White Hot – Singles Tour Antarctica 2009-9c8836

UnCategorized I had some apprehension about heading to the end of the earth, at the bottom of the globe where the nail supports it, to a land covered in 98% ice that has never supported any mammals or humans. Antarctica is the driest highest, cleanest, windiest and coldest of all continents, so cold even the polar bears stay away. I escorted a group of 31 adventures, my most globally astute group ever. Getting the 7th continent stamped in their passports was on their bucket list. The collective motivation was also the amazing wildlife photography opportunities and we had a few experts among the group. Their passion began to dissolve my trepidation so I adjusted my enthusiasm to go boldly. Packing was my greatest challenge ever with dozens of thermal layers not to exceed 50lbs. December is austral summer with tolerable temps in the 30’s to 40’s. We were circumnavigating the scenic peninsula which the staff calls the "banana belt" for its mild weather. It was however, the winds that can top 100 mph and rough seas that I feared most. Hurtigruten was an excellent line. They included pre and post cruise days in humid Buenos Aires with a city tour, Tango Show and giant juicy steaks. We then flew 3 hours south to Tiera Del Fuego and spent time enjoying its capital Ushuaia along the shores of the Beagle Channel. I dined on king crab and shopped for gifts of all things penguins. We boarded the M/S Fram. "Luxury icebreaker" is an oxymoron but the Fram lived up to its billing. This small ship of 300 passengers is 2 years old and as well appointed as a private yacht. 36 ships are allowed to sail these waters. I believe ours is the best expedition boat of all. The first tourism was by Lindblad in 1969. People continue to pay tens of thousands of dollars to experience the purity of raw nature at her finest. Just 100 years ago, Antarctica awaited the imprint of human boots and sound of human voice. I was surprised with a courtesy upgrade to a suite for booking a large group. Opening the door to the Rolf Olsen suite, I was overwhelmed with gratitude along with some guilt, so I kept the secret to myself. Stunning interior with a large bath, queen bed, mahogany cabinets and flat screen TV, but the only reception I could get was a video of a glowing fireplace. There was a big window but so difficult to sleep with 23 hours of daylight. My body clock was chronically messed up. We set sail through the infamous Drake Passage. Friends warned me to wear the seatbelts at night if bunks had them. The 36 hour passage can go one of 3 ways: Drake lake, Drake shake or the dreaded Drake quake. Outbound was relatively calm waters but some remained sick in their cabins. Everyone walked the decks with a sway, as if drunk of whiskey. I had to pack some high heels which rendered me handicapped as I clutched the railings, but I welcomed the challenge to strengthen my core balance. Later in the fitness room, my yoga poses all turned into summersaults. The night sail was calmer, like sleeping on a waterbed. There were daily informative polar lectures by experts including a biologist, geologist and photographer on this big rock 50% larger than the USA. We learned of its fascinating history and the fragile ecosystem of this mighty continent. The biggest threat is ice melting due to atmospheric pollution. I took notes on the wildlife: 200 species of ice fish, 6 species of seals and 17 of penguins. There are 340,000 Emperors left. All species are on the endangered list. In early 1900’s, 2 million seals were killed. Then 41 "factory ships" nearly decimated the whale population. In 1986, a moratorium was set on commercial whaling; however Japan continues the slaughter on the grounds of "scientific research." I only saw 2 orcas and 1 humpback the entire voyage. One must be extremely flexible on this unpredictable journey. There’s no set itinerary for landings. We were fortunate to be able to get off every day. Temperatures are only a guessing game as they can drastically change hour to hour. Everything depends on the katabatic winds. Their ferocity has been recorded up to 186 mph! Day 2, we sailed into an active volcanic caldera where our ship had just 300 feet to navigate. Then we were given warm jackets to keep and boots to borrow. We boarded small "polar boats," 8 person capacity, which are far sturdier than zodiacs. First stop, Deception Island which was like stepping into a black and white 1940 photograph. Some in my group stripped down for a polar swim. There was a defibrillator onshore. I just waddled behind a team of penguins. Penguins take center stage numbering in the thousands. They look so happy tobogganing down hills and building their nests. Stones are the precious gems of Antarctica, the element necessary to build nests. We cannot pilfer a pebble here. It takes 3000 stones for a penguin to build a single nest. Birds circle overhead looking for opportunities to steal eggs. My favorite specie is the Macaroni penguins because of their crests of orange pinked-out Mohawks. Penguin poop is omnipresent with a stench as pungent as wasabi. Our next excursion was an iceberg safari through Wilhelmina Bay. Our polar boats propelled fast and furious over chunks of ice. The day was warm with ice melting like scoops of gelato. My camera couldn’t click fast enough yet no equipment could capture the beauty. It was an open air museum of colorful ice art. The blue hues were as transparent as sapphires and tanzanite. The white hues as luminous as diamonds. And silence so profound as if we were the last humans on earth. Anne whispered, "this is like a movie set." Myra whispered back, "this is God showing off." More silence to hear our hearts beat. Then suddenly a glacier calves off with the deafening noise of an airliner crashing. Stillness then drama. We sailed on past mini-bergs the size of houses to ice shelves 200′ high. Some glaciers were miles long. They can fracture into hundreds of pieces, many large enough to sink the Titanic. In 1996, a frozen chunk the size of Belgium floated off to New Zealand. In the following week, there were other remarkable landings; Peterman Island with colonies of adellie penguins and imperial cormorants. Port Lockroy, a British base with 5 researchers, countless penguins, a post office and the world’s most southern shop. We all bought $45 T-shirts. Neko Harbor, our first and only chance to step on the mainland. Halfmoon with adorable chinstrap penguins numbering 8000. Finally, Yankee Harbor on Greenwich Island featuring fur seals. They lined the beaches still as big grey boulders. These are the "penguin eaters" that consume 30 per day. We cruised on through Lemaire Channel. There was extraordinary reflections fjords on blue waters for 7 miles. The crew calls this "Kodak crack." The rest of the time was creating onboard entertainment. If you don’t want to get to know anyone, cruise on a mega-liner. On this intimate ship, we made friends. Our fellow voyagers were sophisticated travelers to some places I never heard of. I won’t forget young Robert from Leeds, just 22 years old and now on his 7th continent with 100+ countries under his belt. For dining, it was the best cruise cuisine I’ve tasted with a plentiful and fresh variety of seafood to reindeer. Grills were strapped to a deck outside to cook Argentinean steaks. The sinful deserts should be featured on Food Channel’s Ace of Cakes. For me it was death by chocolate with the ever flowing rich hot chocolates that I tried to limit to 5 a day. Back into the Drake Passage we experienced the "Drake shake." It was as turbulent a carnival at sea riding up and down a Ferris wheel combined with the side by side swaying of a Tilt-A-Whirl. Sometimes I felt like I was on the set of the Deadliest Catch. At midnight I looked out my window to an angry sea of foam stirred with 20′ swells that looked like a tsunami. Frighteningly magnificent! My camera couldn’t capture the scale of it all. I then I laid face down straddling my bed to ride it out by bed-surfing. By morning it was too great a challenge to shower, so I headed to an empty dining room for breakfast. Plates were crashing out of spring holders. Why don’t they use plastic? Peter, the purser tells me we were fortunate as waves can reach 60′. "On a cruise 2 weeks ago, there was no dining with people confined to their quarters with crackers," he said. Most passengers made it to dinner later, staggering in like they just entered a pinball machine. I was shocked to discover my group did just fine with all this while I feared that surely our boat would tip over. During our desert of Baked Antarctica, a large albatross flew alongside our window. It is called a magical bird because it can fly miles without ever flapping its wings. On our last night, we sailed towards Cape Horn which holds the largest graveyard of ships anywhere. But we were blessed with the Drake lake on a sea as smooth as frozen custard. Regardless of the Drake, everyone loved this magical journey to "The Ice" with the sun, the snow and the penguins. I joyfully reflect and ponder what its future holds. Strict rules now protect this pristine environment of powerful landscapes. It’s called Sustainable Tourism and the wave of the future. Numbers of tourists will eventually be limited to places like Galapagos, Machu Picchu, Serengeti, the Mara, Greenland and more. Antarctica had 6700 tourists in 1992. By 2008 there were 36,150. Studies reveal that expense does not deter visitors here. In March 2011, regulations will harden. If restrictions aren’t set, it’s a free for all. I’ve witnessed remote nature sites scarred with hotels and runways and corrupted by greed. This delicate eco-system of Antarctica can’t handle the masses. To go now or not to go, that is the question. I hope to bring a group here again to this land of eternal ice before it’s too late. Whiter than white, no place is as remote or unique. Antarctica was a spectacular show of God’s incredible creations, truly the world’s last great wilderness. About the Author: 相关的主题文章: