2009 Expedition Archives
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Posted by Geoff Green, Expedition Leader
Hola from sunny Ushuaia! We awoke to a beautiful blue-sky morning and spectacular scenes in every direction. Mountains, glaciers, forests, Andean Condors soaring above us. Our hotel is perched high above town and has a commanding view out over the Beagle Channel! There is something so special about this place, this part of the world. The air, the light, the clouds…it is so fresh, clean, alive. It is like you are getting an extra dose of high octane oxygen every time you breathe. I have been coming here for over 16 years, and it never ceases to inspire me. Here at the bottom of South America, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego are by far two of my most favorite places on Earth.
From the moment we got off the plane yesterday, you could see the students starting to soak it in, absorb it, digest it. For some it was the first time seeing mountains! There are not many places where you start taking pictures the moment you walk out of the airport, but here you do...
After lunch at the hotel, we checked into our rooms and then most of the students went into town for a visit, or on hikes up behind the hotel towards the Martial Glacier. This glacier supplies 80% of Ushuaia’s drinking water, and the prediction is that it will be entirely melted in less than 40 years. For all the budding glaciologists in our group, it is hard to keep them from running off up the mountain!
In the late afternoon, we gathered together for our first expedition briefing. It was a great few hours of icebreaker games, introductions and information sharing about the journey ahead. One of the most enjoyable moments for me was when we went around the room and had everyone introduce themselves, and explain why they wanted to be part of this expedition. The stories were all so interesting and inspiring. Some students have won scholarships, others have had to raise the funding all on their own, many are getting university credits, and all are passionate about making a difference. We are all starting to see what an incredible group of people we have assembled, and the sense of being a team, and a family has already begun to grow. I am proud of each of them for being a part of this historic inaugural SOI University Expedition to Antarctica.
As of last night, 86 of our 89 expedition members had arrived to Ushuaia. The final three arrive today. We are a group ranging in age from 15 to 66 years old, from 13 different countries. The combined energy, knowledge, passion and excitement of this group will undoubtedly create a magical dynamic and good karma that will make our journey together an incredible success.
Our evening concluded with a powerful presentation about Sir Ernest Shackleton by a good friend of mine and of Students on Ice, David Fletcher. David just happened to be in town today and wanted to meet the students and wish them well. David has spent 37 years working in Antarctica, mostly as a base commander for the British Antarctic Survey and is the recipient of the Polar Medal.
Today, all the students and staff are off on one of two excursions; to the famous Harberton Ranch along the shore of the Beagle, and on a hike to Laguna Esmeralda. Tonight, we have our second expedition briefing and dinner at the hotel and get prepared for setting sail tomorrow afternoon to Antarctica!!!
In the expedition spirit,
A Flag Tree warped by Patagonian winds near the Harberton Ranch
Blog entry posted by Canada AM co-host Seamus O'Regan
The flight from Toronto to Buenos Aires is 11 hours, and I slept for 8 of them, so no complaints here. Quite a shock to land from our Canadian winter into 30 degree heat. I had just enough time to check into my hotel and do some browsing around the city, before tucking into an Argentinean speciality -- beef! Perhaps the best steak I've ever had. A good night's rest and I'm back to the airport the next morning for the 3 hour flight to the world's southernmost city, Ushuaia.
Something I've learned about airports in Latin American countries is their elastic sense of time, especially when it comes to flight departure times. So I was only mildly anxious when I was still standing in the security line-up (after 90 minutes) at the time my flight was supposed to leave. What kept me entertained was watching the near mayhem that ensued when a herd of Australian and Chinese tourists attempted to bump the queue. A note to travellers - NEVER skip lines in Argentina!
Landing in Ushuaia was breathtaking. The runway is surrounded by the green ocean of the Beagle Canal. It's a long runway but it's STILL surrounded by mountains and ocean! Not much room for error or cross-wind. And our pilot handled it all very smoothly
Unquestionably, this place is the gateway to something otherworldly -- you can just sense it.
Tonight the Students on Ice team briefed us on the day ahead, and the beginning of our voyage tomorrow.
The 90 students from across Canada and around the world are brimming with enthusiasm and energy, but I'd better leave it at that -- a number of them are queued up behind me to use the hotel computer here, and I don't want that youthful energy directed at me!
Tomorrow, we sail to Antarctica.
A sail boat near Ushuaia
Journal Entry by Sandra Borton, Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, B.C. Canada
Woohoo! We’re revved up and raring to go! Geoff has delivered his pre-expedition briefing; we’ve seen some great photos and heard exciting tidbits about what is to come in the next few days. We’re putting aside our fears of “the Drake Shake” to prepare ourselves [and our gear] to board the ship tomorrow and sail down the Beagle Channel towards what I think will be an inspiring and humbling trip for all of us. I have already seen elements that will make this expedition truly special – a quickly bonded team, who respects, helps and encourages one another. A strong expedition spirit is taking shape and I think we are all exceptionally lucky to be a part of this trip – thank you to the families, communities and organizations that supported us in our pursuits of the “Students on Ice” dream.
Happy trails and happy sails,
Nanoose Bay, Whistler & Kamloops
British Columbia, Canada
An aerial view of the Chilean Andes
Journal Entry by Daniel Hammond, Western University, London, Ont.
Up at the crack of dawn – literally – we ate breakfast as the sun rose bright and strong over the Beagle channel. We hopped on a bus and headed for the backcountry. We hiked through the muddy wetlands and lush forests at the base of the mountains, heading for Lagoona Ezmaralda and the Education began – history of the land and species from the locals; geography and glaciology from the SOI Education team.
We began with the shocking story of the Canadian Beaver in Argentina. The twenty five introduced in the 1970s rapidly spread throughout Argentina and even across the Drake’s passage, reeking havoc on ecosystems and adapting to their new climate. Three decades later, the population stands at around 120,000, hectares of trees now make up beaver damns through the wetlands and the beaver fur is too thin for commercial purposes. After witnessing, first hand, the repercussions of invasive species I got my first crash course in glaciology and we continued to eventually find the lagoona.
An icy dip in the glacier fed pond and a bit to eat later; we took off and headed back to the shack. My body, still feeling yesterday’s mountain climb and today’s adventures, needed a quick siesta and lots of agua. Tonight we go over the educational program and plans for the expedition.
Tomorrow we’re off to sea!!!
Students pose with a Sperm Whale scull
Journal Entry by Florian Hofmann and Lukas Sundermann
Lima, Buenos Aires, Ushuaia
Der Flug von Lima war Luxus. Bei 30 Grad in Winterausrüstung erwartet uns dann in Buenos Aires der größte Stress den man sich vorstellen kann. Knapp über eine Stunde zum Umsteigen und keine Ahnung wohin. Erst ins falsche Gate gerannt, dann zurück, Anstehen zur Immigration. Nach einem Sprint zum Aerolinas Argentinas-Schalter im gerade entdeckten Nebengebäude, erwartet uns eine unglaublich riesige Menschenmenge in der Warteschlange. Also vordrängeln und trotzdem 30 Minuten warten bis die nette Schalterdame versteht was Sache ist, doch als unerklärliche Probleme auftauchen rennt sie plötzlich weg und wir stehen alleine ohne Ticket da. 10 Minuten vor Abflug halten wir endlich die lang ersehnten Tickets in den Händen und nach einem weiteren Zwischensprint zum Security Check in einem weiteren Gebäude, bleibt uns nichts anderes übrig als uns dreist vorzudrängeln. Die Menschenmenge ist noch größer als an den Schaltern. Glücklicherweise nehmen argentinische Fluggesellschaften alles etwas gelassener und der Start verschiebt sich. Total fertig genießen wir die Business Class des kleinen Jets auf dem Weg nach Ushuaia. Zwischendurch wird am kleinsten Flughafen der Welt zwischengestoppt in El Califate. Eine kurze Landebahn, ein Flugzeug, ein mini Gate und nichts als unberührte Natur in der Umgebung. Endlich Angekommen in Ushuaia erwartet uns dann das größte Desaster überhaupt: Der Trip muss wohl ohne unser Gepäck stattfinden. Antarktis nur mit Handgepäck!
The view from the Hotel del Glaciar, Ushuaia