Feb. 14 – Lemaire Channel

The scale and majesty of Antarctica really came to the fore as we cruised through the narrow Lemaire Channel. The Sea Spirit traversed this 11km long passage between Booth Island and the mainland fairly early in the morning. Mountains and cliffs of ice on either side, icebergs, and the morning light made for a breathtaking start to the day. Ironically, I didn’t take as many photos as I normally would as I just wanted to take it in.

When I summarize my trip I often say, “You know those cool pictures of Antarctica you see in magazines? What you don’t get until you have actually been there is that, sure, that picture is cool, but there was probably something almost as cool all the way around the photographer.” The Lemaire Channel is a great example of this 360 degree reality.

The #1 Thing They Don’t Tell You About an Antarctic Cruise

Barf Bags on the RailingsDRAKE PASSAGE (Feb. 19, 2013 – Tjosvold.com) – I double-checked when I got home. Nowhere in the travel brochures about Antarctica did I read about the “Drake Diet.” It’s quite understandable as it doesn’t make for great marketing copy. “You will feel like vomiting for about 100 hours of your cruise” would likely discourage many people from visiting Antarctica. It shouldn’t, but I’ll get to that.

When in Doubt, Build a Prison

USHUAIA, ARGENTINA (Feb. 9) – We started our cruise to Antarctica from the small port city of Ushuaia, Argentina. However, we did not have to gather to board the Sea Spirit until 3:30pm, so my cabin-mate and I used the opportunity to explore this city at the “End of the World.”

In no particular order, here are a few of the things I will remember about my visit to Ushuaia:

1) You really must have been terrible or ticked someone off to be sent here.

Talk about the middle of no where!

Ushuaia Maritime MuseumWhat does this southernmost city in Argentina (arguably the world) have in common with Tasmania? Both can trace their settlement roots to prisons; Ushuaia was actually modeled after Tasmania in that regard. The idea was to create a presence around a prison to help maintain claims of sovereignty over the region. (The notion of building things to establish national sovereignty was a running theme of our journey; more on this in a later post). Also the idea that Chile and Argentina have been historic rivals for a long time! The prison is a museum now but, in it’s day, repeat offenders and political prisoners were sent here to be incarcerated and used as labor. That was when there was no other way to get here other than by ship! Yes, it is still in Argentina, but is just short of 2300km away from Buenos Aires (think Vancouver to Winnepeg)! That’s a whole lot of “you’re out of here!”