Saturday, December 29, 2007: Day 5
Drake Passage - 3:53 pm EST
Posted by Geoff Green, Expedition Leader
Hello from the Drake Passage! We are having a very good crossing so far! Calm seas and great visibility. It has been a full and exciting day so far with lectures on the Southern Ocean, the Geology of Antarctica, and An Introduction to the Antarctic. The students also participated in workshops this afternoon on Photography, Maps and Charts, and Music. Between activities we’ve been out on deck spotting lots of seabirds, including the great Wandering Albatross!!! The students are all doing really well. They love the ship. Some are feeling a little seasick but overall they are really doing well and getting their sea legs, learning their way around the ship, spending time on the bridge, and much more.
Sometime later tonight we’ll be crossing the Antarctic Convergence and we hope to see our first icebergs, whales and penguins tomorrow as we get closer to our first Antarctic landfall - Elephant Island.
That’s all for now,
Expedition Leader & Executive Director
Students on Ice
Posted by Shannon Kaupp, student
This trip is awesome! I’m having so much fun crossing the Drake Passage because it is constantly rocking and it’s really funny when people try to walk on the ship. I figured out that water circulates around Antarctica. Between Ushuaia and the Antarctic Peninsula is the narrowest part, and when so much water is forced through there, huge waves appear.
I miss everyone; Jordyn, Allie, Shira, Jojo, of course my family. It is great though to have a vacation away from everyone, but it’s not the typical vacation. It is kind of like school a little bit because of the lectures we attend as a part of the program, but it’s basically 24/7 hanging out with really cool people.
The other day we went on a 6.21 mile hike up to a lagoon. It was soooo muddy but it was hilarious when people got stuck in the mud, would fall over, and be covered from head to toe with mud. I made best friends with Chanel and Shipley, along with Jamal, Bennett, Rachel and many more.
Today out on the deck we saw some really cool things. I saw a Wandering Albatross (!!!), some other albatross species, and little penguins that hopped out of the water. We will cross the Antarctic Convergence Zone today but we haven’t yet so I don’t know why we saw penguins, but it was really cool. We’ve been looking for whales but no luck yet. We still have the whole trip ahead of us to see whales so I’m not too disappointed.
Onboard we have these two people named Fritz and Fred who are in their 80s and are really smart. I learned that Fred gave a lecture that Albert Einstein attended. That is how smart he is!!!
Everyone on the ship is so nice. I think it’s really cool how people come from so many different parts of the world. So even though we are learning so much about Antarctica, we are also learning from the people and different cultures around us.
When I get to a station I will send out my postcards to everyone!
Posted by Chanel Lufkin, student
“Wow.” All I can say is “wow,” except for “all I can say,” because I can say those words too! This trip has been an awesome experience for everyone on it! I love the fact that everyone comes from all over the world!! So far we have gone on an airplane flight for over 9 hours and then another one for over 4 hours!! When we got to Ushuaia we went on a 6.21 mile hike to a beautiful lagoon!! On the way up we went through tons of mud and I speak for everyone when I say that it was an amazing bonding experience!! On the way down from the lagoon it was very difficult!! We all got stuck every ten minutes (me more than most people)!! We were able to go into town (covered in mud, as I was, head to toe) and see how the people of Ushuaia lived. It was an awesome time!! We took another hike to the closest end of the Americas. I loved it!! When we got on the boat, everyone went outside to watch us set off. We were all going to miss Argentina, but we are going to have a lot of fun also in Antarctica!! I have made so many friends such as Shipley, Shannon, Jamal, Emily, Sara, and tons more that I just haven’t had time to write.
The boat is incredible!! The ship rocks a lot going through the Drake Passage. A lot of people are getting seasick but other than that, people are okay!!
The leaders are super nice and they seem to have a lot of experience dealing with kids. There are over 80 people on our ship and it definitely gets squishy sometimes. The lectures are really interesting and one of the leaders gave a lecture to Albert Einstein. We have learned about plate tonics and had safety lessons. My favorite spot in the whole boat is at the very front where it seems as if you are flying!
We have seen penguins and birds and The WANDERING ALBATROS! It was so amazing! It was so long and very beautiful!
Well, I love the boat and everything about Argentina but I definitely miss my family and friends! We are going to attend another lecture so I have to put the computer down, even though I could write about this trip for hours I guess I am not going to!
Luv and miss everyone!
Posted by Brittany Pieters, student
Hope you are all doing well (like I am!) and enjoying your time in the city or wherever you are. I am here on the ship and we are just sailing across the Drake Passage. Truth be told, I have never been in a ship like this one, I feel a bit nauseous but I managed to go up and eat breakfast. One thing that I really like about all the moving of the ship is that when I went to bed it felt like someone was lulling me to sleep. This reminded me of the poem from Spanish class Cancion del Pirata.
I went hiking in the mountains to see Laguna Esmeralda and it was a pretty messy but a worthwhile hike. I got stuck many times in the mud but I was happy that my feet hadn’t gotten wet. But guess what? Just as I was walking I got stuck in the mud and water went into my boots I went to the hotel with wet feet. You can imagine that since I’m small I had to watch out more because I felt like I was going to get sucked in! However, the photos I took and what I saw made it all worthwhile in the end. I definitely am learning the value of remaining calm since I feel a bit scared just being surrounded by water. Interestingly enough I can’t believe I’m actually here on the ship going to Antarctica. To me it all feels like a dream. Now I think I’ll spend my free time looking to take a picture of the famous albatross. Well, I guess that’s it – please take care and stay tuned in for the next time I write.
Posted by Brittany Pieters, student
Today we woke up to the lulling of the waves in the Drake Channel. It is supposed to be rather calm but the sea is a new experience and presents its own set of challenges no matter the circumstances. Breakfast was at 8 AM and after we had some free time where we talked, played cards, and ate some fruit. On the agenda was our first lecture, which consisted of David telling us a brief synopsis of what we are expected to learn, like geology, animals, and history. Next Fred talked about the formation of the Antarctic and how heated magma is convected and pushed through cracks in the tectonic plates to form masses, which in Antarctica’s case is covered with layers upon layers of ice. I also feel that the team is stressing to us to not only look at this experience as a photo op but something that you can take with you for the rest of your life. Your eyes are the best camera you posses and we should inhale this experience. Later on we saw some albatrosses, which can have a wing span of 12 ft. The seas have remained calm and luckily I have not had any sea sickness. The scenery is amazing, which I am going to enjoy out on the bow.
Posted by Lori Bostick, Chaperone
“I now belong to a special class of mortals, I have seen the albatross!”
Greetings from the Drake Passage! We certainly are experiencing the “Drake Lake” this morning and not the dreaded “Drake Shake”! We also learned how to prepare and “Drake proof” our cabins. In addition we are now just learning about the “Drake diet”.
To reflect back on our long journey to the end of the earth, most of us met in Miami Christmas Day afternoon, and it was wonderful to see the eager and excited faces! Yes, it was a long journey south, but well worth it all, and a privilege to go where not many have gone. It has been amazing to be joined together with people from 15 counties, top educators and scientists, and most importantly our students who bring so much energy and enthusiasm. We are ambassadors of the world!
Ushuaia is a bustling city with a population of 65,000, and quite charming. The scenery of this city surrounded by glaciers was spectacular, especially from our hotel called Hotel del Glacier nestled in the mountain overlooking the Beagle Channel. Our first adventure was a 5 hour hike to and from the Lagoon Esmeralda. It was truly a test of stamina and began our bonding as a team. The hike consisted of wearing knee high rubber boots, and trudging through the mud bogs where many of us lost our boots and learned how to rotate our ankles to slide out of the mud. Once we reached the lagoon, we saw our first glacier up close! Several took the plunge into the beautiful blue lagoon. As Geoff Green told us the night before, “Stop and think where you are and what you are doing at least once a day.”
As I stood next to the railing this morning watching the albatross following us, tears came to my eyes. I cannot wait to see my first penguin, my first iceberg, and see the most beautiful and fragile place on earth.
Posted by David Brock, Education Team Member
The Antarctic convergence is a source of contemplation and reflection. Our collective strength has been buttressed by the soft melodies of Ian Tamblyn and the thankfully gentle swells of the notorious Drake Passage. Science and art also converge at this place. Perhaps the scientific method has become too formulaic and requires more creative inspiration. Days spent alone searching my thoughts for meaningful theories and hypotheses are often the source of frustration and self-doubt. Membership on this expedition is providing a much needed thrust of confidence situated in a wider perspective. Often our failures appear to be, at the time, to us, the end of the world. Being set adrift at the actual end of the world causes a dualistic epiphany that is both simple and profound. Our work as individuals is not imperative, but it is significant. Perhaps, someday, I will have a single scientific accomplishment in the field of polar studies; regardless, each of the students on this expedition - that is, all of us - will have an expanded appreciation of how the circumpolar environment enriches all of our lives. Tomorrow - the continent.
Posted by John Quinesso, Chaperone
So far, I’m surviving the Drake Passage! Last night, I substituted “the patch” for some ginger pills to avoid the blurred vision and other side effects we were told sometimes develop as a result of the patch. I don’t know if the ginger pills are working, if I am just born to sail, or if it is from my cabin upgrade from deck 5 (a below water inside cabin) to upscale deck 3 with not only one, but two windows…side AND rear! While it is missing a jacuzzi tub, it’s one of the nicest rooms onboard. Whatever the case…all is well as my adventure to the bottom of the earth continues!
This morning we were up bright and early today on deck to see the large flying albatrosses trailing our ship. What magnificent birds! A few people spotted penguins bobbing in and out of the water, but I haven’t been as fortunate so far. Not to worry though as they say we will be seeing literally thousands in the days to come!
Today was filled with great lectures all preparing us for the days to come. The team of experienced education staff is providing us with a wealth of knowledge and tales of expeditions past. Many of the team has been to Antarctica 40+ times. Amazing!
Beginning today, a small group of students and I will be publishing a daily onboard newspaper… “The Ice Cap” – not surprising to many of you who know of my passion for writing! It will contain newsworthy items about things taking place on the ship, birthdays, facts to know, etc. Hopefully, we can get a few of them sent to this website for all of you to read.
Wandering around on deck has provided us all with an opportunity to reflect upon how fortunate we all are to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
More to come…
Posted by Noor Khalifa Alfalasi, student
Today was a day full of learning and obtaining new knowledge, however, I will not be writing about the geological history of Antarctica, the southern oceans or the sea birds that we learnt about in the lectures today. I will be writing to you about the feeling I got when I stood at the very front of the ship and I can tell you this, it was like no other. The winds were so powerful to the point that you feel like you could easily fly off! Which I hope doesn’t happen to anyone here, of course. Standing there made me feel like the ship was but a tiny floating object lost in the drastic untamed ocean. We haven’t reached Antarctica yet, but I can truly say that my eyes have seen things that are beyond imagination and are truly remarkable, especially the great wandering albatross that has a wingspan of 3-4 meters. I am looking forward to discovering more about the bottom of the world and waiting for it to make a difference and change me in ways I would never imagine.
Posted by Felicia Vanacore, student
Hey everyone. Well today wasn’t such a great day for me. Since this morning I have been really sea sick and haven’t felt good at all. I haven’t eaten anything because I can’t. It was horrible. At one point it was time to go downstairs to listen to a lecture so I tried my best to get up and go, but about 20 minutes into it I had to run upstairs to the bathroom. One of the adults came with me to help me out. She let me stay upstairs and brought me into the lounge to sit down and made me tea, which I did not end up drinking. Then we lay down on the floor of the ship in the middle of the room and I felt a little better, but not much. Then she took me outside to the deck and we went to the front of the ship and let me tell you that I did not feel good. I felt really terrible but once we sat down and I looked out into the horizon I was amazed. The sun was shining, it was blue skies, and there were many Wandering Albatross. Just looking at the reflection of the sun on the water was beautiful! We lay down under the shining sun, and it was nice just listening to the waves and the wind. It was pretty cold and really windy but it was still nice. I went inside and tried to eat some fruit -- worst mistake ever -- I felt worse again and the fruit didn’t last long inside of me. I went to the doctor and he gave me some medicine and told me to stay in bed for a few hours. I did and now I am up and walking around. I don’t feel 100 percent but I don’t want to miss out on anything. I just took a photography workshop and it was really cool so now my pictures are probably going to come out a lot better.
I felt bad for missing other things that went on today and I haven’t eaten anything because I’m scared that it will get me sick again. I have a headache and feel really dizzy and its times like this that I wish I was home but once I saw those blue skies and beautiful blue water this morning I felt better and I know that it’s all going to be worth it in the end- I just have to wait it out.
The weather has changed a lot, it went from blue skies to gray but it’s still really nice. I just heard that snack is soon so maybe I will try to eat something. On top of everything else, I have no voice whatsoever. I lost it last night (and no I wasn’t yelling) and now all I can do is whisper. It’s really annoying but hopefully once I get better my voice will come back. They say that sea sickness lasts for 2 days- not too excited about that but hopefully afterwards the days will go by a little faster.
It’s funny actually because before this trip I was telling myself that it was going to go by so fast and before I knew it I would be home but it’s actually going really slow. We are doing so much everyday but yet the days are long. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, it’s just different than what I imagined. I feel like more than a week has gone by but today is only day 5. I do miss everyone and wish there was a phone so I could call my mom but I know she’s reading this (hopefully) and if you are, I’m doing good.
I wish I could talk and I wish I didn’t feel sea sick like this. If I felt good I could probably enjoy this a thousand times more but I am really trying my best and I am enjoying it. Seems like all I want to do is sleep but if I do I would miss everything else and I don’t want to keep missing things because that defeats the purpose of the trip.
Well, I am going to go now. We still haven’t seen any whales but we are looking and once we do I will be sure to mention it. I will write again tomorrow so keep looking!!
Posted by Sara Hollingshead, student
Hello from the Drake Passage!
Our first day on the Drake Passage has been very calm, or a “Drake Lake.” Though, I had trouble sleeping last night, as the ship rocked from side to side; I am not sea-sick.
We had various lectures and workshops today, all of which were very insightful and informative. David Fletcher and Fred Roots gave lectures this morning; David’s included general information about Antarctica and what to expect, while Fred talked about the history and geography of Antarctica. Both were very interesting, and got us all excited for what we will be seeing very soon. Right before lunch, Eric gave a lecture on the oceanography of the Southern Ocean. The presentation was wonderful, and I really learned a lot, especially about the Drake Passage and Antarctic Convergence.
Later in the afternoon, we participated in the workshop of our choice. I decided to try the Photography Workshop with Eric and Alex. I can’t wait to try the new techniques they and other students talked about. I am hoping my pictures will come out much better.
Afterwards, we had snack time, and then played various “Name Games” to get to know everybody on the ship. It was a great opportunity to learn the names of the people I have yet to talk with.
Before dinner, Geoff gave a presentation on Sea Birds, but not including penguins. I learned a lot about Albatrosses, and other various sea birds, including the petrels that have been following our ship. Afterwards, I went out onto the deck of the boat, and walked around. I saw a few Albatrosses, including a Wandering Albatross, and a few petrels. There is a lot of fog around the ship, making it harder to see, though the blue water is beautiful. It is also getting colder; therefore, making my walks around outside much shorter.
We will end the night with the documentary, “Around Cape Horn.” And within the next few hours, we are hoping to pass through the Antarctic Convergence, and will officially be in Antarctic Water.
I am doing great, and although I am not sea-sick, I feel I am missing the real experience of the Drake Passage, because it is so calm.
Hope all is well at home!!!
Posted by Alex Groepper, student
I walked out to the bridge, the cold wind piercing my lungs with every breath. The bitterness of the air is suffocating. I often ponder how this most unbearable of environments can be so liberating. Just looking out to the vast water, the meeting points of the great oceans, makes me feel unworthy. The isolation I feel is a new sensation that I have yet to grasp. I am entering the last place on earth where the land is unaltered by the presence of mankind. The water of Drake’s passage is quite calm, soothing even. Perhaps our group is the few that nature welcomes to this inhospitable environment. This is truly unlike anything I was expecting. This is Antarctica.
Posted by Sean Mack, student
Yesterday, well let’s see...We went on a hike. Not just any hike. We went on a hike to a lagoon that is full of glacier water. Some of the coldest water I have ever swam in!! YES!! I went swimming in the water. It was much like 37 to 40 degrees F. That was one of the most surprising things I have ever done (I’m a Cali guy from LA). My parents that are reading this right now are probably flipping out! The hike to the lagoon was most of the battle. We had to go through two bogs and two forests.
The forest, now that was easy. Just a little uphill…like San Francisco. The hill was so steep if you sat down on it or lost your footing the next thing you know you’re sliding down the hill. Hey, it is not as bad as it sounds. I actually wanted to slide down that hill. So much easier then walking. I didn’t though - I wasn’t a lunatic.
BOGS!!! OMG!!! Those things I never want to see again. Mud everywhere. I mean it was beautiful and all, but the mud! If someone stepped in the wrong place, which happened a lot, they sank into the mud knee deep. The first person to get stuck in the mud lost her shoe. Her shoe sank into the mud and sucked right off her foot. Soon everyone was getting stuck and falling in. It was the most hilarious thing we have ever seen…so far…
Posted by Ankur Gupta, student
Rock-a-bye shippy on the sea water. The south winds will blow and our balance will falter. Have you ever tried to sleep on an incline? That’s what happened this morning. We hit Drake’s Passage at around 10 PM last night and this morning we were rocking side to side A LOT. I felt like I was about to fall off the side of my bed. After I get out of bed, I went outside because I was feeling a bit queasy and ocean was all around us. It reminded me of that morning in the Arctic when I wrote that poem from the Arctic. The ocean looked like glass again with a wavy texture (except near the boat where it was being churned up). One thing I noticed is that the water looked exceptionally clear. When they say “blue seas” this is what they were talking about. Most oceans I have seen have had a greenish tint or just didn’t look very clean in general. In other words, the water didn’t look very “jumpable”. This water, however, was very, dangerously very, inviting. I also ran into Mikhail out on the deck. He’s the cosmonaut. He also noticed the clarity of the water in this area. We got into a small conversation about the International Space Station and the U.S. space program. I also found out he is very excited about swimming in the Antarctic. I found someone just as crazy as me! After breakfast we had a lecture about the history of Antarctica and an introduction to the area. Did you know people are considering making hotels in Antarctica as part of the rapidly growing Antarctic tourism industry? Antarctica is the last pristine wilderness on this world that has only been touched by people who take care of it. Expanding tourism into this area would certainly destroy this wilderness just as we have destroyed other wildernesses in the past. Everybody complains about commercialism and how there is too much of it around us. Well, here is the perfect opportunity to try and make sure it doesn’t happen before it even starts. I’m going to make a very interesting analogy now that I think only people of my generation will be able to understand. Facebook. Before it was open to the public and before news feeds and before applications, it was like Antarctica. Everybody was happy and it was a wonderful social networking site. Then it was open to the public and privacy became a concern. Then it was open to developers and applications become a cornerstone of the site. And now you look at any profile page and what is it? One big conglomerate of advertising and trying to find any actual useful information on a page is very difficult because of all the applications, which I am analogizing to the tourism industry. Now I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. When I was in Ushuaia, I walked around the gift shops and I noticed a lot of gifts were centered around Antarctica. There was even an Antarctica tourist agency. This made me wonder how dependent the city’s economy is on tourism in Antarctica. If Antarctic tourism stopped, then how much of an impact would it have on the people of Ushuaia? After lunch, Ian, the musician/playwright, held a workshop that I went to about song writing. He shared some songs he wrote (one of them was from earlier this morning) and the very last song he played for us, he wrote when he left Antarctica the last time he went (he has gone there a few times as an artist in residence for scientists). The song brought tears to my eyes, quite literally. I looked around the room and everyone enjoyed the song as it was well written, well played, and well versed. But it was more personal for me. It reminded me of the Arctic. The feeling I had when the expedition ended. The others in the room have never had an experience like I did but they will within a week. They will join the ranks of students who never want to leave the poles. The ones who will want to protect these places whether they know it now or not. The day ended with a lecture on the birds of the Antarctic (I got an awesome picture of a wandering albatross…12 foot wingspan) and a video about sailing around Cape Horn. I believe we will reach the Antarctic Peninsula by the end of tomorrow.
Posted by Haruka Nawata, student
While I was in Ushuaia, I stayed at a hotel on a mountain and went hiking and had lots of great experiences. I have made so many new friends from all over the world and its been great.
I finally got on the ship yesterday afternoon and I’m enjoying every minute here. It is my first time on a ship like this, so this morning I woke up feeling a little sick but I’ve somehow managed to eat some breakfast. However, sea sickness can’t stop the excitement of going to Antarctica!
After breakfast, I went on a deck to get some fresh air and there I saw some beautiful sea birds (not sure what they are called) and they made me feel a lot better. I hope to see more animals, such as penguins and whales as we move on.
I am getting a little sick all over again so I think I’d better finish this journal now.
Posted by Irene Shivaei, student
I am so excited! I really like education staff! They are so kind, energetic and open to answer our questions. This afternoon I was sitting on the same table with Fred and I asked A LOT OF questions and got a lot of ANSWERS! I am so glad!
At the morning we saw a lot of albatrosses and I took great shots of them!! We saw Wandering Albatross, which are the largest albatrosses and the longest-winged flying bird on earth. The name Albatross came from Alcatraz (the driver in Arab). Wandering albatross have been known to follow ships up to 6 days; They are master not subject of their wings. They fly 900 km/day!! They live very long, over 40 years. We also saw black-browed albatross, which has a black patch around its eyes. There are 21 species of albatrosses; 19 of them are threatened.
We also saw another seabird named Cape Petrel or Pintado Petrel. It is much smaller than the albatross and has white dots on its black wings; it is like somebody painted its wings! That’s why it called pintado (comes from paint). These birds eat plankton, krill, small fish and squid. I just learnt all of these things and a lot more things at the lecture about seabirds that we had before dinner today (maybe tonight!).
I joined a workshop about maps and charts too.
Wow! We have a lot of work to do! You wouldn’t believe it. And all of the work is so exciting! Going out on deck and looking at the horizon! Writing journals, in 2 languages (for me!), I mean in Persian and English. Writing post cards! Taking photos! These are in addition to joining lectures, workshops, games and meals!!!
The final meeting was watching a movie named Around Cape Horn; it was about sailing stories! I think the film was from the 1930s (I am not sure); the interesting thing was that while watching the ship floating on the water in the movie, we were experiencing it too!
And finally good news: I am not seasick yet! ;)
Posted by Ines Martins, student
This trip is so amazing that I can’t even imagine how it’s going to be when we see our first iceberg.
There are no words that can describe the wish of discovery and adventure, the beauty around us (which is being only at sea for some hours, with the most wonderful blue I have ever seen), the majestic and amazing albatrosses that follow the ship and, of course, the sea sickness that is part of the experience.
The relationship between the students from different countries has been also awesome. We share a lot of experiences and we talk about our homes, which is really great to get to know each other and our different cultures and religions. The relationship between the students, the educational team and the ship crew is also wonderful.
Well, I’m loving it and I think this will be the adventure of our lives!
Posted by Roberta Maiz, student
From side to side, left to right, the ship was moving violently. We were going through the Drake Passage. In the middle of the night I woke up and noticed that we were in the middle of the sea, there was nothing surrounding us. I decided to go back to sleep so I wouldn’t be awake in the middle of the Drake Passage. I thought that would be a nightmare.
In the morning, I woke up and felt really sick. I couldn’t even look at my breakfast! After some pills, and some rest I felt better. I accidentally took some medicine that makes you want to sleep. During the lectures I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I felt exhausted.
As the day went on I started feeling better. There were three workshops in the afternoon. I chose to be with Ian, the musician, and learn about his life. He is a really wonderful songwriter! Today we spent the whole day out at sea. We spotted some albatross as well as other interesting birds outside.
Later that day the temperature began to decrease. They announced that we were now in Antarctic waters. We entered the Antarctic Convergence at 8:05 pm I can’t wait to get to our first stop tomorrow, Elephant Island. I’ve been waiting to step on Antarctica for such a long time!
P.S. – I met the person who co-wrote Global Warming for Dummies. Her name is Zoe and she’s such a fantastic person. She is one of the chaperones of our trip.
Posted by Serin Remedios, student
Theme Song of the Day: Boats and Birds - Gregory and the Hawk
At long last we’re finally out on the ocean. Last night we departed from Ushuaia, and began the nautical portion of our expedition. We left the Beagle Channel, and when we awoke this morning we found ourselves in the Drake Passage.
Our ship, Ushuaia, is a great vessel. She used to be a research boat, but has now been outfitted to accommodate the more commercial crowd.
There is a lounge, library, presentation room, and a dining room. I am still learning my way around the mazes of hallways and corridors. When we first saw the ship, however, she looked disappointingly tiny because she was docked next to a massive cruise ship. Although, bigger isn’t always better; with a smaller ship we can get closer to land, we have more manoeuvrability, and we have zodiacs. I would have liked the big rooms on the cruise ship though. My room is probably the size of some closets – a closet with a bunk bed, desk, bathroom, and lots of luggage stuffed into it. My roommate and I have become supreme masters of the efficient use of space.
However, my favourite place on the ship is one of the upper decks on the stern of the boat. From there you can see the world stretching out all around you. It is also where our accompanying albatrosses and petrels love to play in the biting ocean wind. It is remarkable and therapeutic to see the sea birds flying, almost dancing, around our ship. The albatrosses just glide on their massive wings, hardly flapping once. Coming in right next to the boat, they will suddenly tip their wings subtly and soar off in another direction. It appears so effortless and elegant that I, a landlocked, clumsy human, am left feeling envious. The Cape Petrels, as well, are a pleasure to watch. They have wonderful black and white splotchy markings on their wings. To me it looks like when they were flying near a boat, someone splattered their backs with white paint.
Many people are trying to cope with seasickness and finding their balance today, but I feel fine – just a little bit tired. In fact, I’m really happy to be back on a ship and back with SOI. We’ve already seen and learnt so many interesting and fascinating things. I hope that our “good karma” continues; I can’t wait for more to come.
Posted by Emma Roche, Chaperone
With a cheer, we passed over the Antarctic convergence and officially arrived in the Antarctic just over two hours ago. Our day crossing the Drake started by watching Cape Petrels, Wilson’s Petrels, Black-Browed Albatross and Wandering Albatross fly above the wake off the stern of the ship. Throughout the day today, we learned about the wonders of Antarctica, its geology and its unique ocean currents from David Fletcher, Fred Roots, and Eric Galbraith. In the afternoon, we broke up into groups to hear about wildlife photography, songs of Antarctica as well as the history and importance of maps. Geoff Green shared his passion for the local birds. He also described the long line fishing techniques that are used to catch the Patagonian Tooth fish, otherwise known as Chilean Sea Bass. What many people don’t realize is the impact this fishing practice currently has on the Albatross. Albatross, in an attempt to retrieve the bait set for the Patagonian Tooth fish, swallow the hook and are pulled beneath the water and drowned. The Albatross population is declining at a rate of 2-3% per year – an unsustainable future unless we make a change. We ended the day with the movie Around Cape Horn, filmed and narrated by Irving Johnston. On the way back to our cabins, one of the students said how amazing it is to watch a movie about crossing the Drake while you, yourself, are crossing the Drake.
Score ‘one’ for experiential education.
I feel so lucky to hear, first-hand, from scientists, explorers, adventurers and artists from around the world and across generations. They are the real thing! It is difficult to put in to words all of the “WOW” moments I have already had on this trip. I hope to come back to this entry when I get home and remind myself to stop and really listen to the stories people around me have to share – there is so much to be learned from the life experience of others. I can’t wait to listen to more stories here in Antarctica.
Posted by Kayla Costello, student
Hello everyone in Pennsylvania! (Or anyone who happens to be reading this journal entry.) Sorry that it took me so long to get a chance to journal, but our days have been very busy (and tons of fun!) So, I guess that I should start at the beginning.
The plane flights here were very long! I had to fly on Christmas morning from Avoca to Philadelphia to Miami to Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. (That’s a lot of hours on a plane!) But once we arrived in Ushuaia, the beautiful view of the mountains and the cool crisp air totally made up for it. The airports and the flights were a great way to meet the people on our trip. There are people here from all over the country and the world! On my 8 ½ hour flight from Miami to Buenos Aires I sat next to Tim, a junior from California. He likes cross country a lot and reminds me of one of my friends at home, Eric. His friend Stacy also came with him (they both go to the same school). She is so funny and very tall! (6 foot 1!) I learned a lot of cool Californian slang from them, such as words like “hecka tight” (cool). I also made friends at the airport with Rachel from Rochester, Molly from Philadelphia, and Ankur from California (along with many other people, but to list them all would take forever!) In the airport we also played “Bananagrams” for the first time! (Thanks to my family for this great gift!) We play it as often as we can now and there have been some pretty intense games! We also played some over my other games, such as “There’s something in my shoe”! (Thanks to Pat for this game).
So, after we arrived in Ushuaia we went to the hotel. It was a very nice hotel, with a wonderful view of the mountains. By the way, the weather here is so nice: cool and crisp with a little misting of rain from time to time. At the hotel I roomed with 3 other people: Molly (PA), Yvette (NYC) and Noor (Dubai). It was really cool to hear about all the different places they were from. There was a Christmas tree in the hotel, but most of the students can agree that it feels nothing like the holidays. The education staff on our trip is incredible! They are all so experienced and knowledgeable. It’s so much fun to sit and pick their brains during dinner and while you walk around with them.
Our first full day in Ushuaia was “hecka tight”. (I think that word sounds so funny!) We hiked in the peat bogs and the woods of Ushuaia and ate a picnic lunch at a lagoon. The bogs were extra muddy! (Imagine mud up to your knees that is very easy to get stuck in.) Luckily, I only got stuck once (at the very end) and didn’t even lose my boot! Also, I borrowed the boots that they gave us, so that I wouldn’t have to dirty my own. The hiking shoes I packed would have never held up against the peat bogs. I loved walking in the bogs! It was so funny! Where the ground was dry, it felt like walking on a trampoline. And where the ground was WET, all you could hear was the “squish, squish, squish” of everyone’s boots. After hiking for hours, we finally made it to Esmeralda Lagoon! It was so beautiful! I touched the water, but some of the students went swimming (that would have been too cold for me). At the Lagoon we saw our first Glacier! It was pretty exciting. When we finally returned to the bus we had some time in town to shop, and I picked up some postcards and knickknacks.
The next day we went to a park in Ushuaia and hiked around looking at the wildlife and the plants. It is so pretty there, even the clouds are beautiful. We also had some more time in town, where I bought even more postcards and knickknacks! Molly, Rachel, Stacy, Tim, Ankur and I walked around the town. It was fun to try and use the little Spanish that I had learned at school. After we were done in town it was time to go to our new (floating) home, The Ushuaia! The boat is very small, but very nice. I have one roommate (Irina from Portugal) and my room is connected through the bathroom with Rachel and her roommate, Iraida (NYC). There is a bunk bed in the room and I have the bottom bunk. I am very, very, very, very happy with my room arrangements. We all get along very well and sort of knew each other before hand. I hope to learn some Portuguese from my roommate!
After we were shown our rooms we had a Welcoming Speech and then it was time to set sail! Yay! We are finally on our way to Antarctica! When the boat left we were given some snacks and juice (in champagne glasses). It was really cute. Everything in the boat is nice (and very clean). The dining room is very nice, and the food in very good! The lounge is very large and has a lot of chairs and tables.
The library is where we do our journaling and there are some books that you can read. Downstairs is the lecture hall which is a room with a projector. The only thing I could ask for would be for us to have more windows in lecture hall. It would make it a little easier to deal with the motion of the ship. That night I ate dinner with my friends and Fred from our education staff. He is the oldest member of our crew (86!), and told us many interesting stories. He once stayed 6 months travelling on Antarctica with sled dogs! After dinner was a short briefing and then it was time to Drake Passage Proof our cabins (put away all fragile items so that the waves do not move them). I went to bed rather late, and woke up in the middle of the night at 3:30 am. The waves are not too bad, but I guess it was enough to keep me awake last night. Hopefully tonight I will get more sleep!
This morning, after “waking up” to the announcement by Geoff over the PA, I got dressed and ready for the day. It was a little tricky with the rocking of the boat. The weather is colder than in Ushuaia, and the decks are very windy. One good thing is that I am never very cold, because I always make sure to carry my jacket and a pair of gloves with me. Breakfast was served buffet style, which was quite interesting to watch with everyone stumbling on top of one another. The boat we are on moves much more than the cruise ships I am used to. (Thank god for seasickness medicine or I think I would not be feeling well.) After breakfast we had some free time to explore the ship. I got a Titanic picture on the front of the ship with Ankur. It was so hilarious. Then it was time for our first real lecture. Fred, Eric and David talked to us about how Antarctica was formed. They were all very well spoken. After the lecture I saw the giant Wandering Albatross. They are incredible to watch flying near the boat! Later today we will have more lectures and some workshops. It is very easy to keep busy on this trip.
Well, it is time for me to get going. I just want to let everyone know that I am fine and really enjoying my time here! I am so excited to finally get to Antarctica! Just realizing where I am and what I am doing here is so incredible! So, Goodbye! I hope to write again soon!
Posted by Sara Martin, student
It still hasn’t sunk in!! After spending a couple of great days in and around the gorgeous city of Ushuaia, we are now spending our first day at sea. Fortunately, the Drake Passage is as calm as it can be. We still need to adjust to the constant swaying however, especially when laying in bed at night…it’s hard to stay put! Only a few students are feeling ill, which is great as most of us are taking full advantage of every spare minute and getting out on deck. We had a couple of Great Wandering Albatross following us already today. These birds are incredible, with a head as big as an average human’s head and an average wing span of 3-3.5 meters. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of this sunny, calm day will bring. So far it’s been unreal, over and beyond every one of my expectations.
Posted by Victor Pagan, student
Well it’s been a great trip so far. These past two days we have gone from dry land to the wet sea. Yesterday we departed from our temporary home in Ushuaia and are now heading off to Antarctica! Everyone was excited as the ropes were taken off the ship at port and we turned towards the horizon.
The night was spent for many people preparing their new home for the next 10 days with minute waves from the Beagle Channel. However, the next morning wasn’t so comforting for some, including me. A few were battling sea sickness, trying to last long enough for the day’s workshops. We split into three workshops, Maps and Charts, Photography, and Music. I took the Maps and Charts workshop and learned a lot about how the first maps were made by the early explorers and ingenious mathematicians. I was surprised to learn that the early scientists had a good concept of what Antarctica looked like without ever visiting it!
Along with longitude and latitude lessons, we also learned about how knots were first measured and many other seaman tools of the trade.
After our own individual workshops, we came together for a meeting on the seabirds that we will be seeing, mainly focusing on the Wandering Albatross, whose wing span is about 9 feet.
Later on there were ice breakers and contests to see when we will cross the Antarctic Convergence, the entrance to Antarctica, as well as when we will see our first iceberg. We topped it off with a movie about Captain Irving and his time on a wind powered sea vessel in 1929. It made us appreciate our ship just a little bit more!
The day is finally over and we are all so very anxious to see our first iceberg and parts of Antarctica starting tomorrow!
Posted by Emily Anderson, student
Greetings Mom, Dad, Liz and everyone!
This morning, I awoke to the slight swaying of our vessel the Ushuaia. Various people were comparing it to a baby rocking in a cradle. Thankfully, the Drake Passage is extremely calm and relaxing today. Luckily, due to the weather, I did not get sea sick. This morning was full of blue skies and fluffy white clouds. We observed numerous great Wondering Albatross and seven other species of sea birds. The Wandering Albatross is a beautiful bird with a wing span that can develop to approximately twelve feet! We gazed at several sailing behind the boat with their wings spread. Albatross are able to follow a bird up to six days without stopping. Another amazing quality of the Albatross is how they conserve their energy. Their technique in flying uses the same amount of energy as if they were sitting!
Our first lecture this morning was about the history of Antarctica. We learned about tectonic plates and the separating of the continents. Also, Eric, an oceanographer, taught us about oceans. Even though I never imagined my Chemistry class would connect to this trip, it did. We learned that sea water contains minuscule amounts of every element from the period table. Also, he explained how the ocean’s waves are produced. I learned that Antarctica is the windiest continent on the planet due to the westerly winds. Since there is less land on the southern end of the planet the waves aren’t interrupted by land and can be strong.
Our third lecture today, was about sea birds. I’m eager to observe and identify all of them when we reach the southern end of the world. I can’t wait to inform everyone at home about this incredible opportunity and I await our arrival to the windiest, driest, and coldest place on the world, Antarctica!
Posted by Ian Tamblyn, Education Team Member
December 2007 - by Ian Tamblyn
White peaks grace the sky
Town hugs the shore
Ship in the harbour
At the end of the world
Am I really here
So far – yesterday
Reaching for tomorrow
As we throw the lines away
And we are sailing
I will meet you
At the end of the world
Sail towards the whiteness
Words fail to explain
As the great birds arc and wander
On the wind, on the wing
All the borders left behind
Join the glide and glance
Following what goes before
As we sail towards Last Chance