I sometimes like to imagine that the people I have loved and lost are sitting on my shoulders, riding along through life with me, marveling at the world as much as I do.
Last January, I stepped onto the continent of Antarctica. I’m fairy certain I’m the first person in the history of my family to do that. In the months leading up to my trip to Antartica, I thought a lot about my Mom – how thrilled she would have been to go on a trip like this. Or, at the very least, she would have followed every tidbit of news from Homeward Bound about our journey. She passed away five years ago on June 1st, but I clearly felt her with me as we stepped off the zodiac for our continental landfall.
My perspective, standing on Antarctica. It’s much warmer than I thought it would be.
By the time we anchored near Danco Island in the Gerlache Strait on January 12th, we had been on the ship for four days straight. We were itching to move after a series of cancelled landings. The steady hum of the ship had started to seep into our bones and we had become accustomed to occasional rocking of the world beneath our feet. On Danco Island, we were promised a hike.
Last week I had an article published in UNC Magazine about our experience on Danco Island, so if you’d like to read the details, please follow this link to the online version of the article. Below are some photos and bits of the story that were not published.
I haven’t posted in awhile – but don’t think I’m done with Antarctica! This is simply what happens in March and April. This time of the year is the equivalent of Christmas holidays in the academic world. There’s a race to wrap-up old work, the year-end meetings, reference letters, student advising, drafts of papers to read. And, at the same time, the weather is shifting: color returns to the world as the grass becomes green and tulips push their way up through piles of autumn leaves that still litter the backyard. There are warm days that pull me outdoors for long-awaited bike rides, followed immediately by two inches of snow and brief returns to winter.
With this post, I want to carry you with me down the icy waterway of memory lane, and share some of my favorite photos of our meanderings along the Antarctic Peninsula.
Our zodiac took a brief tour through some very icy waters in Flandres Bay along the Antarctic Peninsula.
View from my bed as I missed out on a zodiac cruise.
What is it you’re afraid of missing out on while you read this post? What do you feel tugging at you’re attention, while at the same time you looking forward to the cute penguin picture you know I’ve buried somewhere on this page? I know that feeling of missing out. That anxious feeling that urges you to skip ahead and skim right to the prize, then move on to something else.
The Ushuaia at Paulet Island, and penguins everywhere. Here, they are perched on the ruins of a hut built by the shipwrecked crew of a Swedish expedition in 1903.
The smell was thing I wasn’t quite prepared for. I didn’t realize Antarctica would smell like the end of a fishing pier, where gulls spend their days fighting over rotting fish guts as clouds of seal breath waft up from the water below. Although, I should have expected it. Penguins are not much different from gulls. If their biology allowed it, I’m sure they would be perfectly happy to be trash birds. They certainly don’t mind wallowing in their poop. Continue reading
I think there are a lot of Gen-Xers like me who probably imagined growing up to live on the frontier of outer space. We were born in an era of space exploration and the flood of sci-fi movies and books into 70’s and 80’s culture fueled our fantasies. But at some point, not long after I started college, I realized that I’m deeply prone to motion sickness and have a low tolerance for very much time in confined spaces. Traveling and living in space was probably not the best life option. So I ended up on a ship to Antarctica instead.
Arrival in the South Shetland Islands after the Drake Passage felt like landing on another planet.
How often do you lose track of what happened between leaving home and arriving somewhere else? Or, how often are you aware of the space that encompasses that moment between one year and the next? Or that space between breathing in and breathing out again? Today, I’m fascinated by those spaces in between, those spaces of transition. In part, that’s because I feel like I’m still in that space right now. That space between my journey with Homeward Bound in Antarctica and my gradual transition back to daily life in Colorado and my work as a professor.
I have so much to share with you over the next few weeks. In some ways, visiting Antarctica gives you a sense of what it must feel like to visit another planet. I have penguin and iceberg photos galore – stories of shipboard life, new friends and experiences, our work in understanding each other and ourselves. But every journey has those ‘in-between’ spaces at the beginning and at the end. It’s in that space where you shed something from your old life and take on something new – often, without fully being aware of what’s happening.
Pre-Drake Crossing in Ushuaia: Before the in-between time is the excitement and anticipation of things that will happen after the in-between time (and some trepidation about what the in-between time will bring).
Wherever you start your journey, a trip to the end of the Earth is never an easy one. Ushuaia, Argentina markets itself as the ‘end of the world’ – and given how long it takes to get here, you feel like you’ve traveled the Earth over. But this is just the launching point for what I think will feel like a trip to another planet.
I’ve spent the past week in Ushuaia. For part of that, I was sitting around at a cozy AirBnB with a bedroom view over the Beagle Channel. I watched the sky change from blue and grey as it spits hail or rain – to shades I associate with summer: peach and vermillion. Each day the sun circles to the north, then lights up the southern horizon in a slim line of pink during each short night.
Sunrise over the Beagle Channel
After more than a year of anticipation, the clock is ticking down. On New Year’s Eve I set sail for Antarctica from Ushuaia, Argentina with 80+ women from around the world! Over the past year, we’ve gotten to know each other – through video conferencing, lengthy Facebook threads, and a few in-person meet-ups. We’ve shared stories about our lives, our passions, and our hopes for this world. We’ve been prompted to delve deep into our own stories – the stories we tell ourselves about what we can do, and what’s holding us back. And we’ve been exploring questions about our role in this world – a world that has been tumbling through what is clearly becoming the largest mass extinction in 65 million years.
Map of Antarctica (credit: NASA)
The village of Dingle at sunset
I wanted to go to Dingle in 1992. I spent two months in Ireland, and mentioned it in my journal at least four or five times. Dingle, in 1992, didn’t quite have the reputation as a tourist destination that it does now – but I wanted to see the end of the Dingle Peninsula and look out across the Atlantic. I had ridden to the southern side of the peninsula, to Inch Beach. But that was the extent of my travel. Every day that we hoped to go, it rained, or something else came up. Continue reading