I Took My Mom to Antarctica

The Unexpectedly Perfect Mama/Daughter Adventure

Sunday, May 10, 2020

No matter your age, Antarctica doesn’t have to try hard to lure you in and that’s what makes it great for family travel. Its natural beauty has captivated so many of us since before we could speak: mind-boggling landscapes, rich history and that epic wildlife (orcas! humpbacks! penguins! seals! terns!) are just the tip of the iceberg! I always knew I wanted to go to Antarctica, but when my friend Sasha returned from an Antarctica21 trip and mentioned kayaking past a sleeping (maybe snoring!) humpback whale the destination skyrocketed to the top of my list. It was time.

When I decided to go, I surprised my mom too—one of my best decisions to finally go (and not wait another day) and to share it with her. I knew she would never do this for herself and I knew wholeheartedly that an adventure in Antarctica would be packed with moments of the best kind. Her reaction was priceless: “KATES!” she squealed! My mom lights up for a street pup nonetheless a penguin, so this trip was a slam dunk. I don’t think she fully believed we were going until I got her preventive snoring gear for Christmas since we’d be sharing a cabin. (Sorry Mom, true!) 

Now, as I write this quarantining in my childhood home, reminders of the importance of being intentional with time, that nothing is permanent and love/connection is everything, are all too clear. Oddly enough it is the memories of our family travel experience in Antarctica that are helping get us through the challenging Covid-19 times we are all collectively facing now. 

A few moments that we think back to more than just from time to time: 

  • Hearing the haunting sound of ice cracking while out in our kayaks. You could barely see the avalanche, but the sound was so powerful it ran through our bones. 
  • Any chance to see penguins goofily waddling along. 
  • Kayaking along and realizing we are surrounded by humpbacks—north, south, east west—and listening to them come up for breath. I cherish the calm of that morning. 
  • Seeing our first piece of glorious black ice. So beautiful. 
  • Orcas flirting with our boat! After the A21/Ocean Nova team spotted them from far out (we’re talking I couldn’t track them with binoculars with someone pointing to them) they surrounded our boat as though we were a massive toy, and we ran from the back to the front of the vessel following them gracefully slide through the water. 
  • 10pm, twilight, lavender sky. While closing our little blinds to settle in for the night we see a mischievous leopard seal longer than both our beds modeling on the iceberg outside! Such a simple little moment but captures so much of the magic. The lavender sky itself is tattooed on our brains. 
  • Rarely does being awake at 4am seem worth it, but it always is in Antarctica. Sneaking up to the deck, having the ship to ourselves and keeping our eyes peeled for Antarctica’s wildlife to put on the best show on Earth. 
  • Dry suits!  I know it’s a weird one, but every single time I think about my mom and I getting in and out of those freaking dry suits (that we had to wear kayaking twice a day) I burst into a smile. 
  • Exploring Antarctica’s research heritage and meeting some of the folks fronting that conservation research now showed a very different and important side to this ice world. 

There is something very special about time out there in the wind and wild that unfolds quietly without anyone there to snap a photo or comment. It makes you realize all this happens whether we are there or not to take it in. I believe a heavy dose of wilderness is good for every creature, and this rang true for my mother and me. Our trip together continues to stay very much alive in both of us, and we are forever grateful for that time in such an extraordinary place together. 



A story by Katie Losey who traveled with her mother during our 2019-20 Air-Cruise Season in Antarctica on Ocean Nova. To learn more about family travel to Antarctica, contact us today. 

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