antarctica, and some joshua tree too! travel blog

Ok, this short probably-photoless post will be a little bit boring to some, but I’ll write it up because a few of you like to hear details about what the travel’s like. At the moment we’re still at sea but, if things continue to go right, in about 17 hours we will land on our first bit of Antarctica – an offshore island, to be sure, but in the afternoon another landing on the continent itself. So I’ll have a lot more to talk about – and more photos – in the next posting in a couple of days. And some celebration as I finally get to my seventh continent!

In the mean time, we’re chugging across the Southern Ocean and the weather continues to be unusually good, they say, making our voyage super-smooth. Last night we crossed the 60th parallel so we’re politically in Antarctic waters (and are bound by the treaty signed by 28 nations starting in 1959) and also some time last night we crossed the current that circles Antarctica, which keeps the flora and fauna relatively isolated (ice-olated?). On the Antarctic side of the current, the water is much colder – at least 5 degrees – causing the air temperature to drop as well. So living things on this side generally don’t adapt to being on the “world” side of the current, and vice versa. Or so it was explained during one of the seminars......

Anyway, so technically that means I’m in the Antarctic region. Can’t quite claim number 7 until I step out onto it, but I can FEEL it! This afternoon they announced (land ho!) we could spot our first land mass on the horizon which was Smith Island (named after my esteemed family, I’m sure). And then, shortly after sighting land, they called attention to our first ICEBERG off to the starboard side. Are you kidding me??? Didn’t they see “Titanic”??!! I was tempted to grab the little redhead British girl next to me (celebrating her 21st birthday!) and pledge my undying love......but then I thought, if we don’t sink, Naomi’s gonna be soooooooo mad at me! (For those who don’t know, she did not accompany me on this trip.)

In preparation for landing tomorrow, we’re required by international treaty to make every effort not to introduce any foreign species into the landing areas, so we spent the morning completely vacuuming all of our outwear and backpacks, etc. They’re trying to keep it as pristine as possible. We aren’t even allowed to pee out there; if you really have to go, they’ll Zodiac you back to the ship. Back in the day, one of the older research stations, Port Lockroy (which we’ll visit) had a dog, two cats and a pig. Not sure they would allow that kind of invasive species today!

One option I was unable to procure on this venture was the camping option. Campers spend one night on the continent and then they’re picked up in the morning. By the time I paid for this in August, it had been long since filled up, and they weren’t even doing a waiting list. But here I have to give kudos to one of my fellow passengers, Clare from London. She’d paid for camping but decided this morning that she really didn’t want to go. There are a LOT of people on the ship who wanted to camp but couldn’t. Without me asking, Clare went to the camping coordinator and tried to get ME to take her place. Unfortunately they said ‘no substitutions’ because they already felt like they were overbooked on the camping, and because they thought other people would complain about why me and not them. But I was pleased that Clare was willing to do this on my behalf – I guess making connections, being nice, and socializing with just about everyone on the boat (except for the one man making racist jokes) makes people willing to be nice in return. Who knew?

The food, as noted, has been excellent with one upcoming exception: this evening one of the appetizer options is ‘liver pate’. Now I don’t even want to be on the same SHIP with liver, much less the same table, so I’m going to have to try and find a no-liver table at dinner tonight. Can’t stand the smell, the taste, the texture – I may not get sea-sick on this boat but I’ll get liver-sick. Generally, though, there are good entree options: tonight it’s roasted guinea fowl or some kind of fish fillet or the vegetarian option, grilled haloumi. No idea what that is but I picked it so I wouldn’t have a fowl taste in my mouth. Ar ar ar......

I’ll close with a comment about 7-continent travelers like myself. There are a LOT of them on this trip. One of the gals that I met several days ago in the airport, Sara, is one of them and she wants to do something special with the whole group once we’ve safely scored a landfall on the peninsula. The head guide who’s planning and coordinating our ‘expedition’ said she’s happy to assist in whatever we do. So I’m thinking at least, have her schedule and announce a time for us to have a toast in the bar/lounge, maybe print up a quick certificate or something like that, or any other fun thing Sara can think of. I know I’ve talked to at least a half-dozen people who, like myself, are doing this primarily to bag that final continent. And, at least for me, it’s not a bragging-rights thing; it’s really about demonstrating to the next generation, and the generation below that, that hey, grandkids, if you work hard to succeed in life, do the dirty crappy hard and boring stuff you sometime have to do to get ahead in your career, you will end up with opportunities not presented to many people.

That’s all for now – thanks for reading!

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