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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.


Not a good idea to be tied to a klutz like me



We didn’t go very high, but even then, I felt as though I had just climbed seven Kilimanjaros. Everything hurt, and I was freezing down to my bones. I had entertained the idea of one day climbing Mount Everest, but I was seriously rethinking that notion now.


Two Weddell seals were waiting for us at the bottom when we came down. I figured if the Zodiac boat didn’t come back for us, we would at least have something to eat. What did seal meat taste like?


Time to discover how yummy seals are...


I never got to find out. The Zodiac and its cantankerous driver came for us after all, and we headed back to the ship for a proper, civilized dinner.




The Day I Went Kayaking in Antarctica


The weather had taken a turn for the worse the day before, and kayaking and camping was cancelled, which was unfortunate for the groups that were scheduled to go.


I was scheduled to go kayaking this morning, and prayed and prayed for the weather to cooperate. And it did!


We sailed to Port Lockroy, the British base, and the only place with a touristy shop and a ‘post office’ that you could mail postcards from - in case you wanted the thrill of sending mail from Antarctica or give family and friends the thrill of receiving mail from Antarctica.


The Penguin Post Office, where you can send postcards from all the way down south


[What they really do is pass the big bag of mail to the next passing ship that will take it back to Argentina to be mailed out.]


While others went ashore to empty their wallets, send mail, and look at more penguin poop, my group put on funky-looking wetsuits with an unflattering skirt that would help keep freezing water from splashing into the kayak.


Donning the ugly kayak skirt with a motherly passenger who, the first time we met, lectured me about the cold before even saying 'hello'



I was partnered up with the doctor onboard. He was twice my size and ten times stronger, which meant I barely had to do anything as the kayak zoomed from one end to another.


Explorers on kayaks



It was great to see Antarctica from that level. We were so close to the water, and so close to the penguins and the sea birds, plus we had the freedom to go wherever we wanted. This was definitely my favorite activity during the trip.


Front-seat VIP view


Once we got our fill of kayaking and had stowed the kayaks back onto the ship, we belatedly joined everybody else on shore while still wearing our ridiculous outfit.