Prior entries have been all about visits to the various islands in the Antarctic circle but today was different. Today was the day we would actually set foot on Antarctica for the first time. Its a balmy -1 degrees Celsius outside right now (about 30 Fahrenheit). Our first trip out this morning began at 9 a.m. with a visit to Brown Bluff. Upon landing, the first thing I did was get a picture taken of myself holding up seven fingers, one for each of the continents that I have visited. Our visit to Brown Bluff was another good opportunity to see some Adelie penguins in action and towards the end of the excursion we spotted a leopard seal.
Because a trip to Antarctica is not your typical vacation destination, everyone here has invested heavily in the proper clothing and their own brand of camera and tripod. So, when someone spots something photo-worthy, everybody instantly grabs their camera and begins clicking away. The only way to describe this scene would be if the White House photo press corps at a head of state visit were suddenly transported.
Between three meals, two daily excursions, playing Scrabble and a bit of drinking, it is really shocking how fast the day goes while living on a boat. There is precious little free time.
Our afternoon excursion today took us to Kinnes Cove on the west side of Joinville Island below the Madder Cliffs. Many of us took the opportunity to hike up about 300 meters to the top of the cliffs for an incredible scenic view. Along the way I took a few pictures of the group (about 80 of us) marching single file up the steep cliff. When we got to the top of the cliff, we did what any self-respecting traveller would do in the snows of Antarctica: We laid down on our bellies and proceeded to sled to the bottom. It made that long hike totally worth it!
In the last three years, I’ve gone to China, Kenya, Australia and today the goal of visiting all seven continents is complete. I’ve realized a long-held dream. I’m no where near done travelling, though. I still aim to travel outside the country at least once a year and the planning for the following year’s trip usually begins a year before. So, here’s a sneak preview.
In the November issue of National Geographic, they profiled one of the greatest mountain climbers ever, Reinhold Messner. In 1975, he and a companion, Peter Habeler, were the smallest team ever to summit an 8,000-meter peak, Gasherbrum I. According to Habeler, the two toasted each other at the end of the expedition with the words, “To Everest!”
Tune in tomorrow for more of the Antarctic adventures as we visit Port Lockroy and George’s Point on Ponge Island.
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