The various members of The Traveling Richters have spent the last week or so staging our luggage and carry-ons for our upcoming trip to the Antarctic, and I’m pleased to report that we are pretty much done. We’ve also watched a couple of movies/documentaries about Antarctic exploration to help get us in the mood.
Several situations have overlapped to make our packing complicated, including the fact that we will be spending almost two weeks in tropical climes (Aruba and Chile – temperatures from around 70°F / 21°C to 88°F / 31°C), and over three weeks in cold to temperate climes in the vicinity of the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia Island, and the Falkland Islands (temperatures from about 20°F / -4.5°C to 50°F / 10°C). And also, as I have been bemoaning, the restrictions on carry-on and checked luggage.
However, with Linda’s excellent planning, and Bas’ willingness to carry much of my camera gear as his carry-on, we have tackled and conquered all of these factors.
Each of us has two pieces of luggage. One piece contains things we will only need for the cooler portion of our exploration – we’ve dubbed this the Antarctic bag, and it is limited to 33 pounds of weight. I’m the only one that has reached that limit. Everyone else seems to have come in below that.
The second bag is our multi-destination bag, and includes clothing and other items that apply in both sets of climates we’ll be frequenting.
We are each also allowed one carry-on. Mine consists of my computer, a GPS, and my Kindle DX and not much else. Bas has a bag with all my extras (camera gear mostly). Linda has my small VAIO P notebook computer, which she plans on using as her computer during the trip, and Krystyana has her own set of camera gear.
Not ever having been pretty much ready with our luggage more than a week prior to a trip, the current situation is a bit weird. We feel like we should be doing more, but there’s not much more to do for the trip. Instead, we are merely focusing on wrapping up various projects that cannot wait until our return in mid-March.
With respect to the research we’ve been doing on the Antarctic, in additional to some interesting books on the subject, we have also watched three movies/documentaries, as well as reviewed various web site. Some of these items are listed below:
- The Last Place On Earth – Mini-series about the rivalry between Robert Scott and Roald Amundsen to reach the geographic south pole. For those that don’t know, Amundsen was the first human to reach the South Pole, on December 14, 1911, 35 days before Scott. Amundsen and his men survived, while Scott and four of his men died on the return. The series provides a fascinating insight (don’t know how true) of how Scott’s autocratic behavior and poor planning doomed his mission, while Amundsen’s slightly more democratic approach to his men, along with much better preparation allowed him to succeed. Ironically, Scott’s death made him a hero, and vilified Amundsen at the same time. The mini-series is based on a book of the same name by Roland Huntford.
- Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure – 40 minute documentary narrated by Kevin Spacey on Ernest Shackleton‘s unsuccessful and harrowing expedition to attempt to cross the Antarctic continent on the Endurance in 1914-1916. Beautiful video footage, and a reasonable summary of Shackleton’s incredible adventure, but we found the presentation of the adventure less dramatic than what the diaries and stories of Shackleton and his men portray. Was a bit too pat for our liking.
- March of the Penguins – Tells the story of a year in the life of emperor penguins (which we will not see on our trip). Great documentary both in terms of explaining the overwhelming natural challenges facing emperor penguins during their annual attempt to create and raise their offspring. There are some nice extras on the Blu-ray version of the movie we watched, including a section on how they used the National Geographic CritterCam to get an idea of how emperor penguins feed underwater.
- Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. First published in 1959, it’s the account of Shackleton’s voyage in the 1914-1916 time frame based on the diaries and oral reports of the members of Shackleton’s expedition, every single one of whom survived (which, considering the ordeals they faced, is what’s truly incredible).
- The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander. Great complement to Lansing’s books as it provides a large number of photographs taken during the expedition as well as many more personal excerpts from various crew member diaries. I would highly recommend reading both books on the subject.
- The Crystal Desert: Summers in Antarctica by David G. Campbell. In depth explanation of the climate, flora, and fauna of Antarctica. I have not read it yet (it’s next on my list), but Linda gives it a thumbs up. If you want to learn about Antarctica’s natural history and ecosystem, this is the book to read.
- An Adventurer’s Guide to Antarctica and the Subantarctic Islands by Marilyn J. Landis Flanigan. Covers the human history of the region in extensive detail, interleaved with a large number of photos by the author (an admitted Antarctica-addict), and includes information about the Falkland Islands as well. Only available on the Kindle, apparently.
- Perishing Poles – Horrible Geography by Anita Ganeri & Mike Phillips. Part of the excellent Horrible Histories series for kids, published in the U.K. This was Bas’ favorite book about Antarctica because it has all the facts, plus all the gore.
Web Sites – these are only a few of the dozens we have visited (we didn’t keep records):
- Antarctic Connection – great set of Antarctica links to diverse topics and sites
- University of Wisconsin Antarctic Projects – Real time Antarctic composite satellite imagery
- Lindblad Exploration – Blog entry by recent guest on the National Geographic Explorer, Maureen Reschke.
- Maureen Reschke’s Blog – Recent National Geographic Explorer guest’s blog about her 22 day trip on the vessel. Great pictures. Makes us anxious to get going!
That’s it for now. Unless some other cool travel thing pops up, the next message will be from Aruba in a week.