To anyone who goes to the Antarctic, there is a tremendous appeal, an unparalleled combination of grandeur, beauty, vastness, loneliness and malevolence – all of which sound terribly melodramatic – but which truthfully convey the actual feeling of Antarctica Where else in the world are all of these descriptors really true?
– Captain T.L.M. Sunter
As we set course for Antarctica, The Academik Ioffe (a Russian research vessel) became my home for the next 10 days under the command of a Russian naval crew. It was a brilliant trip of inner and outer exploration.
Shortly after embarking the vessel, we were directed to our cabins and provided time to unpack. After opening remarks and a bit of food ready us for what was to come, our first orders of business were to demonstrate emergency preparedness in the mandatory life boat drill and to “Drake Proof” our cabin.
The Drake Passage provides for the shortest route to Antarctica by boat. It is the body of water between South America and Antarctica where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet. The Drake Passage is notably one of the most turbulent and dangerous passages in the world due to the climatic transition. Unpredictable and turbulent are just a couple of descriptive words for what one experiences.
Due to the treacherous elements, an experienced pilot (familiar with the aerial view) was required to navigate us through the Drake Passage. When his responsibilities were completed, he had a 007 Bond-style escape onto a much smaller boat around 11pm one evening. A pilot joined us on our return trip, as well.
Although I can personally attest to the massive swells that enveloped our vessel, I did not record video footage. There are YouTube videos that demonstrate the violent turbulence of this voyage. The onboard doctor and staff began advising us to take our motion sickness medications the afternoon of our first day.
I was in awe of the beauty that surrounded us as we set sail.
Our second day on the vessel was filled with a wet skin fitting, presentations, stretching and oh, such beautifully prepared meals (with gluten-free options!) We learned about penguins from Antje (our Penguinologist). Liz introduced us to polar photography. Thomas explained the multi-faceted Antarctic Treaty. The ATS is an attempt to internationally regulate Earth’s only geographic area without a native human population. The essence of the treaty is that Antarctica is a place of peace and for scientific research. As tourist observers, we were to leave no physical footprint of our presence.
For a view of where our travels took us: Antarctic Marathon Adventure 2016 Chart (please click here)
Interested in reading about this journey from the beginning? Antarctica Expedition Day 1 (click here). The next several blogs are an attempt to share the sheer beauty of Antarctica — wildlife, ice and the human connection. I hope you enjoy!
Some 150 years ago, Charles Darwin traveled aboard the sailing ship Beagle, who later enlightened the world in the mid-1800s with his theory The Origin of Species. They say much of his theory was based on observations of wildlife made during his life-changing trips. – OneOcean Expeditions
Published in April 2016