Special thanks to Journey’s Magazine for this great article on an Antarctic adventure.
“The rufous-chested dotterel sits low in the diddledee,” said the ornithologist on the ship’s expedition staff as he pointed out a bird on the projection screen. Along with 105 other adventurers onboard our expedition ship, I looked at the seagull-looking bird with neon pink webbed feet.
It was my second day on an Antarctic trip, and I was having trouble focusing on the screen because out the window, the sun lit up the South Atlantic Ocean like an undulating carpet of sapphires. The ornithologist changed the slide. “This is Wilson’s Storm-Petrel. It has very weak legs, and when it flies, it looks like it’s walking on water, so sailors called it the Jesus Bird.”
I tried to listen, but couldn’t help but wonder if I’d brought enough warm clothes. Would I freeze? Would I be sorry I’d signed up for a 20-day trip? I’d always seen photos of gigantic icebergs, breeching whales, and huge colonies of penguins and seals, but never signed up for Antarctica because I didn’t want to have to cross the dreaded Drake Passage with some of the roughest waters in the world, and where everyone usually gets seasick. But then I read South, by Ernest Shackleton and I had to go.
In August 1914, Shackleton, a British explorer, set sail with a crew of 27, hoping to be the first to cross the Antarctic continent on foot. He was within 85 miles of his destination when his ship, Endurance, was trapped on the ice pack and crushed in the sea. For 20 months, he and his crew withstood frigid temperatures until they were finally rescued. In spite of extreme conditions, every man survived, so even though Shackleton didn’t achieve his goal, he was considered a hero for his perseverance and leadership skills.
If Shackleton’s men could survive for almost two years with no warm clothes, sleeping in flimsy tents, and only eating seal blubber, I could surely endure a ship with comfortable accommodations and splendid food on my cruise to Antarctica, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. The good news was that because we were headed to the Falkland Islands from Ushuaia, Argentina, we’d only have to cross the dreaded Drake Passage on the way home. Continue reading