That’s right… 99 days from today I will be boarding our vessel in Ushuaia, Argentina, and setting sail for the Drake Passage! How did it become so soon!? So much has happened over the previous six or eight months, I couldn’t possibly write it all here, but in brief, I’ve reached my fundraising target (thank you again to all of the individuals and organisations who helped me get there!), started working on a small project with some of the other wonderful women on board, learned a bit about setting strategies, and have already had valuable feedback about some of my own leadership traits as part of the emotional intelligence work we are undertaking. I have learned a lot already, and I can barely fathom how that learning will grow during the intense time on board. I can’t wait!
Today’s excitement is partially because I have finally booked my travel to Argentina. Ushuaia is a long way from Oban! Out of curiosity, I have just asked google Maps to chart me a route, but it only returns “no route found”. I’m sure with a little creative thinking I could find a way to get there by bus or under my own steam, but there’s just not time! Incidentally, this is a good opportunity for me to thank the UKs Natural Environment Research Council for helping fund my travel to and from Homeward Bound as part of their Leadership Training Bursary scheme for NERC fellows. Thank you!
Now where will be going? One of my fellow Homeward Bound-ers has plotted a fantastic map of some of the places we might visit (details are still being finalised, and weather dependent):
- The Carlini Research Base, an Argentinian base on King George Island, which is one of 13 bases Argentina operates. It was originally established as a small naval station in 1953, but was eventually transferred to the Argentine Antarctic institute in 1982. So it’s two years older than me (as a science base, at least!). Fun fact: Metallica performed at this base in 2013, unamplified (due to environmental concerns) and inside a specially constructed dome. The gig was streamed live worldwide!
- Brown Station, another Argentine Antarctic base, established in 1951, but now only open in the summer season. The station was burned down by the station doctor in 1984, but has been rebuilt. Paradise bay, where it is located is meant to be a beautiful spot, and you can see Gentoo penguins there!
- Vernadsky Research Base, a Ukranian Antarctic base, but one which was originally established by the British (the British Falklands Islands Dependancies Survey). It was first called Wordie house, after Sir James Wordie, who visited it as part of Shackletons expedition (Shackelton! That’s history!). Wordie house has been restored as a historic site, and the present base has been located on Galindez Island since 1954. Ukraine took the base over in 1996, when it bought the station from the UK for a token sum of £1!. Geeky fact: in 1977 the base was renamed Faraday Station in honour of Michael Faraday.
- Rothera Research Station, a British Antarctic Survey base established in 1975. Usually 130 people can be found at the base in summer months, but this number shrinks to just over 20 in the winter (or so says Wikipedia!). Fun fact: Rothera serves as the capital of the British Antarctic Territory, although after the ratification of the Antarctic Treaty in 1961 most countries don’t recognise territorial claims in Antarctica. Britain has ratified this treaty. You can see what the weather is like live at Rothera using the Base’s webcam: https://www.bas.ac.uk/data/our-data/images/webcams/rothera-webcam/
- Palmer Reseach Station, located north of the Antarctic circle, and operated by the USA. The station houses just over 40 staff in the summer, and much of the science focuses on marine biology (sounds like my kind of place!). It was named after Nathaniel B. Palmer, who is recognised as the first American to see Antarctica. Fun fact: Palmer was the setting for a gathering of the last human survivors of a virus in a Japanese film called Fukkatsu no hi, from 1981.
I’ll try to write a bit more about some of these places in the next few months, as well as about some of the other places we will visit, and about preparing for the trip.
It’s great to learn about the history of a place before you go, so I will do my best!