Antarctica – The White Continent

Antarctica – The White Continent by Helen Milner

Early in December, 2010, my father sent an email to my brother and me entitled “Antarctica Anyone?” with the following YouTube link attached

If you watch it, you will see why I remain grateful that my father never went into an advertising and marketing career.  You will also see why I rather quickly dismissed the idea!  Then, a Christmas alone on-call and further large aftershocks on Boxing Day led to a sense of reckless abandon….I found myself ringing the National Geographic-Lindblad office in New York city on New Year’s Eve.  I booked the last solo cabin on a ship called The National Geographic Explorer and how very glad I am that I did.

So, armed with a new found world of thermal accessories, we flew to Buenos Aires and then to Ushuaia, the so called Fin Del Mundo (End of the World).  From there we jumped aboard the Explorer with approximately 200 fellow passengers and crew and sailed across the infamous Drake Passage; my first experience of not seeing land for 2 days. This resulted in a “love at first sight” experience between me and the South Shetland Islands – terra firma!

Back in NZ, I have been asked several times “what was the best bit?”.  It is a question I find hard to answer.  The isolation and austerity is humbling.  It brings new meaning to tales of the early polar explorers such as Scott, Amunsden, Shackleton – their stories interested me greatly before I took this journey; now I stand in complete awe of them.  The fact that anything lives there and calls it home is utterly astounding.  The innocence of the animals as they approached us humans without fear was a tear-jerking privilege. 

I will end with a quote stolen from a sign that sat outside the “Great Apes” exhibit at the Bronx Zoo:  “In the end we will conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”  Baba Dioum, 1968.

I would recommend this trip unreservedly to anyone and I would return in a heartbeat.