January 6, 2015

End of the Drake Passage and back to Ushuaia

Expedition leader update:
Today is our last day onboard the M/V Ushuaia before we begin our journey home. The past two weeks of Zodiac excursions amongst the icebergs, landings full of learning and adventure, research and workshops have been some of the best in the history of Students on Ice as we opened our hearts and minds to Antarctica and to each other. We have a remarkable group of students whom we are proud to call part of the global SOI family.
Our final day included presentations, workshops, a rare spotting of a Sperm whale beside our ship as we rounded Cape Horn, Albatross sailing the skies around us, Commerson Dolphins escorting us, and to top it all, a magnificent rainbow over the Beagle Channel to help us say farewell. This evening was a true celebration of our time together with a photo contest, talent show, video and even a special performance by The GG’s! It was a fun evening and a wonderful way to wrap up our incredible journey.
Tomorrow will be a long day of travel as we depart early from Ushuaia back to our homes. A huge thank you to all our partners, supporters, families and friends who helped to make this expedition possible. A special thank you to Canada Goose, Makivik Corporation, Kativik Regional Corporation, Beatrice Snyder Foundation, Leacross Foundation, People to People, Marine Institute at Memorial University, M&C Travel Ushuaia, Antarpply, and the Canadian Museum of Nature. We are all returning with a renewed passion for this incredible planet we share and a determination to make a difference.
Stay tuned…
In the expedition spirit,
Housekeeping notes: Below are student blogs and a handful of pictures. For new videos, check the “videos” page.
“Acabem d’entrar al canal de Beagle despres de dos dies pel passatge de Drake. Les aigues estan finalment calmades i aixo se sent al vaixell amb l’ambient que hi ha a la sala principal on ens reunim. Aquest vespre, pel darrer sopar tots junts, tornarem a tenir un menjador ple! El passatge ha sigut bo amb nosaltres, tothom que ha visitat l’Antartica abans, i alguns ho han fet decenes de vegades, no paren de dir quina sort hem tingut.
“La partida del continent va ser dura, ningu volia marxa, cada dia va ser tant intents, bonic i ple de moments unics… Pero aquests dos dies tambe han estat especials. Moltes conferencies de nou, aprenent molta ciencia i historia sobre expliradors i balleners i continuant coneixent a estudiants i adults. I avui una “sperm whale” s’ha deixat veure al mati, i ara fa uns instants uns dofins saltant davant el vaixell.
“Ens queden poques hores, ha sigut una tarde de refleccio i ara es prepara una nit de celebracions. Quan ens despertem dema serem a Ushuaia i tocara dir adeu! A mi encara hem quedara el viatge de tornada amb tres estudiants, 4 vols i una nit a Buenos Aires abans d’arribar a casa a punt per a celbrar el meu aniversari. Quin comencament d’any!
“Aquest es l’ultim blog de l’expedicio. Espero que us hagi agradat seguir-la. Mes fotos i videos apareixeran a la web aquesta propera setmana. Jo tinc ganes de veure tot el que s’ha compartit. Fins a la propera!!!”
~Anna Abella, Baar, Switzerland
“Sa ar pavag hem nu. Vi ar pa drakpassagen och jag mar relativt bra for att vara pa det stormigaste havet i varlden. Resan har varit fruktansvart rolig, larorik och haftigt och det verkar som vi har haft tur med det mesta. Jag har inte skrivit sa mycket for jag tycker ju inte om att skriva som ni vet. Jag tanker att jag berattar allt som hant face to face istallet. Vi kommer att skymta land ganska snart och vi kommer att ha en avslutningsfest ikvall i det lugna vattnet i Beaglekanalen vilket jag ser fram emot.
“Vi ses om tre dagar.”
~Samuel Carlsson, Sweeden
“Last day on board the MV Ushuaia. Our educational stations and workshops came to an end today. I gave my Remote Sensing exam today when our ship was in the Beagle Channel. It was a good end to all what I had been preparing for so many years but it was an new beginning to all what I have to do when I get back home. Every individual can create a difference in this world. This expedition to Antarctica has taught me immensely of the Polar Regions and also transformed me as a person. It was more special to be on board with Students on Ice and I will certainly miss all the students and the wonderful professors, researchers and artists I met on board the ship.
“Adios MV Ushuaia! I want to extend my sincere graditude to all family, my amazing sister, my sponsors, St. Mary’s School, Cummins College of Engineering, Dr. KN Modi Foundation, Rotary Club of Poona and every person who has supported and encouraged me to reach for the stars!
“A big thank you to everyone!
“This is Zareen Cheema signing off!”
~Zareen Cheema, Pune, India
“We are on our last day of our expedition. We have made it through the Drake Passage and are now in the safe hands of the Beagle Channel once more. The day has been filled with goodbyes and thank you’s. This has been an incredible experience coming into the journey I was expecting to take away this wonderful experience of nature and wildlife, but as we reach the end I have come to enjoy the company of the people around me. I have met some awesome people and I have been so lucky to have shared this experience with them. This has made me think about some of the things I would like to pursue when I get home. As I sit here writing the sun is setting and festivities are in swing, even though we will say our good byes tomorrow there is one quote that has stuck with me ‘Don’t be sad because it is ended, smile because it happened’ See you soon.”
~Kalyn LeBlanc, Brunswick, Maine
“I’m now on my way back to Ushuaia, after finishing my five days stay in Antarctica. Outside the window, I can see the land covered in green vegetation. It is weird to see mountains with trees growing on them. I guess it will be even weirder when there are houses and tall buildings, car horns blow on the streets, and the sky is pitch black when it is eleven o’clock outside.
“I start to think about what I have learned from Antarctica. It is a continent that is so different from the continent I live in. Antarctica is a magical place where animals will come right in front of you and stare at you curiously, where although the harsh environment restricts biodiversity, millions of animals such as penguins, seals and whales thrive in this coldest, driest and windiest continent. It is also a place where countries gather together for the purpose of science. It is a mysterious continent in a way that lots of scientific questions have not yet to be answered. What is most special about Antarctica is that it is a continent that there is no permanent human resident and no negative human impact. After looking at how beautiful Antarctica is, I am very interested in learning more about the rules and laws of the nature that shape living creatures and landscape. And I believe human development can be in harmony and reach sustainability if we can follow the principles of the nature.”
~Joanne Li, Beijing, China 
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“Last day of the expedition today. We woke up and after breakfast we went out to the deck and watched as multiple Wandering Albatrosses flew behind the ship. It was incredible to see these massive birds gracefully glide through the air. We then had a few presentations and are now getting ready for our end of expedition celebration. It really has been a trip of a lifetime and I can’t wait to share it with everyone back home.”
~William Sanderson, Perth Road Village, Ontario
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“Our last day on the ship. We got to sleep in a bit (8.30 breakfast) which was nice because at about 6am the ship hit a windy spot. It rocked so hard that a few people nearly fell out of bed! I didn’t leave my bed, but a few things were thrown across the room. I’m glad it wasn’t quite as bumpy at breakfast. Even still, I think I ate too much fruit and not enough bread-y stuff, and my stomach didn’t feel very good for the rest of the morning.
“Whales were spotted throughout the day, and so were some large seabirds. Somebody called me a ‘wandering albatross’ on this trip, and I took it as a compliment. They’re beautiful graceful birds, even if they look hilarious and awkward on land. They just fly and fly and fly to wherever they want to go, or even without any direction at all! Maybe if I was an albatross I would be a dawdling albatross, rather than a wandering one- I’m not as fast at getting places, and get distracted, heheh.
“We went to a talk or two, had lunch of cheeseburgers and fries (sadly, I think it was the most popular meal to date) and then did some workshops about reflecting and writing letters. Writing a letter to my future self was difficult, because I know that a lot can change in a year (including my address) and usually does. This time last year, things were so different…
“People are collecting contact details and doing last minute chatting, but I feel much more solemn. I just want to do watercolours and hide from the reality that its over. Its going to be difficult at tonights celebration, but I’ll probably still grin and whatnot, even though I want to cry. I want to go back already!”
~Jemma Sweeney, Mount Waverley, Australia
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“Day 13: Today was a meaningful day. After an 8:00am wake-up and 8:30am breakfast, we start the day of with workshops at 9:30am. I attended the Edward Wilson’s Expedition workshop which was considered the worst expedition of all time. Afterwards, we had 30 minutes of deck time where we saw three Wandering Albatrosses, and man are those birds huge (up to 12 foot wingspan)! We also saw a rare Sperm Whale. At 11:00am, we gathered in our pods and discussed what this expedition meant to us. This discussion was really heart-felt not just to me, but for everyone else in my pod. We all shared something that everyone else experienced and how it changed us. It helped all of us understand and make better sense of our expedition. After an hour and a half, we left changed and headed to lunch. Afterwards, we went to our cabins and started packing for our flight back home tomorrow. At 2:30pm, a presentation by Justin was over becoming an alumni ambassador and how one person can make a huge impact upon the world. Afterwards, we were given an opportunity to write a letter to ourselves that will arrive at our doorsteps exactly a year from now. I also wrote a letter to my parents thanking them for allowing me to come on this expedition. We also filled out a student questionaire and a carbon footstep paper that has all the places that we traveled to get to and from for this expedition. They then will replace all the carbon used with trees that they will plant. We were then given a break until 5:30pm. Geoff then gave a presentation about alumni of Students On Ice and their success. Afterwards, all of the pods shared their expedition reflections that they gathered from earlier today. Following, some students got up in front of everyone and shared what they’re doing at home that’s making a difference. Every single person had great concepts that were extremely successful and inspiring. At 7:45pm, we went to the dining room for our last dinner as a family. After dinner, we saw a spectacular double rainbow. At 9:00pm, our final recap and briefing took place. Following, was a giant end of expedition party that included a talent show. We were then sent off to bed to rest up for our early wake-up call at 6:30am for our plane rides back home.”
~Suzanne Zeid, Longview, Texas