Beginning the Antarctic Adventure
In 1982, Argentina invaded a tiny, inhospitable island in the South Atlantic I’d never heard of. Soon there after, the British Task Force was dispatched to sail south and deal with the situation and as an impressionable teenager growing up in the UK, I spent the next 74 days glued to the TV as our forces quickly returned the Falkland Islands to British control in what would become known as the Falklands Conflict. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d find myself in the Falklands, all be under much different circumstances.
But the journey to get here myself, was a long one in itself. The network of former Nantahala Outdoor Center employees permeates much of the outdoor industry and one such contact and friend is Bob Powell, formally a NOC kayak instructor and now an Endowed Professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at Clemson University. Bob had been conducting research in Antarctica for many years while also working as a sea kayak guide. The thought of visiting the harsh, raw and lonely environment of the 7th continent and the largest most protected wilderness in the World had a strong appeal. So after considerable investment in US Coast Guard and International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) training in addition to updating my list of American Canoe Association and SOLO Wilderness Medicine qualifications that I already used day to day at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, I found myself hired as an Antarctic kayak guide and on my way to the Falklands Islands to start my own epic Antarctic adventure
Our home for the duration of my six week exploration of the Southern Ocean would be the Polar Pioneer, a robust looking ice-strengthened research vessel that had been refurbished and converted into a more passenger friendly ship capable of carrying up to 54 passengers, 10-12 staff and 23 crew. At 235ft long, 1753 tons and with just a 15ft draft, this small and nimble ship can get in close to the action and would act as a great base station for our sea kayak adventures to come.
The next six weeks will see us explore the Falklands Island, South Georgia (made famous by Shackleton’s harrowing story of survival), Elephant Island, South Shetland Islands, the Antarctic Peninsula and the ports of Ushuaia and Puerto Williams. This is an environment completely alien to me and that unknown only adds to the sense of adventure and anticipation about what’s ahead. This Antarctic odyssey is just beginning but the memories and stories from this trip will last forever and I couldn’t be more excited.
More updates to come!