Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ice Ice Baby

Prepping for my trip to Antarctica was an adventure. I'm going in the Antarctic summer where the temperatures range from a  tropical -40 (at the South Pole... Without wind chill) to 10. Definitely going to be breaking out the bikini. Apparently sunburn is actually a big problem because the sun is so bright reflecting off the snow. Luckily the only thing that can get burned is your nose because nothing else is exposed. (I'm not sure "luckily" is really the word I'm going for there...)

The week before I left, I went on a massive shopping trip to REI armed with a long shopping list from the tour company full of items I didn't understand. I now know all about Smart Wool which according to the REI rep is basically the most exciting thing ever because it can go in the dryer. I'd be more excited if there were any dryers in Antarctica. The other thing that will not be widely available in Antarctica... Toilets. Thus the "pee bottle" on the shopping list. The list recommended that you label yours clearly. That's advice I'll be taking. The list also recommended a "pee funnel" for women. The REI rep had never heard of that and proceeded to ask pretty much everyone working there. At least that wasn't horrifying.

I've gotten a variety of reactions from friends and family about this trip. "Seriously, why are you going?" ( Ive got to check the seventh continent off the list!) "Take some pictures of the white foxes." (That's the Arctic, not Antarctic) "Are there going to be baby emperor penguins?" (YES! 2 weeks old!) "Watch out for polar bears." (Also the Arctic, but thanks for your concern). And most often "stay warm!" (Probably not going to happen but it is a nice thought.)

I'm currently in Punta Arenas, Chile waiting for good flight conditions so that we can fly the five hours to Union Glacier base camp. The "runway" there is just a flat icy area of the glacier so if the weather is overcast, there is not enough contrast to land. Would this be a bad time to try out Xanax? The last group took off six days behind schedule waiting for good conditions. Maybe I should take that time to find religion, just in case. I'll be staying in tents the entire time, since permanent structures are not permitted for tourists. We'll fly by twin otter plane 4 hours to the emperor penguin rookery. The penguins are not afraid of humans and will wander right up to you. If one wanders into my carryon bag, who am I to stop it from coming home with me? The group will spend three days with the penguins. Then, we'll fly back through base camp and then fly another five hours to the South Pole. The guide says it'll be the coldest we'll ever be in our lives. It's hard to imagine worse than Chicago and Boston. Then we'll check out the American science center there.

There's no wifi or phone service (other than iridium satellite phones) so I will be radio silent once I leave. I'll post lots of pictures once I return!