The sun is shining brightly and the snow capped mountains are bathed in sunlight as we board our Russian ship, Akademik Sergey Vavilov. Unfortunately, a number of passenger’s are missing their baggage, and our departure time is set back to give the airlines a bit more time to deliver their bags before we sail. We all feel for them. It can’t be much fun, boarding a ship bound for Antarctica, without your carefully packed luggage. Some of them have gone shopping in Ushuaia and bring aboard their purchases.
We attend the first of many briefings and complete the mandatory lifeboat drill. We are informed that if we hear this alarm signal again, it will be the real thing. I am hoping it won’t come to that! There are 2 lifeboats, each of which fit 66 passengers. It will be a tight squeeze.
We are up on the top deck, when the ropes are cast off and the ship finally moves. It is incredibly exciting and we wave goodbye to the mainland.
After dinner, Angela and I sit at the bar on Deck 6 and chat with our fellow passengers. There are many Aussies on board and it is fun to discover that some of my fellow passengers are from Cherrybrook! For a country with just 20 million people, Aussies sure get around! I have also met Leah, Angela’s room mate who is travelling with her mum, Sue. I feel that over the course of this voyage, we will develop a great friendship.
I wake up the following day feeling a little wobbly. However, after a light brekkie and a bit of fresh air and my seasickness pill, I feel much better. Day 2 is spent sailing through the Southern Ocean and a busy one for us. We attend briefings on the history of the region, the birdlife, the Falkland Islands and learn the rules of zodiac travel.
The company I have chosen to travel with, Quark Expeditions, is a signatory to the International Association of Antarctic Operations. We the passengers are bound by these rules, ensuring we travel in an environmentally sustainable manner, making sure we leave this place in the pristine conditions we found it for the generations to follow. We are expected to be responsible global citizens and as we visit the various penguins colonies, the whales and seals, we will adhere to the rules which govern how close we can approach them and the precautions we must take to ensure no alien plants are introduced. When we go back to our respective homes, we are asked to be ambassadors to this last great wilderness.
“What calls strangers to this strange land? Visitors are the ties that bind this continent to the rest of the world, transient citizens of a land that guards no borders, prints no passports, where no bands play its anthem. It belongs to no one; it belongs to everyone. And if it calls you…go.” Todd Jarell