December 29, 2014

Crossing the Drake Passage!

Expedition leader update:
In the early hours we shrugged off the confines of the land and emerged into the open ocean. Our course was set for the southeast towards the northern islands of the Antarctic Peninsula, the challenge of the Drake Passage lay ahead! First light revealed the Drake to be in a benign mood, the ship rolled lazily through a long swell. Virtually everyone made it to breakfast and to the activities that followed.
The first lecture was led off by Daniele Bianchi, giving us an insight into the complexities of the Southern Ocean. Folk then spread around the ship participating in varied but very interesting workshops. All morning the vessel had been surrounded by the wonderful seabirds of the Southern Ocean, 13 species in total and, with perfect timing their secrets were revealed during an excellent presentation by our ornithologist, Santiago Imberti, on the Seabirds of Antarctica.
Following lunch, the afternoon activities were kicked off by professor Derek Mueller who gave us a taster for something we will see a lot of in the upcoming days, Ice, Glaciers and Ice Shelves. Another session of workshops followed covering subjects as diverse as Art in Journalism, Medical Matters, Remote Sensing and Photography.
There was a break for tea and cake which also gave everyone the opportunity to get out on deck and soak in the glorious sunshine. Students were even treated to a sighting of a Fin whale being chased by three Hourglass dolphins! It was a rare and very exciting thing to see. Even for our veteran staff with a combined 600 plus Antarctic expeditions under our belts, it was something we had never seen in this part of the Southern Ocean before! 
The last two presentations before dinner were mapping the seabed given by Paul Brett with the Marine Institute and Trevor Taylor, former Government of Newfoundland Fisheries Minister. They tried to unravel the politics and practicalities of Fishing in Polar Waters. After an excellent dinner there was time to work on our blogs before Olle Carlsson gave us a view of his fascinating life history as a polar explorer and guide. Geoff Green’s recap rounded off a quite remarkable day on the Drake Passage. Tomorrow will be equally full of presentations and learning, including an exciting presentation by polar historian and former Antarctic Base Commander David Fletcher on Sir Ernest Shackleton – just in time before our expected arrival at Elephant Island tomorrow afternoon! This will be our first sighting of land in the Antarctic and as we watch the incredible sun set over the Southern Ocean, we wait with eager anticipation of the adventures of tomorrow.
In the expedition spirit,
Geoff Green
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“After more than 48 hours of travel, and a couple days exploring Argentina, we are finally under way aboard the Ushuaia. Our journey across the Drake Passage is suprisingly smooth despite the large swells causing the ship to sway and roll. So far I’ve avoided any major seasickness which I consider to be somewhat of an accomplishment. Whenever I am feeling dizzy or drowsy I just go stand at the bow of the ship and let the brisk Antarctic sea air whip at my face. There’s something about the cool sea breezes that feel really invigorating. It reminds me a lot of being home in Newfoundland.
“Although this is my second polar expedition, my excitement hasn’t dimmed at all. The staff are extremely insightful. I could sit and listen to Dave Fletcher rhyme off his stories about Antrarctic base life all day. Olle and Santi’s passionate descriptions of Antarctic wildlife are equally as captivating. At this point in the expedition, I am most anticipating our landing on Elephant Island. The history associated with Antarctic exploration is truly fascinating. The first hand experiences we will get on this expedition are truly once in a lifetime!”
~Sarah Veber, St. Philip’s, Newfoundland
“First night on the ship (and my first blog entry)!
“It was a little cold in our cabin last night- and this morning we realized it was because we didn’t even have the heater on! I slept underneath my jacket, hahah! We’re definitely going to use it tonight, as the weather is getting colder and colder. It’s definitely not shorts-appropriate weather anymore, even though its summer.
“This morning I felt a little groggy, so I went out on deck for some nice cold sea breeze! I think a lot of people had the same idea. Despite the wind practically slapping us awake there were a bunch of different seabirds following the ship, using its breeze to fly along. They were fun to watch, swooping and soaring around while hardly flapping their wings. If I could fly I would totally end up being some sort of pigeony-thing, not a beautiful albatross like that (if the way I run is anything to go by).
“It was a totally hectic day, in the end. Workshops and lectures galore! Around lunchtime there were a bunch of people (including me) who got mildly seasick (even though it’s practically flat ocean) but there was a wonderful workshop on guided meditation and we all relaxed in the sun and felt the rocking of the boat become peaceful rather than nauseating. Hoorah! 
“Oh! And we saw some whales! …Apparently. I didn’t see any, because they’re quite fast (how can something so big be so sneaky??), but I did see a group of dolphins chasing one. Hourglass dolphins, with lots of pretty white and black stripeystripes. Its amazing what animals we can spot from what seems like the middle of the ocean/middle of nowhere.
“We’re having a competition about trying to guess when the ship will cross the Antarctic convergence, and because the sailing has been so smooth, tomorrow we will see Antarctica! So excited!”
~Jemma Sweeney, Mount Waverley, Australia
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“Ushuaia is my new paradise. A beautiful city nestled between breathtaking mountains and the Beagle Channel. I spent much time making friends with the shallow marine invertebrates when the tide was out, until one was eaten by a seagull. Perhaps it is not the tropical paradise most think of when they think of Argentina, but I think that only makes it more special. Yesterday though, we embarked on the sea portion of our journey and watched Ushuaia disappear behind us as the ship headed south. Right now, there is nothing but open sea in every direction and I can’t help but feel the excitement building at the thought of seeing an entirely new place in another day or so.
“Yes, it is cold. Yes, I am dressing warmly. Yes, I’ve met some incredible new people. And no, I am not seasick (yet).
“To everyone at home, know that I am safe and I can’t wait to share this amazing experience with you!”
~Emily Moore, Sherwood Park, Alberta
“Wow! What an event filled few days. We definitely aren’t wasting any time here. The lectures and ‘education stations’ are varied and totally inspiring; all of the staff are so knowledgeable and informative. The interactions between students are priceless and I am impressed with the lack of complaining and the high energy of those not suffering from sea sickness. The calm seas are a blessing. As I lay in bed last night restless, I reflected over the day and was anxious with anticipation for the reality of the day to come. I have never written prose but for some reason I felt I couldn’t sleep without recording my thoughts and I thought I’d share:”
The swell of the ocean is our home,
As our ship floats the oceans foam.
Where penguins fly on water that is unstoppable,
or at least never stops…
An awkward smile turns into a familiar laugh,
and inspired chats lead to unknown paths.
We wait to see the first iceberg,
to fulfill fantasies yet unheard.
~Stephanie Dowdall, Port Moody, British Columbia
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“Coming from a smaller school of about 500 students in the high school with about 125 in each grade, experiences like this are priceless on many levels. At my school, everyone has known each since we were all about three-years-old. This experience has been wonderful because of all of the friends I have made.
“Going to sleep last night, I could feel that the boat was going to be a bit bumpy. By the time 7:30 came around, I was rolling about in my bed, feeling each wave as it hit the boat. Let me just say: getting dressed was certainly an ordeal. Looking through the windows, it was astounding to see that we were not suurounded by any visible land. The pod meetings gave us a chance to say what intrests people about this trip. I for one am very curious as to what activities we will be participating in.
“We passed an hourglass dolphin and a fin whale. No spouts, but just as amazing.
“I cannot wait to share all of these wonderful experiences with my family and friends.”
~Grace Broderick, Chicago, Illinois
“On the route of explorers, the MV Ushuaia with 98 brilliant crew, students and researchers sailed through the rough drake passage today. The passage can get waves as high at 20m during rough whether. With the good karma of people on board, we experienced one of the calmest ‘drake lake’. Although, I did get slightly seasick with the sudden movements, the staff of SOI had prepared a busy schedule for us filling with interesting lectures and presentation ranging from Oceans, glaciers, remote sensing to fisheries, whales and tons of workshops. Personally, it was hard to choose one workshop from the list we were given. I choose to do a workshop with David Fletcher on Antarctic stations and later started off with the university course on remote sensing ARCGIS software with Paul Brett. We ended the day listening to the inspiring lecture delivered by Olle Carlsson and seeing Albatroos, Petrels while the sun set on the Drake Passage!”
~Zareen Cheema, Pune, India

“This morning wasn’t exactly ideal, seeing as I got sick twice, but the day all together ended up on a good note. Dinner was great, I spent most of it playing games with other friends and just sharing things about ourselves. We even got to sing happy birthday in Mandrin to one of the people I have yet to actually introduce myself to.  It was pretty funny though because everyone had their different ways of pronouncing the words that were written out for us that we hoped said happy birthday and it just ended up being a sequence of random singing with different sounds. That last sentence was probably a run on but I can’t really think straight right now, I’m trying to rush to finish before going to bed. Something I wanted to share yesterday that I didn’t get the time to was that I am still amazed at the fact that the sun will still be high up in the sky at 11:00 p.m. Every time I look at the time I end up shocking myself so now I try and avoid it all together. Any-who, I hope everyone back home is getting this and knows that I am well and happy.”
~Andres Felipe Aristizabal, NYC, New York

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“Day 5: Today when we woke up at 8:00 am, we had just ended our passage through the Beagle Channel and began another one through the Drake passage. The Beagle Channel was suprisingly calm and smooth, but the Drake Passage was pretty rough and choppy. I did start to feel a little sick at the beginning, but it flew by fast and I was back to my normal self. After breakfast, we started the day with a presentation about the ocean. Following this presentation, we had different workshops that we could attended. I chose to do the one on photography which was really fascinating. We then had a short break where we had an amazing opportunity to see two fin whales and three hourglass dolphins. Ahh what a magnificent sight! To keep the day rolling, we had another lecture over the types of birds in Antarctica. Finally lunch time had arrived where the food was amazing. Another presentation was presented over ice sheets and shelves. Then it was time for workshops again. This time I chose to do the mind, body, and medicine workshop where we meditated and learned how to relax. Following was another short break with pound cake squares as a snack. The next presentation was about whales which I enjoyed the most. Then it was time for a presentation on ocean mapping. To get up and strech, we were given another short break. Just before going to dinner, we had one last lecture about fisheries in Antactica. Finally, dinner had arrived with another great meal. To finish the day off, we listened to one of our instructors, Olle, talk about his life and how he got to where he is today.  Overall, today was extremely fascinating, yet really tiring.”
~Suzanne Zeid, Longview, Texas
“Never in my life have I ever seen mountains of such power and awe inspiring peaks. Walking out of the airport that first day in Ushuaia, and their majestic nature was only augmented during our hike up to see the glacier.
“The bus drove us first to the parking lot near the glacier. From there, we hiked through trees, creeks, and bridges and eventually made it to the base of the glacier where snow began to appear. A long the way we saw trees that we twisted by the Ushuaian wind and other sights. I didn’t truly realize how large the glacier was until we saw a trail of people marching up it, looing like a line of tiny black ant-like specs.
“Working with Lee as we marched up the mountain was amazing as well. She was able to help Robert and me learn how to use our cameras, how to take good portraits with ice in the background, and with white patches reflecting the sun in the creeks. It was an amazing experience from which I learned a lot about how to manipulate my surroundings to capture the sublimity of the glacier and the surrounding mountains.
“This experience has been so amazing and like nothing I have ever seen before, and I don’t even know what to expect in the coming days when we reach the actual continent.
“Also at the moment we are on the infamous Drake Passage. A lot of people aren’t feeling well, me included, and the waves aren’t even bad. It’s hard to imagine how sick we would all be if the waves big. To brighten it up though, we did get rare dolphin and fin whale sightings as well as seeing the mighty albatrosses soar near our ship.
“By the way the food here is amazing but I haven’t managed to keep it in the same place…”
~Eva Wu, Toronto, Ontario
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“Sunday 12 28: We spent today in Ushuaia. We woke up after (finally!) being able to sleep in, and started our day off with the Education Station, where we had a chance to meet the teachers and get a better overview of what we would be learning the next 12 days. After this, we grabbed a bag lunch and headed out into Patagonia for an AMAZING day hike. After getting to the top of the glacier, we had a spectacular view of the Beagle Channel, the mountains all around us, and the amazing sky. It was breathtaking. After the hike we headed into downtown Ushuaia to have a chance to buy some souveniers and see more of how life is in the most southern city in the world. After this, we boarded the MV Ushuaia and began our journey to Antarctica! The ship is really nice and all of the crew is extremely accommodating. We had a safety drill, split into pod groups, saw a shipwreck, and started with our lectures. After getting amazing pictures and seeing such a beautiful city of Ushuaia and the Drake Passage,we realized that it’s quite an experience trying to shower and go to sleep with the ship rocking back and forth. But luckily, we are travelling on the ‘Drake Lake’, not the ‘Drake Shake’, so I have yet to get sea sick! Can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds!”
~Alexis Dibenedetto, Auburn, Alabama
“I slept like a baby last night to the lulling waves of the sea–which was great, because the seasickness set in once I got off my bed. Appetite is hard to come by right now, except for the desire to go out on deck and take on the rolling Drake Passage.
“Apparently, this is much more of a ‘Drake Lake’ than a ‘Drake Shake’, but I clearly have not internalized this and have been running out of every lecture and meal so far. It’s fine, though–I will just be all the more grateful to set foot on land, hopefully tomorrow!  I haven’t been able to see any of the whales that have been spotted so far, so I’m really excited see my first. Learning about ocean currents, birds, glaciology, and remote sensing has been great preparation for our first landing as well. There are so many reasons to look forward to Antarctica, and I’m really hoping to sleep my way there as much as possible!!”
~Tiffany Quon, Vancouver, British Columbia
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“Wow, we are officially sailing on the Drake Passage. It was a doozy getting dressed this morning; I was all over the place. People are starting to get sea sick, but luckily, I’m not among them. I’m extremely grateful for that.
“Yesterday was a long day. I guess it doesn’t help that the sun barely sets here, so it’s practically always light, which definitely screws with your system. We hiked to Del Glacier and ended up at this beautiful lookout over the city of Ushuaia after an extremely uphill walk. The city was truly breathtaking against the blue of the ocean and I’m proud of myself for making it all the way to the top.
“After our hike, we headed downtown for a little shopping time, even though most of the stores were closed. And finally, at 4 o’clock, we boarded our boat! It’s definitely a lot nicer than I imagined it would be. The lounge and cabins are cozy and welcoming and I discovered this morning at breakfast that the dining room had a lot more space than I thought it did at dinner.
Today we have some workshops and presentations planned, so we’ll be kept busy the rest of the day. We have a bunch of options for our workshops, and I don’t know which one to pick because I want to do them all! It’ll be a tough choice, but I know whichever I pick will be fun and extremely interesting.
“Hopefully the sea sickness phase will pass soon and I want to get to Antarctica soon!”
~Kelly Esenther, Madison, Wisconsin
“Today was a wonderful day on the Drake Passage full of amazing presentations by our staff and lots of sunshine. We even saw 13 different types of seabirds and three hourglass dolphins chasing a Fin whale! I understand the Drake is relatively calm compared to what it can be so I am thankful. We expect to arrive at Elephant Island tomorrow afternoon and I can’t wait! To my family, I love you and miss you very much! And thank you for my journal filled with your photos. It is so special to me. I am writing in it every day and can’t wait to share my stories and experiences with you.”
~Ashley Brasfield, Ottawa, Ontario
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“Checking In and Catching Up:
“Our journey started in Toronto on Christmas Day evening. Roughly 30 members of the expedition team congregated in Toronto airport to conclude our Christmas celebrations by boarding a plane to South America. Ten hours later when we arrived in Santiago, the capital of Chile, we all quickly overcame the jetlag with ambitions to continue on! Although we had taken a leap forward towards our ultimate goal of reaching the Antarctic, we were all eager to take the next step and to fly to Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, where we spent the night.
“On Boxing Day evening we took a walk down Ninth of July Street in Buenos Aires. On the ninth of July, 1816, Argentina declared independance from Spain, who in years previous had successfully colonized the country. This deduces the naming of the street we walked down, as it is the widest street in the world, at over 140 metres of length. The city was not overly busy due to an extended break given by the Argentine Government for the holiday season, however it was still a good experience to get a little taste of the city’s, and the country’s culture. After an early rise, the group of students who started in Toronto were greeted by about 30 more students who had began their journey in Miami. We all loaded onto buses and promptly boarded a plane to Ushuaia, a city further south in Argentina, and our final stop before leaving for the Antarctic.
“Ushuaia is a growing city, currently with an estimated population of 60,000 villagers, which grew from a mere 6,000 inhabitants in the early 1970’s. This is due to a growing tourism industry in the region, and is also due to the fact that Ushuaia is a tax-free city. We arrived in Ushuaia and spent the next two days there. Upon our arrival, we were continously joined by the few remaining members of our team who had traveled to Ushuaia on their own. Students and staff spent our first day together accompanied with handshakes and small talk as we all got to know each other. We stayed at Los Yamanas Hotel, which is named after the indiginous tribes of Argentina. The original peoples of Argentina were divided into four tribes, three of which lived in Canoes on the ocean, only coming on land temporarily for traditional or logistical purposes. These tribes were wiped out after falling victim to foreign illnesses from the European foreigners in years gone by. Our first evening in Ushuaia was concluded with a traditional Argentine barbeque. Six lambs fed us well.
“Our second day in Ushuaia was split between workshops briefing us on what to expect in the coming days, and a glorious hike to the top of a mountain in the hill tops of Ushuaia. These hill tops house glaciers whose melt water is used as the fresh water source in Ushuaia. The hike was great and we spent an hour in the city before boarding our ship: The Ushuaia. She’s a great ship and will serve us well! The first day on the boat concluded with more presentations and plenty of time out on deck as we nevigated out of the Beagel passage. The Beagel passage seperates Chile and Argentina and it opens up to the Southern Ocean which is now the only thing standing between the Students On Ice Team and Antarctica!
“Today we are enjoying a shaky day crossing the Drake Passage. My Newfoundland genes are treating me well as I am not feeling sea sick… yet. A portion of us are feeling sick but overall we are doing alright. Depsite the sea sickess, we are all very excited to travel to Elephant Island tomorrow. Workshops and presentations today are feeding our hungry minds with information about the Ocean around the Antarctic, the history of work stations in the Antarctic, etc.”
~Patrick Hickey, St. John’s, Newfoundland
“This morning we awoke to the gently rocking of our ship ‘Ushuaia’ which is our floating home for the next few days. While I expected horrendous rolling of the seas and severe illness, it would seem that the gods have favored us at least for a moment with clear skies and gentle waves. Of course we have been warned that things here can change in a moment and we may yet find ourselves in the horrendous waves that are often found here in the Drake Passage.
“All aboard are in good spirits and our young explorers are generally all feeling well and working to get their sea legs. A sudden call of ‘Whales on the Starboard side’ has just sent all running for the doors to see the first significant sighting of large animals on this journey. In a few moments we will start the classes for today which will include options on a variety of ocean science issues including the significance of the Southern Ocean, the science of ice, and the importance of the ocean currents. Students seems eager to learn and all is well. Each of us is excited as to the many experiences that lie ahead across the Drake Passage.”
~Beth Ann Smith, Augusta, Georgia
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“Today was a rather informational day, an introductory course to the wonders of Antarctica. We learned everything from the astounding complexity of the world’s currents to the interconnected political schema of fisheries all over the world. While admittedly I did nod off in two of the five lectures, but regardless I was able to fill in the gaps by reading assorted books that were scattered around the ship’s library. They have a comprehensive set of books that detail the intracies of Antarctica.
“Among other things we got a firsthand experience of the local wildlife, primarily whales, and from what I’ve gathered, it is an extremely rare occurence and I am incredibly lucky individual to experience these events. I also decided to do a newspaper workshop and started out interviewing a few of the Inuit students, a culture that I’ve only ever read about. Their experiences before they got here are incredibly interesting and shed light on another culture that is not well known.
“Hopefully as this wonderful journey continues I will be able to understand prolific and profound information about the Antarctic, regardless of whether it be something as complex as geopolitics or something as simple but equally as majestic as Whales and Icebergs. One thing that I’ve learned to take away from the information gathered today is that no matter how unrelated two things might be, that they still contribute and influence each other in interesting ways.
“The people have been wonderful, the staff incredibly insightful, and the food surprisingly wonderful. The Drake Passage has been a smooth voyage so far, and although I crave excitement I am completely content with a smooth and wonderful journey.”
~Aalekh Kaswala, LaPlata, Maryland
“Lectures, Learning, and Lessons is three words to describe the theme of todays travels. There were several learning oppertunities with lectures and workshops throughout. Another milestone in todays travels being our first official full day at sea. Late last night we left the comfort and safety of the Beagle Channel and entered the open ocean on the Drake’s Passage.
“Early this morning the consistant rocking back and forth of the ship woke me out of my sleep since then I’ve been trying to find my rythem on the ship. Although its still a battle trying the walk through the ship without walking into a wall, I think I have a good comfort in living on this moving home. Spending a full day on a moving object I have a much greater appreciation for solid ground as I am grasping for furniture with every step. Although we are in the middle of the Southern Ocean with nothing in sight except ocean and the occasional seabirds, there was plenty of excitment today as we were surprised by a guest. A Fin Whale and Hourglass dolphins were sighted on the starbord side of the ship and quickly moved horizontally passed us continuing to the port side of the ship. We all heard the announcemnt as we just had sat down for a lecture all of a sudden we were all on our feet trying to get out the one door to the lower outer deck to capture that one moment in time that will never happen again. I myself tried to capture that moment only to put down my camera and just watch. I am slowly learning something new about every expiditioner on this trip so far I am enjoying this moment in time. Excitment has filled me as I heard the events unfold for tomorrow weather permitting of course, but we should make it to Elephant Island and officially make it in to the Antarctic territory. Every moment I have to learn on this trip I will take in fully and enjoy this journey to the end of the world.”
~Kalyn LeBlanc, Brunswick, Maine
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“These past few days have been so incredible, I’ve gotten to know so many students and educators, from different parts of the world, all bring something unique to this expedition.
“Yesterday, after checking out of our hotel in Ushuaia we hiked up to see the Martial Glacier. We got to see an incredible view of Ushuaia, the Andes and the Beagle channel. Afterwards,we spend a little bit of time in town before getting on the MV Ushuaia. The excitement in the air was palpable as we began our journey down the Beagle Channel. Our day concluded with a safety drill, and a quick briefing with our pods. We all shared our thoughts about the trip so far and of what is to come in the following days, one thing we all had in similar was our excitement.
“Today we awoke in the Drake Passage, the waves have been relatively calm, and so far no sea-sickness. The day was filled with many presentations and workshops, and some free time, where we got a chance to go out on deck as well as visit the bridge and meet the Captain of the MV Ushuaia. Today, I also saw a Fin whale, some Hourglass dolphins and countless birds, including the wandering albatross! I’ve learned many new things, such as the types of birds and mammals that we will hopefully have the chance to see, and many facts about Antarctica, such as Ocean currents and Ice sheets. We also crossed 60 degrees south, which is the political border of the Antarctic Treaty Area. Tomorrow, we will be making our first stop at Elephant Island!
“Each day of this expedition is more amazing and exciting than the last and we haven’t even reached Antarctica yet. I am so excited for the following days on this expedition.”
~Jasveen Brar, Medicine Hat, Alberta
“The first day on the open ocean is one I’ll never forget. I started out with a terrible nights sleep thanks to the brutal Drake’s Passage. Breakfast cheered my tired self up with its delicious buffet and made my stomach feel uneasy. This led to me going outside for most of the day trying to recover from this plauge of the sea. Concentrating on lectures was a struggle. Twice I had to leave to get fresh air.
“Throughout the day, we had tons of lectures and workshops all of which were interesting if I wasn’t trying to catch up on sleep that I was deprived of. Birdwatching was a nice escape from the tiring cabin, but that was the only outside activity. Eventually I had to ask the doctor for something to ease my sickness. She had just the trick and I was fine for the rest of the day. The most interesting lecture today was Olle’s life story. It turns out that he basically suggested the constitution on what happened to Antarctica which is 50 years of peace for science. Despite the great end to the day, I’m really not cut out for sea life.”
~Cullen Burke, Moscow, Idaho
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“Today was such an amazing day at sea! There were incrediable hourglass dolphin sitings and a virety of wales as well. The experienced professionals of the crew shared some of their infinite wisdom with the incrediably lucky SOI kids. There was also workshops galor! I wanted to participate in them all but sadly there wasn’t time. What I did experience however was absolutely unforgettable. Daved Fletcher taught about the scientific stations in Antarctica and I absolutely could not get enough! Of course in the middle people ran away with barf in their mouths, but none was flung inside, so that in itself makes today an outstanding sucess. Later in the evening Olle and Santiago took us out into the swirling Antarctic air to experience some flying cuddly creatures. Sea birds were EVERYWHERE! And I wasn’t even affraid to get pooped on! Sometime before 4 in the afternoon tomorrow, the presumed time we will reach elephant island, this hulking ship is going to cross over the Antarctic convergance and alarms will blare. Don’t worry though, it is simply to let us know when we are offically in the Antarctic waters and everyone will rush to their time pieces to check who won the time contest. I estimated a cross of the convergence at 1:32 AM, so I won’t be upset if I loose because at this point the last thing I’m opposed to is sleep. With that note, it’s bed time! Good night!”
~Danielle Guist, San Antonio, Texas
“Last night, we started our journey across the Drake Passage! I’m happy that I’m not seasick and throwing up all over the place. However, I’m stumbling all over the place. When I was taking a shower this morning, I kept running into things. Also, I was drinking hot chocolate earlier today, and the boat tilted and I ran into something. Honestly, this whole day I’ve just been running into things. We’re lucky though, because the Drake Passage isn’t extremely rough. Lets knock on wood and hope that the Drake Passage doesn’t get any rougher.
“We had a lot of lectures today by the different members of the ship. I wish I could tell you what they were about, but I was so tired and the boat was rocking I sadly went to sleep. But I’ll be more alert tomorrow!!
“I was also told today that we will be finally seeing Antarctica tomorrow! I’m so excited and I’m having the best time! I’m meeting a lot of people and stuff and it’s all very exciting. I said exciting a lot but that’s only because I’m excited.”
~Ryan Peete, Los Angeles, California
“It’s a funny animal, the albatross. On one hand, it is considered to be one of the greatest animals living in the southern ocean. With it’s 12 foot wingspan, swift agiliy through the wind and ability to cover more than 2000 km every day, most who come across its path revere the bird as a hallowed and sacred creation of the mysterious Antarctic. This importance is even reserved in the area’s folklore and literature. According to a 18th century poet, to kill the albatross is a hainous and terrible crime that will bestow the crime’s excecuter with bad luck. It is common to refer to anxious or uneasy feelings as ‘wearing an albatross around your neck’.
“Yet, on the other hand, one could consider the albatross to be a lazy, unmotivated waste of space that cruelly preys on squids from the atmosphere above. Really, do they deserve their righteteous position as king of the sea? They don’t even work for it!!!!! To be honest, to feed itself the albatross is required to put in absolutely no physical effort of its own. As long as it spreads its wings in a fixed position, the wind will take it to fabulous and prosperous destinations. It is permitted to gracefully soar atop the package, swoop down and up in enviably graceful strides and can fufill its basic metabolic functions. Just by standing still!!! Few other animals on our planet can achieve such sucess with such little effort.
“So is this bird a majestic master of the sea, or a freeloader living off the energy of a greater power? In my opinion, the answer remains the former. While the albatross may not possess physical power and brunt, it possesses something even more remarkable – knowledge and intuition. It has the ability to work with its environment through moderate wing angle changes rather than to fight against it. The albatross chooses to remain not lazy but efficient, which allows it to soar above the other species of animals who remain confined to their lives constantly fighting and struggling. In my mind, the albatross is a symbol of what we all must aspire to become. If we learn to use the resources that our environment has bestowed upon us, we can do so much more than what is possible within a conflicted and stubborn dynamic of the human realm.”
~Robert Adragna, Toronto, Ontario
“What a jam-packed day! Breakfast was at 8:00 AM and then the day was filled with interesting lectures by most of the staff on the ship; we learned about ocean mapping, oceanography, glaciology and sea ice, sea birds, sea mammals, and more! I also had the pleasure of seeing a few penguins swimming, albatrosses flying, and also some hourglass dolphins swimming with a fin whale! We are currently in the middle of the Drake Passage and I have been one of the fortunate few who hasn’t been sea sick at all. But our expedition has been very lucky as we’ve been sailing ‘Drake Lake’ with ‘smooth’ sailing and wonderful, sunny weather. Hopefully we get this weather on the way back too, because I don’t have much desire to experience ‘Drake Shake!’ However, even with the ‘smooth’ waters, I’m glad there are railings everywhere and the furniture is bolted down, because the motion is quite intense! It’s now 10:30 PM here and the sun hasn’t finished setting… Soon it won’t be setting at all! We will have more lectures tomorrow morning and will be arriving at Elephant Island in the afternoon! What an adventure and we haven’t even arrived yet.”
~Olivia Sayer, Littleton, Colorado
“My first full day at sea. My first time seeing an albatross. My first time seeing a fin whale, hourglass dolphins, giant petrals… the list goes on! It’s amazing that in the middle of this expanse of water, some forms of life call this home. One realization I came to today is that there is so much we can miss if we’re not looking. This can be taken in the most literal sense: whether or not you’re out on the deck searching for the next beautiful creature, or in a more figurative perspective. In both ways, it seems that people who have this approach to life, have the confidence to take opportunities that many of us either never see or believe we can’t take have a larger shot at achieving those dreams that many of us deem too unrealistic. For many of the passionate staff and educators on this expedition, taking those opportunities led them here, on life-long journeys that amaze everyone around them and have also inspired me immensely.
“We cross the 60th degree South latitude tonight, and this marks the political boundary for The Antarctic Treaty: one of the most successful international treaties to date. Many passionate people are seeking to incorporate fishing and marine protected areas into the treaty and it’s another dream that seems unrealistic to many, but I have every confidence it will happen and it will be those people who follow that little twinkle in their eye that will be the ones to accomplish it.”
~Sabrina Clarke, Whitehorse, Yukon
“We woke up at 8:00 this morning as the staff had generously allowed us to sleep in. Breakfast was served and then we had a gripping introduction to the oceans by Daniele. Everyone chose what workshop activity they wanted to do and spread out among the ship. I was out on the deck with Santiago and Olle and we learned how to identify the different seabirds and even saw penguins!! Santiago gave a lecture about the seabirds and we headed to the dining room for a delicous lunch. After lunch we learned about ice sheets and ice shelves and debated the effects of climate change on their increase and decrease. We were treated with a second round of workshops where I went with Diane to learn how to visually represent our ideas. Olle gave us a in depth lecture on whales in the Antarctic followed by Paul’s lecture on sonar technology. Trevor talked about fishing in the Antarctic and our long day was over!!”
~Amanda Calipo, Baar, Switzerland
“Hello readers (really just mom and dad)! So far the trip is going very well. Right now we are going though the Drakes Passage. It is by far, the roughest waters ever. Taking a shower was not the easiest task. My room is small. It has a bunk bed, sink, closet and little desk. It’s smaller than Andrews’s dorm room. My cabin mate is a nice Swedish boy named Samuel. We share a bathroom with another cabin next to us.
“I can’t stop thinking about NFL or NCAA. I’m praying that the Lions won, but I don’t think they did. I know my TCU frogs are going to win.
“We have a lot of lectures and workshops. In fact we have one that started 3 minutes ago. BTW its 9:32 AM here. Great trip so far! I miss my Keiko puppy.”
~Matthew Peterson, Glenview, Illinois
“I made it! It is almost the end of the first full day in the Drake Passage. I managed not to get sea sick, saw a fin whale racing along with a pod of hourglass dolphins, learned about the oceans and wildlife along the Antarctic regions, and heard an incredible story of a lifelong dream come true. I can’t believe the day is already over… It was another day where I looked at my watch and realized that it was much too late.
“Today was pretty jam packed with learning. In the morning our resident Oceanographer Danielle instructed us on the currents and ocean cycles in Antarctic waters, while our ornothologist, Santiago told us all about the adaptations that sea birds have evolved in order to deal with life in the Antarctic sea. We also had lectures and workshops on remote sensing technologies for mapping ocean floors, basic glaciology concepts, a lecture on whales and cetaceans, and learned the historical collapse of fisheries and what state Antarctic fisheries are currently in.
“Aside from the formal learning, I managed to catch a further glimpse into the lives of the scientists and educators on board the ship. I learned how Santiago came to set up a national park in Patagonia, and how many of the core educators came to be a part of the Students On Ice Program. At the very end of the day, before we were sent off for our last 30 minutes to enjoy the sunset on the open ocean, Olle, a naturalist, and incredibly kind and happy spirit on board told his story of dreaming to come to Antarctica and how he turned that dream from looking at old slide pictures in a living room, to writing an award-winning book on Antarctica, to leading Antarctic expeditions himself.
“Once again, I feel lucky to have seen this day through and enjoyed every minute of it, and look forward to the new day to come. All of you back home, I wish you all the best and stay tuned in, because tomorrow marks our first day on the Antarctic Peninsula!!!”
~Patrick Soprovich, Whitehorse, Yukon
“We cast off yesterday from Ushuaia, Argentina. Some time last night we left the Beagle Channel, and start out in the Drake Passage. I’m pretty sure that no one feels too good because of the seasickness. So far I’m seasick, but it’s mostly just dizziness and a little bit of nausea. The leaders say that the seasickness is something you don’t want to miss out on because it’s part of the experience. I don’t mind missing that part.”
~Sydney Williams, Kendallville, Indiana
“I woke up this morning, courtesy of Geoff’s voice over the loud speaker, at 8:00 am. I didn’t have the best sleep because we didn’t know how to put the heat on in our room and the ship was rolling me from one side of my bed to the other. I threw on some warm, comfy clothes and headed upstairs for breakfast. I had eggs, sausage, fruit, and cereal. not too much though since I didn’t want to get seasick. next we had an ocean presentation from Daniele (he’s from Italy by the way)! I was really interested but after a while the rocking of the ship and the drowsiness side effect of my seasickness patch put me to sleep. At one point during the day my entire pod group had fallen asleep on the couches and Geoff came over and opened the door so the cold air would wake us all up. After, Daniele and Santiago discussed Antarctic sea birds, and then I went to a phtography workshop. For lunch I had a salad and then chicken with rice followed by raspberry ice cream with banana. The next presentation was Glaciers vs. Sea Ice by Derek and then a second workshop. I chose the art/ journal making option. We were given small sketchbooks to visually capture the colors, textures, and shapes we had been witnessing. Olle gave a spectacular presentation on whales and dolphins. Oh yeah! I forgot to mention that we saw a Fin Whale and three Hourglass Dolphins speeding behind the ship earlier in the day. Paul gave a presentation about mapping and then Trevor followed with a presentation about Antarctic Fisheries. By this point I was tired and hungry. Luckily it was dinner time. I enjoyed another salad and then had pork over vegetables. After dinner, we hear Olle’s life story. he explained how a friend of his showed him pictures of the Antarctic and that inspired his love for the great white continent. We ended the day with a briefing about the next day and then went outside to watch the sunset over the Drake Passage. We are sailing at 13 knots currently, which is the highest speed for the Ushuaia. Geoff keeps saying that the Drake Passage Gods have blessed us and our good karma has made the weather beautiful. Luckily I’ve just been a bit drowsy with a light upset stomach on and off, which I’m incredibly thankful for.”
~Dawn Damiano, Miami, Florida
Journal 2: “Today has been our first full day at sea as we continue across the Drake Passage en route to our first expected stop at Elephant Island. We have been making the most of our time with a series of very informative lectures on numerous scientific subjects. We have learned about glaciology and the significance and fate of the ice on our planet, a wonderful presentation on currents and the Southern Ocean, as well as presentations on animals we hope to see such as whales and dolphins. Many of us had lots of questions about global warming and related issues. We finished our studies with a presentation on the issues relating to fisheries and global legistlation regarding the possibility of fishing in the waters around Antarctica. Many of our young explorers certainly came away with great interest and determination to make a difference relative to these subjects. After a lovely dinner prepared by our helpful crew, we will now sit down to some life stories of the great explorers and scientists that have come along with us on this adventure. Our young explorers will have earned a good nights rest after such an interesting day…More to come,”
~Beth Ann Smith, Augusta, Georgia
“Dia a l’ocea i la cosa es mou, tot i que diuen que es extremadament calmat aixo fa un vaive que te a la meitat dels passajers marejats, jo afortunadament hem sento be. Ens queden unes 20 hores per arribar a l’Antartica i llavors la cosa s’hauria de calmar.
“El dia ha comencat amb session de ioga a les 7, gens facil amb el moviment pero ha valgut la pena. Esmorzar, els menjars son fantastics, i abans de comencar el dia de xerrades ens ha visitat una Fin Whale (balena aleta?) que ha passat a tota velocitat seguida d’un grup de dofins (hourglass dolphins).
“La resta del dia ha estat plena de xerrades ben interessants; oceans, balenes, glaciars, com funciona una estacio de recerca a l’antartica, mapeig dels oceans i pesca.
“El dia ha sigut fantastic, amb un sol que no ens ha deixat d’acompanyar, envoltats d’aigua per tot arreu. Ara toca escolar l’Olle Carlsson que ens explicara l’historia de la seva vida com a guia a les regions polars.
“Day at sea and the boat is rocking, even if they say these are calm waters the boat’s move is keeping half of the students and staff seasick, fortunatelly I feel ok. We have about 20 hours left to arrive to Antarctica and then the waters should calm down.
The day started with a yoga session at 7, not that easy with the rocking but worth it. Breakfast, meals are fantastic here, and before starting the talks of the day a Fin Whale visited us, crossing at full speed followed by Hourglass Dolphins.
“The rest of the day was full of interesting talks; oceans, whales, glaciars, setting a research station, ocean mapping and fisheries.
“It has been a fantastic day, the sun shinning along, surrounded by water everywhere. Now a life story talk with Ole Carlsson who will tell us about his adventures as a polar region guide.”
~Anna Abella, Baar, Switzerland
“Today we started our crossing of the Drake Passage. The seas, I found, were rougher in the morning than they are now. Right now the weather is absolutely incredible and the Drake passage is relatively calm. This morning saw a lot of wildlife, including the Wandering Albatross and The Fin Whale. We also saw a small pod of Hourglass Dolphins following the Fin Whale, and they were phenomenal!”
~William Sanderson, Perth Road Village, Ontario
“Today we continued our unique journey abord the Ushuaia with the amazing crew. I had some difficulties sleeping and it has been hard to adapt to life on a ship. We started by having breakfast and then we hit ahead for one of the most interesting lectures from the day. In the end we were able to choose which workshop we wanted to attented. After that we had more interesting lectures about whole of Antarctic life. We had dinner and we started our evening story telling which I has suprise to be in a ship with Olle. He has an inspiration for me to follow my dreams and that with a lot of work nothing is impossible. I am so excited for tomorrow.”
~Sofia Dionisio, Baar, Switzerland
“Hello blog world,
“Thank you for looking at this, unlike my Uncle Tom will do. Eh, Aunt Terry can tell him. Hi mom, I miss you and I love you so much and I know that Dad won’t be looking at this, tell him I send my love too.
“Life in the Antarctic is, well, interesting to say the least. I’m on the ship that is taking us over to Antarctica, and you don’t know choppy waters until you get out here. I WILLINGLY woke up at 5 because the boat was rocking a ton. They even have barf bags attached to the railing for people.
“So, when we left Ushuaia, it was magnificent. We hiked to the Martial Glacier in Patagonia, and that was extremely beautiful.
Nothing much else is new. Mom, I still have friends, don’t worry about me.
“P.S. I thought about our cute Arizona Cardinals yesterday. I hope they destroyed San Fran, and good luck to them in the playoffs. I’ve already started giving the kids from Dallas a hard time :) Also, I met a Bears fan, Matthew, who loves the NFL like me. We’ve talked football this whole trip.”
~Sarah Johnson, Phoenix, Arizona