Blake Snow

writer-for-hire, content guy, bestselling author

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5 things I learned after visiting Antarctica

Photo courtesy Lindsey Snow

I recently returned from a two week expedition to Antarctica. After 10 years of travel writing, it is the greatest adventure I’ve ever been on, and my new favorite continent in terms of thought-provoking raw beauty. In fact, Antarctica gave me more pause and aroused more thoughts and feelings than any other place I’ve visited.

What did I learn while there? Here our five lessons I brought home.

  1. There are no postcards from Antarctica. But there should be. As the least photographed continent by far, I had little to no visual reference of what to expect beyond icebergs and penguins. What I saw were hundreds of nameless mountain peaks and glaciers. There are thousands of both all over the continent, which is bigger than both Europe and Australia. In fact, Antarctica is like one massive national park. But with no tourism agency to promote it, it’s difficult, if not unlikely, to see what you’re in for until you arrive.
  2. Planet Earth has never looked more majestic. I teared up gazing at a massive mountain and three glaciers with no name one afternoon. I’m a romantic, I’ll admit. But I’ve never cried upon seeing a landscape. I nearly did in Antarctica, though. The point is: we are blessed, privileged, and incredibly fortunate to call Earth home. If there was a universal lottery, we all won it. The beauty and biodiversity of our planet easily shines through on other continents. But Antarctica amplifies it to a new level.
  3. Getting there is a true expedition. A day’s worth of flying, depending on where you’re coming from. Then two days crossing the most treacherous 500 miles of sea on the Drake Passage. So three days total each way. On top of that, we rode 25 foot waves to get there. Some ride over 40 foot waves. Others cross a glossy lake. Either way, you’re in for a long haul and your daily activities are entirely dependent on ice, wind, and visibility conditions. There are no set itineraries here.
  4. When life gives you rough seas, ride ‘em! I was fortunate to see dozens of whales, massive seals, hundreds of glaciers and soaring peaks, and thousands of penguins by zodiac, on foot, by kayak, and in the ship. But one of the most memorable highlights was riding some 20 foot waves on the bridge while the captain played Van Halen’s “Jump” and other tongue in cheek fun songs while the forty non seasick passengers whooped and hollered. We rocked and rolled, as the Southern Ocean drenched the bridge and flooded the bow at sunset. It was a moment I will never forget and way better than recoiling in the fetal position at the back of the ship.
  5. Filipinos are the sherpas of Antarctica. None of these expeditions would be possible without the gentle but devoted army of Filipinos who staff the majority of these ships with genuine smiles and beyond sturdy sea legs. I am in awe of their service and indebted to them for taking such good care of my wife and I, our fellow passengers who funded the trip, and the captain, crew, and deck hands for making both the land and sea operations possible. What. A. People. “Salamat po!”

BONUS: Life is resilient. I don’t meant to sound glib. But if dozens of large species and thousands of small underwater ones can survive these extreme conditions, any of us can, especially on more hospitable continents.