Who Am I?
After two years working in the Middle East I have money in the bank and itchy feet. I'm on a mission to visit every continent in the world and experience as much as possible while I am there.
An adventure to the frozen continent
I woke again at 4:30am but this time there was snow falling outside my window. Overnight we had passed the invisible line denoting the 60th parallel south (latitude) and had officially entered into Antarctic waters. This line was designated by the Antarctic Treaty of 1961, an agreement between the 12 countries present in Antarctica at that time to maintain the country as a peaceful scientific preserve, free of sovereign claims and military activity.
At 8:30am we were enthusiastically encouraged to head to the port side of the boat as the staff members on the Bridge had spotted our first iceberg. Far off in the distance, enveloped by fog and falling snow, was a massive tabular iceberg (chatacterised by a flat top and straight sides), drifting aimlessly along in the Southern Ocean. At dinner the night before, Boris had announced that there would be a prize for the person who guessed the closest GPS coordinates for our first sighting so we were all keen to find out who had won.
Sometime in the early hours of the morning I was awoken by the more pronounced pitching of the boat. We were out of the safety of land and had entered the notoriously unreliable waters of the Drake Passage.
The Drake Passage is the body of water that separates Cape Horn from the South Shetland Islands at the top of the Antarctic Peninsula. At around 1000 km in width, it is the shortest crossing to Antarctica from the rest of the world. This feature also means it acts as a funnel through which the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (the massive oceanic current that runs, relatively uninhibited, from west to east around Antarctica) must pass. In these seas the cold, dry air rises off the Antarctic continent and mixes with the warm, wet air from the equator, resulting in a constant progression of wild storms.
At 7:30am I was woken to the soothing tones of Boris, our Expedition Leader, over the PA speaker.
“Good morning Akademik Ioffe,
It is now seven thirty am, on Tuesday, the 9th of November.
The weather is fine in Ushuaia, it is six degrees outside, wind speed at around ten knots.
Today we plan to sail the Beagle Channel. We will also have a number of presentations from our expedition members that we will keep you informed of throughout the day.
Breakfast will be at eight am in the dining room. We hope to see you there.
Due to our southern location on the earth, the sun had already been up for a few hours and the clouds were slowly lifting off the mountain tops. I jumped out of bed, full of excitement for the new day and the lingering answer to our itinerary problems. I began working my way into the neat piles of thermal clothing I had unpacked into my cabin closet, a sense of order that would not last.
When my alarm went off at 1:30am I felt like I had barely closed my eyes. I dragged myself out of bed, showered and dressed in clothing appropriate for my winter expedition. I packed up my bags yet again and made my way down to reception to check out. A few people were already present in the foyer, all of whom I correctly assumed were part of our small group of 10 who were catching the 4:30am flight, because really, who else in their right mind would be up and checking out of a hotel room at such an ungodly hour?
United in our sleepiness and sense of adventure, we introduced ourselves and made small talk until one of the young men on reception asked us if we were the ones waiting for the transfer and pointed out that the van was already waiting at the entrance. We shrugged off our surprise at the clearly obvious answer to his question and loaded our luggage and ourselves into the van. As we prepared to leave our driver had the sense to perform a head count and came up two short. In the meantime, two other women had appeared in the lobby and were uncertain of where their group was until casually asked by the receptionist “Are you part of the group that is outside in the van?”
Hello there readers!
Just a quick word to let you know that I am back from Antarctica now and am currently situated in the beautiful tropical jungle of Puerto Iguazu.
I will be updating soon about my trip but as a sneak peek I will let you know that Antarctica was amazing in ways that will take me some time to articulate. Don’t worry though, I have been keeping a fairly detailed journal so I will elaborate more in the coming days now that I have time to sit and write my experiences down.
I also have over 1,500 photos to filter through and post up on Flickr. I am sure you are keen to see snow-covered mountains, penguins, icebergs and a few other exciting activities I took part in. However, I believe 1,500 is a little excessive even for me to endure. I will ensure I get them up and have you crying out “no more icebergs!”* as soon as possible.
And just because you have been so patient, here’s one for the road… chinstrap penguins!
*Is it really possible to see too many icebergs? I surely don’t believe so. Feel free to comment with “more icebergs!” at any time and I will gladly oblige.