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The Time I Found a Recipe for Seal Brains in Antarctica (Part 2)

December 31, 2017

When you're on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and it's so amazing that you're plotting on how to make it a twice-in-a-lifetime trip. 

Photo Credit: Siegfried Bruck, our official photographer on the trip


This is a continuation of The Time I Puked My Way to Antarctica (Part 1). Read that first if you haven't already. 




The Day I Went Climbing on Antarctica


After a sleepless night, we packed up our tent, cleared the campsite and returned to the warm and comfy ship around 5 am. I went straight to bed to catch some shut-eye as the ship sailed to yet another destination: Argentina’s Brown Base Station.


Argentina's claim on the White Continent



We arrived there a little too soon, in my opinion, and I considered skipping the trip to land in order to sleep some more. My roommate, Tania, greatly disapproved. “You are on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Antarctica, and you want to sleep???”


Properly admonished, I dragged myself out of bed and put on the ten million layers of clothes for the journey outdoors.


The Brown Base, true to its name, was more brown than white – once again, there was more penguin poop than there was ice.

 All that brown goodness


I arrived half-asleep on a Zodiac, and proceeded to put on my snowshoes in order to explore the deserted buildings. Antarctica is only inhabited 3 months out of the 12 months in a year, and mostly by researchers and an assortment of crew members who conduct scientific research. It was still too early in the summer for them to come down from up north, so we had the place to ourselves.


Wandering around the place


I then jumped into another Zodiac with a group of passengers, and we went on a leisurely cruise around Paradise Bay, weaving through oddly-shaped icebergs and translucent chunks of ice with penguins swimming all around us.


Later in the day, I joined another group of passengers for a mountaineering expedition. I had splurged on a pair of hiking boots (those that could fit crampons) just for this purpose, and was determined to put them to good use. We were ferried to shore by a particularly surly Zodiac driver who, after dropping us off, threatened to leave us there and never come back.


For someone who barely exercises, I constantly overestimate and overinflate my fitness level. I did manage to climb Mount Kilimanjaro earlier that year without dying, so I figured: how bad could this be, right?


My mountain-climbing group


It was bad.


Climbing on ice requires a set of different skills that I didn’t have, and uses muscles in my legs that had never before been put into action. I thought I would have gotten the hang of walking after 25+ years of doing so, but clearly that was not the case.


There was also the additional danger of slipping and of accidentally falling into a crevasse (a deep crack in the ice).


Most of us were first-timers, and we moved at a snail’s pace up the icy front of a small mountain. We were all tied to one another with a long rope that would help save our lives if one of us stumbled. And of course, I was the one who tripped over my ankles and tumbled down the mountain, dragging at least 4 people down with me.