My trip to Antarctica was unique and unforgettable. It was unique because it was not the regular tourist trip. It was unforgettable because the things I saw and the experiences and the emotions I went through will stay in my mind forever.
I had the privilege of being one of the five VIP guests at the Argentine icebreaker Almirante Irizar, together with my mother and three other special invitees.
First I flew from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to the city of Rio Gallegos in a military plane called The Hercules, which is so noisy that you can barely hear what people tell you. The crew and the pilots became very friendly with me and were kind enough to let me into the cockpit. There are so many controls and buttons in the pilot’s cabin! The plane opens from the back, it’s in army colors and it can fly 3,000 feet high. I was near enough to see the ice and snow while heading south.
During the four hour trip in the Hercules from Rio Gallegos to Marambio base, in Antarctica, I was impressed by the massive chunks of ice bellow us. The crew told me that the ice changes colors from white to blue according to their age. Most of them have been there for millions of years.
As I set foot in Antarctica for the first time in my life, a rush of glory ran through me. One of the many things I learnt on this trip is that the name Antarctica comes from the Greek word Antarcticos, which means “opposite to the Arctic”, one of the windiest and coldest places in the world, with temperatures of 90º F below zero. I also learnt that 90% of the territory is covered by ice, which makes it one of the least inhabited places on Earth.
The scientists on board taught me about the ozone layer and the British explorer Ernest Shackelton, the second man to set foot in Antarctica. I will never forget what I saw about the ozone layer: the chart showed how it was getting thinner and thinner due to pollution and emission gases, which eventually will change the weather balance in the whole planet.
In Esperanza base there are elementary schools for kids. In case a snowstorm hits the place, there are bunk beds in which the children can sleep. In Jubany base I saw igloos and it was interesting to learn that only scientists live there.
We shared with the Argentine military their lives and experiences during one of the four trips they do yearly to Antarctica to supply the bases and exchange personnel, which are isolated from the continent during the long and harsh winter.
I was also privileged to spend time and get near the Antarctic animals. The penguins were my favorite because they are cute and I like the way they stick out their heads in curiosity, the way they walk and how they survive in harsh temperatures. I also saw elephant seals, which from the distance looked like rocks. I was also amazed watching the stunning humpback whales for the first time in my life.
After my nine day trip on the Irizar, I boarded the Hercules to get back to El Palomar, the Buenos Aires military base. I felt as if I had been on this trip forever because I had lost track of time and space.
I realized that this had been a magical trip.
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