Antarctica (1): getting there

“Here I am, at the Big Blue Backpackers Hotel, in my little room. Alone. But it’s quiet here and I’m relieved: the journey went smoothly except for the 1-hour customs delay at Cape Town International. Because I’m going to the South Pole for 2.5 months, I cannot afford to loose any luggage at this time!”

This is how the diary I wrote during my first Antarctica Expedition starts. I used to be a marine biologist, working on seaworms (nematodes) from the deep sea and coral reefs. In my last years as a scientist (I’m a teacher now), I worked on a project (BIANZO II) dealing with the poles and global climate change. Since 2002, the enormous Larsen B Ice Shelf had collapsed and disappeared, leaving open water for the first time, ready to be explored. It was my job to collect seafloor samples from this area for biological analysis.

Because the Antarctic is still not easy to reach (it’s remote and you have to cross the Antarctic Convergence at 60°S, a zone with high wave and storm activity), the number of expeditions is still limited. We worked together with AWI Bremerhaven in Germany, the owners of the FS Polarstern: the most actively used scientific icebreaker. This was to be our home for 2.5 months.


Our journey started in Cape Town (South Africa) in November 2006 and ended in Punta Arenas (Chile) January 2007. I stayed near the Waterfront in Cape Town for a few days, enjoyed the city, went up the Table Mountain and went to a local soccer cup match (BIG FUN!).


Then, I embarked and got to know my colleagues, including my cabin mate Armin (from Germany: on the left of the picture), with whom I had great fun during and after work (both Metal fans, yeah!!!).


When Cape Town became a toy city, illuminated in the evening night, a humpback whale jumped out of the water to say goodbye to us.



We wouldn’t see any cities for 2.5 months now. Adventure starts here! We celebrated with German ale, but it was also a sad moment, knowing I had to leave my girlfriend (now my wife 🙂 ) for so long. And we had just recently met. I was excited about the trip, but also sad…

Next post will be about our first contact with the continent…



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