The white land

Trip Start Jan 08, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Antarctica  ,
Wednesday, April 5, 2006

So after saying farewell to Paul in El Calafate (Argentina) it was time to head south and see if i could jump on a boat to Anatarctica. What to do do on St Patrick´s day while waiting for a bus at 4am? Find the closest (in this case the only) Irish bar and go for a few drinks of course!! I caught the bus and headed 5 hours southwest to the coast where i had to catch another bus to Ushuaia, the southern most city in the Argentina in Tierra Del Fuego (Land of Fire). A 12 hours bus ride was in order, mostly taken up by criss-corssing between Argentina and Chile´s borders due to land disputes that went on for ages. Four border crossings infact, but at least we got to move around a bit. A quick boat trip crossing the Magallenes was also in order. It is here in Tierra Del Fuego that the Andes rise again to their magnificiant state.

I arrived around 9pm and soon found a hostel in the center of town. By the following day i had organised to head on the last boat to Antarctica and needed to purchase a few little things that would make the trip a little more enjoyable. So some gloves and a couple of bottles of red wine were in order. By 4pm the next day i was on the boat and meeting the characters i would end up traveling with for the next ten days. Ended up being in a room with a Irish fella named Anthony. His purchase for the trip south....... a bottle of whiskey of course. hahahaha.

So we said goodbye to Ushuaia with its beautiful snow capped mountains surrounding this port city and began sailing down the Beagle Channel. A safety lesson in case of emergencies and by 9pm we hit the open water of the Drake Passage. Known as the roughest passage of water in the world! Yeah stoked! Although i do think my little three day trip on the ferry through Chile was a good help in getting me prepared for two days of the biggest waves i´ve ever encounted. ´The Drake Passage occurs where the fast flowing southern ocean waters (Pacific and Atlantic) are squeezed between the continental land masses of South America and Antarctica. Storms frequently whip the ocean into a dark grey turbulent, heaving mass of water, reknowned for sinking many a ship. Even with today's advances in ocean faring, storms in the Drake Passage can strand ships on either side.´ incase someone finds this and wants to publish it!! hahahaha)
As the hours past by fewer and fewer people would arrive for their meals and the ship went fairly quiet. Apart from a few lectures that they gave on Antarctic wildlife, Shackleton´s adventures (famous for his survival) and information on ice formations around Antarctica everyone was taking it very easy.
Day 2 was spent iceberg hunting and the first person to see one won a bottle of red. It was here that we noticed the temperature start to drop and it was now necessary to rug up before heading out on the decks. This i seemed to always forget and would end up freezing on the deck trying to enjoy the experience. hahaha.

By day 3 we woke up and ate early to take our first landing at 7:30am. We landed at Hannah Point, Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands (if you happen to have a map handy) and had our first taste of life in the Antarctic continent. Actually never realised that it would smell so much! hahaha. We walked through our first colony of penguins and snapped away with heaps of pics. This was awesome!!!. Ever since i was a kid and saw the fairy penguins at Phillip Island i have always had a liking for the funny flightless birds so it was fantastic to finally be here in Antarctica and see them in real life, walking, hitting each other with their wings during fights, sleeping and builing nests. We saw elephant seals moulting and watched fur seals play flight each other along the shores. These shores in fact were covered with chunks of ice from end to end, also reminding us of where we were. Sweet!!
Next stop Deception Island ( an old volcano that collapsed in on itself and created a massive lake inside). Here we went hot spring swimming, where on shore a small pool was built and the water was heated by volcanic activity below. First job, run into the FREEZING Antarctic water, dive in and run back to jump in the pool(just for an image: about 5 cm deep and 3 metres long and not nearly deep enough to cover your whole body). Crazy yes! Heart starting ...or stopping yes! fun?... brilliant!!!!

The next four days were filled with traveling through breathtaking channels with glaciers stopping at waters edge, cruising through iceberg filled waters, animal watching, going to various research stations occupied by Ukrainiain and Scotish researchers and landing on the Antarctic continent!!!!!!. From the Ukrainian station we had a vodka at the southern most bar i have ever been to, from the Scotish station we sent our postcards (who knows how long that will take to get home) and on the continent (Antarctic Peninsula to be precise) we continued to hangout with various species of penguin, observe seals and experince the lovely cold of Antarctica. From the boat we were even treated to four sightings of both Minke and Humpback whales. Now these animals are MASSIVE! We also had various zodiac cruises to check out the amazing icebergs that filled the water everywhere you looked and driveby glacier watching, waiting for it to break off and crash into the water below. Then before we knew it.....time to head home.

Two more days back over the Drake Passage and we were back to reality!

To sum it up......brilliant, breathtaking, amazing, unique and something that everytime i hear the word Antarctica i realise i´m one very lucky person to have got the chance to see it, smell it and touch it!

Just a little info.... Ice covers 99.6% of Antarctica. Antarctica´s ice sheets contain 90% of the world´s ice (30 million cubic km), which contains nearly 70% of the world´s freshwater. This ice is up to 4775 m thick (yeah crazy huh). It´s enormous weight has depressed the underlying landmass by nearly 1600m. It doubles in size over winter, it contains the world´s driest desert, is the coldest continent and also the most windy (Antarctica Lonely Planet). Gotta love the Emperor penguins who walk 70 miles to breed during winter. Winter temps -40 c to -70 c. Summer -15c to -35c

and one last one. ´Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success. Sir Ernest Shackleton.´ The man with the most famous Antarctic story of survival!

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regcon on

Dear Ryan - thanks for putting us your travel pod list - that looks like the most amazing trip - but cold! Maybe too much for me, after all I'm grizzling about the Sunshine Coast winter. You've got some truly amazing photos there and I just loved your penguins. I wonder did you see Emperor p's - or are they somewhere else. Keep travelling safely! love margaret

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