Thursday, January 20, 2011

Part 1 - Buenos Aires

Part 4 - South Georgia (Coming soon)
Part 5 (To be continued)


We awoke at 3:00 this morning to begin our journey to Argentina and Antarctica. SFO-->IAD-->EZE. That probably sounds like a brutal time to get up, but it wasn't so bad. We've known that Argentina is five time zones ahead of California, so we've been getting up an hour earlier each day for the last week. Getting up today wasn't so tough - the whole week was the tough part. :-)

Some of you have asked why we stopped in Argentina on the way to Antarctica. The simple answer is that the bulk of the ships that travel to/from Antarctica go through two cities: Christchurch, New Zealand and Ushuaia, Argentina

This trip to Antarctica began in Ushuaia, but my inspiration to go to Antarctica originated fifteen years ago in Christchurch. At the time I was on a seven month round-the-world trip. I had never really given any thought to travelling to Antarctica. I wasn't aware of anyone except scientists travelling there. Part way through my stay in Christchurch, I was fascinated by a newspaper article that I read. It talked about a ship carrying local university students that was heading to Antarctica.

It was then that I got the (some would say foolish) notion of travelling to Antarctica. I naively thought I might somehow be able to go on that ship (rather unlikely given that the ship had already left port by the time the article ran), but missing that particular ship didn't dampen my enthusiasm.

That round-the-world trip took me to five different contenents. Since then, I've been to each of those contents again - some numerous times. But South America and Antarctica have thus far eluded me. This trip will complete my goal of stepping foot on all seven contenents.


I wrote previously about our first day in Argentina, so I won't rehash too much of that day here. My main recollections:
  • As usual, our first day in this new time zone was kept purposely low-key
  • 100F weather made for an unusually hot Christmas
  • Packing for weather like that and a trip to Antarctica is a challenge


Our original plans included more time in Argentina, but that got derailed when our November itinerary was cancelled. Alicia helped us to maximize the time we had by setting up a guided tour by Carlos, a friend of a friend who lives in Buenos Aires.

Our 6+ mile walking tour started at the hotel. With frequent rest stops and an ankle brace, Alicia was able to limp along. From there we walked past Casa Rosada. If I remember my history correctly, Madonna sang a song on the balcony. Something like that.

We then walked across Plaza de Mayo, the sight of many protests over the years, including the peaceful protests over the desaparecidos by the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo.
We then toured Catedral Metropolitana. Here are a few highlights...

[ Note: Many of you have praised the initial photos that I presented in the previous post. Thank you for your kind words. The photos in this post were taken on my point-n-shoot camera, not the DSLR. Consequently the quality of these photos leaves a bit to be desired, but I think you'll still enjoy them. The indoor shots are a bit grainy because I was (intentionally and respectfully) not using the flash. A minor fiddling with the ISO setting helps, but it can't perform a miracle. So why was I using the point-n-shoot outside? The reason is simple and pragmatic. Theft on the street is not uncommon in B.A. and there was no way I was going to chance having my DSLR stolen and then be left with a silly point-n-shoot for the Antarctica portion of the trip!]

This is the tomb of José de San Martín. Carlos told us a bit about this national hero of Argentina. The main take away for me: José was a busy guy.

This is the dome above the tomb. One of the amusing anecdotes that Carlos shared with us involves the location of the tomb. José was not Catholic, but the cathedral is. The guy's not Catholic, but he is a national hero. What to do? What to do?

No problem. His tomb is in a chapel in the south western portion of the cathedral. He's buried in a chapel, not the cathedral.

This is a view of the north transept.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Part 1 - Buenos Aires
Part 2 - Ushuaia
Part 3 - The Falkland Islands
Part 4 - South Georgia (Coming soon)
Part 5 (To be continued)

One question I'm frequently asked when people find out how much I've traveled is, "What's your favorite place in the world?" The question is innocent enough, but it drives me crazy. I've traveled to something like forty different countries now, and it has always been darn near impossible to select a single favorite.

After our latest trip, I will have no doubt in my mind when I answer "Antarctica".

We arrived back in Santa Cruz today after approximately thirty-four hours of travelling. Three flights, two taxis, one shuttle bus, and five time zones later, it's good to be home. It was especially nice to arrive home and take a pleasant stroll at Rio Del Mar beach with the temperature sitting somewhere around 70F.

We had an absolutely amazing time in Antarctica! The wildlife was abundant, the landscapes were gorgeous, and the weather was surprisingly mild.

Many of you are already asking for photos. I've got lots of those (8000+). But I'll need some time to sort through them. Till then, here are a few teasers...

[ Forgive me if this is obvious, but you can click the images below to see them enlarged. ]

Fur seal pups in Grytviken

A sneak attack

Elephant seal in the sprinkling rain

Chinstrap penguin

One of many icebergs

Humpback whale fluke

Alicia was a trooper. She did all the land excursions (in spite of her recent accident), she withstood the penguin guano odor, she braved the Drake Passage, and - most amazing of all - she kindly put up with all of my photo taking.

She even took some photos of her own. I think they're excellent. If you like her photos, be sure to let her know in the comments section. Here's a sampling of her photos...

Adelie penguins

I love how she used the foreground iceberg to
frame the one in the background

Iceberg with a tunnel

Iceberg with a shark fin

Iceberg ready to chomp down on
something (or someone)

I hope you enjoy these photos. I'll be working on others over the next few weeks... that and adjusting to those five time zones.