Monday, December 28, 2009

"The Luckiest People on Earth"

“In a few days time you’ll be among the luckiest people on earth,” said 38-year Antarctic veteran David Fletcher,former base station manager for the British Antarctic Survey. Fletcher’s was one of a series of classroom presentations here at the Hotel Del Glaciar, a combination ski/hiking/fishing lodge high on a hillside overlooking Ushuaia, Argentina.

Sixty-four students from throughout North America and parts of Europe and the Middle East are here tonight learning what Students on Ice ( calls “polar fundamentals” – a comprehensive curricula designed to prepare the group for Wednesday, the start of a two-day, 600-mi. crossing of the legendary Drake Passage en route to the Antarctic peninsula.

Fletcher tells the students, “What you’ll see in Antarctica you’ll remember and talk about the rest of your lives … you’ll be staggered by what you see.”

Indeed. The students are excited about viewing wild penguins for the first time. Fletcher continues, “Don’t give them a human face, they deserve more respect than that.”

But first, another day of classroom talks, get-acquainted exercises, and a hike to nearby Emerald Lake for a mountainside picnic.

The students and their 24 chaperones, myself included, are beginning to gel, becoming a cohesive second family focused on making the most of every minute down here.

Fletcher again: “Be sure to put your cameras down occasionally and let Antarctica enter your heart. Take the time to absorb the greatest place on earth.”

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