"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Antarctic Journals, Chapter Six

Getting It All Together

Not only did Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen out-fox British explorer Robert Falcon Scott, but with superior equipment, planning, and implementation of those plans, he beat Scott to the South Pole by several weeks.  That devastated Scott when he arrived at the pole after an arduous journey to find evidence of Amundsen’s feat.

Scott’s expedition was already in trouble, and he and his party perished on the way back to base camp.

News of Scott’s demise overwhelms Amundsen’s accomplishment.  Now, biding his time in England, Ernest Shackleton decides that the last great polar accomplishment would be to transverse the Antarctic continent.  He calls this expedition the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. 

His plan calls for two landing parties.

The red line is Shackleton's intended route to the Weddell sea and the aqua route is his plan to journey across the continent.  The pink line is for the additional supply ship which to to land on the Ross Ice Shelf and establish a line of supply caches (brown line) to the Beardmore Glacier.)

Shackleton.  The leather traces on his chest were to pull supply sledges.
Shackleton will sail south from South Georgia Island to the continent at the Weddell Sea.  Another ship will head south of New Zealand to McMurdo Sound at the Ross Ice Shelf.  That second group will travel inland, laying chaches of supplies at regular distances as far as the Beardmore Glacier.  Thus, when Shackleton and his party make their push, those caches will see them across the rest of the continent.

And this time, Shackleton decides, he will use dog teams, not Mongolian ponies, to haul the freight.  Even Amundsen says that Shackleton’s previous expedition would have been successful had he relied on sled dogs rather than ponies.

Now, Shackleton needs the right ship and he turns to Norway for that.   


A malevolent harridan named Sandy whacks the east coast of the United States as I fly down the west coast, across to Texas, and then southeast to Argentina.  Many of my fellow Vantage tour travelers are on the same flight from Texas, wearing their Vantage cards on a lanyard around their necks.

These ID cards not only introduce us to each other, they make us easily identifiable to the guides waiting at the airport in Buenos Aires.  We are corralled, loaded onto several buses, and eventually arrive at the Sheraton Buenos Aires Hotel and Convention Center.

The Sheraton hotel

There we join a number of travelers who had just returned from an optional four-day pre- trip extension to Iguassa Falls in Brazil.   And you’ll never guess who I found.

Vantage ID
Jim and Jan, the friends for whom I house-sit in Halibut Cove, decided to join this venture when I told them last winter that I was going, just letting them know I’d be unavailable during the month of November.  Who house sits when the house-sitter travels?  Well, Gerri the cat will spend four weeks with a friend of theirs—a nun on a silent retreat.   I cannot think of a better place for a silent retreat.

We new arrivals go through an organizational process, listen to an orientation, and are inordinately elated to learn our rooms are ready and we don’t have to wait until the usual 3 PM check-in.   Nap time, then a shower, and then we’re off to a steak house directly across from the hotel, recommended by Nacho, one of our “minders” for the trip.

As with all tour companies, Day One is the day you depart home (or wherever) for the flight to meet your fellow travelers and program managers from Vantage.  They aren’t called guides, but program managers.  “Guides” are the people hired locally to show you around their towns.

There are three program managers on this trip—Nacho, Pablo, and Patricio.  They call themselves the Three Gauchos.  Each is fluent in English, each is blessed with a keen sense of comedic timing, and each could also find success as stand-up comedians.

Las Nazrenas restaurant
Before we leave the Palm Room for our hotel rooms, Vantage has arranged something I’ve not found on any trip before.  For those who wish, they have prepared envelopes containing Argentine pesos, $50 US for $250 Argentine pesos.  It is the most thoughtful and convenient thing I have ever encountered on foreign trips.  For those who want more pesos, there is a currency exchange booth in the hotel lobby, though the Gauchos remind us we leave the city after tomorrow, and credit cards are accepted everywhere in Buenos Aires.

After naps and showers, Kathy and I cross the street to the restaurant recommended by Nacho—Las Nazarenas, where we find many Americans.  We decide to share a salad and when it arrives, find it’s large enough to satisfy a manatee.   (That’s a little in joke, from a floating feeding station where you can watch manatees feeding at a “manatee salad bar” in Homosassa Springs, Florida.)  We share our salad with two women who sit at the adjoining table, and there’s still a lot left.

One steak, and that isn't a small plate.

The grilled veggie plate.
The steaks are huge.  Grilled veggie plates are extravagant.  And the grill man?  No doubt from his profile that he is classic Argentine.

The grillmaster.

Back at the hotel, we go to bed.  It’s the end of Day Two.  Tomorrow we will take a panoramic tour of the city and be treated to dinner and a tango show.  The following day, Day Four, we are to board our ship and spend the following 19 days at sea.

I lie in bed thinking about the dozen or so still trying to find a way around the destruction Sandy has wrought so they can join us.


  1. Wow, so neat Jeanne! What a fabulous start to your adventure, I'm ready for a nap now. Irene

  2. Did the steak taste as good as it looks?

  3. How neat that your met up with your Halibut Cove friends.