December 28, 2014

Exploring Ushuaia, and boarding our floating home!

End of the day expedition leader update:
Today was a truly great day! One of the nicest days of the year in Ushuaia! Our good karma was really working.
The morning was spent in group discussions and introductory education sessions with expedition staff. We then set off to stretch our legs and enjoyed a great hike up to the Martial Glacier. The interpretive hike led our students past streams, the beautiful and unique southern beech tree forests to the top of the glacier with a stunning lookout over Ushuaia, the Beagle Channel and Chilean Andes in the distance.
The hike, fresh air and incredible views invigorated the team and helped us to further bond as new friends. Following the hike we enjoyed a short visit in the town of Ushuaia to explore the streets and purchase a few souvenirs.
Filled with excitement and anticipation of our journey ahead, we boarded our expedition vessel, the M/V Ushuaia, raised the Students on Ice flag and set sail at 6pm! Students and staff toasted our journey, met some of the wonderful crew of our ship, participated in a safety drill and enjoyed being out on deck to soak in the spectacular scenery of the Beagle Channel.
Energy is in the air as bid farewell to civilization, and put distance between ourselves and the land we have left behind, and look forward to the many discoveries and experiences ahead. Tomorrow will be our first full day at sea, filled with educational workshops and activities that cover Antarctic history, science and the arts – a strong foundation in understanding Antarctica.
In the expedition spirit,
Geoff Green
Expedition leader update: 9:21am
Good morning from sunny Ushuaia!
Students and staff woke this morning to a beautiful, sunny day in Ushuaia. We were treated to a full breakfast by the lovely staff at our hotel, Los Yamanas and then over to one of our meeting rooms where students received their very own Canada Goose vest, a book about Antarctica, a full expedition team list complete with photos and bios and a journal to capture all the wonderful memories of our expedition.
At 9:30 students began a full morning of education workshops! We call these education stations and students separated into 3 groups to rotate between Antarctic Wildlife with naturalist Olle Carlsson and ornithologist Santiago Imberti. They will cover an introduction to the birds, seals and whales of Antarctica.
Education station 2 covers the science of ice, ocean and mapping with educators Paul Brett, Chair of the Ocean Mapping program at the Marine Institute in Newfoundland; Professor Derek Mueller with Carleton University’s Geology and Environmental Science department and oceanographer Daniele Bianchi.
Education station 3 provides an introduction into the people and history of Antarctica with explorers and polar historians Scobie Pye, David Fletcher and former Government of Newfoundland Fisheries Minister Trevor Taylor.
Then Donna Johnson, our resident counsellor, will do an intro to mental health with the purpose of letting students know they will go through many experiences and transformations over expedition and how she is available to support them if needed along with other staff. 
At noon we will board the buses and enjoy a beautiful hike up to the Martial Glacier and a picnic lunch with an incredible view over Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel.  Three local guides will join the hike along with our own expert staff to offer interpretation during the hike. 
After the hike we will explore the main street in Ushuaia and the city centre before boarding our expedition vessel, raising the SOI flag and set sail! 
Students will participate in a safety briefing and then enjoy the incredible scenery as we pass through the Beagle Channel towards the Drake Passage.
We have already become a close team and we look forward to a wonderful day of exploration and learning. Stay tuned for more updates later today!
In the expedition spirit,
Geoff Green
Below are a mix of student journals, cellphone photos from various expedition team members, and the spectacular photography of Lee Narraway. We’ve decided to use Instagram as our main way to share photos in the “Follow the Expedition” daily updates. However, it’s not a perfect medium, there is some image quality compromises and it requires us to crop certain photos. So if you’d like to browse through the photos in their full glory or if you’re looking for a specific student. Please visit the “Photos” page to scroll through them:
“Day 4: Today was a beautiful day to just  be living in the moment. We left our magnificent hotel and headed to a stunning mountain with breath-taking glaciers where it was the perfect opportunity to take in the beauty of Mother Nature. The hike up this steep mountain had amazing views throught our entire hour and a half scenic hike. We then drove to down town to shop for 40 minutes. Next we boarded our magnificent ship and said our goodbyes to the breath-taking Ushuaia. So far it’s fair sailing with beautiful scenic mountains and glaciers. Tomorrow we continue our journey to Antarctica for the rest of the day along with the best people.”
~Suzanne Zeid, Longview, Texas
“Today was one of the best days that I’ve had in a while!  We began the day with a hike up to a glacier in Ushuaia. The scenery throughout the entire hike was ineffable, with beauty surrounding me wherever I looked. I seriously need to come back to Ushuaia to hike more trials and to thoroughly experience the unique environment, because I’ve never seen mountains like these before. What made today memorable, however, was how everyone on the trip was extremely friendly and social. I truly feel like strong friendships were started today with people from all over the world and I can’t wait to make those bonds grow stronger.”
~Brielle Tobin, Casper, Wyoming
“Un dia espectacular a Ushuaia, mati de presentacions educatives seguit d’una excursio al Glacial Martial amb vistes de la ciutat i el canal de Beagle.
“Petita passejada per la ciutat i cap al vaixell.
“La sortida d’Ushuaia ha sigut excitant, tots a fora deixant la ciutat darrere i en navegant pel canal de Beagle.
“Ara ja son les onze de la nit, cop pot ser que el dia hagi passat tant rapid? Els alumnes acaben d’anar a dormir i comenca a fer-se fosc. Deixem el canal i entrem al passatge de Drake. Ens han avisat que les aigues calmades s’acaben i que entrem a l’ocea mogut. No arribarem a l’Antartica fins dema passat a la nit, aixo es immens!
“Estic il.lusionada de que aquesta aventura hagi comencat! I aviat els animals, no puc esperar veure’ls!!
“Spectacular day at Ushuaia, educational presentations in the morning followed with an excursion to the Martial Glaciar with impressive views of the city and the Beagle Channel. Short walk arround the city and direction port to board.
“Leaving Ushuaia was exciting, everybody on deck leaving the city behind us, sailing smoothly through the Channel.
It’s now eleven o’clock, how can it be that the day went so quickly? The students have just gone to bed and it starts getting dark. We are leaving the Channel and entering Drake passage. They told us that the smooth waters are finishing and that we will soon enter the agitated ocean. We won’t reach Antractica till the evening of the day after tomorrow, this is huge!
I’m really excited with that this adventure has started and of course about the animals we will be encountering, cannot wait for the first sightings!”
~Anna Abella, Baar, Switzerland
“Right now I am sitting in the living area of theM/V Ushuaia tired, content, and absolutely inspired to have another amazing day tomorrow. Today I hiked through a beautiful mountain pass, talked with many young and keen minds, and heard tales from experienced voyagers of tales past. All in all, I am extremely grateful and humbled by this great day I have had.
“We started the day by hiking to see a glacier in a mountain pass just outside of Ushuaia in beautiful Tierra del Fuego. After our brief hike, the real excitement started. After a stopover in town, we stepped onto the ship that will be our home for the next nine days. It was a surreal moment casting off the lines and setting for sea, drifting through the Beagle Channel with the jagged mountains passing by.
“The rest of the evening was filled with ship formalities, and more importantly watching the birds and landscape follow us along towards the end of the channel. There came a point tonight, after dinner where I looked down at my watch and was atonished to see that it was 10:00.
“It is now 12:34am here, and I have enjoyed a full day where I have had the great opportunity to talk individually with great scientists, explorers, and educators one on one about the work, exploration, and lives that these incredible people are living. It is really inspiring to be able to hear from these people, and I am so excited in these next days to continue to pick their braiins for everything they have to offer. Tomorrow the education program will be in full swing, and we will officially be in some of the roughest areas of the Drake Passage. Wish me luck friends and family, tomorrow’s another great challenge.”
~Patrick Soprovich, Whitehorse, Yukon
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“Wow. That’s the only word that I can possibly use to describe the past two days. From the food, to the planes, to the beautiful scenery of the Beagle Channel I have been in perpetual awe ever since stepping off the plane in Buenos Aires.
“Yesterday, we flew into Ushuaia after an early, 5am wake up call. Despite the group’s communal tiredness, we all forced ourselves to wake up as we descended into the city. It is absolutely beautiful – a small, outpost settlement situated between mountains and more mountains. We really had the chance to take in this beautiful scenery during our lunch overlooking the channel.
“Food probably isn’t the most glamorous topic of comment when on an Antarctic Expedition, but it was so delicious that it honestly deserves an entire post of its own. We had a three course meal for lunch, consisting of hearty soup, plenty of bread and some really delicious chicken and potatoes. But the real feast came later on yesterday during dinner. We ate asado – a traditional Argentinian barbecue consisting of roasted lambs. It was quite surprising to see them literally roasting on an open fire in a pit outside the hotel. Such a display of Argentinian culture was very much welcome.
“After lunch, we had a chance to spend some time exploring the beach outside the channel. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before in my life. To start, powerful mountains menacingly stared down from above, as if to remind us of our pathetic frailty in the face of nature. But what was more beautiful was the actual beach. Since the tide had gone down, it was bestowed with a massive carpet of kelp, mussels and other small marine wildlife. Striding around this massive field of life, we had the opportunity to walk among these creatures and observe them in their natural habitats. The beach looked otherworldly green and alien-like in its bed of kelp.
“After dinner that night, we all managed to sit outside (in full daylight – even though it was 8 o’clock) and play some icebreakers with the entire group. We all seemed a little bit nervous about everything -being in a foreign continent, being with a group of totally new people, staring down the Drake Passage. But we’re totally happy to be this way. I think that the collective spirit of adventure is beginning to penetrate into our very cores. We are all ready to face challenges and experience this adventure with an enthusiastic and passionate spirit. As the great Canadian band Rush once sung, ‘We’re only at home when we’re on the run.'”
~Robert Adragna, Toronto, Ontario
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“First off I would like to thank everyone who made this trip to Antarctica possible, so far it has been amazing traveling through Argentina and finally starting our voyage on the ship. The 9 hours it took to fly from Miami to Buenos Aires was a pain in the rear but once I had arrived I knew that the pain had been worth it. The hotels that we stayed in so far have been beautiful, far nicer than what I thought they were going to be. That also applies to the ship, the Ushuaia, which actually looked a lot better than I imagined both in the exterior and in the interior. We took a trip through a port of Ushuaia, very beautiful but kind of lonely since most people I believe are away. Most of the stores were actually closed so I was not really able to buy the toothpaste that I need, thankfully my cabin buddy is actually a pretty cool guy and doesn’t mind sharing his toothpaste. We also took a trip to a glacier before we went to the port in which I just reinforced the fact that I am out of shape. The photos I took up there were spectacular, actually every photo I have taken so far on this trip only grasps a fraction of the actual beauty of this place. I could keep writing but I have to leave right now because of curfew, I might write tomorrow so stay tuned and good night.”
~Andres Felipe Aristizabal, New York City, New York
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“We had breakfast in the dining room and I talked to Santiago about his favorite Argentinean things. We also had a conversation about me loving to photograph wildlife and how I love National Geographic. He informed me that there would most likely be a National Geographic ship at the port later with photographers on board so I was intrigued.
“After breakfast, we all brought down our luggage and then had some more education stations with the staff. Following that, we departed the hotel and drove up the mountains. We had an incredibly long hike which was the best worst experience of my life thus far. Best being it was the most spectacular view of nature that I have ever seen. Worst being the fact that my boots gave me quarter-size blisters/open wounds on the back of my heels which made the climb excruciatingly painful. In the end, the beauty of nature was worth it. Although since I was hiking so slow and constantly stopping to take pictures, I didn’t make it to the glacier that was on the mountain. We had to turn around and head back down to get on the bus.
“We drove down the twists and turns and stopped in town to do a little shopping at the ‘World’s End’ gift shop. Ushuaia is the southern-most city on the South American continent so it’s only appropriate for the area to be nicknamed this. We got back on our buses and drove through port security where we met our ship ‘Ushuaia.’ Never call her a boat because as Geoff says, ‘You can put a boat on a ship but you can’t put a ship on a boat.’ We met in the conference room which is pretty much a giant lounge where we all meet for discussions. We were welcomed aboard with gourmet snacks, a styrofoam model of the ship, and some orange juice in champagne glasses for a toast to our Antarctic Expedition. We got settled in our rooms soon after.
“I went up on the top deck to watch the ship disembark from the port. The Students on Ice flag was flying on the bow and the Argentina flag was flying in the middle. We waved goodbye and watched as we sailed down the Beagle Channel. Patrick and I stood in the wind trying not to fly away as the ship blew it’s horn. Pretty soon a few more people joined us and we started asking Santiago bird questions since that’s his specialty. Just as we were calling standing out in the wind quits, there was an announcement for a muster station drill. It’s required to do this within the first 24 hours of setting sail. After that we had dinner. Since I can’t eat tomato sauce I got a special alfredo pasta dinner as well as a salad and endless bread. We had another briefing following dinner and then I headed back to my room. Showering on a ship that is rocking back and forth is quite the challenge. Even worse of a challenge was brushing the knots out of my wet hair that was caused by the extreme winds.”
~Dawn Damiano, Miami, Florida
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Evening blog: “Such a fantastic day today! We hiked a mountain which was super tiring but getting to the top was breathtaking. A really nice day today as well, it was sunny but not too hot and there was not a drip of rain. We then spent about 40 minutes in a giftshop buying postcards and little souvenirs. The convergency is weird, about 12x, and looking at little trinkints and seeing them being “$300″ was almost scary. Then we got on the boat. There was so much energy as we took off! The wind picked up and you can now stand at the top of the ship, put your arms out, and lean into the wind without falling over! Didn’t see any wildlife really other than some birds flying by, but im hoping tomorrow there will be penguins! Not looking forward to the Drake Passage… barf bags are tapped everywear along the ship. Guess we shall see!”
~Alissa Sallans, Whitby, Ontario
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“Today started with an incredible hike up to a glacier in Ushuaia, Argentina! It was great to get outside and moving after so many hours on planes and busses, especially with the beautiful scenery! We boarded the boat and embarked on our journey at 6:00 PM Ushuaia time as well. We are currently on our way down the Beagle Channel with Argentina to the port side and Chile to the starboard side. We will have many workshops tomorrow and will also be starting on the Remote Sensing while on the Drake Passage!”
~Olivia Sayer, Littleton, Colorado 
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“Like many adventures, this will be filled with firsts. But unlike many adventures, I have a hard time imagining when I’ll be able to do many of these things again.
“Today, we set sail for Antarctica and left Patagonia behind. As we sailed down the Beagle Channel –Argentina on one side, Chile on the other –mountains towered over the shores and I found it hard to believe that we were leaving these magnificent vistas for even more beautiful landscapes.
“It became apparent today that a balance must be struck between observing nature and trying to digest and understand all the information around me. Groups of all types of birds fly by and I instinctually want to grab a book to find out what type they are, but then a group magellanic penguins on an outcrop of rocks come into sight. It’s a wonderful situation to be in.”
~Sabrina Clarke, Whitehorse, Yukon
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“So, today was the big day! After all the days that we’ve spent traveling here, we’re finally on the ship and I could not be more excited to be here! Although, I have to admit, as exciting as that was, my favorite part of the day had to be getting the chance to hike through the mountains of Ushuia. The views that we got witness were absolutely breathtaking, and if I hadn’t already wanted to make it back to South America at some point, I do now! So far the boat ride has been pretty smooth. It’s getting a little rougher now as I’m typing this, but so far so good! I’m looking forward to all of the workshops we have going tomorrow morning, though I don’t know how I’m ever going to choose. Today was such an incredible day, and I know that the rest of this trip has so much in store for me, so I can’t wait to tell you all how things happen to turn out!”
~Serenity McKenzie, Abilene, Texas
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“6:00 PM Ushuaia Time, the MV Ushuaia was bustling with 66 students and 23 researchers, scientists and artists from 14 countries in the world. All the students lined up on the topmost deck and some of us, including me, made the famous Justin pose as we looked to Ushuaia and said our final goodbyes to Argentina. Antarctica here we come! The MV Ushuaia, our vessel for the next 10 days is a warm ship with excellent crew! It is fascinating to talk to a wonderful group of students and I am extremely excited to experience the unparalleled transformative expedition to one of the most spectacular continents on the world: Antarctica: The greatest classrooms on Earth!”
~Zareen Cheema, Pune, India
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“To all of you who thought that I got lost in Argentina, I’m happy to report I didn’t. So far, this really has been the trip of a life time. I took my first international flight, I learned that air plane food really is terrible and I made some new friends from all over the globe. I even got to take part in asado, which is an Argentenian barbecue. It was the best food I ever ate. The lamb and sausages are slowly roasted over an open flame. It wasn’t just a part of the lamb, it was a whole lamb cut into pieces and surved up. There is nothing like that in New York. Even though it’s only been three days, I’m starting to miss my crowded subways smelly buses and cranky New Yorkers and I’m looking foward sharing this. But for now follow my blogs I’ll post as much as possible see you in the big apple.”
~Tayshawn Edmonds, Brooklyn, New York
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“Our journey has begun! We finally landed in Ushuaia after a few long days of travel and it’s absolutely beautiful! The mountains are breathtaking and the city has so much character, with the colorful houses and interesting history. The whole group is finally together and, although I haven’t met everyone yet, we are all already a close knit group. Our hotel here is awesome. It’s right on the Beagle Channel, so we can see Chile from our windows and seagulls flying through the air all the time. The food here in Argentina is a bit different than what I’m used to; there’s a lot of meat. Although it is quite tasty. Yesterday, we had a sort of pea soup for lunch, a barbecue for dinner, and enjoyed a type of ice cream that tasted a bit like blueberries, but don’t trust me on that one. I can’t wait to taste more of the typical Argentinian cuisine. It’s extremely delicious.
“Tonight, we finally get to board our ship and set sail. Truth be told, I’m a little nervous about traveling through the Drake Passage. The sea sickness thing has me a tad worried, but I’m sure I’ll end up just fine. Sea sickness is a small price to pay to visit one of the most amazing continents on our earth. I can’t wait to finally be on my way to Antarctica!”
~Kelly Esenther, Madison, Wisconsin
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“Today I woke up to the most beautiful sunshine. It was something unique to experience because I never experience such a hot sunshine. I am feeling tired but happy. I am finally meeting new people in the beginning was tough because of the different cultures and  points of view. I am experience something new spending two weeks with people from around the world. I am finally staring to travel around the world previosly I had only  been in European countries.  Today we went hiking and had a beautiful view from the top of the glacier.”
~Sofia Dionisio, Baar, Switzerland
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Morning blog: “I know I said I wouldn’t write about food, but I figured that I’d give honourable mentions to the dinner last night. Asado is a type of Argentinian cooking that revolves around a comprehensive and meticulous smoking, it was smoking for at least a few hours, and when they brought the food out it smelled heavenly. It was a mix of sausage and lamb (feel bad for the vegetarians), and let me tell you one thing, it was freaking amazing. I’ve never had smoked anything that tasted so good. (If anyone who’s reading this knows me, they’ll know how much I love food).
“It was like an all you can meat (haha) buffet, and it was some of the best food I have ever eaten. I’ll probably never get a meal like that again, especially within the confines of a ship, but for what it’s worth that made the departure from Ushuaia so much more bittersweet. Today we’ll be hiking and exploring the mainland city, and if any of you read my previous lengthy blog post you’ll probably understand the depths of my excitement. I’m not an avid hiker like a few folks here, but I am still somewhat athletic, so it’ll be equally as interesting to see how I fare on the hike.
“Stay tuned for the next few blog posts, which I will attempt to write on a daily basis.”
~Aalekh Kaswala, LaPlata, Maryland
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Evening blog: “The first thing we did was go on a hike, now as simple as it seemed, it was a gateway to what we will experience in the days to come. It was an amazing experience remniscient of the kinds of things that happen in movies. Not something I envision in a real life scenario. We climbed to a glacier that overlooked all of Ushaia in the most spectacular fashion. It made me feel insignificant in the grand scheme of things, the city I had just gone to, that I felt was a decent size, snuggled nicely in between huge and colossal mountain lines, it was a truly breath-taking and awe-inspiring.
“Afterwards we took a small stroll into the downtown of Ushuaia, and amazingly enough the people were very nice and welcoming. Many Argentinians I saw were very polite people, and even a few wished me good morning. It was odd but welcoming nonetheless, and it was just a subtle insight into the culture of other people. Not apparent but upon further inspections contains a profound insight into how Argentinians treat each other.
“The boat however was my favorite part of the day. It was another one of those moments where in the grand scheme of things seemed to overshadow my own sense of self. I was simply a passanger to the glory of the world. Tomorrow’s the Drake Passage, what I can only assume is a grueling experience which will only serve to harden my resolve.
“For those interested I am currently a cripple suffering from a strain (hip flexer), but that has not dampened my spirits but only ignited my passion and curiosity. If this is what it takes to experience the most interesting place on earth I am completely willing to go through as many trials and tribulations to come. It also makes for interesting stories.”
~Aalekh Kaswala, LaPlata, Maryland
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“I really can’t believe that I’m actually here. The three days of traveling were rough, but I know that what I’m about to experience is going to be so worth it. Once we arrived in the city yesterday, we immediately saw amazing views of snowy mountains. 
“I learned yesterday that Ushuaia has almost 24 hour daylight. I was so thrown off because when I was trying to fall asleep last night (around 11pm), the sun was still setting. I’ve never been to a place with this much daylight, and I know that this is going to take a while to get used to. 
“I am already blown away by the beauty of this place. Knowing that this is only the fourth day of our journey, I know that this is going to be a trip that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. We’re finally getting on the boat today, and starting our journey. It feels so surreal, because I’ve been waiting for this trip for so long. But now that I’m finally in Argentina, it’s all starting to kick in. I can’t wait to experience the rest of this journey.”
~Ryan Peete, Los Angeles, California
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“Today we woke up to a beautiful blue sky and we saw the sun shining, letting us know it was going to be a magnificent day. There was another set of education stations that gave us a taste of what we were going to be learning during the expedition. The staff made everyone excited about their respective subjects and secured large audiences for their lectures and workshops. Donna then gave an inspiring speech about mental health and how we can take care of ourselves. After this it was a rush to pack everything away and get all of our SOI clothing.
“When everyone was ready we left for the brief hike up to the glacier. While not everybody made it to the top the view was spectacular throughout. After returning to the bus we drove through the city and traversed through the main street.”
~Amanda Calipo, Baar, Switzerland
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Morning blog: “After two long days of traveling, we got to Ushuaia yesterday afternoon and it is absolutely breathtaking with all the mountains and colours. Eating lunch with a view of the Beagle Channel and snow covered mountains was super surreal. We had lots of time to explore in close proximity the area and take pictures near the water. For dinner we had a traditional cooked meal of lamb called asado. Later we had a get-to-know-you circle and everyone introduced themselves. The sun didn’t set until just after 11! We got to sleep in this morning and plans for today are hiking one of the mountains after sessions, exploring the town of Ushuaia a bit, then embarking on our ship around dinner. I am SUPER excited to get this expedition to the Antarctic started despite being a little nervous about the Drake Passage (roughest water in the world). Everyone from around the world has finally all met up, we all have our swag, including journals, Canada Goose jackets, SOI Me to We shirts and toques, so we are all ready to head out!” 
~Alissa Sallans, Whitby, Ontario
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