Wild Antarctica – one of the world’s greatest adventures. RAC Travel’s International Product Coordinator Joe Seddon was fortunate enough to discover the magic of the white continent.

It’s hard to say in which moment I truly felt that I was off on an expedition to Antarctica. Maybe the first evening when I joined my fellow passengers on the outer decks to watch the ‘throwing of the ropes’ and cast off from the Ushuaia’s beautiful harbour. Or on day three, the morning I sat on deck watching the rolling waves of the Drake freezing, sipping my hot coffee when it began to snow. That was that day that we spotted our first iceberg, so far in the distance, grey clouds overhead, with nothing else in sight but wide-open ocean and the occasional wondering Albatross. We had crossed the Antarctic convergence and I think that was really the start of my Antarctica adventure. Like everybody else, on my first visit l was completely mesmerised by it’s beauty.

An expedition to the remoteness of Antarctica is a thrilling adventure, and to get there you’ll have to cross the Drake Passage; one of the roughest stretches of water on the planet. If you’re lucky, as we were, you’ll experience the ‘Drake Lake’ – relatively calm waters. If you’re not so lucky it’s the ‘Drake Shake’! New for 2015/16, One Ocean Expeditions have introduced itineraries where you can fly down to Antarctica and avoid the Drake completely. For me, I think it’s all part of the adventure and most guests that had taken seasickness preventative measures were perfectly fine. If you hadn’t come prepared, the doctor on board was handing them out like lollies.

On day five, our first expedition was a Zodiac cruise around Crystal Sound. And I cannot think of a more perfect name to call this place. It was a beautiful sunny day, the water was calm and crystal clear and the ice was shining more colors of blue than I have ever seen in my life. Because One Ocean only allows a maximum of 96 guests, every passenger can go on an expedition at once. These are either a zodiac cruise around icebergs in sheltered harbours, spotting for whales, seals and penguins or shore landings where you can wonder around looking for penguin rookeries or exploring a research station. This afternoon we visited Detaille Island, where we walked through an old British station, abandoned in 1959, but left just as it was back then. With artifacts like a Hoover washing machine, old jackets and longjohns, old radio communication, survey books and bottles of Heinz mayonnaise, it was a reminder of the science and living conditions in Antarctica back in the 1950’s. After returning to the ship we cruised back through Crystal Sound, and with the weather still so sunny I sat in the hot tub on the top deck, words can’t even describe how magical that experience was.

The wildlife was so abundant in Antarctica and brought fabulous opportunities for wildlife photography. Resident photographer David Shultz was always at hand to offer advice. A great place to spot wildlife was on the bridge and One Ocean have an ‘open deck’ policy, allowing you to enter the bridge anytime. Here you’ll find binoculars, guidebooks and you’ll usually see Steve, the expert on birds and marine mammals who will help you spot and identify wildlife. We would pass by seals lazing about on pack ice, waking from their slumber to watch us float by, and see Humpbacks, Minke and Southern Right whales breaching each day.

One word to describe the penguins you’ll find here is: magic. When you lay eyes on these birds, youʼll know you’re in Antarctica. From the tiny classic black and white Adelie penguin and the cute Chinstrap penguin nowhere else in the world offers an unrivalled chance to see these unique creatures so close up and in their natural environment. To keep us occupied during the crossing we were invited to presentations, from Antarctic penguins to cetaceans, you’ll learn a lot about identify different types before you’ve even arrived. We were not allowed to get any closer than five meters to the penguins, but in some rookeries, like on day nine, when we visited a Gentoo penguin rookery it’s hard not too and often, they’ll come to you. They stare at you, show such fascination in you and slowly come towards you and peck at your wet weather gear. I found it hard not to laugh too loudly and scare them away.

On day eight, we visited Vernadsky Station, sold by the British to the Ukrainians for one pound sterling in 1995, it is the station that discovered the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica and home to the bar at the end of the world. The bar offers vodka, distilled on site, for the bargain price of three dollars. If this is too much, the drink is free to any woman willing to donate their underwear to be displayed in the bar. Unfortunately they wouldn’t accept any of mine. On day nine we had an excursion to Port Lockroy, a British research station. Housed next to a Gentoo penguin rockery, here you can buy a souvenir or post your postcard. From here around 70,000 cards are posted each year for over 100 countries.