Visiting the Argentine station in Antarctica

When we hear about the research stations established by various nations in Antarctica we imagine compounds consisting of living facilities, laboratories, and utility installations. Thus, it is a rude surprise to find that most of these stations are one-room huts. This Argentine station that we visited is typical. The stations that are manned year-round usually have only one or two hardy observers staying there. Life is grim. In fact, a man spending the winter at one of the stations went crazy and set it on fire, hoping to be rescued. It was a futile gesture. [Read More]

Anvers Island claim to fame

During an expedition to Antarctica we stopped at Anvers Island to observe a penguin rookery. Reportedly, some 30,000 penguins live on the island. We didn’t count them, but we know there were a lot of them. In fact we had to be careful not to step on any of the baby chicks. One of our distinct and enduring impressions of penguins was that they walk funny. Years later, when we got to be old we found we had lost much of our sense of balance and we were walking funny just like penguins. We solved the problem by learning to walk with a cane. Now we ... [Read More]

The absolute end of the road

Many human beings are born with a strange impulse to explore.  We want to go where we have never been – better still to places where few if any people have ever gone. This may explain why I went to considerable trouble to find my way to Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of land in the western hemisphere.   First I flew to Port William, Chile, the last airstrip down south. There I boarded a ship that carried me another hundred miles and paused near the Cape. Then I got into a rubber dinghy and paddled toward the shore.  After wading through shallow water covered by ... [Read More]

Scraping through the bergs to Antarctica

  After flying to the southernmost point in Chile, my wife and I boarded The World Discoverer, a double-hulled vessel used for expeditions into waters populated by icebergs. It had the latest satellite navigation system and boasted a gourmet chef, but those amenities did not guarantee a smooth ride. We left Puerto William, in southern Chile, and steered across the famed Drake Passage to Antarctica.  There were times when the waves were higher than the ship.  On arrival and using inflatable Zodiacs, passengers paddled ashore to visit research stations that could not be reached by any surface transport.  As the ship moved farther south toward the Antarctic ... [Read More]