My Trip to the Antarctic Peninsula

13 Apr

Antarctica Peninsula 2010

Late last February I boarded a plane at JFK airport headed for South America. It was the 2nd time I had done so in the past month with the same intention. I was 22 when I graduated college and to reward myself I used up a large portion of my savings to take a trip to Australia. For 2 months my brother and I backpacked up and down the east coast of Oz. It was one of the best experiences pf my life and solidified my love for travel. When I got back from that trip I was determined to travel around the world and step foot on all 7 continents.

Antarctica Peninsula 2010

This last trip of mine was one of the most memorable and difficult. After months of diligently squirreling away money, running around town for equipment making arrangements with airlines, travel agents and insurance companies, I was finally ready to go. I was to fly from New York City to Atlanta, then to Buenos Aires, Argentina then to Ushuaia, Argentina where I would then board a retro-fitted Danish Research Vessel and sail for 2-3 days until we reached the Antarctic continent.

Then a rain-storm hit and my plane never even left the NYC airport. The next day the boat in Ushuaia departed and I was still a hemisphere away.

I was crestfallen and going back to work the next day, after gloating to all of my coworkers, was mildly embarrassing to say the least. One month later, after hours spent on the phone and lots and lots of faxes, I was back on a plane with ticket in hand and renewed determination.

This time around the travel went off without a hitch. I stretched out my travel time so I actually got to spend some time in each city I went to; I got to tango in Buenos Aires and dine on parilla in Ushuaia. After about 4 days of on and off traveling it was time to board the ship, a 1976 retrofitted Danish Research vessel The Plancius. For two days we sailed through the notoriously rough Drake Passage until we reached the first islands of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Antarctica Peninsula 2010

Antarctica Peninsula 2010

There were 3 different groups of staff onboard the ship. There was the hotel staff, the great folks who were in charge of turning down our rooms, serving the meals and the very important position of manning the ship’s fully stocked bar.

Then there was the ship crew, career Russian sailors who didn’t speak a word of English. They spend half of the year sailing around the Antarctica and the other half around the Arctic Circle, they also all looked like they were extras in Eastern Promises. They were exceptionally friendly and after sharing a bottle of vodka I smuggled onboard, I believe I made some lifelong friends.

The last group, the expedition crew, were a team of scientists and doctors who would lead our trips ashore and point out things of interest. They also filled up the time during our lackluster days of sailing by giving collegiate level lectures about what we were about to see. They gave these lectures all while we were aboard a ship that was tilting 45 degrees in some of the roughest waters in the world, with many of us drinking wine and wearing prescription-strength seasickness patches.

Antarctica Peninsula 2010

For the next six days we sailed around different islands and harbours, making landings twice per day. We saw current and abandoned scientific research stations, penguin colonies and arctic seals. We camped out under the stairs (inside 3 different sleeping bags placed ontop of an air mattress), went bum sledding, built a snowman and some of us reluctantly took a dip in the water. The places we were going were so remote that the wildlife was unaccustomed to humans. Curious penguins would walk right up to you and poke around your boots, young seals would swim right up to to Zodiac boats and sniff around and flocks of birds would just fly about – following us around. They were as interested in us as we were in them.

Antarctica Peninsula 2010

This trip was by far one of the most impactful I’ve ever taken. Every time we landed ashore I was be taken aback by the grandiose and unforgiving terrain, I would also be hit by the revelation that only a small percentage of Earth’s population would ever experience what I was feeling. It’s hard to put into words what I felt, so it has been difficult for me to describe my experience to others. I mostly belittle the experience by saying that it was very cold and that I saw lots of ice, penguins and seals. I’m extremely glad that I went and it was worth all of the money and stress I went through to get there. It seems like a more substantial achievement because it did not go as planned. However, I’m not sure if it is a trip I would recommend to others. I went because it was part of a greater goal of mine. Antarctica is not relaxing or nice – two qualities that usually define a vacation. But I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.

The best as I can offer is to tell you to look at the photos I took, in full resolution, and imagine that it is very, very cold while doing so.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnnyjuice/sets/72157623834818912/

6 Responses to “My Trip to the Antarctic Peninsula”

  1. Snow 13. Apr, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    So solid.

  2. Scott 13. Apr, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    Juice – this is very very awesome. Love the write-up & the experience. I think you’re hitting something pretty emotional here; not belittling anything at all.

  3. Johnnyjuice 13. Apr, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    Thanks man, I appreciate the love. It was a super good time and if you have a desire to go, it’s completely worth it.

  4. Hendrik Kleinsmiede 14. Apr, 2010 at 7:10 pm #

    Wow, Johnny Juice, that is absolutely awesome! Great blog post and absolutely stunning photography! Get a real sense of a life changing, almost spiritual, experience that occupies that nebulous place in our perception where words become useless. But very, very cool!

  5. Nancy\ 15. Apr, 2010 at 8:06 pm #

    Amazing pictures.

    So, when did you turn Amish?

  6. asp.net 4 social networking 05. Feb, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

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