I’m back to Australia now after an incredible journey to South America to climb Volcan Osorno and travel once again to Antarctica. These have been incredibly privileged experiences..and ones which have enriched my life; and I feel I have returned in some ways quite changed.
Some of my readers have asked me how I actually travelled to Antarctica. I didn’t do the two day crossing of the Drake Passage both ways; and instead, opted for the fly option where we fly to King George Island to Frei Station, where we then embark upon the ship – the Ocean Nova with a company called Antarctica XXI.
Nature called the game for us this time and due to fog and lack of visibility on the runway at Frei Station, our planned departure was delayed for two days because we couldn’t land. During this time we were on “Active Standby” – meaning we could not leave the front door of the hotel without Antarctica XXI having given us a leave pass for dinner in town. Our bag needed to be packed and we needed to be prepared to leave with 15 minutes notice if there was a window of opportunity. Every few hours we all gathered in the function room to be advised of the current weather conditions and the pilots decision whether we had a window to land at Frei Station.
One such meeting we were given the g0-ahead – and off we piled into the buses to the airport; then boarded the plane wearing all our clothing that we required to be protected in the windy and sub-zero temperatures of Antarctica. The sense of excitement in the plane was visceral… as was the disappointment when 100km north from the airstrip at Frei Station we started to bank right as there was an announcement in Spanish which I correctly interpreted as being that we could not land. So… back to Punta Arenas… and the pilot came to speak to us all in the lounge and said we would wait for the next weather report for a decision to be made within an hour whether we could have another attempt.
The decision was made that the pilot would try for another window and we were to board the plane as quickly as possible… and off we went again on our 2 hour flight south…. and once again the excitement was visceral as was the cautious anticipation which soon dissipated as the dark coastline became apparent through the fog.
A loud cheer and clapping filled the cabin congratulating the Captain for landing us safely in Antarctica.
We then walked in single file for about half an hour to where our Guides were waiting with our life-vests and zodiacs to transport us to the Ocean Nova; and a Captain who was keen to head south to the Polar Circle.
It was a seamless operation… and after a safety briefing I was able to stand on deck and breathe the cold air once again.. watching the whales… and feel such gratitude to be able to experience this most profound part of our world.