.Antarctica: The Final Frontier

What. A. Trip.

For most people on this trip it will be described as a dream. A ten day stint in a mountain-ocean wilderness that was constantly questioned: “is this real?”, “am I really here?”. For many, this trip was a lifetime achievement, a now accomplished goal of reaching this unknown yet idyllic seventh continent. This awe never went away during the expedition and every day seemed to have a new adventure that somehow managed to be even better than the day before.

4 types of penguins, 4 types of seals, 2 types of whales and even a couple of dolphins… We saw snow, ice and glaciers near the continent, then grass and rocky outcrops as we moved further north into the sub-antarctic islands… We saw an active volcano, did a polar plunge and even got a bit seasick.

The view from our room looking out to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world.
A view from the camping spot.
Even the best of us can eventually get seasick.
A giant iceberg and some little penguins in Wilhelmina Bay.

It’s really fun to look back on these pictures and remember all of the different things we were able to do… it feels like the adventure was otherworldly. It couldn’t have finished a month ago, could it? And those 10 days on board? How solid were those quickly made friendships? Well, I’ve been able to see two people from the boat already and I talk with about four others on a weekly basis. Our family has plans in March to head down to LA to visit one of our closest new friends, so I would say that the magic onboard the expedition has most definitely transferred into the real world as well.

A Crabeater seal.
Weddell and Crabeater seals.
A Fur Seal relaxing in the subantarctic islands.

It was also a very special experience to have scientists on board the expedition. To be honest, it’s something I didn’t realize was so important on the first few days but grew to acknowledge as vital for the adventure experience. Each scientist gave a presentation on their subject matter but on top of that they would always be willing to answer questions and to provide further explanation and context. A seal on an iceberg was simply that until a scientist could put into context the dangers that this seal would be going through to get on land. Likewise, a volcano looks interesting but without the history of the explosions, researcher fatalities and old whaling stations, the volcano loses a lot of its might.

Chilean Research Base
Gentoo chicks!
Stevo and I post polar plunge.
Some young elephant seals digesting lunch.

Nearly 250 years ago Antarctica was discovered and it now holds about 75 research stations with about 4,000 summer inhabitants and 1,000 winter inhabitants. Because Antarctica does not belong to any singular country, it is held as a scientific preserve with the Antarctic Treaty System (which will expire in 2048) and if not renewed, this can allow for any country to lay claim and even establish a military power there…. the consequences are obvious. Tourism is already amping up because of the media and it’s necessary that the antarctic maintains its pristine bliss; for the ice caps and for the animals.

The green and rocky landscapes of the subantarctic islands.
Rainbow algae growth.

The first explorers had their life schedules at the mercy of the antarctic weather and so did we: all of our itineraries were based on the weather and ocean swells, rather than on the clocks. While in Antarctica, we never saw a sunset nor did we go a day without seeing a humpback whale. I will not quickly forget the cold on my face, the sound of glaciers calving in the middle of the night or the sun glistening off the snow, and honestly, I’m already hoping to go back.

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