GO SOUTH: ANTARCTICA

PENGUINS

More people go through Heathrow in one day than have ever stepped foot on Antarctica.  It is the coldest, windiest, harshest environment on earth. It is also the most moving, awe inspiring place you will ever visit.

Mountains in the sea

MY JOURNEY

At 4pm on Thursday, I was sitting at my desk in London, backpack by my side with absolutely no ability to concentrate on what I was supposed to be doing.  I was about to leave for Antarctica!  By the following afternoon, I was half way across the world sitting on a balcony in Buenos Aires. No time to soak up the sun though, early the next morning it was up and off again for my flight down to Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city.  Flying in over the snowcapped mountains I think it finally hit me that this adventure of a lifetime was really happening.

Reflections

I had spent months fundraising for this trip.  I joined an organisation called 2041, which takes young people who are passionate about sustainability to the continent. The idea is to inspire and empower them with the information needed to protect Antarctica in the year 2041 when the treaty is up for review.  Under the present treaty, no one is allowed to build on Antarctica, harvest the oil or fish for wildlife.   As you might expect, going to the world’s last great wilderness ain’t cheap.

After a couple of days meeting the rest of the expedition members in Ushuaia it was time to board the Sea Spirit, our ship manned by Quark  Expeditions which would sail us down to the Antarctic peninsular.

The Sea Spirit and expedition crew The journey to Antarctica took a full 48 hours.  We sailed across the Drake Passage; one of the most dangerous seas on earth.  12 meter waves smacked into our ship as I lay clinging to my bed, the draws rolling in and out with the sway of the boat.  Whilst I was on my deathbed, those who didn’t get seasick were sliding about on the deck having a whale of a time.  I think my precise thoughts were something along the lines of I would like to die now please. Thanks.

Somehow, amazingly, we made it!  I arose to icebergs out of my cabin window and the glimpse of a killer whale fin slipping into the water.  Antarctica!

Seals

During the expedition, we took zodiac boats out to the small islands around the peninsular and climbed glaciers miles wide.  I sat in awe as penguins shuffled up to me for warmth.  The baby penguins chased their parents manically for food and the adults dashed back out to sea.  Total carnage.  Amazing carnage.  When we weren’t dashing about to see the incredible wildlife, there were moments to just take it all in.  Here’s me at Neko Harbor feeling totally inspired by my surroundings. We slept out on the ice one night, the Antarctic sky sprawling out and a million stars above.  As I lay there, I heard whales passing in the night.

Me at Neko Harbour

Antarctica is special.  It can give you a sense of peace, of pride and fascination about earth that no other place I have visited can.  On a sunny day, the reflection of the icebergs on the water, disturbed only by a gentle passing Minke whale is every superlative on earth.  In words, it is hard to describe all that it meant to me to step foot on Antarctica.  If you’ve got the adventurer in you to see it for yourself, do it responsibly and with utmost respect for your surroundings because in the words of Robert Swan, 2041 expedition leader and first man to walk to both poles “we should have the sense to leave one place on earth alone forever”.

Standing with the penguins in Antarctica

Standing with the penguins in Antarctica

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Derek Freal October 28, 2014 / 4:19 pm

    Very cool. Taking a cruise down to Antarctica is one of the big items still on my list. As you mentioned, it’s not exactly cheap.

    I didn’t realize the treaty protecting Antarctica will be up for review in 2041…certainly hope that gets extended. Look at all the other places around the world we’ve raped, plundered and pillaged in the name of food or resources. Would be a shame if that happened to the icy continent.

    Also didn’t realize that Quark let’s you camp out on the ice one night….how awesome! That sounds like one of the highlights of the trip. From the photo it looks like you all dug little trenches to put your sleeping bag in, right? I’m assuming this is to block the wind…

    • harriet October 29, 2014 / 1:36 pm

      Hey Derek. Yep we dug trenches to block out the wind chill, felt slightly like digging my own grave… 🙂 hope you make it to the world’s last great wilderness one day x

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