Extreme Adventures x3 - Part III: Antarctica!
Updated: May 21
Welcome to part III of my extreme adventures! Because it was 28 days of epic proportion, I can’t possibly put into words the true essence in which I experienced it, but I hope to provide useful and interesting information for you below.
1) The Journey Begins: First stop, Santiago, Chile, South America. Traveling overseas, especially to a foreign country, can be intimidating but trip personnel was there to greet the travelers and make the process of navigating a foreign airport easy. They assisted us through customs, helped us collect our luggage and shuttled us to the hotel. Keep in mind that the majority of flights are overnight, so we actually arrived in Chile some time in the AM. As part of the travel package, we had the option to tour the city (which I did), but I was so tired from the flight that it was hard to enjoy it, and I had no idea the hotel had an absolutely beautiful oasis of an outdoor pool/spa area. If I had to do it over, I would have relaxed by the pool instead. That evening, they offered a private cocktail party where everyone mingled, and trip personnel reviewed important instructions and what to expect. It was very organized and professional.
Second stop, Ushuaia, Argentina, South America. The southernmost city in the world. We toured Tierra Del Fuego National Forest and learned a very interesting fact. In 1946, to boost the economy, they imported beavers to the forest in order to develop a fur trade. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out so well and instead, the beavers became quite prolific since there weren’t any natural predators and managed to cause billions of dollars of destruction to the forest. Ironic, isn’t it?
2) Two Days at Sea: The National Geographic headed south across Drake’s passage, a turbulent waterway where the Pacific and Atlantic meet. Every passenger I saw had one, two or all the motion sickness preventative measures from patches behind the ears, to wristbands, to basic oral Dramamine. I found that lying on my bed, in the dark, and with a cool temperature did the trick. The ship offers fresh green apples and ginger candy- supposedly nature’s combatants to motion sickness. I ate a lot of both.
This is not your typical Caribbean cruise. The National Geographic, although beautiful, does not have a pool, a rock-climbing wall, skeet shooting, casino, golf or waterslides. But remember, this isn’t a ‘cruise.’ It’s really just the vessel that gets you to the great white continent with comfort and style. There were approximately 100 of us. What did we do for 2 days without all the Royal Caribbean amenities, you ask? Well, we stood in sub-zero temperatures filming icebergs, we ate delicious meals prepared by master chefs, we mingled in the lounge and shared other travel stories and we listened to the highly qualified staff educate us on the waters, sea-life, history of Antarctica and other fun facts. The staff isn’t your run-of-the-mill cruise hands either. They are Botanists, Zoologists, Biologists… etc., well-versed in educating us about the environment. We even had a professional photographer from National Geographic to help us take the best photos possible.
3) Land Ho: The moment we’ve all been waiting for…Penguins! I can only imagine what Sir Ernest Shackleton felt as he disembarked from his ship and landed on this continent inhabited only by penguins and seals. Of course, in 1914 maybe that’s all he expected. But in the 21st century, it is surreal to go where nobody lives. A place so climate-brutal that humanity cannot survive. Almost post-apocalyptic. Except there is life…the cutest little things you’ve ever seen, and who know no enemy, waddle right up to you and trust you won’t hurt them. We were not allowed to go within a certain distance of them, but if they came up to us, we were allowed to observe. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to pick one up, put it in our backpack and take it home as many suggested we should. I walked on a beach with a penguin by my side. I sat on the sand (and in the penguin guano) as they came and checked me out. I looked into their soul. Truly sublime. Amazing does not even begin to describe how an animal with barely any legs, that is classified as a bird but can’t fly, thrives in this environment. The next time someone says to you their Pitbull is tough, I would argue that penguins are tougher. They were the reward for what we had to do every day to see them.
To preserve Antarctica, nothing from our world is allowed to get on the continent. Therefore, before disembarking the ship, everyone has to go through Biohazard Decontamination. It consisted of either using freshly provided rubber boots and parka or, if you wanted to use your own, the staff had to vacuum and sterilize it. Then, before boarding the outrigger zodiac which took us ashore, we had to step into a chemical tub that sterilized our boots. Once we returned to the ship, we had to step back into the chemical tubs and scrub our boots to get all the sand, guano and flora off.
One of our stops was Port Lockroy, home of a post office and gift shop, and maintained by Britain. Antarctica is under a treaty of several countries for the purpose of research only and within that treaty, it states that if a country discovers something new, they must disclose their discovery with the rest of the countries. The main continent is not the only thing that offers such awesomeness.
4) South Georgia Island: Home of the King penguin. It is not quite as tall as the Emperor penguin but is just as beautiful. They share the island with Elephant Seals. One could argue that South Georgia Island has steroids in the water because both species are much larger here. I will let the photos speak for themselves.
5) Falkland Islands: No penguins, but plenty of Albatross and primarily grasslands that support sheep herding. The Falkland Islands are fun because the history, in my opinion, is so entertaining. I really encourage you to google it, but in a nutshell, it goes something like this (told to me by inhabitants of the islands): Because they don’t offer much of anything strategically for any country, they changed hands several times over the centuries. The British founded them in 1592, the French were the first to colonize them, because they were logistically so close to Argentina, Spain laid claim until Argentina became independent and wanted them but by then the British had somehow taken over again. In 1982, General Galtieri of Argentina is a mean, nasty man (per Falklanders) and decides, “I’m taking the islands back.” Prime Minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher at the time, said, “No.” General Galtieri engaged in war so Prime Minister Thatcher sunk his battleship and not only won the islands’ ownership but sent General Galtieri crawling back to Argentina with his tail between his legs and he disappeared in embarrassment. Or so the folklore goes.
I hope this demonstrates that trips like these are not only incredibly educational, but fun and provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for amazing adventure that crosses off that certain item on your bucket list. I highly recommend Lindblad Expeditions (a partner of Nathab and National Geographic). Contact www.expeditions.com for your next travel adventure. Head to the Southern Hemisphere, where winter is summer, and God only knows what time zone you’re in. (Not to mention you’re upside down at the bottom of the Earth. LOL). Have fun and thanks for sharing in my adventures.