Perched on the Edge
Posted by Rob Stimpson
on Monday, February 13, 2012
A view of Ushuaia, Argentina. Credit: Jerzy Strzelecki
Photographer Rob Stimpson blogs from Ushuaia, en route to Antarctica.
I am writing from Ushuaia, the southernmost city on the planet. Flying up the Beagle Channel to get here was spectacular, with the mountains shrouded in clouds and mist and sunlight peeking through. We landed in the early evening, surrounded by these huge pieces of rock on three sides and a window looking out to the Beagle Channel.
Credit: Rob Stimpson
This is the jumping off spot for expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula. Mind you it took three aircraft — about 18 hours of flying — and lots of waiting in-between to get from Toronto to Miami, then on to Buenos Aires (30 degrees C when I arrived), followed a flight to the edge of the South American continent.
Antarctica is only a short 1000 kilometres away now, just across the Drake Passage, reportedly the stormiest body of water on the planet. Mind you, a six-metre wave on any body of water can be intimidating. Even Sir Francis Drake, for whom the passage is named, never sailed the entire Drake or even got around Cape Horn.
Credit: Rob Stimpson
Ushuaia is built on the side of the mountains. The main street, St. Martin, is crammed with Internet cafes, restaurants and souvenir stores. Argentinian wine can be had for around five dollars a bottle. Whether it’s good wine depends on the circle you hang out in. It is summer here and the streets are filled with tourists.
The daytime temperature today is around 16 degrees Celsius, with lots of dramatic skies as well as the nice blue variety. We head to the ship, the Russian-owned Akademik Ioffe, one of the best in the adventure expedition business, for a staff meeting. The passengers from the previous trip have disembarked, and we wait for a new group who will join us later this afternoon.
Sailing time is around 6 p.m. An introductory dinner gets us ready for our adventure. Stay tuned for more to come from the southern ocean.