Thursday, December 27, 2007: Day 3
Ushuaia, Argentina - 12:40 pm EST
Posted by Geoff Green, Expedition Leader
Welcome to our Students on Ice Antarctic Expedition 2007 website. We really look forward to having you along for the "ride" with us over the upcoming two weeks! As the executive director of Students on Ice and the expedition leader for this expedition, I am very proud and thrilled to be leading this exceptional group of youth, scientists, experts and teachers to one of the most important and wonderful parts of the Planet - the Antarctic.
It's a long journey just to get to where our real adventure officially begins - Ushuaia, Argentina - on the shores of the magnificent Beagle Channel. The past two days have seen our team of students and staff travel from all corners of the Planet to this small city in Tierra del Fuego, and our gateway to the Antarctic. We now have 79 of our 89 participants here in Ushuaia, with the remaining 10 arriving later in the day.
Last night after dinner at the hotel, we had our first expedition briefing to welcome everyone and congratulate and celebrate them all for being a part of this very special International Polar Year Expedition to the Antarctic. It was amazing to look out and see all the smiling faces from around the world, and see and feel the excitement in the room. It is quite an extraordinary group. We have 7 students from Portugal that were selected through a national contest for the International Polar Year (IPY) which had hundreds of applicants. We have the national winner of an IPY contest in New Zealand with us. One of our Canadian students is the winner of the Canadian Geographic Polar Bound contest which asked the question why Canada should be more involved with the Antarctic. We have a special group of 4 students from Mexico. We have two students from Dubai; one from Japan; one from Iran; one from the UK; one from South Africa; many students from across the United States and Canada, including our group from the People to People program; one group of 5 students from New York City which were specially chosen from each of NYC's five boroughs for their leadership qualities. And we have one student from Palestine and one from Israel with us a part of a peace initiative! Plus, we have staff members from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom, Russia, the United States, and Portugal. All together we are now one big team and family that will share this incredible journey to the bottom of the world! We range in age from 13 to 85 years old, so the opportunities for inter-generational sharing and mentoring are quite exceptional . . .
At our briefing last night all the students and staff had a chance to introduce themselves and tell us where they where from. We talked a lot about the expedition and adventure ahead, our initiative to make the expedition carbon neutral, the goals of the journey, answered questions, shared stories and laughs. For many of the students this is their first time away from home, and their first time being a part of this kind of unique experience, so you can only imagine the emotions, excitement, thoughts and dreams racing through their minds!
After the briefing it was straight to bed – and believe me, there were no arguments about that! After several long days of travel our group was ready for some sleep . . .
This morning we awoke at 6:30 am and enjoyed a great breakfast at the hotel. Then it was time to pack up and get dressed for our day hike to Laguna Esmeralda on the outskirts of Ushuaia. Following the hike and picnic lunch, the students will all have some time to explore Ushuaia before returning to the hotel for dinner and another team briefing this evening.
Tomorrow, we'll spend the morning visiting the Tierra del Fuego National Park and be on the look out for the great Andean Condor! After lunch the team will have a few more hours in Ushuaia before we board our expedition vessel the M/V Ushuaia and get ready to set sail to the Antarctic!
Why are we going on this journey to Antarctica with this group of students? Well, it really goes back to the main reasons we started Students on Ice eight years ago. The Antarctic and the Arctic are the greatest classrooms on Earth! They are classrooms without walls the cornerstones of the Earth's global ecosystem. They are incredible platforms for science and education. They are windows to our world, and symbols of peace, understanding and conservation. They are barometers for the health of Planet Earth. They are incredible places that humble us, overwhelm us, and remind us that Mother Nature is in control. And so much more! Over the years of leading expeditions to the Antarctic and the Arctic I saw how people's perspectives were being challenged, and how they were returning with inspiration and motivation to change their lives, to try and live more sustainably and do their part to take better care of the planet. Imagine we thought, if we could give that experience to youth at the beginning of their lives, expose them to these places, connect them with the natural world, instil in them environmental ethics, teach them about the history, science, flora, fauna, and how that experience might define, guide and change their futures?!? And so Students on Ice was born.
It has been an incredible eight years, during which we have taken over 800 students from 28 different countries to both Polar Regions. As on the past expeditions, I am confident that this group of students will return home as dynamic ambassadors and leaders for the future that will give us all cause for hope. We hope they will be passed the torch during this International Polar Year to carry on the leadership, science, research, exploration, thinking and action required to help our home Planet Earth. Together we will better recognize how to offer this help and how we must all live more sustainably. We can live in harmony with the Planet today and for generations to come.
Let's go to the Antarctic!
In the expedition spirit,
Expedition Leader & Executive Director,
Students on Ice
Be sure to visit our Expedition News Link to follow what electronic media from around the world is writing about our journey!
Ushuaia, Argentina – 8:38 pm EST
Posted by Jamal Alfalasi, student
“Sqwaaaq!” A silly bird lands on our open window, curious about the two sleeping figures in the room.
“Hmmm” I grunt, rather annoyed at the silly bird. Lucky for the bird, it flew away after hearing my grunt.
I got up to close the open window, regretting opening it the night before and allowing the bone penetrating, cold air to creep into the room.
The sun was out and shining, and the freaky part? It's only 5:30am!
Yup, that is how I started my first morning in Ushuaia.
So enough with the dramatic writing, today was actually a pretty interesting day, we went hiking! And at 10 in the morning!
For those of you who know me, don’t worry. I did pretty well, considering I’m allergic to exercise.
It was a three-hour hike to “Laguna Esmerelda” or “Emerald Lake”, a truly beautiful place. The uphill hike was wet and muddy. It was funny watching people getting stuck in, or falling in the mud. I couldn’t help but laugh. We passed by a beaver dam before going though a forest that led us to a rocky hill which contained the “Emerald Lake.”
The view of the lake and the surrounding mountains covered in ice and two glaciers was just breathtaking! Or maybe it was the three-hour hike that took our breath away.
We all got excited and dipped our feet in the water. Some mad people actually went for a swim! The water was freezing! Like “stick a needle in my foot and I won’t feel a thing” freezing.
It was clear to see how the lake got its name. The emerald colour of the water made it look like a piece of fallen sky, especially since it reflected the sharp edged mountains that were on the opposite side of us.
It is strange how quickly we forgot the pain we were in. Admiring the beautiful scenery, appreciating the gentle breeze rippling over the water, inhaling the smell of moss and mud and feeling the water massaging your legs, this was truly a moment of peace. At that moment, the gates of heaven opened as we peeked into its garden.
With our spirits cleansed and refreshed we began our descent back to the fatuous reality of humankind, only to get lost in the forest. It took us less than 5 minutes to get back on track, so it was not so bad.
After leaving the forest behind we faced the mud traps once again, only this time we knew where the sticky, deep parts were, or at least we thought we knew. More people got stuck in the mud on the way back. I guess some people don’t learn from other peoples’ mistakes. It was funny, and it did make me laugh for a while. One poor girl got stuck in a really muddy part, and it took 12 people to get her out again, they just kept getting stuck like flies on fly paper. But that’s not the funniest part. It really got me laughing when people started falling in the mud! Body parts disappeared into muddy traps while legs flew up in the air!
To end in a more serious note, I actually truly enjoyed today. I would like to take a moment to thank Dr. Mariam Al Shenasi for encouraging me to go to this trip and help me to sort out my university responsibilities. I would also like to thank Global Information Technology for sponsoring me and believing in me.
As exhausting as it was, we still managed to learn a lot about the earth we live on. Like for example, this whole mud, moss, tree and glacier ecosystem we visited is actually the youngest ecosystem in existence, only 8,000 years young.
I am just exhausted now, I wish I could type more but I just can’t.
With all due respect,
Posted by Serin Remedios, student
Theme Songs of the Day:
* Today will be Better, I Swear! – Stars
* Chicago – Sufjan Stevens
Well, we’ve finally arrived in Ushuaia after one very long, complicated journey. In a nutshell, the Canadian group’s plane from Toronto to Miami was cancelled and we had to fly to Chicago instead. From there, we flew to Buenos Aires. However, we arrived in Buenos Aires too late to catch our original flight to Ushuaia. Unfortunately, this time of year is where the most tourists come to Ushuaia, so all of the flights were full. We waited at the airport until 6:00pm waiting on standby but only three of our fourteen got flights that day. We then spent the night in Buenos Aires including a wonderful dinner at a traditional Argentinean restaurant and a quick tour around downtown. The next morning we woke up at 2:30am in the morning to see if we could get onto a 5:30am flight. We waited at the gate as more and more people boarded the plane, and our hope of getting seats grew smaller and smaller. At the last minute they called Alex, Fritz, and I to board the plane to Ushuaia. Yay!!!
I am actually really impressed by how patient, calm, and flexible everyone acted. There were many reasons and opportunities for people to have gotten frustrated and have thrown a fit. However, everyone kept a positive attitude. It made the whole experience much more enjoyable, and now I can look back on it and laugh.
Ushuaia itself is a beautiful place, quite unlike anywhere else I’ve been. To me it almost seems like it is a mix of the Rocky Mountains, Vancouver Island, and the Quebec coast. It is an alpine environment but the foliage is so lush; there are lupines everywhere. Jo, John, Rex, Nick, and Payal, you guys would love it here.
Today we are going hiking in the national park, and later we will be boarding the ship. I’m so excited for everything that is to come. After everything that has happened, it can only get better.
Posted by Ankur Gupta, student
High Ho! High Ho! It’s off through mud we go. No matter what you wear or bare, High Ho! High Ho! High Ho! High Ho! 5:30 AM. My reaction: *yawn* Oh no! It’s almost noon! It’s so bright outside! Wake up call was at 6:30 yet I ended up waking up an hour early. Last night I went to bed at 10:30 yet it was still very very bright outside. The whole 24-hour daylight is definitely no joke. After taking a shower I went down to the lounge area to wait for breakfast at 7:00. I sat down on a couch facing the wall-sized window and my jaw dropped. I cannot describe the view from this hotel in Ushuaia. Think of a painting of a constant sunrise and make it real. I wanted to keep staring but I know the light being reflected off the water wasn’t too good for my eyes. I don’t know how many stars this hotel is but I would give it 10 out of 5 based on just the view alone. It’s located on a slope of the mountain overlooking the city and it is right in the middle of where there used to be a glacier (hence the name Hotel del Glaciar). Our room is on the back side of the hotel so our room’s view consists of the valley created by the glacier. The front view is of the ocean and harbor and city. I am not sure what ocean it is because we are in the southern most city of the world so the Atlantic meets the Pacific here.
Quick random note, but my roommate is from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. My roommate at Carnegie Mellon University is also from Dubai in the UAE. I’m sensing a trend here. I don’t know if we’ll be roommates when we disembark on the ship tomorrow but who knows. Anyways, back to topic.
After breakfast and some amazing pictures from the hotel we got on a bus to the other side of Tierra del Fuego where our plan was to hike to Laguna Esmeralda (Emerald Lagoon).
Okay another side note related to Spanish. Last night at dinner we were served some orange soup that tasted really good. It was orange color not orange the fruit mind you. A friend of mine wanted to know what kind of soup it was and asked a waitress. The waitress said in Spanish that she does not speak English and went to search for someone who does. Now I took Spanish all through middle school but I dropped it after my freshman year of high school because it was getting too hard and I needed to focus on my science courses. So while this waitress was in search of an English speaking person, I was figuring out how to say “What type of soup is this?” I figured it out when another waitress came. She apparently didn’t speak English either and my friend asked her the question in English. She misunderstood and thought she was asking for a beer. To alleviate the situation I burst out in a flurry of Spanish and asked “Que es el tipo del sopa?” She promptly answered me and the students around me stared at me in shock. I was surprised myself that I remembered how to speak in Spanish. Anyway I digress again. Sorry, but this will happen a lot through my journal entries. There is so much information and so much inspiration in this region that it is difficult to get everything down in an orderly fashion. So back to the hike.
Mud. That sums up the initial part of the experience very well. Most of the area is peat bog so Mother Nature loved our feet and didn’t want to let go of them. Last night I debated between going in hiking boots or rubber boots (hardcore gardening boots!) and I chose rubber boots event although they were harder to hike in. I am so glad I chose the rubber boots and I ended up dry all over unlike most of my fellow expeditioners. So eventually we got to the lagoon (most of us gave up worrying about the mud) and had lunch. One thing I noticed is that the view of the area constantly got better as we moved towards the lagoon. Most of Tierra del Fuego (translates to Land of Fire) used to be covered in glaciers but due to warming during the last ice age, they melted away carving these immense valleys. The ecosystem and land here is supposed to closely resemble Antarctica many many years ago. What this means is that the land under the glaciers in Antarctica probably will look exactly like here in years to come. Our resident oceanographer and geologist made a joke that a future Students on Ice trip to Antarctica might look exactly like what we saw today so we should trademark the name Students on Peat now so no one else takes it.
After a little lesson on bedrock and the formation of these valleys we also learned that the ecosystem here is one of the youngest in the world. Only 8000 years old!!! Now aging parents don’t have to feel so bad :) After we had lunch, we hiked back to the bus. Yes, through more mud. We used the screams of the people in front of us to indicate where not to go. Once we got back onto the bus, we drove to the city and were let out to explore the city.
Now if people think Bay Area drivers are bad or East Coast drivers are bad, they have not seen Ushuaia. Pedestrians mean nothing. I mean it. No pedestrian crossing lights. No stopping (unless they’re really nice and are okay with the rest of Ushuaia behind them being annoyed). It was like a game of Frogger (ah, the memories…). I stopped by a souvenir shop to get a few items as I think gift shops in Antarctica will be nearly nonexistent. There is however some sort of museum where we can send post cards from in Antarctica. Unfortunately, I don’t have anyone’s address committed to memory except my own. Apparently, postcards and mail in general go out on the next ship leaving and then go to the UK and then to wherever the destination is. There is also supposed to be a place we can stamp our passports with Antarctica. I’m getting sidetracked again. One other interesting thing happened in town. The staff of the stores would walk up to me and start talking in Spanish. Apparently I look Hispanic. I do not look Hispanic!
Anyway, after our excursion in town, we went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner and our briefing. At this briefing the remainder of our expedition team was introduced as most of them were stuck in Buenos Aires because their original flight from Canada was cancelled. There are two, no three, specific people on this education team that stood out in my mind and I hope to talk to them very soon. One is a Dr. Fred Roots who is over 80 years old, has a mountain range in Antarctica named after him, was part of the last International Polar Year which was about 50 years ago, and gave a lecture at Princeton University where one of the attendees was Albert Einstein. Yes, you read right, E=mc2 guy.
A quick note about the International Polar Year. It is an event that brings many scientists and researchers to the Antarctic and Arctic to discuss the state of the poles I believe. They are from all over the world and this year is considered an IPY.
The second staff member is Mikhail Tyurin who is a cosmonaut. Yes, you read right again. A space guy. I don’t know if that really needs more explanation as to why I need to talk to him (psst…I’ve been in love with space since I was a wee little baby).
The third person is Ian Tamblyn, the “odd duck” on the staff as he called it. He is a musician/playwright. His purpose on this trip is to help us find a way to express what we feel and what we experience. This is very important to me because after my Arctic expedition in 2005 I was overwhelmed with so much passion that I had to express my findings in one way or another. I am in love with drama and theatre so I have been trying to come up with an idea for a play whose topic is climate change. The issue I am having is how do you set such an epic-sized topic on stage without it being absolutely boring. I am really hoping Ian will be able to help me out in this regard and I hope to get enough inspiration to write a play that I can put on back at my university.
I am the Managing Director of my school’s student-run theatre organization and they love to put on student written works. Theatre is about “holding the mirror up to nature” as Shakespeare said in Hamlet. Many have interpreted that nature as being the human condition. I do not know of a single play that has held the mirror up to the physical nature. The one that is changing all around us. If everyone cannot travel to the Arctic or to Antarctica then why not bring it to them? Show the world what is happening in these areas. Make the people think.