A LIFE-CHANGING TRIP TO ANTARCTICA?
By Dennis Whitmore
My 4 AM trip to the airport quickly turned adverse,
With flight delays that continually went from bad to worse.
The Delta Go-Jet crew never showed up to fly the plane,
So I had to find a way to LGA all over again.
Southwest was my only hope because Delta’s schedule was trashed,
So a $10 taxi ride to terminal two was cashed.
I raced through pre-check security and ran to the gate
To find I made the flight within two minutes of being too late!
Of course when I got to New York, my bag was still in St. Louie,
So three airlines were involved in how to get my bag to me.
Delta sent my bag six hours later that day.
By then I’d gone to JFK and was on my way.
Brett and I enjoyed flying Argentineas Aerolineas business class
With lots of sleep and good food helping to make the 11 hours pass.
Then we had from 4:15 AM to make our next connection–
A side trip to Iguazu Falls we’d arranged as a pre-cruise extension.
A taxi took us into Iguazu National Park and on to our hotel.
The location and our views of the falls were absolutely swell.
A constant drizzle did not keep us from seeing the Argentine side
Of these roaring, cascading water falls stretching two miles wide.
That night we took a taxi to the city to dine
At La Toscana for dinner and dessert which was divine.
We knew instantly that we had to come back again once more
If for no other reason, than to have chocolate pie like before.
Next day we hired a driver to take us to Brazil
To see their Falls’ view which was also a thrill.
As we walked along seeing these massive falls unfurled,
We were privileged to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The sun shown brightly in spite of the forecast: rain 100%.
So a sunny summer-like Sunday in Argentina was spent.
We flew back from Iguazu Falls to Buenos Aires that night
With our pilot showing us the falls—a magnificent sight
When we got back to Buenos Aires, I was quite relieved to see
The reappearance of my lost luggage which was returned to me.
Our Tauck-provided limo met us to take us to the Brick Hotel.
This Spanish speaking driver and we did not communicate so well.
Monday and Tuesday we started our tour seeing the North and South parts of town.
It so happened there were holidays both days which kept the usual hoards of traffic down.
The welcome cocktail party included dinner, drinks and a show
Highlighted by six dancers who performed the Argentine tango.
Awakened at 2:30 the next morning—actually the middle of the night–
We rode about three miles to an airport to catch our 6:10 AM flight.
We landed in Ushuaia, the last city way down south
To see Tierra del Fuego at Atlantic/Pacific’s mouth.
Spring here is like nothing we’ve experienced before for all to see
With wind, rain, sunshine and snow alternating repeatedly.
We set sail Wednesday night on the French Le Lyrial out to sea–
But only went 28 miles and refueled which seemed odd to me.
When we awoke Thursday, conditions had completely changed.
We were rocking and rolling with waves in the 15 foot range.
It was a real challenge just to stand up and walk straight–
Or to get to the dining room where those who could—ate.
Weather-wise crossing the Drake Passage is a real crap-shoot,
And preventing sea sickness is primary to boot.
We could keep in contact with the World via the internet,
And on TV, MSNBC was the best reception we could get.
One strange thing about our ship in the Antarctic region–
The internet kept popping up with a version in Norwegian.
Brett and I were invited to have dinner with Captain Remi Genevaz.
We learned lots about the ship, him personally, and how he spends his days.
Food was good. We have two restaurants to use.
Our first two meals are buffets so you can choose.
The true highlight Friday night—by far the best bet
Was an absolutely dazzling, spectacular sunset.
Saturday they searched for a good weather landing spot,
But Mother Nature iced our first exploration a lot.
We rode ashore in rubber rafts 10 at a time
To Cuverville Island covered with ‘penguin grime’.
This island had white headed penguins called Gentoo,
And I had instantly smelled enough penguin poo.
I watched one little guy build a nest rock by rock,
But some are likely to steal from their neighbor down the block.
During Saturday’s dinner we had a brief show
When we saw humpback whales’ tails outside our window.
To go out exploring, just what did we wear?
It starts out with what is now called a base layer.
Put on some long pants like Levis, and this is no spoof.
You wear over-pants and gloves that are both waterproof.
You’re still not yet ready to go out and explore.
There’s two pairs of socks, rubber wading boots, and still more.
A stocking cap, sun glasses and sunblock too–
With a headband and only a hooded parka will do.
To complete the whole thing, and I’ll make it quick.
Sometimes you need to carry a walking stick.
Sunday the wind blew a real gale as we sailed,
So our climbing and viewing were somewhat curtailed.
We sank deep in snow on our Portal Point foray
And we saw a couple of seals some distance away.
This stop was highly significant to most on the cruise
Because we were walking on the 7th continent—really big news.
Another zodiac ride later which was rather nice
Took us to Cierva Cove to see Weddell seals and brash ice.
On Monday the ship entered the Weddell Sea
Since low ice conditions gave us the opportunity.
An alternate plan was arranged quite soon
To explore Devil’s Island in the afternoon.
So we went ashore there where Adelie’s abound,
And we saw some brown Skuas flying around.
We next had a very sunny but cold Tuesday
To take a zodiac cruise around Hope bay.
We saw the family settlement of Esperanza—it’s Argentine
With 30 red buildings and three cell towers that could be seen.
These families live here for one entire year
To help Argentina claim the Antarctic is their own here.
Their bleak locale was less than dramatic
With constant glacial winds they call catabatic.
Historically, a Swedish group headed by Otto Nordenskjold
Came searching for fossils in Antarctica, but it got too damn cold.
Their ‘Antarctic’ ship got destroyed by thick ice,
But the men were rescued after moving twice.
In the afternoon we walked on the continent at Brown Bluff
Where we saw 20,000 Adelies strutting their stuff.
With brilliant blue skies, the sun shown brightly the rest of the night
Giving us 12 mile long tabular B-15Y—a truly magnificent sight.
We had to interrupt dinner to take a photo
Since the ship’s captain warned us that we would regret not doing so.
The daily schedule remains a true test
To fulfill it all there is no time to rest.
The last day we’re there under down under
Is supposed to be filled with wonder.
An early morning pass through Neptune’s Bellows
Took us more places for we gals and fellows.
As we neared Deception Island early Wednesday
We circled around in a poor man’s Glacier Bay.
We waded ashore to see Chinstrap penguins everywhere–
Our invasion of red coats at Baily Head–but they didn’t care.
Next on Livingston Island it was revealed
Is where our ship was hiding the elephant seals.
They laid by the dozens on the black sand beach
While nesting birds kept high ground out of reach.
The dreaded Drake Passage was again in our way.
But a smooth crossing was granted both Thursday and Friday.
With sunset at eleven and sunrise at three
Chances are that daylight is all that you ever see.
The Le Lyrial is a wonderfully engineered ship
For anyone contemplating an Antarctic trip.
They have accommodated passenger comfort to a tee
While caring for the environment which I’m glad to see.
In the future though, would someone please tell their guide
That their jackets need the zipper on the other side?
This trip has been a real joy shared by friends.
Naturally our time together must end.
Vanessa has shown her organization is prime.
She can complete 12 hours of anything in 10 hours time.
Chifong and Patricia just go sailing along
While I wait to hear the Mighty Cougar Fight Song.
Will and Rita can always be counted upon
To be first in line before the food is gone.
To travel with Brett is just so much fun.
I’m glad he’s along till each day is done.
Let’s thank Fran and Phil for getting us all together–
A congenial group that could not be better.
If you put a patch behind your ear, you had better take extra care,
Because Phil had a long conversation with me, and I wasn’t even there!
The most amazing thing about our cruise back to Ushuaia of course
Is the air escort home by Cape Petrols—The Antarctic Air Force.
With fond memories and photos to show what we’ve seen this December
It should be a vacation we’ll surely always remember.