Sunday, March 24, 2024

Antarctica 2024: The Adventure of a Lifetime

Most of the below is from the paper journal I kept while on the trip. The italics are addendums of things I thought to add while transposing this to a digital format. It's long and tedious and full of photos, but I make no apologies about including as much detail as possible as it truly was an adventure of lifetime. 

Days 1-2: Buenos Aires
Day 3: Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
Day 4: Buenos Aires to Ushuaia
Day 5-6: Drake Passage to Antarctica
Day 7: Antarctica 50K
Day 8: D'Hainaut Island and Primavera Base
Day 9: Portal Point and Gerlache Strait
Day 10: Damoy Point & Flandres Bay
Day 11: Culverville Island and Fournier Bay
Day 12-13: Drake Passage
Day 14: Ushuaia to Buenos Aires
Day 15: Buenos Aires to Atlanta

Day 1 - 3.5.2024

Cassy drove us to the airport and it was thankfully, a series of easy events to get to Buenos Aires. We got to drop our bags with no line, security was maybe 5 minutes, and we had dinner at Ecco. I had my now-traditional glass of prosecco and we shared a flatbread. It killed enough time that we only waited an hour or so at the gate. Once on the plane, I read a little of a book on my phone and then watched the new Hunger Games while having a dinner of gnocchi, grain salad, and a brownie. Within an hour of the movie ending, I took a Benadryl to knock myself out and slept okay for about 4 hours.

When I woke up, I listened to music for a little bit, read, and when it was finally light out, cross-stitched. Breakfast was a calzone and I was still hungry. This was basically a hot pocket and the only other food we got on a 10 hour flight.

Off the plane, the line for passport control took ~30 minutes, but I was just happy to not be sitting any more. Through the customs barrier, we were greeted by the race photographer, Kevin, who guided us to our group. There was a bit of time so we went to the restroom and then I grabbed an espresso and a piece of bread/cake from a shop.

We took a bus ride of about 45 minutes to get to the hotel. It was a clusterfuck upon arrival. An Oceania cruise group was leaving and all of our bus was trying to check in. Our room wasn't ready so we left our bags and went to wander. We went north first, up along a park and through some green spaces and then wandered next to the water with sailboats and yachts parked. 

Then we turned around and went to find a hamburger. It was more of a fast food place, but we were hungry and the food was good.

We still had time to kill so we went over to another green space with a beautiful rose garden. The sun and walking were tiring though so we then went back to the hotel until our room was ready. After a brief respite in the room, the tour continued with a group run. I wasn't expecting the place we ran - it was a gorgeous nature preserve with views of the water on the easternmost section. Jared & I ran with the group for the longer loop and then walked back to the hotel. 

After showers, we went and had an incredible dinner. The best one of the trip! Burratina, croquettes with vegetables, Malbec, mushroom pasta, and a scoop of ice cream with espresso. It was so good!

Day 2 - 3.6.2024

Wednesday, we woke up for a breakfast in the large ballroom and then got on a bus for a city tour. We went to the government buildings first where protests have been held over the years and got a bit of a history lesson. Then we went to the art neighborhood of La Boca. Lots of colorful buildings, art for sale, and places to eat and drink right in the street. We could have stayed there for hours. We ended up going back here on our last day as I didn't feel like I spent adequate time here. Then we drove north through the 2nd widest avenue in the world to get to the cemetery. It was a maze of mausoleums. A tiny city of them. The most famous one belonging to Eva Peron.

Back to the hotel we went and had to find lunch. We just so happened to end up at the same place Jen and Rhea stopped at. Lunch was slow and the food was just okay - I had a pizza and beer - but the company was great.

After lunch, Jared & I walked to the nature reserve so I could run and Jared could take photos of wildlife. My run felt awful. It was really warm, my belly was full of beer & pizza, and I was on day 3 of not getting great sleep. Oh well. 

After getting cleaned up, there was a mandatory group dinner. We had a cocktail hour in which we got our room assignments and confirmed our race distances. Dinner was okay, but of course not great with that many being served at the same time. The briefing had a few new facts, but it was really more of a way to get us all together in a room. I was tired when I finally got to bed and we had an early morning to go to Uruguay. 

Day 3 - 3.7.2024

Our ferry to Uruguay was early, but was a good walk to the port. We ended up meeting up with Jen & Rhea when we were there and rode over together which was fun. Once we got off the boat and through customs, we met up with our guide who ended up doing a private tour for me and Jared.

We went to the historical district first and learned all about the settlers in the early years. It was good to walk around and the weather was pleasant in the shade. Re: very warm in the sun. 

He took us to a bull fighting arena that was only operational for a few years before it became illegal in Uruguay. But they've modernized it and left 60% of the old building so it could remain a historical building. It's now used for concerts and other outdoor events.

I was hungry (notice a theme here) and asked if we could get something to eat. The guide took us to a steak restaurant and we had a great meal. After lingering for a bit, I asked if we could go find a gift shop. I wasn't sure I'd ever find myself in Uruguay again! Though I didn't want to get crazy with my packing, I did find a few magnets and pins, plus a pashmina.

He dropped us off at the ferry again and we ended up riding back with Jen and Rhea.

Then we headed back to the hotel. I wasn't super hungry so we went to a restaurant across the street so I could get a salad. It was just the right amount of dinner because I wanted to make sure I got gelato in Argentina! Luckily, we found a place not too far away. 

Then it was shower and pack and sleep for a 5am wake-up!

Day 4 - 3.8.2024

I finally slept pretty well, but the 5am wake up was rough. I really could have used 3 more hours of sleep. We had breakfast and then got on a charter bus to go to the domestic airport for our 3ish hour flight to Ushuaia. It was strange that they separated us from our cabin mate, but it was good to meet other people as well and I was seated next to Carl who is doing the Everest Marathon this May. He asked me for tips and tricks and it was fun sharing my trip with him. The flight was pretty uneventful which was good. 

We had less than 2 hours in Ushuaia once we got off the bus. After a little wandering, we settled on a lunch spot and it was really, really good. I had a veggie burger and fries. We then walked over to the tourist office for a tourist stamp and to a gas station for Gatorade. I then decided to grab some Oreos as the race nutrition thing is still in the air. 

I wasn't really clear on how we'd avoid plastic packaging for gels and what was okay. The information provided seemed conflicting. In the end, I used a soft flask and poured 4 Spring Energy Awesomesauce gels and 1 Salted Caramel GU and filled it with water. It actually was pretty tasty. I supplemented with 2 croissants from the dining room and a bunch of gummily candy. The Oreos just went on a 50k adventure.

We snapped a few more photos and then it was time to get on the bus to get on the boat. I realized I forgot to buy wine, but oh well, it is what it is. I definitely did not need to buy wine as it was included with lunch and dinner. And I only found this out because someone else mentioned it one of the first few days we were there. Perhaps I overlooked it in the communication, but this would have been nice to know!

On the ship, we received our expedition parkas and then headed to our room. There was a safety briefing with a lot more instructions than a usual cruise ship and a full drill with our life preservers. We had just a few minutes to then go relax before dinner. I was glad we were one of the first few people in the line as it got crowded quickly. I'm definitely tired and that early alarm was pretty early. But, we did do a little watching from the balcony when we got back simply because we are here. It was kind of a moody night because it's so cloudy, but it made for some cool photos.

Day 5 - 3.9.2024

We finally got to sleep in a bit today, but not after getting woken up by the Drake Passage in the night. The boat started rolling around midnight and both Jared & I woke up, laughing at how absurd the conditions were. We would later be told this was only a 3 out of 10 on the Drake Passage scale. I did manage to fall asleep again, but it did wake me up a few more times.

I felt okay at breakfast, but was feeling a bit woozy at the general briefing. It was warm in the room and I'm sure that didn't help the situation. Later, I'd realize it was the prescription strength motion sickness patch side effects that were making me feel so weird. Back in the room, I just wanted to lie down for a bit. My throat was sore and my mouth felt dry. There was a photography briefing at 11 and again, I started feeling meh. But having lunch seemed to help and by the time we went into the afternoon stuff, I was feeling better. Plus, it helped that the boat was rocking significantly less.

We got our bib numbers and trackers and then had stuff to decorate our water bottles. Luckily, we had a little time again before going to the Captain's party and intros to the Expedition team.

Dinner was a table service affair and we sat with Jaret and his wife Sarah. Somehow it feels odd that we are busy all day, but not really doing too much. I'm sure it'll all be different over the week though when doing excursions. And oh yeah, the race!

Day 6 - 3.10.2024

Luckily, the water stayed pretty calm the rest of the evening and into the morning. Once we started to get closer to land, we were able to spot wildlife for the first time - whales and penguins. The icebergs in the fog were really moody looking and we were able to get some amazing photographs. It was much easier to eat breakfast today and then we brought all of our outer gear down to be cleaned. This is to keep things like seeds from being introduced into Antarctica. We then took our shoes down to be cleaned thoroughly and to try on the boots for riding in the zodiacs.

After that, we had lunch and spent some time watching land getting closer. The ship was able to drop anchor around 2pm and our group was the first one to be able to go out on the zodiacs. Wow, wow, wow. There were so many gentoo penguins. Probably hundreds of them, all hanging out on an island nearby. They were playing, waddling, and swimming. I got some okay pics, but was really fun just watching them playing. The hour we were out went by way too fast and we had to head back to allow everyone a turn. Now it's time for our last briefing for tomorrow, a good dinner, and trying to stay calm before the race tomorrow.

Day 7 - 3.11.2024

Today was race day! We got up at 5am and went to breakfast after putting on our race clothes. I had a few pieces of fruit, a pastry, and some pancakes.

I took a few croissants for race fuel from the dining room.

Then it was back to the cabin to suit up to ride the zodiacs to shore. Waterproof pants and gloves, parka, beanie. Then we went to the mud room to put on the rubber boots and life preservers. It was light by the time we got on the boats, thankfully. Ashore, we took off our life preservers and then piled our boots on a tarp with our parka and drop bags. Luckily, we didn't have to wait too long to start. I wore shorts with tights over in case I got too warm, a short and long-sleeved wool shirt, and a rain jacket to start. The jacket only stayed on for a few miles.

At the start line, Jeff (president of Marathon Tours) had all the ultra runners stand at the start line. 

There were 10 of us running the 50k, 7 men and 3 women. Most people run the marathon distance and the marathon runners with slower seed times started with us at 7am. The half marathoners and full marathoners with faster seed times started at 8:30am.  
All of us counted down from 10 and then we were off. After doing nothing for a few days, my body felt like it had been jolted. Jared took off ahead and I stayed behind, letting my body literally and figuratively warm up. 

The course was muddy, hilly, and full of rocks. But, it was beautiful! There was so much more green than what I'd imagined and cool little lakes. We were able to run a longer stretch than in previous years which meant that we got to see more of the island. It was 2.2 miles to the Chinese base and then 2.2 miles to the Uruguay side. We did the loop 3 times total to each side, then one extra to the Chinese base, and a teeny stretch more to get the full 50k.

I was feeling pretty bonkish in the middle miles and had to slow down because I had no gas. I tried cramming food in and it helped some, but it was not a fluid second half. The scenery and being in Antarctica obviously was a huge boost throughout and even though my body was feeling trashed, I couldn't stop smiling.

To be here really is a dream come true.

It felt so crazy that it was finally happening. I made sure to take photos and really soak it all in. Around the marathon mark, I took the lead for good and had to really push myself to just stay steady in the last 5 miles. The woman who was leading much of the race took a bad fall in the upper double digits and really roughed up her shoulder. Incredible that she hopped right back up and finished the dang thing!

What a special feeling it was to not just be here, to finish it, but also win. I mean, there were only 3 other women in the field, but still pretty great. 

Jen, Rhea, & I celebrating after the race

Day 8 - 3.12.2024

We got to have a later breakfast and excursion start, but I was up before 6am any way because I fell asleep at 8:45pm the night before. I was very glad I woke up early though because the sunrise was spectacular. Somehow we got lucky that it was a really clear day and the water was so calm.

Our first excursion was in a cove of Trinity Island and we went ashore on D'Hainaut Island where were saw lots of gentoo penguins, a Weddell seal, and lots of whale bones from where early explorers used the island. An old boat was on shore, just a shell now in 2024. There was also a building, but we were not close enough to go inside.

We came back and watched the boat sail south while having lunch. Around 3pm, we landed, or rather anchored, near Primavera Base and were treated to a magical sunny afternoon in this beautiful cove area. Our zodiac was the first one out and so we were in charge of helping to spot wildlife. 

Each cabin was assigned one of four color groups for the duration of the trip and we alternated times going out for zodiac rides and landings based on our color group. Everyone got a chance to see everything if they wanted to, but when you left for the morning or afternoon was determined by your color group. 

Penguin island was full of chinstrap penguins and we even saw some leopard seals hovering in the water nearby. Because we were further south, the ice and icebergs became a lot more prevalent. As we headed back, we spotted a leopard seal lying on an iceberg and we were able to watch her roll around as the zodiac circled.

Back on the ship, we went to a lecture about penguins and their habits and all the nuances of each of the species among them. That lecture bled into the briefing and recap of the days and there were a few more science tidbits. One of the articles of the Antarctic Treaty includes visitors are provided education throughout their trip so that they can not only learn about the place they are visiting, but become ambassadors for this very special place on earth.

Everything was running a little behind so we got to dinner kind of late and then it was a seated dinner so it was close to 8:30 before we got back to the cabin. I called Adam (& Roger & the puppies) to give a recap of the day and then posted a two part highlight because there were so many photos and so much diversity.

Day 9 - 3.13.2024

This morning was an early start because we were hoping to see whales like we did at dinner last night. But it was a foggy morning so we just had a more leisurely breakfast. Today we finally step foot on the continent! This was important to me as I felt like I had now truly been to Antarctica. We landed zodiacs at Portal Point and lucked out that there were a ton of fur seals hanging out. This was the one place we could actually put things on the ground so it was fun to play in the snow and take photos with the fake finisher arch. 

On all other landings, we were instructed to not put anything on the ground except our feet and we were not to crouch down to take photos. This is to ensure that we try to not cross-contaminate when traveling between penguin colonies as something like avian flu could be easily transferred. After each landing, we had to scrub our boots and put them in a special solution to clean them.

Jen and Rhea ran their mile on the small loop at the top of the area that we were at along with a few other people who were getting their miles in. It was pretty fun to see everyone having such a good time. It is so much snowier here and actually snowed a bit overnight. There was a small accumulation on our deck rail when we got up this morning which added to the fact that we were definitely further south than before. 

We came back to the ship to have lunch and set sail to our next destination. Along the way, the sky started to lighten up and we were treated to patches of sun hitting the mountains on the continent. As we were cruising, we started seeing whales in groups of 2 & 3 in the calm waters. It was another magical afternoon. When we got to the bay, we took a zodiac out and saw humpbacks in multiple places. Jared got a bunch of great photos of the tails.

We were then taken to another island full of penguins and a great vantage point about 150' worth of a climb. It was sunny once we reached the top and it was a great vantage (word of the day?) point of the ship, bay, penguins, and all the scenery. 

Then, it was time to polar plunge. We all stripped down to our swimsuits and ran into the ocean. I could only go up to my neck before I came running back out. It was fun and crazy and I loved every chaotic moment of it.

Day 10 - 3.14.2024

Our kayak was cancelled this morning due to high winds in the Damoy Point area. It was high enough that they didn't even do the zodiac tours. We just did a shore landing which was pretty meat. The boats landed on a rocky outcrop and then we hiked up to a triangular area in which we could visit a hut, a viewpoint, and a colony of penguins.

Jared and I headed for the hut first which was a good choice because we were able to get a bunch of photos inside without anyone in them. It was cool to see al the old cans and boxes from years ago preserved in the tiny space.

This area was used as a place for planes to refuel between Ushuaia and bases further south back when planes could not go as far. 

We then headed for the penguin colony where we found they were pretty inactive on this blustery morning. It looked like they were all taking refuge from the wind. 

It then started to lighten up a bit as we approached the highest viewpoint and the sun started to peak out from behind the mountains. It was a great angle to see the bays on both sides, another ship, our ship, the hut, the mountains, and all the penguins.

After a choppy zodiac ride back, we went to a lecture about the history of the Antarctic treaty before setting sail to our next point. I was super sleepy during the lecture and after lunch, took a nap in the stateroom for about 30 minutes. Luckily, I felt better after I woke up and the next stopping point was 180 degrees different weather-wise from the morning.

In Flandres Bay, we were treated to a very calm afternoon and tons of leopard seals. The light was gorgeous and we were on the last boat ride of the day so it was great for taking photos. There were lots of cool icebergs in this area too and our guide was great at explaining all the different colors and textures and how they were formed. The seals were mostly just resting, but we did manage to catch a few with their heads popping up in the air and a couple swimming in the water. When we were about to disembark, we lucked out in getting watch one jumping around in the water by the boat.

Back aboard, we went to our daily debriefing in the lounge and then to dinner. Still exhausted, we ate and ran as we had showers and phone calls to make. 

Day 11 - 3.15.2024

The morning was cloudy and visibility was quite low, but the waters were calm enough for the kayaks so that meant that we could still go out on our zodiacs. The first excursion was our last landfall at Culverville Island, home to one of the largest populations of gentoo penguins. We went left on the island and unfortunately, this was not the happy side. There were birds fighting over a penguin carcass and another penguin who was clearly injured. Such is the circle of life I suppose.

The other side was much happier with plenty of curious chicks checking out any of the things not native to their environment. They were surround the staked flags and walking towards us - though we were doing our best to give them space.

We then hopped on a zodiac to go observe seals and icebergs. It started to get lighter out and the sun tried to poke through the clouds. This is where we saw the iceberg shaped like a dragon. There were many penguin colonies also spotted from the boat. Our guide find a few seals resting on icebergs and a couple on shore for us to observe and take photos.

Back on the ship we had lunch and a little downtime as we cruised to our next destination. Jared and I signed up for a kayak tour that was canceled earlier in the week and so we added our names to the very last tour. Well, I think that we had the best one of all because it was whale city in Fournier Bay. 

Humpbacks were quite literally everywhere. We hardly had to paddle to see them and they came so close to the kayak. One swam right underneath of us and was maybe about a foot away. It was huge. And terrifying, but amazing at the same time.

They were in groups of 2 & 3 and we could hear them quite easily in the calm waters of the bay. At one point, we were all paddling when one breached in front of us. It made a huge splash and we all felt our jaws drop as we'd just witnesses this unusual sight. 

Later on in the tour, our guide said, "let's keep going. This whale is boring," as it hung out at the surface. They were so prolific that day that we apparently didn't want to waste time watching one that was just logging, aka lying quietly at the surface. 

I couldn't believe our good luck on such a magnificent day. As we were were coming back on both the kayaks and zodiacs, it was crazy that we were stopped by whales.

Back on the ship, I took a chance to go get in the hot tub before it was closed and also to warm up. It was crazy to have the snow covered mountains with whales all around as a backdrop to the hot tubbing.

They did the awards reception out on the deck and recognized all the new members of the Seven Continents club, plus the top 3 male and females from each of the races. It still feels a little weird that I won, but to be fair, it was a super small field as most people did the marathon distance. 

After the ceremony, it was dinner time again and we put our motion sickness patches on as the seas starting churning pretty soon after we started moving again.

Day 12 - 3.16.2024

Unfortunately, we had to leave Antarctica and start making our way home. We could definitely feel the boat pitching as soon as we left the bay on Friday night. Saturday was spent eating, watching documentaries, attending lectures, more eating, watching movies, and more eating. I was thinking about hopping on the bike for 20 minutes, but the gym was closed due to passing the Drake.

I did go on a short walk on the ship deck, but I'm starting to get itchy to really move my body. It's hard to say if Ill be up for it when we get to Buenos Aires, but we'll see. I could just be super exhausted from it all and want to nap. It's going to be hard to back to the real world. 

This has been such a dream come true that I'm bracing myself for the inevitable blues that I expect to follow this grand adventure.

This is where I ended my written journal on the journey. The below is all I can remember from the final days of boats, planes, and automobiles.

Day 13 - 3.17.2024

As we headed towards the Beagle Channel on the final full day at sea, we basically experienced a repeat of the day before. Lots of eating, drinking, and relaxing. There was a briefing about how to disembark and then a really cool slideshow/movie that the ship's photographer had put together from our journey. I think we all enjoyed the trip down memory lane and it was pretty neat to see all the things we managed to do in just over a week!

At risk of cheating the sandman and a long day of travel the next day, I hung out with Jen and Rhea at karaoke for our final night of being on the boat. There was lots of wine and lots of laughs and I felt thoroughly wrung out the following morning, in the best way possible.

Day 14 - 3.18.2024

We disembarked the ship in the morning and had a few hours to kill in Ushuaia before boarding our plane to go back to Buenos Aires. Jared and I wandered around the town for awhile and the cold fresh air helped me feel like I was coming back to life from the night before. After we made a big loop, we decided to just go sit down at the convention center and relax before our bus came. Many of the shops were not open yet and we were feeling wobbly after a week on the ship.

At the airport, I bought a few Ushuaia souvenirs and we chatted with some of our new friends while we awaited the inevitable return to the heat and humidity of Buenos Aires. We had the same seat mates as the trip down and so I got to talk with Carl and Cathy again as we made our way north, recapping our adventures of the prior week. 

We were picked up by a charter bus at the airport and shuttled back to the same hotel as we had stayed before. Once again, it was a mess of checking in with everyone on the bus needing to get their room so we decided to just leave our bags and go grab dinner. Both of us were exhausted, but lucked out on a great pizza place nearby the hotel and somehow got inside about 10 minutes before it started pouring rain. By the time we finished dinner, it had slowed to a drizzle and we walked back to the hotel to find that we were the last ones to check in. But hey, no line to wait in!

Day 15 - 3.19.2024

I slept like a brick and decided I wanted to go for one last run in Buenos Aires when I woke up. Jared was still snoozing (or at least pretending) so I tried to be quiet. I had no real plan as I left the hotel for my route, but found myself along the river and ran a few loops before I was satisfied and tired. The humidity was brutal coming from the Antarctic and the only thing that kept me motivated was running in this place I might not have the chance to visit again.

After I got back, I showered and we went to breakfast in the hotel. It was super fancy and I took every opportunity I could to enjoy all of it. I wanted to go back to the La Boca district that we had visited on our city tour so I could buy some souvenirs and take some more photos. We took an Uber there and it cost a whopping $3.  

Apparently, we were pretty early and shopkeepers were just getting set up, but within an hour, the place was swarming with tourists. I wanted to buy a cowboy hat and went back to a vendor I saw the week prior who had them for sale. It was exactly what I wanted - leather and with a very small engraved label on the band that says Argentina.

Still having time to kill, I found a nearby museum for a local artist, Benito Quinquela Martín, that was both his home and featured his artwork along with other famous Argentinian artists. It ended up being a lot bigger than expected and was pretty cool as his living quarters were pretty intact and there was a spectacular view of the city on the rooftop. 

We then walked by the local football (or in America, soccer) stadium before catching an Uber back to the hotel. Because we had such a late flight, we decided to check out of the hotel as late as possible (2pm) and then leave our bags while we went to have lunch nearby. 

Jared spotted a sandwich place on one of our many walks and said he wanted to try it as our final lunch. I ordered a focaccia which I thought was going to be like a flatbread type thing, but it ended up being the biggest sandwich I've ever seen in my life and had a huge piece of burrata on it, which is one of my favorite things ever. I was in heaven.

We went a got very drippy scoops of gelato and headed back to the hotel to collect our bags so we could go to the airport. 

I thought I'd be able to find a really nice Messi jersey in the airport for my nephew and we walked the entire length of the dang thing before finally spotting one. We sat on the plane at the gate for nearly 2 hours because a thunder and lightening storm was rolling through and even after we took off, we could see lightening flash around us in the sky. Guess it was a good thing I got some more checked off my bucket list! But obviously you're reading this so you know the outcome was good.

Adam and Megan met us at the airport and I was so grateful for her, Frank, and Roger to help out at home with the dogs and Adam while I was away. Megan gave me these bracelets and she said, "you need one that says not just do epic shit, but doing epic shit. Because you're doing it!"

I'm thankful for Jared for being such a great travel partner and happy Cassy let me me borrow him for a couple of weeks. 

I feel so fortunate to be able to dream these dreams, make them happen, and have such a wonderful support system around me in my life.  



  1. Amazing. I read the whole thing, almost as good as being there. :-) Thank you for sharing your adventures with us! j.

  2. As usual,I read your blog In its its entirety and thoroughly enjoyed it. I very always wanted to Antartica. But you have done so I don't have to. Glad you got to race down there.

  3. What a fun read! What an amazing daughter!