Expedition to Antarctica 2013

Antarctica Group

(photo: [left to right] Hardy, Nicolas Dubreuil (expedition leader), Deb, Doug, Sylvia, Karla, Brian, Katie and Dick)

From January 17 – 30, 2013, sixteen Duke alumni, faculty, and friends will travel to Antarctica on Duke Alumni Travel’s tenth voyage.

Through this blog, you can accompany them on this spectacular 14-day journey featuring a nine-night cruise to Antarctica, Earth’s last frontier. Cruise aboard the exclusively chartered and intimate M.S. L’AUSTRAL to experience the White Continent in its unspoiled state—fantastically shaped icebergs, turquoise glaciers, bustling penguin rookeries and breaching whales — during the lingering light of the austral summer. They will board sturdy Zodiac craft for excursions ashore and Duke faculty and the expedition team will provide a series of enriching lectures on this untouched wilderness. They will also spend two nights in Buenos Aires and enjoy a cultural tour of this vibrant capital.


Posts written by the Duke team.

January 26, 2013

Deception Bay Hike

AntarcticaThe sun was blazing. The surf raged. It was 4:30 a.m. And 62 passengers clad in red expedition parkas queued in the ship's main lounge. It was time to see if Nicolas's admonitions were hype or heart-felt. The assembled were subdued. Was it a lack of sleep or perhaps moments of pause? No matter. We had waterproofed our backpacks, dressed in layers, and had walking sticks at the ready. It was time to ascend the White Continent by foot to some four hundred meters.

Instead of the usual twelve passengers per zodiac, our expedition leaders limited us to six on this morning. We were going to beach the zodiacs on Baily Head, which meant we had to sacrifice weight in the name of speed. We boarded and, without a moment's pause, started the swift journey through the choppy surf. The whitecaps dotted the sea as everyone held on. Surely, there would be time enough for pictures later. It was now time to focus on how to quickly and correctly exit the zodiac: face the sea, swivel both legs simultaneously, plant feet, pivot, and run.

With a small receiving party in sight, our zodiac drivers steadily picked up speed. The cold and wind buffeted the zodiacs as they prepared to land. The drivers rammed the boats onto the black beach. Like dutiful students, one by one we exited with discipline and purpose. Even the less than graceful disembarkments were nothing if not serviceable. The Marines would have smiled approvingly.

Now safely on the beach, we could breathe easily and take in the sight. And what a sight it was: as far as the eye could see, the shoreline was teeming with penguins. If Hitchcock and Dali had collaborated, a more eery--yet mesmerizing--landscape they could not produce. The penguins were literally everywhere--at our feet, on hilltops, and in the water, seemingly blissfully unaware that they had visitors.

We went further inland, awaiting word from our leaders on when and in what direction we would embark on our hike. The wait seemed interminable. Finally, it was time to roll. Of course, we immediately started uphill. There would be no mulligans on this day. We had to work for every step; layers be damned.

At the front of the pack were Nicolas and Jérôme, our cruise director. Immediately behind them were two boys, aged 14 and 11, from New Hampshire, who were on the trip with their Dartmouth-affiliated grandparents. These four set the pace. The rest followed easily . . . at first. The pace was not the issue in the beginning; it was the heat. We could not shed layers fast enough as sweat dripped from men's brows and women glistened.

At our first pit stop, the view held us as tight as the heat. Try as you might, "breathtaking" cannot be overused in Antarctica. The brown cliffs undulated in rhythm; the snow occasionally interrupted the monochromatic palette; and below, the sea was not to be outdone with its gentle rocking. But, enough about the landscape, we had miles to go before we summited.

As we continued to ascend, the terrain changed drastically. The brown dirt and lichen were replaced by pristine, hard snow. Most of all, real estate was now at a premium. Single-file was now the order of the day. Each step now required precision and decisiveness. With steep drops to our right, our heads were bowed as we sought to carefully mimic each step of the person ahead of us. Trodden snow became our anchors. The trail became so steep that Nicolas, like a cowboy in hot pursuit of cattle on an angular hillside, resorted to climbing switchback up the hill. This zig-zag pattern was a merciful salve to our thighs, even if it added steps to the journey, which was now also taking its toll on our lungs.

By the time we reached our next resting point, Mother Nature had begun to assert herself. It was getting colder and cloudier. At this stop, many took the opportunity to take a seat on boulders that could not have been better placed. Looking back over the path that we had just traversed, we could see that the tight, dense core of red parkas had thinned like a strand of pasta. When those at the rear made it to the stopping point, their rest was short-lived. Time to go.

The summit was now close at hand. The landscape was now completely different from the one that greeted us at Baily Head. The clouds took over, the winds made Lake Michigan in January seem desirable, and the cold assaulted our bodies like never before on the continent. We were, indeed, on the Antarctica of lore. And just then the summit came in sight. Our discomfort--to put it charitably--gave way to elation born of the humbling scenery and knowing we accomplished what we set out to do. But this, too, was short-lived. There was, after all, the matter of a descent. Time to go.

AntarcticaWithout the wind, the descent was far more manageable than the ascent. On both portions, an affable, older gentlemen--perhaps in his late 70s--associated with Canada's McGill University, made quick work of the journey. A veteran of many marathons, his manner, his seemingly effortless stride, and even easier smile served as a reminder that although age may be a limiting factor, it surely need not be a defining one.

The descent took its toll on our knees, causing us to crouch as low to the ground as possible in hopes of befriending gravity. At times, in open swaths, gravity came to our aid, allowing a trot if our knees and thighs had not yet betrayed us.

As we neared the bottom, we caught sight of our ship in the distance. First, however, we paused at Neptune's Window, a U-shaped opening in the mountain. It is said that the American explorer, Nathaniel Palmer, saw the Antarctic continent for the first time through this natural portal. Following in his footsteps, this view was our well-earned reward for daring this journey.

As we traversed a final stretch of land that caused us to retreat to single-file once more, we could look back and note the heights we ascended that morning. After some five kilometers and over two and a half hours of punishing hiking, it seemed that the morning's trek was perhaps less about the destination and more about the journey. The adjustments and accommodations that the terrain demanded yielded a triumphant effort precisely because we were flexible. This journey, this expedition, is at its core an exercise in flexibility. Perhaps being intrepid has everything to do with being flexible? And perhaps Antarctica gave us more than we bargained for? Perhaps.

Whalers Bay Landing

AntarcticaWhile our tougher, more self-sufficient compatriots were executing a flying landing onto Baily Head followed by a two and a half-hour trek across Deception Island, we slugbeds left the ship at 7 a.m. for a zodiac tour of the rookery of chinstrap penguins before reboarding L'Austral for our passage through Neptune's Bellows and our last landing at Whalers Bay.

Trading glaciers for volcanoes, we now visited Whalers Bay. We found remnants of ships and buildings abandoned in 1965 as a result of the mud flow emanating from a volcanic eruption. We saw armies of chinstrap penguins marching up and down a very steep volcanic mountain and sliding into the sea. We also spied members of our hiking party high on the glacier. Many penguins, along with the zodiacs, were bouncing in the sea as the weather was starting to change. Water flowing to the sea was very warm, even hot, as steam rose from the shore and the smell of sulphur was evident.

We had our last landing and saw our last penguin on the rocky beach on Half Moon Island. Here the beach was covered by grey rocks with many penguin highways leading everywhere. Fur seals were spotted on an adjacent beach. Feeling quite sad, we waved goodbye to our last penguin. Antarctica has left its mark on all the Dukies fortunate to have been here.

(photos: [top to bottom, left to right] Atop the summit at Deception Island; Descending the summit on Deception Island; Chinstrap penguins at Baily Head; [below] View from Half Moon.)



January 25, 2013


AntarcticaToday finds us prepared for our fourth day of landings. On this day, we are bound for Danco Island, a mile-long island in the southern part of the Errera Channel. The island was the site of a British research base from 1956 through 1959.

Once on the island, many of us hiked the six tenths of a mile to the ice-covered summit (elevation 200 meters). To be sure, the ascent was not an easy one. Crevices, ice, snow, and commuting penguins were among the joys of the path. None of those could surpass the glory of the summit: the majestic view, consisting of a cloudless sky framing white mountains and glass-like water occasionally disturbed by falling iceberg fragments. Of course, this fortress of solitude would not have been complete without a few creative photographs of the scenery, including one woman doing a headstand, a six-person pyramid and five of us forming a human spelling of Duke in the snow.

AntarcticaAfter Danco, we boarded the zodiacs and returned to the ship for lunch. During lunch, the bridge called for Professor Doug Nowacek to make his way to reception; Doug was to disembark and hitch a ride on another vessel to make his way to the Palmer Research Station. From there, he would join with a different ship to pursue his scientific research for several more weeks. We will miss him. And our less-than-reserved starboard farewell hopefully made that point.

In the afternoon, we once again donned our gear and boarded the zodiacs. It was time to cruise for whales. (Just another typical Friday afternoon for this band of merry, well-fed travelers.) Destination: Wilhelmina Bay, which opens northward toward the Gerlache Straight and is purportedly a major whale hangout. Whales gather here to feast on the large quantities of krill trapped by the strong interior summer current. (Krill, by the way, look like emaciated shrimp. But, their importance to the ecosystem cannot be overstated.)

As if on cue, we spotted whales, seemingly one after another. With cameras at the ready, our zodiacs followed--from a safe distance, of course. First, we spotted humpback whales. They then exited the stage in order to let the Minke whales claim a bit of the spotlight. Minkes are smaller and faster than their humpback counterparts. However, such technicalities did not lessen the flurry of camera-shutter activity as we attempted to capture the grace of these sleek marine animals.

AntarcticaAs quickly as the Minkes appeared, they disappeared under the sea ice (also referred to as "fast ice"). On that sea ice, we could spot seals basking in the sun's rays. (Orchestration like this could not be orchestrated.) Surely, we have reached Antarctica sensory overload, no?

Well, it seems that the fast ice conditions were just right that day; the wind, density, and speed made for the perfect . . . fast-ice walk. Though not on the day's agenda, Nicolas, our expedition leader, surprised us by announcing this rare adventure. (Before doing so and unbeknownst to us at the time, he donned his scuba gear, explored the ice from below, and drilled a hole through to ascertain its thickness.). Our zodiac drivers landed us on the ice, where we disembarked to take in the sights. The ice shelf on which we stood was connected to the continent. That same afternoon, after we were all back aboard L'Austral, that portion of the ice broke away, becoming a sea island.

AntarcticaThis extraordinary day, like every day aboard ship, ended with a briefing, during which Nicolas and our cruise director outlined the next day's journey and the ship's intended course. This briefing, however, was a bit more serious in its tone. Nicolas told us that tomorrow we would go on a hike more difficult and longer than today's. It would likely last two and a half hours, cover five kilometers, and summit at just over four hundred meters. Moreover, because of the swells at the beach, the ship's shoremen would not be able to assist us in exiting the zodiac, as they usually did. As for the coup de grâce, we were to land on a volcanic island. (At this point, one of our fellow travelers could not resist comparing this landing to the invasion of Normandy.)

Given the level of difficulty involved, we were given three options: 1) landing and hike, which would depart at 5:30 a.m. (since the sun rises about 2 a.m, it would feel like midday); 2) landing sans hike (these folks would return to the ship, which would meet us on the other side of the island); and 3) no landing, rather a zodiac cruise departing at 7 a.m. to obtain a closer look at the 50,000 penguin pairs nesting on the island.

By evening's end, about 60 of the 192 travelers opted for option 1. This group was either intrepid or foolish. Tomorrow will tell.

(photos: [top to bottom, left to right] Atop Danco Island, from left to right: Tom, June Heck, Karla, Hardy, Deb and Sylvia; Tom and June atop hill on Danco Island; Hardy atop hill on Danco Island; Karla in foreground on fast ice; Doug hiking down hill on Danco Island.)


January 24, 2013


AntarcticaRock with a View

What a day! This morning the zodiacs dropped us off on the continent! Not just an Antarctic island, but the Antarctic Peninsula. This represented the fifth, sixth, and seventh continent that many in our group have been to. Words can't describe the beauty of The White Continent or the satisfaction of finally arriving at the same land mass that contains the South Pole. All the planning, preparation, and uncertainty about traversing Drake Passage were worth the effort and stress. The thousands of pictures we have taken won't capture the essence of this place either, but rest assured that we have stories to tell!

We disembarked our rubber rafts on a rocky beach where the air was fresh. As we scoped out the landing site we watched penguins launch themselves into the sea for a little krill hunting. As awkward as these guys are on land they are graceful in the water. (There is an SAT analogy question in there somewhere.)

AntarcticaOur mission was to hike up the hill to a rocky overlook, and our reward was a spectacular view! The hike took us past penguin rookeries (so much for the fresh smelling air), over a crevasse (this was well guarded by our guides), and through much snow. The trail was a pretty good 20 minute workout for our legs, and walking sticks were helpful on both the ascent and descent. The view from top was amazing - mountains, glaciers, icebergs, a rookery, our cruise ship, and a beautiful blue water bay. Naturally we brought the Duke banner and had a group photo taken - by Doug who was back at beach!

The day was full of so much more - whales, zodiacs cruising, ship cruising, birds, Doug's lecture, scenic vistas in all directions, the sound of icebergs being birthed - but nothing topped the view of Neko Harbor from above.

(photos: [top] Group photo; [left] Humpback whale siting; [right] Karla at the top of a hill in Neko Harbour; [below] John and June Ritchey)




January 23, 2013

Our second day of land excursions was highlighted by interesting animals and vivid colors.


First, we were fortunate enough to see a leopard seal during our morning landing at Port Lecroix. Port Lecroix is typically known for the former British research base, and the current UK-maintained museum as well as a small gift shop and post office (we were able to send postcards from here!). As we were leaving Port Lecroix to return to our ship, many of us were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a leopard seal, a beautiful predator that preys on penguins. Somehow, this leopard seal managed to mistake a zodiac boat for a penguin, and decided to take a chomp out of one of our zodiacs. Thanks to the multi-baffled construction of the zodiacs, neither the boat nor our travel companions went under… but we were all exhilarated by the adventure!

AntarcticaDuring our afternoon excursion, we were able to follow humpback whales as they surfaced repeatedly near our zodiac launch site. Apparently a mother and calf, they almost seemed to relish the attention of the multiple zodiac boats following them, and even flashed their flukes (tails) for us a couple of times. Our afternoon landing took us to Port Charcot, where we were able to see more Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins, but also a few Adelie penguins as well. These adorable creatures were a joy to observe, waddling and hopping around the snow-and-ice-covered island.

AntarcticaAs for colors, blue was definitely the color of the day and it was pretty close to Duke Blue, if I do say so myself. Glacial ice and icebergs glow with a mesmerizing blue color that results from super-compacted ice. We witnessed these ethereal colors especially during our cruise across the Lemaire Channel and in the “iceberg graveyard” near Port Charcot. If only our photographs could adequately demonstrate the depth of color that we saw in the Antarctic icebergs! Another colorful experience was discovering that penguin guano comes in two colors: red and green, based on the diet of the penguins themselves. Thus, as we trekked across the islands off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, we realized that we were stepping in the kaleidoscope of colors that are created by the three aforementioned types of penguins. That, and, just like yellow snow, one should never, ever, eat green or red snow!

(photos: [top] Glacier in Plenneau; Humpback whale's fluke in Plenneau; [right] Deb, Doug and Rudy on zodiac boat bound for Port Lockroy; [left] Doug, June Ritchey and Dr. John P. Ritchey at the museum in Port Lockroy.)


January 22, 2013

Dick and Katie Snowden on one of the Aitcho Islands in the South Shetland IslandsWe awoke on the morning of day 5, Tuesday, January 22, with great anticipation, knowing that overnight we had sailed to the point of our first disembarkation. We had arrived at the south Shetland Islands and were to make a landing at a place called Aitcho. In expectation of an amazing view, we eagerly opened the drapes of our cabin to reveal... mist. The entire ship was enshrouded and any land in the vicinity was completely concealed. Just then, a small movement in the water caught our eye. A trained focus on this area revealed a group of penguins, gracefully diving through the air, flipping onto their backs and streamlining under the water. It was truly an amazing sight.

As it turned out, these graceful creatures were playing in the waters all around our vessel. We watched them through the windows during breakfast in the dining room as well as from our cabin balconies as we prepared to take our first foray on to land. When Group Blue's turn was announced on the PA system, we grabbed our waterproof, cold-weather gear and headed to the rear of the ship to meet the awaiting zodiacs.

Gentoo penguins crossing in front of Katie Snowden at Yankee HarbourA five-minute boat ride later and we found ourselves transplanted to a gentoo and chinstrap penguin rookery. Here, hundreds of penguins were carrying out their daily lives, seemingly unperturbed by the sudden presence of new scores of humans dressed in big red coats. We were able to observe the parent sitting in the nest, keeping the one or two month-old chicks warm and periodically leaning down to feed them from their own beaks. The other member of the partner pair was often close by, painstakingly building up the nest by bringing pebbles over with their beaks. Those not near their family could be seen trekking to and from the water to feed on fish and krill. In addition, the island was also serving as a temporary home for a handful of molting female elephant seals and several skua and petrels could be observed flying in the skies. We were kept entertained all morning by their antics as well as our own bets as to which person among us would be the first to slip in the guano (happy to report that no one has been awarded this honor- yet).

Karla, Jan Baum, Emily Southgate, and Rudy Baum at Yankee HarbourWe returned by zodiac to the cruise ship for a delicious buffet lunch. During this time, the captain steered us toward Yankee Harbour, a site on Greenwich Island that was well known to American and British sealers. We repeated the same process to go ashore and spent the afternoon having more quality time at another penguin breeding ground. The animals continued to mostly ignore our presence, although there were a few who developed an interest in their visitors. A member of the Duke group was sitting quietly on the beach when an intrepid penguin approached him and took a quick peck of his hand. This action likely stemmed from sheer curiosity on the part of the penguin but certainly makes for a great story for this alum. After all, how many people can say that they were bitten by a penguin in Antarctica? (Don't worry, the alum only sustained a minor bruise in the incident and we're fairly certain that the penguin has had all of his rabies shots).

After a tiring but wonderful day, we feasted together for dinner and then retired to our cabins to rest. Can't wait to what new experiences day six will bring!

(photos: [top right] Dick P'90, P'01 and Katie Snowdon P'90, P'01 on one of the Aitcho Islands in the South Shetland Islands; [middle left] Gentoo penguins crossing in front of Katie Snowdon at Yankee Harbour; [bottom right] From left to right: Karla, Jan Baum, Emily Southgate MA'70, and Rudy Baum '75 at Yankee Harbour)


January 21, 2013

Antarctica 2013Day 4 finds us on our first full day at sea. The night before, the sun set at about 10 p.m. Those that were up awaiting word of the results of football playoff games back home might be able to attest to the sun's brief disappearance from the horizon. The rest of us were adjusting to life at sea, perhaps with the aid of Dramamine. No matter, we were now ensconced in the Drake Passage, which our captain aptly referred to on this occasion as "Drake Lake." The Drake was all too kind to us on this day.

The day started with a mandatory all-hands briefing on rules promulgated by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), a voluntary, non-governmental organization dedicated to protecting the continent, while introducing visitors to its pristine wilderness. The briefing covered IAATO's five basic principles--e.g., respect protected areas and protect Antarctic wildlife. During the briefing, we also met the ten naturalists who will accompany us on our continental landings. These well-versed subject-matter experts hail from Costa Rica to Eastern Europe.

Our travel company, Gohagan, has, for the sake of managing our excursions, separated our expedition into four groups. The Duke team is in Group Blue, of course.

After the IAATO briefing, each group participated in additional mandatory activities to prepare for our landings. First up for Group Blue was Cleaning and Decontamination. We gathered any non-new, external clothing and gear that we would use during landings and then vacuumed them in order to prevent the introduction of new fauna and flora to the continent.

From there, all four groups gathered for a zodiac briefing in the theatre. Zodiacs are rubber inflatable boats, which the ship's crew use to transport passengers during landings. Each zodiac holds approximately twelve travelers, in addition to the driver. The briefing was meant to teach us how to properly enter and exit the zodiacs. We were each also issued a personal flotation device and instructed on their proper use. Our expedition leader, Nicolas, was, understandably far from understated during this safety presentation. It probably helps that Nicolas is approximately 6'5" and sports a mane of hair that would make Simba envious.

After lunch, many of us chose to take the captain up on his open-bridge policy. The captain invited us to come observe his crew in operation as they steered L'Austral through the Drake Passage. While on the bridge, our lecturer, Dr. Doug Nowacek, spotted an albatross, which elicited the requisite oohs and ahhs. (Doug's high-powered binoculars likely could spot Russia from the bridge.)

Later that afternoon, Group Blue picked our brand-new, red expedition parkas. Our journey was now starting to feel quite real. That excitement was stoked when we later heard that we were transiting through the Drake Passage in record time. We were on schedule to arrive a half-day early. Bring on the penguins!

But, first, a lecture was in order. One of the seven university professors onboard--a noted environmental policy scholar from UC Berkeley--delivered an animated, hour-long lecture entitled "Perceptions and Politics of Antarctica," which outlined the legal interplay among the various nations who are signatories to the Antarctica Treaty System. One of the main principles of that treaty system sets the continent aside as a scientific preserve, thus precluding attempts at colonization and permanent settlement.

The evening wrapped up with the captain's reception and gala dinner. At the reception, the captain introduced the senior members of the crew--to be sure, the executive chef garnered the most applause. And rightly so.

We all went to bed knowing that morning would bring landfall. Sleep was likely but a mere rumor on this night.

(photo: Pictured on the ship's bridge — [left to right] Brian Howard (friend), Sylvia Lin '93, Doug Nowacek, Dr. Karla Fredricks '01, and Grace Warnecke (friend).)


January 20, 2013

Lake Roca in Tierra del Fuego National Park

Our third day, Sunday, January 20, started at 2:40 a.m., when those of us on the first Ushuaia bound flight departed the Marriott Plaza hotel in Buenos Aires for the domestic airport. The approximately 190 alumni travelers --representing a number of American and Canadian university alumni associations--were divided among three departing flights. The Duke team--consisting of 17 alumni, friends, and Dr. Doug Nowacek, our faculty-lecturer--departed on the first flight.

Lake Roca in Tierra del Fuego National ParkAfter a three-hour flight, we landed in Ushuaia, where the sight of the Andes' majestic peaks immediately caught our attention and captivated our imaginations. Once in Ushuaia, the capital of Argentina's Tierra del Fuego Province, most of us confronted the reality that we had donned too many layers, having planned for weather cooler than Buenos Aires. Our local guide told us that it was one of the warmest days in recent memory. And so, with a forgiving sun overhead, we set out for our first stop: Tierra del Fuego National Park.

The park, which is located in the southwestern tip of the province, is home to some spectacular flora and fauna, including Sheld-geese, crested ducks, and Andean condors. We stopped at several places in the park, taking time to bear witness to the Southern Andes range and several crystal-clear lakes. At one stop, some of us paid to have an Ushuaia stamp placed in our passports. (Did we mention that this $2 stamp was of the full-page variety?)

After about four hours of touring the park, it was time to eat. As a reward for having to take a flight earlier than originally planned, we were treated to a Beowulf-like meat feast at Refugio el Tolkeyen, a lakeside resort. At Tolkeyen, each of our tables featured three hibachi-size grills of barbecued meat ("parilla"). Oh, and there was also a salad bar.

After lunch, we headed into downtown Ushuaia, which is bound by the waterfront to the south. It is then that we first laid eyes on our ship, L' Austral, a French-flagged vessel that would be home to all 190 of us for the next week or so. Before boarding at 1600, we had an hour to tour downtown.

Cruise-goers seemed to make up much of the area's population that day. Some visited the local shops--last stop for postcards--the former prison-turned-museum, or simply opted for some quality people watching by the water. Regardless, all of us eagerly awaited 1600.

At the appointed hour, our buses made the trip to the marina, where we were greeted by a receiving line of smartly-dressed members of the ship's crew. They handed us our cabin keys and took us to our cabins. Our cabins are quite spacious, many with balconies with sliding glass doors. The ship consists of six decks, including two restaurants, a lounge, a spa and gym, and a theatre. In other words, smiles were aplenty.

H. Vieux and Dr. Karla Fredricks '01 in downtown UshuaiaOnce settled, some of us picked up the ship-to-shore boots that we reserved online for our excursions on the White Continent. We then had an all-hands greeting from the captain; a few comments from our cruise director, Jérôme, who missed his calling as a comedian; and a life-boat drill. Dinner was served at 1930, followed by a showing of the "Frozen" documentary in the theatre.

Our ship set sail at about 1630, gently gliding into the Beagle Channel, bound for the Drake Channel. The temperature, as if on cue, began to drop, while our expectations began to soar. (For many of our fellow travelers, this was the last continent to cross off on their travel list.) As the captain reminded us of our expedition ahead, he took pains to encourage us to keep our senses sharp, for we would see some breath-taking sights before this was all over. (He even promised to wake us at any hour if there was a sight that trumped sleep.) We suspect his words may fall short of what is to come.

(photos: [top and right] Lake Roca in Tierra del Fuego National Park; [bottom left] Hardy Vieux '93 and Dr. Karla Fredricks '01 in downtown Ushuaia)



January 19, 2013

Plaza San MartinGreetings from Buenos Aires! It is the close of day two and the group is preparing to depart for Ushuaia after two fun days here in the capital of Argentina.

Highlights from the first night include a welcome reception at the hotel, where we met our fellow intrepid travelers. From there, some of us headed off to experience an Argentine tango show and dinner; others dined at some of the city's finest steak houses.

This morning was filled with a three-hour tour of the important landmarks around town. Some of our favorite sites included the Government House, Casa Rosada; Recoleta cemetery, where Eva Peron is buried; the Metropolitan Cathedral (with exquisite artwork and the mausoleum of Argentina's national hero); and the neighborhood of La Boca (translated as "the mouth," this port area is home to colorful tin houses and the Boca Juniors, a popular team of Argentina's favorite pasttime, soccer). We are lucky enough to have a 2:40 a.m. hotel departure for our flight to Ushuaia tomorrow, so we expect a low-key evening . . . for now.

Thank you for following along with us--more updates to come from the southernmost city in South America, the Drake Passage, and, of course, Antarctica!

(photo: Plaza San Martin, by Hardy Vieux)




The itinerary is subject to weather conditions at the time of travel and may be revised as necessary.

1 Depart from the U.S. or Canada
2 Buenos Aires, Argentina
3 Buenos Aires
4 Buenos Aires/Fly to Ushuaia/Embark M.S. L'AUSTRAL
5 Cruising the Drake Passage
6 Cruising/Half Moon Island
7 Deception Island/Pendulum Cove
8 Paradise Bay/Port Lockroy/Wiencke Island
9 Lemaire Channel/Petermann Island
10 Brown Bluff
11 Cruising the Weddell Sea
12 Cruising the Drake Passage/Cape Horn
13 Ushuaia, Argentina/Disembark M.S. L’AUSTRAL/Fly to Buenos Aires/Depart for the U.S. or Canada
14 Arrive in the U.S. or Canada