Wednesday, January 30, 2013

December 25, 2012: Antarctica, where one always gets a white Christmas

Every year people ask me if I “miss Christmas” since I travel to the Antarctic over the holidays.  It is a simple question of course, but for me, travelling over the holidays for the past 3 years, it is a bit more complex.  On the simplest level, I couldn’t miss Christmas if I tried--December 25 arrives in the south polar region too!  Santa even made his way down via zodiac on Christmas morning!  Of course this is not what people mean when they ask if I miss Christmas, Christmas is more than a date on the calendar.  It is about spending time with your friends and family, laughing, eating, reminiscing, eating….

I am fortunate in that I have two families with whom I can celebrate Christmas, my ship family and my family back home in the U.S.  This year my ship family included a big part of my Wilmington family in having Kate, Mark, and their daughter Annie on board.  This year our ship Christmas was quite festive.  A few days before Christmas we all gathered in the lounge one night to decorate; we made snowflakes, strings of popcorn (well, that was the idea though I am pretty sure the only place popcorn went was in our bellies), strung up lights, and stuck cloves into oranges filling the lounge with the smells of the holidays.  On Christmas Eve, during happy hour, we sang Christmas carols, with many of us wearing festive Christmas attire.  The staff all gathered together for a secret Santa gift exchange, it was great fun and felt like spending the holiday with my extended family.

Christmas day began with Santa arriving on the starboard side of the ship to take passengers out on a zodiac cruise through about 12 nautical miles of ice packed around Elephant Island.  This was one of the best zodiac cruises I have ever been on.  The ice was just incredible.  After a few hours and few frozen toes later we returned to the ship for a Christmas BBQ on the stern deck.  And like any good BBQ on a bright sunny day, it quickly segued into a stern deck dance party.  A dance party being the perfect solution to getting blood flowing to those frozen toes and fingers.  We toasted the Antarctic just before setting sail for the Falkland Islands for the last adventures on this trip. 

Left: zodiac cruising through ice. Center: Crabeater seal. Right: Chinstrap penguin

So to answer the question, no, I do not miss Christmas—I am lucky enough to have three Christmases this year.  I had one very special celebration before I left and will celebrate with my family when I return on January 16.  In between those I had a wonderful, white Christmas with a fantastic group of friends aboard the Ioffe.  After all, how many people can say they had a BBQ dance party on a ship in the Antarctic for Christmas?

Christmas BBQ and dance party on the stern deck of the ship

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