his Sunday walk. Four ‘hooli­gans’ are pushing and shoving each other. The ‘come­dian’ has got hims­elf tang­led up in a clump of kelp and fallen flat on his beak. That baby penguin cove­red in brown fuzz is too slow for his mother – he pauses and yelps. It looks like he’s crying, ‘Mamaaa!’

Later, as we’re eating, we sit toge­ther and embroi­der our stories. We’re cheer­ful. No – we’re happy. Nature has given us moments of happi­ness.


* * *

Three / South Georgia

Of Whalers and Seals

As a whaling station, South Geor­gia was once a slaugh­ter­house. Today the archipel­ago in the Antarc­tic Ocean is a king­dom of animals.

‘Anybody who wants sun tomor­row, raise your hand,’ says Mark Behrend at the precap for the landing in South Geor­gia. Earlier the expe­di­tion leader fami­lia­ri­sed us with ‘bio secu­rity’ precau­ti­ons: to avoid brin­ging seeds onto the islands, bags, shoes, tripods and even the velcro faste­ners on our jackets have to be clea­ned, and anybody coming back on board should use the boot clea­ning station.

Faced with a sea of raised hands, the captain threa­tens in a mock accu­sa­tory voice, ‘Then I’ll show you why you shouldn’t be wishing for good weather.’

An image is projec­ted onto the screen. It shows the Bremen in a bay. The water is calm. Next image. The same bay. This time, howe­ver, the sea is whip­ped up. ‘There are only ten minu­tes between the two photos,’ says the captain, and he explains the pheno­me­non. The air above a glacier is not only cold, but also heavy. When the sun comes out, the warm air rises from above the sea. To equa­lise the balance of pres­sure, the air from the glacier rushes down incredi­bly quickly. These kata­ba­tic winds can reach speeds of more than 200 km/h. ‘In which case we’d have to cut short the landing imme­dia­tely. So please join us in hoping that it’s not sunny.’


The captain’s plea is heard.

Grey clouds hang heavily above a land­s­cape of black cliffs and fields of snow, the sea like a sheet of lead. Nature is a black-and-white photo­graph. The Zodiacs are lowe­red and disap­pear on a trial run. Then it’s our turn. We’re the first boat to reach Salis­bury Plain. We take off our life­ja­ckets, take out our came­ras and head off on the hunt. The expe­di­tion leader has warned us not to get too close to the seals. If an animal snarls at us, we’re not suppo­sed to run – ‘they’re faster than you’ – but to make oursel­ves look bigger. ‘If that doesn’t work, shout for help.’ 

As the fog lifts, Salis­bury Plain is revea­led. Around 50,000 king pengu­ins are nesting on the plain, which slopes upwards into gentle hills. The air is full of deafe­ning scree­ches and a breath­ta­king stench. What a scene.

On the way to the next landing spot, the Bremen encoun­ters the first iceberg of our jour­ney. It’s as large as a DIY super­store on an indus­trial estate in a medium-sized city. The current has brought the iceberg down from the Antarc­tic. The ship passes the blue-and-white colos­sus and heads for Grytvi­ken.

The city of the dead

On the flen­sing plat­form lies a whale, men posing in front of it with their flen­sing knives, ready to carve open the crea­ture. They’re after blub­ber, the outer­most layer of skin, which conta­ins whale oil. It will be remo­ved and cooked in enor­mous vats to produce the oil. It was a much sought-after commo­dity in early twentieth-century Europe, and because they didn’t know what to do with the rest of the animal, they drag­ged its carcass into the sea, where it rotted. There must have been a pungent smell in the air, as well as the shrie­king of the skuas that picked at the bones.

About a hund­red years ago many whaling stati­ons were set up on South Geor­gia, like Leith Harbour, Strom­ness and Grytvi­ken. In 1904, 184 whales were ‘proces­sed’ in the latter station alone, and by the mid sixties the total was up to 175,000.

Then the stati­ons were shut. The largest living crea­ture on earth – the blue whale – was almost wiped out. By then crude oil had repla­ced whale oil. Moreo­ver, their numbers had been abso­lutely deci­ma­ted. Around 1930 it was still possi­ble to catch 30,000 blue whales, but in some later seasons whaling ships drew only twenty from the sea.

With this infor­ma­tion in our heads, we leave the museum at Grytvi­ken, finding the place even more inhos­pi­ta­ble than it normally is in the fog at zero degrees. There’s a bay encir­cled by steep cliffs and a small head­land with the rusty ruins of an indus­try that was once the stuff of heroic tales, and which today is despi­sed by most people. The mythic struggle between man and beast is presen­ted here as an indus­tria­li­sed massa­cre.

Today Grytvi­ken is a ghost town. Two half-buried wrecks lie on the shore, seals slee­ping in the shel­ter they offer from the wind. We walk through rows of rusty vats. On the way to the church we encoun­ter a king penguin that’s evidently heading the same way. It’s good to see that this ghoulish place has now been taken over by animals. Birds, pengu­ins, fur seals and elephant seals – they’re recon­que­ring the land.


Only three people still live here – once it was 2,000. They run the museum and care for the cemetery, where Captain Behrend gives a talk at the grave of Ernest Shack­le­ton. He may have been an unsuc­cess­ful explo­rer, but he was a great sailor. After his ship Endu­rance was crus­hed by Antarc­tic pack ice, in April 1916 he left his crew on Elephant Island and set off in a life­boat to fetch help, accom­pa­nied by five sailors. They travel­led 1,500 kilo­metres through the Antarc­tic Ocean, even­tually reaching South Geor­gia. In August Shack­le­ton was able to rescue his men with a Chilean tugboat. In Janu­ary 1922, the polar rese­ar­cher died of a heart attack in Grytvi­ken. We drink schnapps and toast him.

* * *

Four / Drake Passage

The Storm

A bad storm is on the way. At its heart are waves ten to four­teen metres high.

Back on the Bremen the captain gathers us for a precap. ‘There’s a storm approa­ching. To avoid the highest waves, we’re going to take a detour. Even so, the ship’s going to be knocked about a bit.’ A guest asks how high the waves will be. ‘Five to six metres. There might be a few eight-metre brea­kers in there too.’

For weather enthu­si­asts the low pres­sure area must be a dream. The air pres­sure quickly falls from 1,017 hecto­pas­cals to 972. The bad weather moves towards South Geor­gia at a rate of around a hund­red kilo­metres per day, with wind speeds of twelve and over on the Beau­fort scale. On the weather chart the area is marked in violet, the worst colour on the bad weather scale.

What a magni­ficent storm!

Yet there’s precious little enthu­si­asm to be seen on the passen­gers’ faces. Captain Behrend assu­res us the Bremen’s in no danger.

Still, the crew begin to take safety measu­res: storm shut­ters are affi­xed to the windows on the bridge, sturdy steel plates with narrow slits for visi­bi­lity.

During the evening the waves get higher, and the crew take furt­her precau­ti­ons: chains hold down sofas and chairs, the decks on the star­board side are closed, and bott­les and glas­ses in the bars are care­fully secu­red. The self-service restau­rant in the ‘Club’ is shut, as is the pool. Bettina, the doctor at our table, says tersely, ‘this is what we signed up for.’

A two-class society has esta­blished itself on board: those with seasick­ness patches and those without. Susanne is wearing one, and copes quite well with the condi­ti­ons. The waves don’t really bother me. It’s impos­si­ble to predict who’s going to be affec­ted. The doctor from the Allgäu is suffe­ring, the elec­tri­cian from Vienna isn’t seen for two days, and some of the crew wouldn’t be fit for work without their patches.

Yet, surpri­sin­gly, even on the first stormy evening, as the boat is buck­ing back and forth like a horse, about three quar­ters of the guests wander – or rather, stag­ger – into the restau­rant.

It’s comforting to see the sun emerge now and again, so that the waves aren’t just raging in the darkness. At some point every storm will pass – even this one – and as we crowd on deck one morning after so many stormy nights, the wind has all but pete­red out. We get ready for a boat tour around Elephant Island.

The happiness of the present

Elephant Island is a rocky plateau popu­la­ted by pengu­ins. Shackleton’s men spent almost four months here in two caves. It’s scar­cely imagin­able what hardships they must have borne. Even in summer we’re wearing thick jackets, hats and gloves. Shackleton’s men spent the winter here. We enjoy just being visi­tors.

This is our first encoun­ter with the world of eter­nal ice. Inhos­pi­ta­ble. Harsh. Unyiel­ding. Nowhere else on earth is so devoid of people as the Antarc­tic. The land­mass, the size of Europe, has no native inha­bi­tants.

Most of the rese­arch stati­ons are only occu­pied in the summer, when the conti­nent is also visi­ted by about 30,000 tourists. In winter the region beco­mes as inhos­pi­ta­ble as an alien planet, with tempe­ra­tures of minus thirty to minus sixty degrees and storms with winds of up to 300 kilo­metres per hour.

The Bremen passes more and more tabu­lar icebergs, white giants that have detached them­sel­ves from the Antarc­tic ice shelf. Yet as bizarre as the scenery is, after a while you start to get used to it. Until suddenly some­body yells, ‘Whale! Whale!’, then imme­dia­tely corrects them­sel­ves to, 

‘Whales! Whales! Loads and loads of whales!’“

In fact there are only two hump­back whales approa­ching, but then in the distance we see the spray blown upwards by two fin whales. 

Even­tually we’re surroun­ded by a school of orcas. There must be more than a hund­red crea­tures, their fins scything through the water. 

We can’t get enough of the sight. One person lets their bino­cu­lars fall from stiff, frozen fingers.


* * *

Five / South Shetland Islands

Snow Angel

Once whale and seal hunters were the only inha­bi­tants of the Antarc­tic. Today it’s scien­tists and their assi­stants.

The Bremen steers towards a wall of rock, until an opening appears: Neptune’s Bellows, South Shet­land Islands. The captain has invi­ted us onto the bridge. The atmo­s­phere is tense and focu­sed.

The offi­cers, who occa­sio­nally sail around an iceberg to enter­tain the guests or switch off the engine so as not to disturb the whales, are commu­ni­ca­ting in terse commands – distan­ces, water depths, wind speeds. Soon the Bremen has navi­ga­ted the narrow passage and drops anchor. A chain of almost eighty metres ratt­les behind it.

For a few hours we’re the only inha­bi­tants of Decep­tion Island. We pass rusting silos, deca­y­ing houses and an aero­plane hangar filled with snow – this used to be the star­ting point for the first explo­ra­tory flights across the Antarc­tic. We climb a hill. The view stret­ches across the caldera, still partly cove­red with ice.

How wonder­ful that we’re able to be here.

Before we board, we take off our clothes and run screa­ming into the ice-cold sea. You used to be able to dig tubs, and the water would warm up over the hot sand, as this area is still volca­ni­cally active. Today that’s no longer allo­wed, but the tradi­tion of bath­ing on Decep­tion Island lives on. We find warmth after­wards in the sauna, where we sit with five other freezing-cold people.

We feel like heroes.


Later we’re crow­ded toge­ther on the fore­deck, watching the captain ram the ship against the ice covering the caldera. Until the Bremen gets stuck. There’s a V-shaped chip in the ice, a notch of futi­lity. If they hadn’t before, each passen­ger now feels a sense of respect for the power of the ice and the might of this conti­nent.

Penguin Sex and Souvenirs

Once whale and seal hunters were the only inha­bi­tants of the Antarc­tic. Today it’s scien­tists and their assi­stants. There are appro­xi­mately eighty rese­arch stati­ons, and around half of them are only occu­pied during the summer months. Many of them, accord­ing to critics, have nothing to do with rese­arch. During the Cold War the Ameri­cans and the Russi­ans opera­ted an icy arms race here. After India opened a station, Paki­stan follo­wed suit. The Chinese had barely got here before the South Koreans were raising their flag.
The most recent and curr­ently the most sophisti­ca­ted set-up is run by the German Alfred Wege­ner Insti­tute. Rese­arch will be conduc­ted at the station, opened in 2009 and resting on stilts, for twenty-five years. Neumayer III, as it’s called, can be dismant­led without leaving any traces behind – this in itself is a state­ment, a eco-political one.

Base Brown, loca­ted in the pictures­que Para­dise Bay, is a former naval base and the scene of a tragic story: when a doctor working there disco­ve­red that he wouldn’t be relie­ved from duty until after anot­her winter, the despai­ring man set the station on fire, so they would be forced to remove him.

We can’t under­stand the doctor. The view extends across a row of snow-topped hills. We’re stan­ding on the Antarc­tic Penin­sula. We break off an icicle. This piece of frozen water, probably several hund­red years old, tastes no diffe­rent from an ice cube strai­ght from the free­zer.

The nearby Port Lockroy is the site of a British station, probably the best-known in the Antarc­tic.

Florence, a scien­tist here, says that in the summer they get up to 15,000 guests. The four-person team is tasked with coun­ting pengu­ins, guiding visi­tors through the museum and selling post­cards and souve­nirs. Isn’t that a strange occupa­tion for a scien­tist? Florence laughs – it’s a small price to pay for the privi­lege of being here.

What infor­ma­tion do the rese­ar­chers at Lockroy gene­rate? The team moni­tors pengu­ins’ bree­ding success rate. There are two colo­nies: one lives by the museum, where visi­tors come every day in summer, and the other in an area that’s closed off. The pengu­ins by the museum rear more young. Evidently the tourists do more than just stress them; they drive away preda­tors.

Back on board there’s little time for dinner, as around nine o’clock we’ll reach the Lemaire Chan­nel, a narrow strait appro­xi­mately thir­teen kilo­metres long, hemmed in by glaciers and steep, towering walls of rock. The entry­way is marked by the charac­te­ris­tic double peaks of Cape Renard, dubbed ‘Una’s Tits’ by British sailors in the 1950s in uncon­ven­tio­nal reco­gni­tion of Una Spivey, a member of the admi­nis­tra­tive staff.

* * *

Six / Lemaire Channel

At the Turning Point

Slowly the Bremen fumbles its way through the sound, which is litte­red with chunks of ice. The sun is low, casting a golden light over the scene.

The fore­deck is open again. Guests and crew stand rever­ently next to one other, gaping in asto­nish­ment and taking photo­graphs. By now it’s clear why the Lemaire Chan­nel is nick­na­med ‘Kodak Gap’ – you just can’t stop pres­sing the shut­ter.

It’s the turning point of our jour­ney into the Antarc­tic. Shortly after two in the morning the Bremen chan­ges direc­tion. By now almost all the passen­gers are in bed, but we’re still stan­ding on the gang­way to the side of the bridge, looking into the bright night. The reddish golden light is in the midst of trans­for­ming into the pinky, pastel-blue glow of dawn.

We can’t tear oursel­ves away from the sight. It’s as if we were trying to cling to happi­ness.

We say good­bye to eter­nal ice on a hill in Neko Harbour. It was a diffi­cult climb, but the view is sensa­tio­nal. A nearby glacier calves, and it sounds as if it’s tearing the world apart. It’s anot­her unbe­liev­a­bly beau­ti­ful day: the sun is shining and the air is so clear that ever­y­thing seems close enough to touch.

The reason for this misper­cep­tion is the purity of the air. If you were to measure the quality of the air in a large German city, you would find up to 100,000 parti­cles in a volume the size of a sugar cube. In Antarc­tica it’s ten parti­cles. The moun­ta­ins that seem so close are not only much furt­her away, they’re much bigger. We ask oursel­ves what it would feel like to set off – on a day like today and a place like this – to explore the conti­nent. The sun is blazing; we take off our parkas, then quickly put them back on again as a gust of wind sweeps the cold of the Antarc­tic over us.

Bidding goodbye in an Irish pub

The Bremen hoists anchor. The water glit­ters as pengu­ins outpace the ship. We pass by glaciers, moun­ta­ins so tall and snowy that you can no longer make out their shapes, and valleys filled with snow and islands of ice that suddenly turn out to be archipel­agos. A little while back the crew actually ‘disco­ve­red’ an island. It may not change our image of the world, but we’re still proud of ‘Bremen Island’.

For several hours, as the ship leaves the final islands at the edge of Antarc­tica behind it, we can hear small chunks of ice bumping against the hull. Then there’s nothing but the waves and the sea spray as the Bremen sails through Drake Passage, the swell no grea­ter than you’d find on the Baltic Sea during a ferry trip to Denmark.

It’s time to say fare­well. The kitchen staff have once more given their all: we’re served course after course at table 42. We’re in debrie­fing mode. The civil servants from Berlin say it was a wonder­ful trip, though they could have done without the first day of the storm. The Vien­nese elec­tri­cian asks, ‘Storm? Incredi­ble, I’d comple­tely forgot­ten.’ The Swiss hote­liers – genuine cruise experts – want to come back, and the doctor from the Allgäu seems sad.

Surely it can’t be over yet…

When it turns out we can’t land on Cape Horn as plan­ned on the last morning, because the winds are too strong, we’re not that upset. The cliffs, where some 800 ships have been dashed to pieces and 10,000 seamen drag­ged down into the depths, are most moving to the sailors. After all the songs have been sung and the nauti­cal charts auctioned off, Captain Behrend gives a stir­ring speech. Through the beauty of the jour­ney shim­mers the tragedy of seafa­ring.
We spend the last evening in Ushuaia, in a pub that refers to itself as ‘Irish’, but is so Argen­ti­nian that it’s just funny. Some crew members join us. We drink toge­ther, having become quite close by now, telling stories about travel­ling, about the past few weeks, and about our plans. We drink some more. The next day, fuzzy-headed, we stand on the gang­way; it seems like we only just boar­ded.

Some of the crew members have gathe­red on the pier. This time, instead of a cham­pa­gne welcome, we’ve got a fare­well guard of honour. Even Captain Behrend is there, in a short-sleeved shirt as usual. We shake hands. He says, ‘I’ve been doing this for a few years now, but I haven’t seen that kind of light in the Lemaire Chan­nel for a long time.’

We answer – comple­tely spon­ta­neously – at the same time. ‘It was a jour­ney into happi­ness.’

Trans­la­tion by Caro­line Waight

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The End of a Journey

Going Home

The End of a Journey

Living out of our ruck­sacks for a year and a half, always on the move. Aylin Berk­tas and Stefan Krie­ger realise that going home is scarier than star­ting out.

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Alone in the Wilderness

Icy Alaska

Alone in the Wilderness

Dirk Rohr­bach has always been fasci­nated by this kind of life­style: being alone in the Alas­kan wilder­ness. Accom­pa­nied by eleven dogs and illu­mi­na­ted by the Nort­hern Lights, he expe­ri­en­ces the icy winter nights.

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An Episode by


Dirk Lehmann & Susanne Baade

Susanne Baade has worked as a picture editor at Art maga­zine, and is a photo­gra­pher and blog desi­gner. She is the brains behind the regio­nal network Susies Local Food Hamburg and the visual part of the travel blog push:RESET. She’s pretty damn good at yoga, too.
Dirk Lehmann was editor of the travel maga­zine Geo Saison for more than ten years. He admi­nis­ters corpo­rate story­tel­ling projects and is the grey bit on the travel blog push:RESET. Dirk has a shed­load of racing bikes.

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  • Mandy // Movin'n'Groovin on 22. Februar 2015

    Wow wow wow! Ich bin sprach­los… sehr schöne Reise­ge­schichte, tolle Bilder!! Jetzt will ich auch! Über welche Agen­tur habt ihr die Tour gebucht? Ich bin Ende des Jahres in Argen­ti­nien, vllt. könnte ich ja… hmm… mal sehen. :)

    • Susanne&Dirk on 23. Februar 2015

      Hallo Mandy,
      freut uns sehr, dass dir unsere Geschichte gefällt. ;-) 

      Wir haben die Reise über Hapag-Lloyd Kreuz­fahr­ten gebucht. Es gibt aber auch noch andere Anbie­ter wie Posei­don Expe­di­ti­ons.

      Es empfiehlt sich, einen zuver­läs­si­gen und zerti­fi­zier­ten Anbie­ter zu wählen.
      Herz­li­che Grüße

  • Anett on 22. Februar 2015

    Wahn­sinn, ich bin wirk­lich beein­druckt von euren wunder­ba­ren Fotos und Video­auf­nah­men. Eure Reise­ge­schichte hat mich gepackt und mein Fern­weh in die Antark­tis ist jetzt noch größer (als sie ohne­hin schon war :) )
    Vielen Dank! Anett

    • Susanne&Dirk on 23. Februar 2015

      Liebe Anett,
      danke für dein Lob! Und wenn du eines Tages dort sein soll­test, genieße einen Moment der unfass­ba­ren Weite und Abge­schie­den­heit für uns mit.
      Herz­li­che Grüße

  • Franziska via KeineWeltreise on 22. Februar 2015

    Herz­li­chen Glück­wunsch zu diesem gelun­ge­nen Blog! Vom Inhalt zunächst abge­se­hen finde ich die Form der Präsen­ta­tion genial, man kann sozu­sa­gen vor- und zurück­spu­len durch das Scrol­len!

    Inhalt­lich hat mich diese Episode sehr mitge­ris­sen und mein Fern­weh geweckt! Ich habe erst letzte Woche den Fil Shack­le­ton gese­hen und Sehn­sucht bekom­men. Dass die Reise euch im Rück­blick so kurz erschien, spricht dafür, dass sie sehr inten­siv war!

    Liebe Grüße und danke für die Impres­sio­nen!

    • Susanne&Dirk on 23. Februar 2015

      Liebe Fran­ziska,
      danke für dein Lob. Ja, das Format ist toll! Auch andere Reise­ziele kann man so sehr schön erzäh­len.

      Die Antark­tis ist aller­dings ein Once-in-a-Lifetime-Reiseziel. Und wir werden die Fahrt bis an ihren Rand wohl nie verges­sen.
      Herz­li­che Grüße

  • elisabeth on 23. Februar 2015

    Eindrucks­vol­ler Bericht — ganz, ganz toll. Vor allem die „beweg­ten“ Bilder !!!! Antark­tis — wir kommen!

    • Susanne&Dirk on 23. Februar 2015

      Liebe Elisa­beth,
      vielen Dank für dein Lob, hat uns sehr gefreut; auch wenn wir den Schnee­en­gel nicht ganz sooo perfekt hinge­kriegt haben ;-)
      Herz­li­che Grüße

  • Carina on 23. Februar 2015

    Ich würde den Beitrag gerne befür­wor­ten, weil ich das Story­tel­ling die die Bilder wirk­lich wunder­voll sind.

    Jedoch habe ich mich die letz­ten Wochen, die ich in Feuer­land unter­wegs war mit eini­gen Perso­nen über die Antark­tis unter­hal­ten und finde es einen sehr schwie­ri­gen Ort. Ich habe viele Menschen getrof­fen, die begeis­tert waren von ihrer Reise in die Antark­tis und auch ich stelle mir eine solche Reise wie ein tolles Aben­teuer vor. Jedoch finde ich den die Umwelt betref­fen­den Preis, den ich dafür zahlen würde zu hoch. 

    Man kann nur hoffen, dass sich der Antark­tis Touris­mus in den nächs­ten Jahren nicht verstärkt und die Umwelt- und Sicher­heits­maß­nah­men auf den Schif­fen (weiter­hin) einge­hal­ten werden.

    • Susanne&Dirk on 23. Februar 2015

      Liebe Carina,
      danke für deinen kriti­schen Kommen­tar. Wir halten ihn zum Teil für berech­tigt: Reisen belas­tet die Umwelt. 

      Im Gegen­satz zu den aller­meis­ten Reisen unter­lie­gen aber die in die Antark­tis strengs­ten Aufla­gen durch das Umwelt­bun­des­amt: in Betreff auf den Treib­stoff, den Müll, die Anlan­dun­gen, etc. Nur ein Unter­neh­men, das diese erfüllt und das lücken­los nach­weist, darf in die Antark­tis fahren. Und Hapag-Lloyd Kreuz­fahr­ten tut das mit klei­nen Schif­fen, 150 Passa­giere passen auf die Bremen.

      Zudem ist die Antark­tis gewal­tig groß, größer als Europa. Die Bremen erreichte nur einen Punkt an der Südspitze der Antark­ti­schen Halb­in­sel. Stell dir Europa ohne Menschen vor — und jetzt 30.000 Touris­ten im Jahr, die für drei Stun­den Malta besu­chen… Zum Vergleich, jähr­lich reisen mehr als 10 Millio­nen Menschen nach Mallorca.

      Wer reist, steht immer im Konflikt mit der Umwelt (wie bist du nach Feuer­land gekom­men?). Wer reist, lernt aber auch die Schön­heit dieser Welt kennen (würde es dir nicht fehlen, Feuer­land bereist zu haben?). Den Umwelt­schutz vor allem auf das Reisen zu redu­zie­ren, halten wir für falsch.
      Herz­li­che Grüße

  • vöglein on 26. Februar 2015

    Ganz tolle Aufnahmen.…..wow!!!!! Macht Lust sofort loszu­zie­hen.…..

    • Susanne&Dirk on 26. Februar 2015

      Hi Vöglein,
      manch­mal kommt es uns selbst so vor, wenn wir etwa nach unten scrol­len, um Kommen­tare und Fragen zu beant­wor­ten, dass wir denken: Was eine geile Reise! Müsste man unbe­dingt mal hin… ;-) Vielen Dank für dein Lob.
      Herz­li­che Grüße

  • Jannik on 8. März 2015

    Hey ihr Beiden!

    Eine groß­ar­tige, humor­volle und aufmerk­same Repor­tage. Hat mir sehr gut gefal­len.

    Beson­ders die Bilder und Videos sind gut — und die Mischung aus Text und Bild ist genau rich­tig.

    Auf eini­gen Bildern ist links eine Art Nebel, wie ist das passiert? Objek­tiv kaputt?

    Herz­li­che Grüße,

    • Susanne&Dirk on 8. März 2015

      Hallo Jannik,
      schön, dass du das Stück magst! Freut uns sehr. Wie so oft, ist es in seiner Quali­tät das Ergeb­nis einer Zusam­men­ar­beit: Wir haben das Mate­rial mit gebracht, das Travel Episodes-Team hat es montiert. So ist eine stim­mige Reise­re­por­tage entstan­den.
      Bemer­kens­wert, dass dir der Fehler in den Fotos aufge­fal­len ist. Tatsäch­lich hat das Objek­tiv in der drit­ten Woche unse­rer fünf­mo­na­ti­gen Welt­reise einen Defekt davon getra­gen. Er zeigt sich nur bei extre­men Brenn­wei­ten, meist oben links. Wir waren sooo unglück­lich. Aber es ließ sich nicht nach­hal­tig repa­rie­ren, und uns fehlte unter­wegs das Geld, einfach ein neues Objek­tiv zu kaufen. Wir haben nur wenige Fotos mit in den Beitrag genom­men, auf denen der Fehler zu sehen ist und hoffen, dass es dem Zauber dieser Reise nicht zu viel Abbruch tut.
      Herz­li­che Grüße

  • Webtrends: Storytelling | iE5 – Information Explorers 5 on 22. April 2015

    […] von Flücht­lin­gen zu erklä­ren. Auf Trav­el­epi­so­des kann man Reisende auf ihren Aben­teu­ern in die Antark­tis oder in den Viet­nam beglei­ten. Aber auch Info­gra­fi­ken, Produkt Websites, Agen­tu­ren und sogar […]

  • Steffen on 25. September 2015

    Holla die Wald­fee, das ist mal ein guter Beitrag! Sehr schöne Videos und Bilder! Und auch am Text erkennt man deut­lich euren profes­sio­nel­len Hinter­grund =)
    Wenn mir jetzt auf Booten nicht schlecht werden würde, wäre die Antark­tis echt eine Option ;) Aber bei dem Seegang wäre ich dann wohl doch die meiste Zeit über der Reling (oder sonst wo) gehan­gen ;)

  • Khalid Rashid on 12. Dezember 2015

    Unglaub­lich ist diese Travel Episode. Ich habe auf meinem Stuhl an meinem Rech­ner­tisch eine Reise nach Antark­tis gemacht. Und diese wird beglei­tet vom einer tran­szen­den­ta­len inne­ren Wahr­neh­mung. Danke

  • Janett on 25. Dezember 2015

    Nach­dem ich bei Inka von Blick­ge­win­kelt immer mal in die Antarktis-Berichte rein­ge­lunzt habe und trotz Kälte ein gewis­sen Wunsch verspüre, das irgend­wann auch mal auszu­pro­bie­ren, hab ich euren Beitrag natür­lich mit Span­nung verfolgt! Wirk­lich cool! Sind die Mitrei­sen­den denn über­wie­gend Euro­päer?

  • Laura on 16. Februar 2016

    Danke für den tollen Beitrag!

  • Karin on 16. Februar 2016

    Viele träu­men davon die Eiswüste zu besu­chen, aber nicht alle verwirk­li­chen ihren Traum.Ich habe Glück, weil ich bald in die Antark­tis reise. Das sol traum­haft sein. Meine Reise wird von antark­tis expe­di­tion http://poseidonexpeditions.com/de/antarktis/ orga­ni­siert. Bald geht es los!

  • One Million Places on 20. Januar 2017

    Wirk­lich einer der inter­es­san­tes­ten Arti­kel die ich seit langem gele­sen habe. Allein schon die Präsen­ta­tion mit den vielen Videos ist sensa­tio­nell und nimmt einen wirk­lich mit auf eine tolle Reise ans andere Ende der Welt!

  • Anja Wendtland on 10. Dezember 2019

    Ich habe alles von Euch hier gele­sen, ich habe Bilder geschaut, ich habe Videos gese­hen und ich habe habe geweint.….….….und ich weine immer noch.….….…wie schön diese Welt doch ist.….….….wie wunderbar.….……ich habe es im Sommer bis nach Spitz­ber­gen geschafft.…..wenigstens ein biss­chen Eis zu sehen.….……auch wenn ich weiß, dass es nie möglich sein wird jemals die Pinguine dort zu sehen, wo sie eigent­lich leben soll­ten, in der Antark­tis und nicht im Zoo weiß ich, dass ich mich erfreuen kann an solchen Berich­ten, wie ihr sie schreibt.….…..Ich danke Euch, dass ihr mich mitge­nom­men habt in eine so fried­li­che Welt. Danke aus Berlin.
    (Anja Patch Adam) face­book

  • Dayara Resort on 4. März 2020

    It was an amazing blog on Antar­tica.. I would like to mention that I felt I was at the place while reading your blog. Thanks for sharing