Happy Feet?

Adventure Travel, Antarctica, Volunteering & Giving Back, Websites and Blogs, Wildlife & Animals — By on June 4, 2008 at 1:58 pm

A trip to Antarctica is like the real-life version of Animal Planet: Where else in the world can you sail past seals sleeping on ice bergs or plop down on a snowy beach where curious penguins climb right onto your lap? Thus far all of our wildlife spottings have been the warm and cuddly kind-until our zodiacs landed on Cuverville Island.

The rocky island is home to a rookery of gentoo penguins, so we settled on a hill overlooking the ocean to watch nature’s show. Fluffy baby penguins frolicked in the icy waves and put on live performances akin to Happy Feet. The movie moment quickly ended when an enormous leopard seal tore into an unsuspecting gentoo-throwing it up in the air and catching it in its teeth. It was an instant reminder that, despite the Hollywood-worthy scenery, we’d definitely landed in one of the wildest places on earth.

Even so, The Ice does have a small human presence in the form of scientific research stations. Our ship stopped by one such Ukrainian base, called Vernadsky, where the hole in the ozone was first discovered. Besides recording data on the South Pole’s animals, weather, and atmosphere, the multi-talented, all-male team concocts homemade vodka and sells it for $3 a shot at their onsite “Bar at the Bottom of the World.” This is also the place where visitors can pick up souvenirs such as penguin embroidery (!) and get an official Antarctica stamp in their passport.

I waited in line with my fellow Students on Ice Ambassadors for the coveted South Pole stamp to prove that we’d made it past 66 degrees South, silently thanking the gods for allowing me to somehow set foot in this natural playground. Though it felt like I’d stepped on another planet by traveling here, this pristine wonderland is just as much part of planet Earth as the fast-paced concrete jungle of New York City. And it’s all of our duty to protect this place that we call home.

So I checked out Climate Care to calculate the carbon emission caused by my trip to The Ice. C02 emissions add to climate change, so I tried to offset the damage by donating money to their sustainable energy programs after using the calculator to figure out how much CO2 my roundtrip flight (including layovers) produced. (About 3.24 tonnes of CO2 according to the calculator tool). It’s not ideal, but it’s better than going on the trip and then not doing anything all to offset my carbon footprint. I try to remember that even small moves can add up to a big impact if everyone lends a hand.

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  • eunice says:

    Cool site for female travelers! You girls rock! 🙂


  • lifenomadic says:

    You make Antarctica sound so romantic.

    At 90 south we’re stuck with seemingly omnipresent darkness. Wish we had some homemade vodak!

  • Nomadic Matt says:

    I didn’t even know you could get antartica stamps! that’s unique!

  • Peter says:

    Wow, what a fantastic place to be – one I would love to visit myself. Thanks for sharing.

    I love traveling and I’m reading a great travel book at the moment called Chasing Sunsets by Lawrence Pane and his family. He, his wife and young son took off on a six year circumnavigation of the world by boat and the book is a documentation of their adventures.

    My wife and I even used Chasing Sunsets as our travel guide for a recent European holiday we went on and it worked great! Being written by an average guy instead of a professional travel writer made all the difference to me. The descriptions of the various locales were always entertaining and it was great to have the three different perspectives of Father, Mother and Son to draw upon – gives you a better feel for how different people view different places.

    Unfortunately they didn’t get down to Antarctica but if you’re ever looking for a great “road read” then check this one out.

  • soleil says:

    What an amazing experience!! That’s awesome that you were able to travel over there!