How An Old Lady and A Shower Derailed My Dreams

Hello again. 

You might be wondering why this post is happening. Perhaps thinking something along the lines of “isn’t this chick supposed to be in Antarctica right now???”

Well. Have I got a story for you. 

Picture this: you have been waiting a whole year for your first abroad experience ever. Despite covid still happening, you get to go. And then you make it all the way through without getting covid and without getting injured or otherwise disqualified for the trip of a lifetime: you’re finally going to Antarctica. You board the boat, get going, brace yourself for the crossing of the Drake Passage. You’re having the time of your life – the boat rocking is like being rocked to sleep and the stormy ocean provides ample entertainment. Everything is going to plan. Even the food on board is amazing. 

On the third day, orientation presentations are held for what to do during your time on the continent. Lectures are given about the wildlife. Everyone is positive and buoyant, so excited to be there. You’re sent to lunch, after being told you will reach Antarctica in three hours. 

Then you’re called for a boat-wide meeting. And informed that the ship has turned around. You will not be going to Antarctica. 

It turns out that when you put an old lady in a shower in the middle of a violent Drake Passage (which on a good day is still some of the most volatile waters on the planet), they slip, fall, crack their ribs, and puncture their lungs. Add to that incident the fact that the weather was so bad during the crossing that the air-extraction insurance plan that was part of the ticket you all bought is not possible, and that the nearest boat returning to Ushuaia at this point is some 600 km (372 mi) away, aka too far. And so back to Ushuaia you have to go, a mere two hours away from the experience of your dreams. 

Two hours away. You could practically taste it. 

Now I know what you’re thinking: you’re all super sad that I don’t have any pictures of Antarctic glaciers or penguins to share. I am too. But I would like to take a moment to say that I completely trust the judgment of the crew and medical personnel on board. If they deem the situation bad enough to turn the boat around, then it must have been bad – they would not do so lightly. And I also would like to send my thoughts and well wishes to the lady who was injured and to her family. 

That being said, the emotional rollercoaster that these past few days have been hasn’t been easy. On the one hand, I’m livid. This has been a dream of mine ever since I can remember. And I had to watch it go down in flames helplessly. The staff onboard told everyone over and over to hold on to things, to not take a shower during open water crossing but instead to wait for the smoother waters in the continent. So why don’t people just listen to the people who know what they’re talking about??!! But it’s hard to feel like I’m justified in having these emotions when others have it worse. There are passengers who have spent their life savings on this trip; there are others in my cohort who have had Antarctica canceled twice (they were supposed to be in the program but then the pandemic hit). Meanwhile, I’m still living here for another month, so there is possibly a chance of going again. So on the other hand, I was not horribly distraught and unreasonably angry, because I have the privilege of optimism. Nothing has been confirmed yet but I’m desperately hoping that we will be able to go again (there is hope of joining another expedition that leaves November 21st – knock on wood, fingers crossed, etc. that it works out). I was able to look for the silver linings in this situation, like how I can now say that I have lived on the Drake Passage for four days straight without getting seasick at all and am a veteran of the crossing. 

It was hard to stay positive, but we did try to keep it light on board. We played card games, did some birdwatching, and just generally watched the endless sea go by – we even saw some whales! Also, technically, we did cross into the waters designated as part of Antarctica, so technically I have been to Antarctica (past latitude 60˚S). 

Anyways. But if y’all could send all of your good luck wishes down here and all the good vibes, that’d be much appreciated. Here’s to hoping that we get to try again – second times the charm!

Until next time 🙂