January 4, 2015

ANTARCTICA: Last day on the continent

Expedition leader update 4:47pm:
This morning we arrived at Neko Harbour. Overcast but extremely calm seas with very little wind. We even enjoyed a gentle snowfall during this, our last landing on the continent. This area is well known for its stunning glaciers and frequent glacier calving that occurs and we were fortunate to witness a small avalanche across the harbour, its thundering sound piercing the silence. Students separated into workshop groups and enjoyed the rare opportunity to observe this majestic glacier up close with glaciologist and Carelton University professor Derek Mueller. Other students took advantage of the beautiful and peaceful setting to engage in landscape painting while others observed the Gentoo penguins, climbed to the top of the glacier for some incredible views and a fun slide down the hill or simply sat near the beach to enjoy the scenery and reflect on our journey and absorb the last moments in Antarctica.
Once back on the ship we enjoyed a delicious lunch and then quickly took to the deck to soak in the incredible sunshine and views as the clouds lifted, revealing majestic peaks and reflected in the glass like waters all around us. Then a pod of Orcas appeared and we spent the better part of an hour observing these incredible creatures glide through the clear waters.
We are now headed north towards the Melchior Island before entering the Drake Passage and beginning our journey back to Ushuaia. An incredible last day in Antarctica!
In the expedition spirit,
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“De nou al Drake Passage, fa un parell d’hores que hi hem entrat i tot es torna a moure, el que significa molts dels estudiants estan marejats i que aquest mati hem hagut de dir adeu a l’Antartica… quina pena!
“Ha sigut un altre dia espectacular a l’Antartica, un mati genial a Neko Harbour. Un glaciar gegant sobre l’aigua, uns quants pinguins i unes vites INCREIBLES!!! I al final una caminada mutanya amunt i baixada de cul per la neu amb bona revolcada de la majoria de nosaltes.
La navegacio que ha seguit el dinar ha sigut espectacular, entre les muntanyes nevades, l’aigua mes plana que un mirall (qui ho diria ara) i veient orques i ballenes geperudes. I aixo acompanyat pel meu primer mate en companyia de la tripulacio que m’ha convidat, parlar castella ajuda a fer-se amiga de la tripulacio argentina ;).
“Ara ens esperen dos dies plens de conferencies mentre creuem el Drake de tornada a Ushuaia. No puc creure que estem gairebe al final d’aquest viatge increible; on he apres moltissim i que m’ha enriquit d’una marena que no m’esperava.”
~Anna Abella, Baar, Switzerland
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“Our last day on the continent. Wow. It seems paradoxial, the passage of time on this expedition. On one hand, there has been such a long stretch of excitment and fascination during the last several days. When recounting all the places we’ve visited, I find it diffifcult to gauge the scope of time throughout the course of the expedition. There has been so much all tumbling by at an overwhelming pace which elogates the spectrum of time. But at the same time, it feels as though the last several days have flew by in the blink of an eye. I can vividly remember my first impressions of Antarctica at Elephant Island like it happened yesterday. My vivid memory of its colours and remarkable impression that it made upon my heart are clear in my mind as though they happened just days ago. Upon recounted the vivid events of days past, they seem to have lasted both seconds and days at the same time.
“Today, being our final landing, I made sure to avoid this paradox altogether and make our time at Neko Harbour last as long as possible. Beautifully stained rock propped up against a stark background of white glacier ice. Away from my field of view, massive icebergs dotted the bay while towering mountains peeked up from within the clouds. Upon landing at the beach and taking a quick look at the Gentoo penguin rookery, I headed out with Paul to the bay to do some measurements of water in the bay. We dropped a probe down 50 metres into the bay and took record of its properties like salinty and temperature. It was fasicnating to explore the depths of this uncharted, underwater world.
“Returning to the beach, the fun really began to start. We had the oppourtunity to climb up a galcier protruding into the harbour. Yay… another massive glacier hike. The first one at Danco was extrodinarily tiring. But this expenditure was worth the effort one hundred times over. Though the trail was steep, and all of us may have fallen several times along the way, the view was absolutely fanatstic from all stages of the climb. It was just a little embarassing to get passed by a gentoo penguin on the way up. When we finally arrived at the top of the glacier, the feeling of euphoria was indescribable. Below us the bay shone with its grey, silver like demeanor – scattered with eloquently sdhaped icebergsw which brightly reflected any of the sun’s rays which managed to peep through the clouds. To the right was a massive tidewater glacier – with crevicaes in its top the size of cities. It’s no wonder that many considered the glacier to calve later that day. It contrasted sharply with the rose coloured rocks direcrly below the glacier, littered with nesting penguins. Rock and ice – the two motiffs of this continent again come together
“Argubaly, the best part of this glacier was the descent away from it. I would like to sincerely thank whoever’s idea it was to slide down the glacier, as it made for one of the most exhilerating experiences of my life. By the time I was ready to launch a path had already been well beaten into the ice, making for an exhilerating ride down. It started out only mildly inclined, and descent was slow. This is alright, I thought. But then we hit the ridge of the glacier. And wow. All of a sudden the ground went 80 degrees vertical and I began to free fall. Like on a roller coaster, I started dropping as the mountains of Neko Harbour whizzed past me. Snow went all the way up to my neck underneath my shirt, and I was getting whiplash from bumps in the ice.But all this time one thought went through my mind. That thought was wow. I’m sliding down a glacier at high speeds in the world’s coldest continent literally in the middle of nowhere.This is crazy, ludicrous but the thing is, I like it.
“Then it was time to go back. Oh the sadness. I was on the last zodiac back, and could not be coerced into the boat. I distictly remember being told to go into the boat, multiple times. But I didn’t. I would walk ten paces, maybe five metres. And then I would stop and look around again. It was so profoundly beautiful, and it was made even more beautiful by the fact that I would never be able to land onto these beautiful shores again. I could not take my eyes off the place, and stayed on this beach gently admiring the penguins for as long as possible. I wanted a part of me to remain in this place – this harbour, this peninsula and this continent – for the rest of my life. As great Canadian band Rush once sung ‘Freeze this moment a little bit longer, make each sensation a little bit stronger’.”
~Robert Adragna, Toronto, Ontario
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“These past few days have been absolutely amazing. On Friday we hiked up a Glacier on Danco Island, the trek up was a bit tricky, every step I took I would sink into the snow, but it was worth it; the view was breathtaking. We were surrounded by the Ocean and other glaciers and mountains. We spent a few hours there, taking group pictures and helping out with some Ice coring, but my favourite part was when we had a moment of silence.
“Later that day we visited Port Lockroy. Port Lockroy first discovered in 1899 but was not named until 1904 when Jean-Baptiste Charcot arrived, he named the land after Edouard Lockroy, the vice president of France’s Chamber of Deputies, who helped Charcot on his trip to Antarctica. Port Lockroy was used as a harbour for Whales, now serves as a museum as well as a Post Office, so I had the opportunity to send out a few postcards. After visiting Port Lockroy we went to Jougla Island, where I saw three species of seals. Between the rookeries of Gentoo penguins, there was a sleeping elephant seal. It must have been only a few years old as its signature elephant ‘trunk’ had not formed yet. Just behind the elephant seal there was a Crabeater seal, who was also sleeping. On the opposite side of the island there was a Weddell seal, it didn’t really do much, and yes, it too was sleeping. Sometimes I feel like I am living inside of a Discovery channel documentry, there are so many amazing and fascinating things that I get to see and experience everyday, I really cannot believe it.
“On Thurday January 3rd, we sailed through the Lemaire Channel, It was honestly one of the greatest days of my life. There were massive snow capped mountains on both sides and then we saw a Minke Whale, for nearly two hours it followed us. It swam beside the ship and sometimes underneath, swimming from port side to starboard side, it was like a dance, and we followed it too, trying to catch a glimpse of this majestic creature. We ended the day with a zodiac cruise to the Wauwemen Islands, the islands themselves are relatively unexplored and the individual islands are not named. Fritz Koerner, a SOI educator and legend, started a monitoring project to observe the melting of glaciers over time. Fritz passed away a few years ago, but his legacy still lives on, each year SOI tries to return to that island and continue to work on the project.
“Today we landed in Neko harbour, named after a whaling ship, where we also said goodbye to Antarctica. I spent those few hours watching some gentoo penguins and just taking everything in. There are not enough words to describe this expedition so far, it doesn’t matter how many pictures or videos I take, I can never truly capture the beauty of Antarctica”
~Jasveen Brar, Medicine Hat, Alberta
“We could not have asked for a better last day in Antarctica. We woke to mild temperatures and calm seas for a morning landing at Neko Harbour. This beautiful section of the peninsula is well known for frequent calving of the glacier. As we landed at Neko, I was completely drawn into the tranquility of this hidden gem. Many students climbed the glacier for a fun slide down but I was content to spend my last moments on the continent by the water, watching Gentoo penguins along the beach and surrounding waters, listening to the soft popping sound of the ice. The silence was broken by a small avalanche across the harbour. A reminder of the power of nature. It was difficult to step back into the Zodiacs and say farewell to Antarctica, knowing I will probably never see it again. But as our ship sailed across the Andvord Bay and back towards the Drake Passage, the clouds cleared, the sun shone brightly and revealed majestic peaks all around us and reflected in the clear waters. The sight was breathtaking. I could never have dreamed of such a place, so rich with life. And I am so grateful to have experienced it. But it is getting to know the impressive team of educators and students and going through this journey together that has made this journey unforgettable. Our ship is rolling under the swell of the Drake Passage headed for Ushuaia and my mind has already turned towards home and the warm hugs that I am so fortunate to have awaiting my return.”
~Ashley Brasfield, Ottawa, Ontario
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“Today was our last landing on the Antarctic continent on Neko Harbour. At 7:30AM Geoff Green gave us the usual wake up alarm and then we all made our way for breakfast soaking in all the view of the Antarctic peninsula from the windows. It was hard waking up thinking that it will be your last day landing on the Antarctic continent. I was certainly excited for Neko Harbour because nearby glacier often calves in a thunderous roar. Although we did not see or hear any glacier calving, it was beautiful to gaze over Neko’s iceberg filled water.
“There were 5 workshops that were scheduled to be conducted on the landing including but not limited to oceanography, ice interpretation and wildlife. When I landed on Neko Harbour I was greeted by my gentle friends: the Gentoo Penguin. This was the last time on this trip that we would be visiting their rookery. First I walked the length and breath of the cobblestone beach and then sat for a while, sitting and observing the penguins. They were moving back and forth from the water and then waddled their way on the penguin highway to their nests. On one end you could see glaciers, icecap mountains on the other and the other side was filled with ice choked channels and in the far distance I could see the MV Ushuaia anchored quietly in the calm waters. After the workshops on the shore, we all made our way up to the top where Eric had a fun excercise for us. We were going to slide down the ice cap! The view from the top was breathtaking. Neko Harbour is certainly one of the most beautiful places in the world. I was excited to slide down the ice cap but I was just not ready to go down the ice cap and leave the view. Many thoughts were flowing through my mind as I sat up on the top and looked around on our beautiful mother Earth! It was now time to slide! I choose one of the extreme slide routes and switched my camera to record mode. The slide was over before I knew it! I only remember turning 360 degrees, tumbling around and then landing flat on my back. It was amazing!
Some of us, including me, where certainly not ready to say our final goodbyes to the Antarctic continent. I lifted my feet very reluctantly and walked towards the zodiac boots. Before we knew it, we were on our way back and eating turkey for lunch.
“Now, we have crossed Melchoir Islands and have made our way to the Drake Passage. It is time to reflect on the expedition we have had so far. For me, I am thinking of my family back home and hoping they are all alright. I will see you all very soon!”
~Zareen Cheema, Pune, India
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“This morning after breakfast, we went to a place called Neko harbour and we saw a rookery of gentoo penguins. Most of the time I sat on a rock that was near the beach and I watched the penguins swim through the ocean. I could see clearly because the ocean water was see through and it was magical. I was suprised that penguins can swim that fast in water, but it makes sense because they have to escape from their predators, orcas and leopard seal. I took a lot of pictures and mostly just enjoyed the morning because this was our last landing and we will not set foot on Antarctica again:( I was sad to hear that we have to leave so soon already, but Antarctica was starting to overwhelm me. I have never experience so many new things and it was all so exciting. Everyday, I was getting more and more tired, but it is good that we are going through the Drake passage soon because then, we will not do as much as before. I think we will do a lot of workshops and lectures, which is relaxing and great to do after a tiring week.
“Thanks mom and dad,”
~Rose Cideciyan, Baar, Switzerland
“Yesterday was very special. We were passing the canal and a minke whale followed the ship until we got to the island. Many people saw orcas but unfortanatly I miss it because they disapper very fast. After we had breakfast and a small briefing. In the morning landing we went to an island which the name I can’t remember and a zodiac cruise around the icebergs. My group started with the zodiac cruise which I really enjoy it because we saw the amazing blue color of the icebergs and also a seal. Then it was my group’s turn to go to the island and we saw more seals. In the end of the day I noticed that there was only one more day of landing and that made me sad.
“Today we got to sleep in and felt really good. Today I will enjoy everything at 100 percent as I have been doing.”
~Sofia Dionisio, Baar, Switzerland
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“As I try to keep my eyes open long enough to write this brief message, I am filled with warmth and joy. Yet again we had an amazing meal and are surrounded by the most majestic peaks. We landed for our last time on the continent this morning at Neko Harbour. We stood at the foot of an awesomely large glacier and although we didn’t witness any calving, we did hear some rumbling and cracking. We did however, see an avalanche just a few minutes ago. We are headed back into the Gerlache Strait and it is breathtaking to say the least. Today we saw many penguins, seals, and even orcas! Now we pass through the Gerlache Straight to do one more zodiac cruise before dinner and then we will be off to Argentina again. The feeling is bitter sweet.
“I feel incredibly blessed to be here in this capacity, as well as excitement for more traveling to come. Nothing will ever compare to this white continent though. I think it will take months of reflection when I am home to process all of the amazing things we have seeen and done here, at the moment I cannot think of words to explain.”
~Stephanie Dowdall, Port Moody, British Columbia
“This week has been soo amazing , it was a good experience, and there were some nice views!
“Meeting new people has also been quite the experience, too. Begining of the week I had seasickness, which I never thought I was going to get.
“It was my first time spending my Christmas & New Years out of home, I enjoyed it. (: We had a count down on New Years, we also had a toast, & with the tinkle bell group we sang a song, also me and Kyra throat sang…
“The first time we saw penguins I took tons of photos in my camera, penguins are just cute the way they walk, they’re just like humains, they feed like we do.
“We saw seals: Leopard seals, elephant seals etc… Lots of whales, humpback whales, orca whales etc… Birds, there’s lots of different kind of birds, my favourite is the albratross.
“The mountains are so beautiful , some are like home. And iceburgs = Wowwwww!
“I love the weather down here, but when it comes to rocky ship, nope.
“The water ~~~ ocean water is nice, salty, blue, and I went swimming in ANTARTICA!!!
“Well , I’m having a blast here!! Feeling homesick..”
~Rosena Emak, Kuujjuuaq, Quebec
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“Today was our final landing on Antarctica. It’s a really sad day, because now that I’m back on the ship, I know I won’t set foot on land for 2 more days.
“Today we landed at Neko Harbor and it was a nice, relaxing day. When we arrived, we walked around and tried not to trample a few penguins. It was really pretty, with the glacier and its magical blues and crevasses. We had the opportunity to participate in a few workshops and then we climbed to the top of the glacier. For the second time this trip, we got to act like penguins and slide down the glacier. Sliding down was extremely fast, we probably went at least 5 miles per hour down that thing and I definitely caught some air. It was a great time. I hope our last days of the trip will be just as good as the rest have been.”
~Kelly Esenther, Madison, Wisconsin
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“This was our last day on the Antarctic continent, as we made our last landing in Neko Harbor a beautiful place somewhat a perfect way to end our time here. It was bitter sweet though, like saying goodbye to a old friend. From the moment I saw my first mountian tops and first iceburg I was taken in to the beauty of Antarctica. It is true what people say that its mesmorizing characteristics makes this a wonderful place. And now as we sail through the Drake Passage I find myself looking for those white mountains and friendly whales. This will be the hardest transition I will have to make returning back home. On a more positive note we were met by a pod of orcas as we were going along the water several stayed at a distance, but would occasionally show a dorsal fin and take a breath. The water was so calm and I was on deck the sun was shining and no wind blowing I was actually warmed by the sun for once. We’ve spent five days in Antarctica and the last day we were treated in the best way possible. I sit here on the ship wondering whats going on at home. But there are still plenty of laughs as we played a game of jepoardy about the Antarctic treaty it was very exciting and filled with lots of yelling and laughter a memory that will stay with me, along with all the wonderful memories of the landings we made. I am just so thankful that I was able to have this experice and everyday I will think of that wonderful humpback whale that surprised us in the zodiac, and that minke whale that was so playful. Seeing the wildlife first hand gave a lot of insperation. The highlight of my day was climbing up a glacier sitting on my butt, and gliding down it was a good hooray to end on the last landing.”
~Kalyn LeBlenc, Brunswick, Maine
“I was one of the last people leaving Neko Island, our last stop of the Antarctica trip. I stood on the beach, trying to take in everything I could. With high mountain glaciers surrounding me and penguins walking pass and go, I couldn’t believe I had been in this beautiful continent for more than a week. I took thousands of photos, shot many videos, stayed at our landing places as long as I could and wore contact lenses every day to see everything as clear as possible even though I found them uncomfortable, I found all the pictures and memories I took back were not enough. Sometimes I envied penguins. Even though they looked funny and stupid, they had the best surviving skills and could walk on ice without tripping or sinking. They could swim in the water that was as beautiful as a watercolor painting and enjoy the world’s most beautiful places without getting wet and cold. Most importantly, everyday they could wake up with light blue mountain glaciers right in front of their nest.
“There were two highlights for today. I slid down the glaciers today and it was the coolest thing I ever did. Even though the slope was almost vertical and I was afraid of steep slopes, on the glacier I wasn’t afraid because I knew the snow could always support me and catch me. Another highlight was that I thought I was the only one out on the deck when we were leaving Antarctica. I spotted two large black stones on the other side of the ship so I went closer to look. Then I found out that there were two humpback whales. As I was feeling awesome because I found two whales myself, Olle came to me and asked if I had seen the whales.
“Now I am on the Drake Passage and start to feel a little bit seasick. I wish the weather could be good for the two following days on the passage.”
~Joanne Li, Beijing, China
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“It’s with a great sorrow that I have to accept the fact that today was our last day in Antarctica. It was definitely a bittersweet experience with our one and only landing today. In a lot of ways, it was incredible, because I’ve had such an amazing time on this trip, but the fact that it has to come to an end isn’t something I want to think about. But, today’s landing was, without a doubt, one that made it possible to go out with a bang — some ways more literally than others. We landed at Neko Harbor, an absolutely gorgeous beach surrounded by some of the bluest icebergs I’ve seen yet. After spending some time wandering around the beach and getting up close and personal with some penguins, I made my way up the glacier looming overhead, stopping when I reached the ridge where our group was located, and that’s when I had what was arguably my most exhilirating moment of the trip. When we got to the top of the ridge, it was time to slide back down, and I had the brilliant idea of following suit with the people in front of me and sliding down head first. All seemed incredible… until I went over the ridge and came to realize just how steep the glacier happened to be. Although bouncing down the side of a glacier on my abdomen and slicing my chin open at the bottom wasn’t my ideal, in hindsight, it was absolutely incredible and I’m so glad I did! I might even do it again sometime, just with a little it more preparation and a little less injury.
“After our last landing and what turned out to be our last venture out in the zodiacs, it was time to make our way back to the ship as I made time for a little bit of a nap and some orca spotting before dinner. We’ve hit the Drake Passage again, and needless to say, it’s quite a bit rougher this time than our experience just about a week ago, so we’ll see how everyone manages to hold up this time around. So far so good, though! After dinner came more lectures and workshops, and as much as I had enjoyed the landings, it was definitely nice to go to workshops again! This whole trip has been such an incredible journey, and it’s meant more to me than I had ever expected it to. I didn’t expect this trip to change me as a person or help me realize anything about myself, but it has in so many ways, and I know that I’ll be able to put that all to good use! Only a few more days reft, and even though I’m not entirely fond of the Drake Passage, I’d brave it a thousand times over if it meant reliving this indescribable experience time and time again.”
~Serenity McKenzie, Abilene, Texas
“Two days left and I am already missing this place. The last days we have been doing landings on different places. We went to one of the UK bases, Port Lockroy, which was awesome finally hearing some european accents for once. Right next to that was a small island with huge whale bones which was amazing too see, I never actually understood how big whales really were. To give you an overview, just the head was longer than me. Yesterday we went to an island that almost no one has stepped foot on. There we did some ice coring and re-built a pole too measure temperature and height of the rise of snow or decrease of snow, in one year. Whilst we were there the Canadians started bulding a fort, and so did the Americans. As a non-Canadian or non-American, I obviously didn’t fit in. Both teams started singing their national anthems and as a Swedish person myself I started singing the Swedish anthem. It was very fun and I’ll remember it. Now we only have two days left and it’s time for me to go to my room and put on my clothes for my next landing.”
~Evalina Nordin, Baar, Switzerland
“The past two days will always stick with me for the rest of my life. I have never felt so overwhelmed, so much has happened and I regret not writing about everything sooner. But better late than never, right?
“On January 2nd, we went to Danco Island and hiked up a glacier. Though the hike was difficult to climb, it was worth it in the end. We had an indescribable view of Antarctica. It was nothing like I have ever seen before. After we all built snowmen and took pictures, we had a moment of silence to just enjoy the beautiful scenery. It was such a special moment, and it reminded me how small we are in this giant world we live in. After we all took the time to enjoy the world around us, we started our journey down the glacier.
“I can now say that I slid down a glacier in Antarctica! Though there was a lot of snow in my boots, I had an amazing time. As I waited for the rest of the group to go down the glacier, I walked on the beach and watched penguins walk around. Though the penguins are really cool to look at, I can say that one thing I won’t miss is that penguin smell. It’s an awful smell.
After we visited Danco Island, we went to Port Lockroy. I spent more money than I should have at the gift shop, but when am I ever going to be able to buy souveniers in Antarctica again? I spent $80 on a sweatshirt that should have costed $20, but it’s Antarctica. So it’s okay.
“Yesterday was easily one of the best days of my life. I debated going outside because it was extremely cold (probably the coldest it has ever been on the entire trip), but I decided to go outside because the views were breathtaking. As I was standing outside, a whale started swimming around the ship. I had a front row seat to this magnificent show. I was so overwhelmed, because the whale was so close to the ship. I got a really good video of the whale swimming around, and when I went to sleep last night, I watched the video over and over again. It blew me away. I did not think that I would ever get that close to a whale in my life, and it was playing in the water right infront of me. I can’t describe how amazing that moment was. I was so cold, the wind was right in my face and I couldn’t feel my toes. But it didn’t matter to me. After the whale said goodbye, I looked around and the mountains and the ice looked so beautiful. Nothing looked real, it was so unbelievable.
“Another highlight for me yesterday was going through Iceberg Alley. It was nothing like I have ever seen before. The ice was bright blue. I have never seen ice so blue in my life. We also saw a seal smiling on a glacier and it looked really happy. It was all such a memorable experience.
Today, we visited Neko Harbor. It was a bitter sweet experience, because though it was another beautiful scene, it was our last landing of the expedition. I really don’t want this trip to end, but Neko Harbor was a good way to say goodbye to Antarctica. I also slid down a glacier twice today and it was great. But I’m very sad that this trip is ending.”
~Ryan Peete, Los Angeles, Canifornia
“Last day on Antartica! Can’t believe I’m counting down the days already. Today we did a landing on the continent and did our usually routine. Saw and smelled the penguins. Also, hiked up this hill to slide down it. The hike was not an easy one. Every step I took I sank at least 2 feet. It became very tiring and by the end I was only wearing my base layer. The slide down was an intresting one. The hill had this drop off and from where started to slide you could not actually see the bottom because it got so steep. I went on my belly head first, bad idea. I got a face full of snow the entire way and even got airborne for a little bit. At the end it was very fun but a bit scary.
“Mom, I have now gotten to my home hunger stage of the trip. Which means, I miss some of the food from home. Espically Lou Minhatis. We are going to have to order it for lunch when I get back.
“I just finished having lunch. In a couple hours we are going on a zodiac cruise and that will be our last time getting off the ship. Then, straight sailing through the Drake passage. They have already begun taping vomit bags on the railings. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping to see some rough water.
“Give a hug to Keiko for me!!”
~Matthew Peterson, Glenview, Illinois
“Today was our last day on the continent, and it didn’t disappoint. I honestly don’t have words to describe the landscape today. After our final landing, we began heading up towards the Drake Passage, and the rock and water around us was put together in an incredible arrangement of styles and forms–the mountains nestled gently under the clouds, the water lapping softly against little icebergs as penguins leaped and terns soared. Perhaps the day could be described as ethereal, but I think the best fitting word is indescribable.”
~Tiffany Quon, Vancouver, British Columbia
“Today was our last day in Antarctica. We landed at Neko Harbour and walked around the beach area. There was a large colony of Gentoo penguins at Neko, and there is a huge glacier there. The glacier was constantly making noise, cracking and groaning as the ice moved. We also hiked to the top of a tall and steep hill and after admiring the view we all slid down the hill! After we were done at Neko, we set off towards the Drake passage and the landscape we sailed by was incredible. We saw four or five humpback whales, and even a small pod of Orcas!! Tonight we officially leave Antarctica, and we will spend the next two days sailing across the Drake passage towards Ushuaia”
~William Sanderson, Perth Road Village, Ontario
The cold bit my toes as
I stood on the beach,
The thought hit my mind as
the landing we reached.
The wind whistled cold as
it caressed my cheek
Have I found my home?
The sun burnt my face,
seared my nose and my lips,
The sea laid to waste
all the tears that could drip,
The time in this place
is a dream of a trip
When I lay at home.
The sky was so bright
that I sheilded my eyes
The snow, purest white
still would crackle and cry.
The steps that I took
were nobodies but mine
Am I far from home?
Well, I’ve never seen stars
and I’ve never been cold
Since the great southern nights
took the daylight so old
And the freezing dark seas
filled with light, so I’m told
When I left my home.
Burst orange sunsets
and steely grey seas,
The rainbows of ice would
bring you to your knees.
My blood runs these colours
so I’m begging you please
Let me go back home.
The upside-down iceburgs
and seals slither slick
Fishes and whales flee
away with a flick
Time with the penguins
is gone far too quick.
And I’ll long for home.
~Jemma Sweeney, Mount Waverley, Australia
“The final day of our expedition on the continent of Antarctica has arrived…unfortunately. We did our final landing this morning and I think they purposely saved the best for last. We landed in Neko Harbour which is surrounded by glaciers and mountains. We climbed a glacier again (I think we have climbed three so far). The glacier was really active meaning that large pieces often break off causing large waves. I was hoping to see it happen. As I climbed the glacier, I was so absorbed in the difficulties of getting up that I failed to see the view. It wasn’t until I reached the top and turned around that the landscape hit me. It was the most incredible view that I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately my camera can’t capture the beauty of the Antarctic so I stopped taking pictures and just soaked it in. The hour that I was sitting up there seemed like only a few seconds. I can see why all the polar explorers fell in love with the Great White Continent. I could easily come back and spend some time here. The best part of the day was yet to come. Soon the staff started whisking us off to the zodiacs. Of course we had to get down off the glacier. While climbing up, we took somewhat of a zigzag route because it was so steep. The quickest way down was to slide down the vertical incline. I have never experienced anything so exhilerating in my entire life! It was like one of those vertical water slides in a water park, only it was snow and on top of a glacier. I flew down the mountain trying to stay upright as snow flew in my face and couldn’t stop laughing the whole way down. Not many people can say they’ve slid down a glacier in Antarctica. I can say now that I’ve done it twice. We tackled each other in the snow on the way down to the beach. It was so much fun, I don’t even know how to describe it. Antarctica is one of those places you have to visit to really appreciate it. There are no words or pictures that capture the feeling. (I’m writing this as we head away from the continent wishing I could have stayed.) To top off the day so far, we spotted orca fins from the ship. At the end of every day on this expedition I thought that it was the best day of my life only to be topped by the activities of the next day. Today has been the best so far and it was a great way to end off the expedition!”
~Sarah Veber, St. Philip’s, Newfoundland
“Today was the last landing on the continent. This morning we went to Neko Harbor and hiked up another ice cap. We got to slide down the slope which was a lot of fun. I also went out with Paul and some others in the Zodiac to do some CTD casts. I’m so glad that I’m here and not having to go back to school tonight. There’s not anything more that I wish I could have done on this expedition and I hope more midshipman will be able to go on this trip in the future. Thinking of everyone back home and hoping all is well.”
~Paige Ward, Annapolis, Maryland
“Today was our last day in Antarctica. We started today at Neko Harbor. There was this huge glacier that everyone said was the most active glacier that we had seen. They gave us all of these warnings that if we heard anything that sounded like thunder, or we saw a piece of the glacier brake off into the water, we had to run up the beach, so the wave that followed wouldn’t wash us away. It sort of scared me, and made me paranoid; however nothing fell. There was also a ridge that was very tall. Some of us hiked to the top and slid down.
“Tonight, we start back on the Drake Passage, and head for home. I’ll definately miss Anarctica.”
~Sydney Williams, Kendallvile, Indiana
“Today was definitely a great day reagardless of the fact that many of us will never again set foot on the Antarctic continent. The sky was blue, the air was warm, and the even the orcas made an appearance. It seemed like this place was giving us a special farewell.
“What struck me the most today was the true danger that these lands can hold. In the morning, we landed in Neko Harbour, our last on-land excursion. As we got off the zodiacs we were warned by Dave of the waves that can form from the glaciers as they calved off icebergs.
“Throughout our stay we heard booms and cracks and saw puffs of snow rising from the mountains as parts of the glacier fell apart. None of these were able to make the waves that Dave spoke of though, which was fortunate, however it displayed the immense power that these elements can hold as we watched from afar. It was hard to imagine what would have happened if we stood under those blasts of ice as the world quite literally fell apart around us.
“As all of this happened around us it was definitely hard to say goodbye. I for one know that in the future I want to come back, but in the meantime strive to protect this magnificent environment so that future generations can come back and experience what we have in the past five days”
~Eva Wu, Toronto, Ontario
Day 11: Wow! I still can’t believe that today was the last day that I stepped foot on Antarctica. I don’t want it to end. It’s just going by way too fast. Today at 9:00 am we set sail for our last landing at Neko Harbour. What a breathtaking place! Once we arrived, I just walked around the island trying to grasp the fact that this is the last day in Antarctica. It took a while to sink in, so I did everything to make it the best. During this time, a huge avalance took place on a nearby mountain, making the moment just perfect. After taking a few scenery photos, I went in the zodiac for a CTD ocean sampling with Paul. Afterwards, we went back to shore and I hurried to the glacier. I hiked up the glacier and slid down to the bottom. I videoed myself sliding down the glacier, and what an epic ride down it was! The beginning was a little slow, but all of a sudden you hit this big drop and snow starts flying everywhere! That’s a memory that will stay a lifetime. It was hard getting back into the zodiac because I didn’t want to leave. Neko Harbour was the perfect last landing; it contained all the basics of our trip. It had the penguins, the iceburgs, the glacier, the hike, the slide, the avalance, and the stunning scenery. It just summed the trip up perfectly. Once we arrived back on the ship, I took a shower and headed to lunch at 12:30 pm. We then were given some free time where I blogged and went out on deck. There were Orcas everywhere! It was like they were following us! Later on at 5:30pm, a lecture over marine protected areas was presented by Trevor. At 6:00pm, it was time for workshops where a group of us, students, were revising and editing a letter from the previous year requesting that Antarctica’s waters should be protected and preserved. Afterwards, at 7:30 pm, I lugged over to dinner where I was starting to feel seasick. We were entering the Drake Passage which was bumpier than it was going to Antarctica. I ate as much as I could without feeling too bad. After eating a small portion of food, I went to Dr. Kate and she game me a pill and two ginger candies. I then went to my cabin to rest before our recap. At 8:30 pm, our special recp was called to order. Some of the staff did a skit. After that, at 9:00 pm, we competed in Antarctic Jeopardy! By playing Antarctic Jeopardy, I surprisingly felt better because it took my mind off of things. Then at 10:00 pm, we watched another Sira video. Afterwards, we were given 20 minutes of free time, but I went straight to bed to get rid of my seasickness.”
~Suzanne Zeid, Longview, Texas