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beyond-thBEYOND RYE: All Aboard  to Antarctica
For Arthur Stampleman, who lives in Rye, and his granddaughter Sarah, who lives south of San Francisco, their recent trip to Antarctica, aboard the National Geographic Orion, was “the trip of a lifetime!”

By Arthur and Sarah Stampleman

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For Arthur Stampleman, who lives in Rye, and his granddaughter Sarah, who lives south of San Francisco, their recent trip to Antarctica, aboard the National Geographic Orion, was “the trip of a lifetime!”


It was Sarah’s first trip out of the country, and Arthur’s chance to see the one continent he had not yet visited. For both, it was an opportunity to get to know one another better and enjoy the extraordinary beauty of the glaciers.


Long-distance flights, including overnight flights, were nothing new to Arthur, and he had visited Santiago, Chile, their starting point, before, but both were new to Sarah.


“With an overnight flight, it was hard for me to tell one day from another and it was hard to sleep because I was so excited. Santiago was much more modern than I expected — more like New York, than the pueblos and dirt roads I was anticipating,” said Sarah.

 

After the usual city tour of Santiago, including stopping at a pre-Columbian art museum offered by National Graphic Lindblad, at Sarah’s suggestion we chose to visit the Zoologico Nacional, where we saw lots of animals, from armadillos to zebras.


From Santiago, we took a four-hour flight to the southernmost port in Latin America, Ushuaia, Argentina. Ushuaia is on the island of Terra del Fuego that is shared by Chile and Argentina. Once there, we took a bus tour through the national park, got on a catamaran to have lunch, and then boarded the cruise ship, which would be our home for the next nine days.


After a day-and-a-half cruise through the Drake Passage (which can be rough, but happily not when we were passing through), we arrived at Antarctica. The fifth largest continent, roughly one-and-one-half to two times the size of the United States, is an archipelago of numerous islands principally of basalt, a type of black volcanic rock, and both fresh and salt water. About three-quarters of the world’s fresh water is there.


Penguins, sea lions, seals, various whale and bird families, krill, and smaller elements of the food chain make up the bulk of the inhabitants. The human residents are mainly staff members of the scientific research stations. Several countries have staked out areas they want to cover, some of which overlap. A U.N.-sponsored international treaty assures that no country can claim any part of Antarctica, and that provides support for the various organizations working for the protection of the different species there.


Because Antarctica is so big, we could visit only a small part of the continent, a peninsula the size of California. We always slept and ate on the ship, but most days we took two excursions in Zodiacs to see the scenery and from which to stop off and visit different spots of interest, as well as attend lectures.


There were harbors, bays, and majestic mountain peaks to see from a Zodiac. Sarah, as well as most of the children on board, liked having the opportunity to sit behind the wheel of the Zodiac best.


We hiked up a number of glaciers to see views at the top or on the sea ice to visit penguin colonies or see seals. Sarah’s favorite excursion was sliding down a glacier on her bottom.


From the ship’s deck we saw a number of whales and seals, as well as numerous icebergs and a surreal sunset one evening.


While we went out on a kayak together twice, Sarah was relieved that her grandfather didn’t fall out and her grandfather was happiest at the end of the paddle excursions when the staff offered him a Bloody Mary.


One day, half the passengers — including Sarah — took turns jumping into the water for a few, cold seconds.


Both of us enjoyed the lectures, which covered a range of topics, including protecting endangered species, the different kinds of whales and penguins, and facts about Antarctica’s geography.


Aboard the Orion there were about 180 individuals — 108 passengers, ten of whom were children, and the maritime, hotel, and program crew.  Passengers hailed mostly from the United States, but there were guests from six other countries. While Arthur socialized with several families, Sarah developed the closest relationships on the cruise, with several youngsters ages 9 to 15. Sarah met Charlotte (from Boston) and Sofia (an American in Hong Kong), and it was just the three of us for a while. When I went to get more WiFi minutes, I met a girl named Brook who later introduced me to her brother Brayden (their family had been travelling for six months) from San Francisco, and Finn from Hawaii. Finally, we got together with Grace and Callan from Seattle and the whole group was inseparable for expeditions, mealtime, and games in the library thereafter.


Whether in our cabin, the spa, gym, lounge, dining room, or library, we were always well taken care of by the professional and friendly crew, and happy to be in one another’s company.

 

 

 

 


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