A cruise to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica: readers' travel writing competition
Lucy Grewcock, winner of the adventure category in the 2011 competition, had a prize that took her south to Antarctica for a close encounter with the region's breathtaking wildlife – and an invitation to join the biggest penguin party on the planet
The Guardian, Friday 5 October 2012 22.45 BST
"Act like a penguin and you will be accepted as a penguin," Frank Todd, our expedition ornithologist, briefed us as we buckled our life jackets and prepared to go ashore.
Dropping anchor in South Georgia's Bay of Isles, we filed off the gangway into eight-man Zodiac boats. Mine was the first to fill and we sped away with the engine revving loudly, leaving a swell of icy water in our wake.
Crisp air filled our lungs as we bounced across the chop towards Salisbury Plain – a bay which, except for the broad valley sweeping through it, bears little resemblance to its English namesake.
As we raced towards the shore, it came alive with frantic fur seals that lurched in the shallows, splashed in the surf and wriggled up the beach behind. We were heading for a fur seal holiday camp and, with zoom lenses already extended, there was a flurry of camera clicks from the boat.
Having left port in Argentina, I'd spent the past week-and-a-half rocking and rolling across the Scotia Sea with 100 other passengers on board the 340ft M/S Expedition.
For most passengers – an assortment of Canadians, British and Antipodeans, aged 16 to more than 60 – the real appeal of this expedition was the white continent. Seduced by the mouthwash-blue glaciers and petrified seas of the BBC's Frozen Planet documentaries, we were a party eager for ice. But, with our 18-day cruise heading to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia first, we'd have to wait until day 16 to set foot on Antarctica.
Lucy makes new friends in South Georgia
No nature programme could ever have...