Category Archives: :Location: Antarctica

We wish you a ¡Feliz Navidad!

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It’s so hard to believe that it’s Christmas time, and that at home, there is snow and Christmas carols and family gatherings happening. We will be spending our Christmas in Lago Puelo, Chubut (Patagonia), living on an organic strawberry farm in a tent village with seven other WWOOFers: 3 from the USA, 3 from France and 1 from Holland.

Tomorrow night, our host family is cooking us an asado and each WWOOFer is making a dish from their home country. Josh and I are attempting honey-glazed ham and peanut-butter cookies (filled with dulce de leche!) However, Argentina doesn’t have peanut butter, so we will try to make do with Thai peanut paste. Wish us luck!

As amazing and fun as it is to travel around this beautiful world, there is really no place quite like home at Christmas, so please know that we are thinking of and missing you all!!

Since we knew it’d be +30C here in Argentina at Christmas (which it is!), we captured a bit of Southern snow to share with all of you at Christmas. Click here! 🙂

(or copy and paste the following in your browser:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7tdgWoR21w&feature=youtube_gdata_player )

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

much love from,
Sara & Josh

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¡Feliz cumpleaños!

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Birthdays are always exciting (so much so that I usually try to claim an entire birthday week to celebrate!) but this year, being several continents away from home lent an extra-special air to each of our birthdays.

November 03: ¡Feliz cumple JOSUÉ!
Josh’s birthday took place in Antarctica.

I feel like little more needs to be said about why it was amazing.

However! While any birthday (/any day at all) spent in Antarctica is guaranteed to be absolutely incredible and unique and mind-blowing, Josh’s birthday managed to be even more eventful than expected. His birthday celebration actually started on November 01 (two days before his actual birthday), when all the lights went off in the dining room and Hector the chef walked in carrying a blazing cake and singing happy birthday.

My first reaction was one of panic – I had been planning to talk to the kitchen the next day to see if they could arrange a special dessert or at least find a candle to stick in Josh’s dinner. Now, someone had beaten me to it… and they were two days early!

Josh’s reaction was one of bemusement – it wasn’t even his birthday, but everyone was urging him to blow the candles out, so he did.

“¡Feliz cumpleaños, Stefan!” beamed Hector.

“Stefan?” questioned a startled Josh.

“Um… It’s actually my birthday,” said a confused voice from the other corner of the dining room.

What are the odds of two twenty-something, shaggy-headed guys wearing white toques, with birthdays two days apart, both being on the same boat to Antarctica? Apparently once you’re in Antarctica, anything is possible! 🙂

We had to spend the next two days trying to convince people who jokingly wished Josh a happy birthday that his birthday really was coming up! Josh’s actual birthday was spent cruising fields of icebergs in the zodiacs and exploring Neko Harbour, home to an old emergency supply hut that is now overrun by a colony of curious Gentoo penguins.

Zodiac exploration:
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Our snow penguin:
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Gentoo penguins:
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That evening, we were eating dinner when, surprise! The lights went out and there was Hector, bearing another cake, this one, finally, with Josh’s name written on it!
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December 05: ¡Feliz cumple SARA!
When we were trying to plan our trip to Antarctica, we had two possibilities: we could either plan to celebrate Josh’s birthday in the white continent, or mine. We agreed that the November trip worked better… But I warned Josh that the standard was now set pretty high for my birthday! 😛

As always, my amazing husband did not disappoint! I was woken up at 6am (it was still a workday, sigh!) on the morning of my 24th birthday by Switchfoot’s “24” playing in the tent, which was decorated with streamers and balloons. As it happened, both our hosts had to go to town for the morning, so we had the house to ourselves as we worked, meaning that after weeks of very fun but unfamiliar Argentine punk music, we finally got to play U2 at full volume! Having a house to ourselves for the morning was maybe the best present I could have asked for: I absolutely loved our hosts, but you don’t realize how much you appreciate being able cook for yourself until you haven’t had your own kitchen for three months! My 24th birthday marked the occasion of me making my first mate, as well as cooking my first meal over a wood-stove (risotto – needs tweaking, but wasn’t too bad!)

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When our hosts returned home, I showed them Josh’s present to me, which was a pair of beautiful Mapuche earrings handmade by one of our host’s friends. But my birthday surprises still weren’t done: our host then gave me a necklace she had designed and made for me. It turned out Josh had gone to buy a necklace from her for my birthday, but she was already planning to make one for me specially, so she told him to go find something else! 🙂

Beautiful jewelry and kittens… What better birthday presents could there be?!
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We then saw our other host dragging a huge pile of firewood to the back of the house, which then was transformed into a huge roaring bonfire, which soon became a huge asado of Patagonico corderito (“lamb from Patagonia” aka world famous BBQ), which we had watched him slaughter the day before. For my birthday dinner, they cooked the lomo (tenderloin), which is ¡el parte más rico del animal! (the most delicious part of the animal!) We stood around eating lomo with our fingers until it grew dark, at which point our host brought out the nuez y dulce de leche cake she had baked for me.

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For lack of a candle, they had me blow out the burning end of a massive piece of firewood. Around 3am, we all finally stumbled off to bed.

It definitely wasn’t the same as celebrating at home, and all our lovely family and friends were definitely missed. But our birthdays this year were definitely very happy! 😀

¡¡¡Pingüinos!!!

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Okay, I know you’re all wondering how on earth a whole trip to Antarctica could be summed up without the mere mention of penguins, but don’t worry, it can’t. It’s impossible though, in one blog post, to describe the entire spectrum of beauty that is Antarctica: from the sobering, ferocious vastness of it all, to the heart-melting adorableness of nature’s awkwardest creature, so without further ado, here they are… PENGUINS! 😀 (among other amazing wildlife!)

Chinstrap penguins on Hydruga Rocks:
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Gentoo penguins (continental landing at Andvord Bay):
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The penguin highway:
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More Gentoo! (Deception Island)
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For the 18+ crowd: Penguin sex!
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Whaler’s Bay seals:

The adorable Weddell seal pup:
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Crabeater seal couple:
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“I’m so tired of the club scene.”
“Yeah, so are the baby seals.”

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“Have you ever been to the part where the people walk upside-down?”

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I distinctly remember these words from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader as Prince Caspian tries to wrap his mind around the concept of a round world, and thinking disappointedly that such a place does not, in fact, exist. Still, the lure of this mystical ‘end of the world’ never quite left my 6-year-old mind, but was instead relegated to the section of brain that stores thoughts such as going to Mars or riding dinosaurs.

You can imagine my sense of disbelieving excitement when Sara and I saw how close (relatively, at least) we were going to be to Antarctica and thought that maybe, just maybe, it might be possible. Several very-long-distance phone calls and humorously mistranslated emails later, we had secured a cabin on the M/V Ushuaia on its first Antarctic voyage of the season.

The first two days of the journey were spent crossing the Drake Passage, which is known among sailing types as the roughest water in the world. We all memorized the crew’s motto of “one hand for the boat” (meaning, “don’t even try to carry your drink and your plate of food at the same time, or they’ll probably both end up on someone’s head”), and I remain forever endebted to my dear wife for thinking to bring so much Gravol. We would stand at the windows and watch in horrified astonishment as the ship tipped so impossibly far on its side that the horizon disappeared completely from view. As Monika, one of our expedition leaders, reminded us: You have to earn your way to Antarctica.

On the third morning, however, we awoke to find we had arrived at the end of the world. Icebergs the size of office buildings drifted by with no regard for the eighty-something people struck dumb by their presence. The deafening silence and the eerie calm of the water are the only ways to describe the magnificence that otherwise speaks for itself.

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What follows is a brief tour of our visit to the end of the world:

A warm ¡Buen viaje! from Claudia, our travel agent extraordinaire! (Leandro, the ship’s hilarious biologist, is in the background)
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Paper bags conveniently placed along every railing by the crew. (What was disturbing was how fast they got used up… :S)
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First iceberg spotting!
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The incredible view from the mountaintop of our first continental landing (that’s our boat, way down there!)
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A face-peeling polar windstorm that drove all but the hardy Canadians indoors.
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‘Zodiacs’, large inflatable rafts that were our means of landing on and exploring the iceberg-ridden bays of Antarctica (keep in mind that the shore is made of ice, and is therefore far too unstable to drop anchor!)
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One of the hundreds of aforementioned icebergs.
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Possibly the best reminder of the hazards of messing with nature: the remains of a Norwegian whaling ship that blew itself up in 1915 (exploding harpoons = bad idea all around).
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My birthday party on the boat (along with a sampling of some of the ridiculously interesting, hilarious, and friendly people we met).
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Once a top secret British military outpost, this shack at Whaler’s Bay is now a great place for kids like us to do photo-ops!
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Farewell, beautiful Antarctica, until next time…

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