Reaching the Seventh Continent: My Journey to Antarctica
There aren’t many places left in the world to feel like a true explorer. Antarctica is one of them.
In early November 2018, I was lucky enough to fulfill a dream and be part of a 13-day learning adventure to Antarctica with Road Scholar — the not-for-profit educational travel organization for adults.
On the first Monday following the Thanksgiving holiday, I joined 28 other intrepid Road Scholar participants to begin the long trek south to Ushuaia, Argentina, where we’d cross the storied Drake Passage to Antarctica.
The Drake Passage is well know because it’s the body of water between Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands. It’s where the Atlantic, Pacific and Southern seas converge (hence the term “convergence,”) and has some of the roughest seas on the planet. To get to Antarctica, you’ve got to get past the Drake.
A Dynamic Group, Out for Discovery
Our Road Scholar participants were a hearty group of experienced travelers, ranging in age from 48 to the early 80s, solos and couples alike. They came armed with binoculars (LOTs of birders in the group), books to read during the passage and Dramamine.
As we gathered together in the hotel over breakfast on our first full day together, the participants began to share their stories, including why touching the 7th continent was so important to them. For some, it was their 7th and final continent. For others, it was an item on their bucket list. For others still, they were there for one thing only—penguins.
The very detailed Road Scholar itinerary noted that it would take three full days to cross the infamous Drake Passage.
On our first day aboard our vessel, the Ocean Atlantic, our expedition leader Shelli briefed us on what we could expect over the next three days. She advised those who were prone to seasickness to take the necessary precautions, as the seas were very unpredictable; on any given voyage, you can cross Drake “Lake” or Drake “Shake.”
Was it rough? Yes, it was. The boat pitched throughout the crossing, but by the end of the three-day passage, most people got their sea legs and adjusted to the rough weather. It made you feel like a true explorer.
A Dream Realized
December 1, 2018 was Antarctica Day AND the day our ship was scheduled to reach Antarctica. How serendipitous!
Antarctica is indeed a special place, but it is not an easy place to get to or an easy place to be in. Even though we were there at the end of spring/beginning of summer, the weather sometimes made it difficult to experience every planned activity.
However, we were advised in advance that our expedition wasn’t just about GOING to Antarctica; part of the experience was about BEING in Antarctica. We got our opportunity to step foot on the continent for the first time at the Almirante Brown Scientific Station. All 28 Road Scholars boarded the zodiacs, and climbed the short hill to capture this glorious moment.
Later, aboard the ship, the seven Road Scholar participants who’d realized their 7th continent were feted and expressed the joy of reaching this destination that they’d dreamed about for most of their lives.
In that moment, I realized how truly special this experience was and how special Road Scholar was, for creating this learning adventure for seniors to realize their dreams.
Learning Aboard the Ship
As the ship maneuvered to find additional landing spots, the expedition experts delivered presentations on a wide variety of topics, including photography (How to Photograph Birds in Flight), A Historical Film of Antarctic Exploration, An Oceanographic look at the Poles, and my favorite lecture of the expedition, Climate Change.
The lecturer was incredibly passionate about geology and explained the impact that humans were having on the earth’s climate.
Our Final Days at Sea
As we prepared for the return trip across the Drake, we were already experienced seafarers. Many participants spent the time journaling about their experience, getting to know the other participants or simply watching the ocean as we sailed back toward civilization.
Once we returned to Ushuaia, we began the process of saying goodbye to our incredible group. It was the journey of a lifetime. And I can’t think of a better organization to do it with than Road Scholar.
Learn more about Road Scholar’s voyages to Antarctica.
Would you love to take an expedition to Antarctica one day? Have you ever been on a Road Scholar learning adventure? Let’s have a chat!
Editor’s note: this article was written by Stacie Fasola of Road Scholar