Homeward Bound women are on their way to Ushuaia, our jumping off point to Antarctica, from all over the world. Can’t wait to finally meet one another here in Argentina, and board the ship in two days!
Torres del Paine National Park was a relaxing way to decompress from work and the long journey getting ready and travelling to South America. I was starting to feel acclimatised after the heat and humidity of summer at home (too hot to try on any merino layers before i left!!) and getting used to living out of backpacks and wearing lots more clothes than usual. My next plan was to take a sea journey from the mainland of South America to Tierra del Fuego, to join the ship in Ushuaia.
From Punta Arenas I took a ferry west through the Straits of Magellan, then out into the Pacific Ocean and south to duck back into protected waters in glacial fiords that eventually connect up with the Beagle Channel Holly’s HB update #13 (see next update for a map of our voyage). We saw heaps of whales, including orcas and minkes. After 2 days of motoring through Tierra del Fuego, we landed in Puerto Williams, which is across the Beagle Channel from Ushuaia. Puerto Williams is in Chile, and Ushuaia is in Argentina. They are such different towns, Puerto Williams has about 400 residents and nothing much happens there. The shops are closed most of the time, and it is cold and windy. A very good place to catch up on Homeward Bound homework, sitting by the fire in my hostal, which is inhabited by Chileans who work in Puerto Williams and rent rooms here.
In between study sessions by the fire, I took walks around town, and to the yacht harbour to drool at the sailboats rigged heavily for the Southern Ocean.
Torres del Paine National Park is one of the world’s beauty spots, but has challenging weather. Picture crawling over a mountain pass on your hands and knees, with your backpack flapping around as the wind tries to separate you from the ground.
This trip was not like that at all! It was sunny, not too windy and hardly rained at all.
I attribute this good fortune with the weather to my mum, Kay North. She has always been a good weather fairy on our adventures together – on mountain walks in Nepal, New Zealand, Tasmania, Alaska, the Rocky Mountains, Oaxaca and Chiapas in Mexico, and others.
On this trip, since real Kay is indisposed but still keen not to miss out on Patagonia and Antarctica, Kay Penguin is accompanying me and seems to be imbued with real Kay’s superpowers with the weather.
I started my journey to Antarctica with two weeks in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego to mentally and physically prepare myself before joining the ship in Ushuaia, Argentina. First I spent a couple of days organising my south american adventure, buying various bus tickets and a ferry passage in Punta Arenas.
Punta Arenas has a great stand of old growth Monkey Puzzle trees (Araucaria araucana) in the town cemetery. Recently people have started using bonsai versions of these Araucarias as feature plants in their front yards in Punta Arenas. They look stunning, and remind me of home, because the community I live on is called Araucaria. It is a reminder of the ancient Gondwanan connection between Australia, South America and Antarctica.
30 November 2016
Here are some ways to follow our voyage in Antarctica … our ship is called the “Ushuaia”, it sails under the Comoros flag, and its vessel numbers are IMO 6901907 and MMSI 616836006 . There are a few websites which track ships, such as vesselfinder.com (find the vessel’s name and select “track on map”) and an app i am using called Marine Traffic. This app shows our ship is currently near Yelcho Island on the Antarctic Peninsula. I met a Canadian couple in Punta Arenas a couple of weeks ago, and somehow we worked out that we are going to Antarctica on the same ship at different times! They are on the MV Ushuaia right now for a 7-day trip, returning to Ushuaia the morning of our departure!
Message from the organisers: With #3daystogo, all roads lead to Ushuaia! Sadly, we can’t all be on the #HomewardBound16 Antarctic voyage, but we can all be part of the journey. We’ll soon announce some more exciting ways for everyone to play a role in the movement. To never miss a moment, subscribe on our website for voyage updates, participant news and blogs, including today’s story from Fabian on what it’s like to turn a dream into a global movement. #staytuned #homewardbound #HBblog
You can now subscribe to updates about the voyage from the organisers. There is a link to subscribe on the home page of the HB website.
Read Homeward Bound Founder Fabian Dattner’s blog on the eve of our departure …
When a Dream Becomes a Reality
15 November 2016
Woohoo! I’m in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean on a plane between Sydney and Santiago. I spent some precious time with my loved one the week before I left, as we won’t see each other til after Christmas. My Penguin mum is with me in my pocket, Kay Penguin.
16 November 2016
Now I’m in Punta Arenas, Chile. I got here in just one long day from Brisbane. I’ve spent the day buying bus and ferry tickets and organising a place to store my gear while I go trekking in Torres del Paine National Park for a few days. It’s freezing cold here with a bitter westerly wind which cuts through many layers of clothing. A bit of a change from the 30 degrees Celsius and high humidity when I left home.
Today I received our Workbook for the Antarctica journey from the Homeward Bound team via Dropbox. It is about 200 pages long and was custom made by the Homeward Bound organisers. This huge amount of work they have put into us participants makes me feel loved, all warm and fuzzy inside, and kind of special.
Last week, I visited the Coorabell Public School which overlooks Byron Bay from Coolamon Scenic Ridge – quite a spectacular setting. I had the pleasure of speaking to around 60 students from kindy to year 6, plus teachers and a few parents, at their weekly assembly last Friday.
I showed some pics, talked about some of the wide variety of things we do as National Park Rangers, and passed some bits and pieces from my fire kit around. I spoke about being selected to participate in an exciting women in science trip to Antarctica, where we would be learning about climate change, leadership and strategy to turn scientists into leaders to help create a more sustainable future for the planet.
I talked about connections – between Byron Bay and Antarctica- such as the humpback whales which journey each year from their feeding grounds in Antarctica past Byron to breed in the warm waters of the Barrier Reef and further north, and come back to the Bay in spring, often stopping for a few days here to rest and suckle their calves on the long journey back to Antarctica. I talked about the connections between koala habitat in Byron Shire and our Homeward Bound journey, because we are seeking funding for koala tree plantings to help offset the carbon emissions of our trip. And I mentioned the physical connection between Australia and Antarctica when they were connected over 80 million years ago, when the Byron Bay area was near the South Pole before Australia began drifting north. Heady stuff for primary school!!
I invited the teachers to send me questions their students might have for us to answer on board the ship. I said I would love to come back to the school next year and show some photos of where we went and what we did and saw. I also got an invite from one of the parents to give a talk at Byron Bay High School next year, which is exciting!
Thank you for supporting me on this journey. Whether it is a financial contribution or moral support or trust and excitement for those of us about to launch into the unknown … or all of the above, I thank you for being here. I hope you will be amply rewarded with stories from the field!!