Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lowa Boots Sponsors Colorado Book Talks, Feb. 1-3

LOWA Boots presents Jeff Blumenfeld’s talk, “You Want to Go Where?” based upon his new book You Want to Go Where?: How to Get Someone to Pay for the Trip of Your Dreams. Three Colorado presentations will cover some of the world’s most historic expeditions and adventures with an eye towards how the audience can gain funding for their own travels. The talks will all be held at 7:00 p.m., February 1 at REI in Lakewood, February 2 at the Boulder Library and February 3 at the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum in Golden.

Blumenfeld will explain how with the right idea and proper advance preparation, it is possible to raise thousands of dollars in cash and outdoor gear and apparel for worthy expeditions. He emphasizes that companies do not exist to pay for vacations. However, with the right motive for the trip and the ability to negotiate quid pro quo sponsorships, it is possible to generate cash or in-kind (gear) support. His talk will be illustrated with over 40 photographs taken all over the world and with testimonials from the likes of the following adventurers:

• Norman Vaughan - climbed Antarctic mountain named after himself

• Will Steger - first confirmed dog sled trek to the North Pole

• Reid Stowe - currently engaged in his quest to be at sea for 1,000 days

• Mike Haugen - climbed tallest U.S. peaks in record time

• Paul Schurke – dogsled expedition across the Bering Strait

• Barbara Hillary - went to the North Pole; now wants to go to the South at 77

• Andre Tolme – adventure golf? Yes indeed. He hit a golf ball across Mongolia

Jeff Blumenfeld is editor of Expedition News, a 16-year-old monthly newsletter that covers the adventure marketing world. A resident of New Canaan, Conn., he is a member of The Explorers Club, the American Alpine Club, and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Monday, January 11, 2010

EN TRAVELS TO ANTARCTICA - Jan. 8 final blog

Editor's note: Satellite transmission from the Antarctica peninsula became cranky last week, preventing timely transmission of these blogs. They are posted in their entirety below.

To see a selection of images, log onto:

Friday, Jan. 8, 2010

Better Living Through Chemistry – I write in praise of scopolamine - the wonder drug. Were it not for the little patch behind my ear these past two days, I'm afraid I would have been incapacitated by seasickness. "Talking to Ralph on the big white phone" - not a pretty picture. Pity the poor explorers of yesteryear who had to transit the same passage between South America and Antarctica without this handy little pharmaceutical.

Seasoned hands aboard ship say the Drake Passage behaved itself on the return trip. Hard to believe. Our little 276-ft. ship rolled incessantly yesterday. Where are those stabilizers I read in the brochure? The sea completely fills the picture windows in the lounge one minute, then as the ship rolls, the scene changes to blank sky. Staircases fall away from your feet as you go below. "One hand for you, one hand for the ship," was the mantra continuously drilled into us.

Remaining prone in my tiny cabin has been the best medicine. I've been sleeping great during the passage, no doubt thanks to the patch. The sun streams in through a single porthole, except for a brief twilight period from midnight to 3 a.m. When visiting Antarctica during its summer, don't underestimate the value of a good sleep mask.

We're making great time - approximately 13 knots across the passage. Out in the distance is the fabled Cape Horn, the tip of South America. Tonight we'll hang on an anchor in the placid Beagle Channel for a final dinner with the Captain. Meanwhile, the group is broken up into workshops focused on art, media relations, sponsorship fund-raising, journal writing, and music. Fred Roots, our resident scientist/genius is about to give a lecture on the Antarctic treaty that ensures protection of the entire continent.

Landing in Ushuaia is planned for Saturday morning. It will be a time for shopping and a visit to a national park. There's not much to buy in town other than t-shirts, stuffed penguins, pins and coffee mugs - many imprinted with "Fin du monde." Indeed, it feels like we've been to the end of the world, but now the real world beckons. Solid land beneath our feet will feel good after living on the good ship "Ushuaia" for these past nine days.


Monday, Jan. 4, 2010

A View From the Bridge – The best view of the Antarctic peninsula this week is from the bridge of the M/V Ushuaia. The captain has an open bridge policy, which both students and chaperones alike have frequently taken advantage of during the trip.

In the evening, after dinner, students gather along the 180-degree picture windows equipped with stools, binoculars and plastic laminated wildlife identification cards. There's even a row of plastic toy whales, the better to identify the humpbacks, minke, and fin whales we see spouting within close proximity of the ship.Suddenly, someone shouts "blow hole" and a half-dozen binoculars sweep the starboard horizon.

As classical music plays softly and the bridge is cast in the glow of red lights, the captain sits monitoring the autopilot, occasionally using a pair of binoculars to visually plot a course through the ice field. From the Palmer coast to Livingston Island, just off the continent of Antarctica, the visibility is an astounding 38 miles.

The green radar screen is dotted with hundreds of blips. There are icebergs shaped like aircraft carriers, giant mesas big enough to land a small plane, icebergs that look like ski jumps, skyscrapers, and scenes from Doctor Seuss.Some have small colonies of penguins - are they gentoos? adelies? Hard to tell. Others are occupied by a resident crabeater, Weddell, elephant seal, or sea lion.

Antarctica is nothing like the photos.It's so much more. It's the cleanest air one can possibly breathe. It's the boom of a glacier calving in the distance. It's the incessant braying of penguins when we come ashore, penguins that have no fear of humans and will approach within four or five feet, giving us all the once over.

There's an absence of green here, of course, but it doesn't matter with the whitest whites and the bluest blues you've ever seen. We're a self-contained community of about 90 people at least a two-day sail from civilization, one focused on giving the future environmental leaders on board the tools they need to keep Antarctica just the way it is.

Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2010

FOMO – "Fear of Missing Out" - From a pod of three humpback whales on the port side side of the ship, and two to starboard, to sightings of elephant seals, cape petrels, and minke whales, you can hardly take a moment to eat, sleep or shower, otherwise you might miss yet another spectacular sight here along the Antarctic peninsula.

Leave your camera in your room and you might miss a massive arched iceberg, bigger than the ship itself, about to crack apart with a thunderous roar.

Or as happened today, roll over before our eyes. Each day seems to top the previous one as the group dons heavy rubber boots, ski jackets, pants, and gloves, and ventures to shore in Zodiacs under bright skies and temperatures ranging from 30 to 50 degrees F.

Yesterday we visited Port Lockroy, a restored British research stattion now staffed by four hardy women who run a museum, gift shop and post office. Fifteen thousand tourists are expected to visit this austral summer.

They study the impact of humans on breeding gentoo penguins. There are penguins everywhere, some within a few feet of the main entranceway. Seems the gentoos do better on the inhabited side of the island than the remote and off-limit uninhabited side. The humans tend to scare off the skuas, a predatory sea bird that feeds on penguin chicks.

Today after observing nesting gentoos penguins on Pleneau Island, we cruised in Zodes through an iceberg-choked lagoon, awed by the white and turquoise colors, the porpoising penguins, and the mountainous Antarctic peninsula in the background. The students in my Zode got to kiss an iceberg as we slowed to examine it closely.

Next stop was the Vernadskiy station, the Ukrainian research station that marks our southernmost point on the trip, about 100 miles north of the Antarctic circle. The all male staff greeted us warmly and gave us a tour, including their bar and recreation room with its collection of donated bras, periodically added to by visitors.

We're headed north now, back to Ushuaia 700 miles away, for arrival on Saturday.The sun shines brightly until midnight, then sets until sunrise three hours later. I better log off now lest I miss something.

EN TRAVELS TO ANTARCTICA - Dec. 31, Jan. 1 blog

Editor's note: Satellite transmission from the Antarctica peninsula became cranky last week, preventing timely transmission of these blogs. They are posted in their entirety in the following blogs.

December 31, 2009

DRAKE CAKE – We lucked out today, our first day on the water en route to the Antarctica peninsula. The feared "Drake Shake" never materialized. Sure, a few students were feeling queasy. As for myself, the scopolmine patch behind my left ear made me a bit spacey and so dog-tired I couldn't keep my eyes open. But by mid-day today, the waters calmed down and the passage between South America and Antarctica was a piece of cake, a Drake cake, if you will.

At 276-ft. long, the M/V Ushuaia is the perfect no-frills ship for this student expedition. In its former life, the ship was a research ship for NOAA. No hot tubs, no laundry, no midnight buffet, and no cute towel figures on our beds at night. There's a well-worn lounge, a bar for the adults, a 70-seat dining room and a conference room that seats 70 where we received a safety lecture, and learned about Antarctic ice and geology from experts in their fields.

The birdlife is starting to pick up as we near Antarctica. Outside the lounge of the M/V Ushuaia , we spotted wandering albatross, some whale spouts, and more varieties of petrels than you can image.

I'm in a starboard bunk room a few floors down with another chaperone, Stephane, from Belgium. There's a bunk bed, a private bath, and a small vertical closet with eight hangers. There's a non-working electric heater strapped onto the top of a non-working radiator. Spartan to say the least.

Today is a special day, the final day of the decade. Our New Year's Eve celebration included dancing on the top deck, skits by each group of students assembled in eight "pods," and a toast featuring fruit juice in champagne glasses. Expedition leader Geoff Green, the good sport that he is, came out as the 2010 baby. One pod group wrote and performed an original composition about seasickness, with Remy on guitar, and Janet, a barrister from the U.K., playing along on her clarinet. Best refrain: "We've got the churning and burning Drake passage seasick blues."

Tomorrow promises to be our most exciting day yet as we sight Antarctica, man the Zodiacs, and try to get in close enough to land. Many of us are students of Sir Ernest Shackleton and are looking forward to seeing Elephant island from a distance, especially Point Wild, the exact spot where 22 of Shackleton's crew were marooned for four months as Sir Ernest went for help in an open boat called the "James Caird." Even today, Elephant island is one of the least-visited landing sites on the peninsula.

But first, we'll need lecture on how to ride the Zodiacs safely and learn the international rules for visiting penguin and sea colonies. Although there is an expensive satellite phone on board and e-mail is available for $3 per minute, we are essentially cut off from the rest of the world as we plan to make this isolated continent at the bottom of the world our temporary home.

Note: bandwidth on the ship is too small to handle photos. Log onto the Students on Ice Web site to view images of our student and chaperone team (, and a collection of student-written blogs.

Friday, Jan. 1, 2010

Happy New Year – "If you're not getting seasick across the Drake, you're kinda getting ripped off," said Students on Ice expedition leader Geoff Green before we threw off the dock lines in Ushuaia. That may be the case, but the final leg of our crossing to Antarctica today was smooth as silk.

So here we are, New Year's Day and our ship sits quietly off Point Wild, Elephant island. We're here all alone, there's not another ship within miles of our location.

Last night, we all toasted in the New Year with fruit juice in champagne glasses. It wasn't until curfew and the students went to bed that the adults began their celebration with slightly stronger refreshments. We were invited to the crew's party deep within the bowels of the ship, in a secret area behind the conference room. The small, windowless room was a tight fit as about 25 of us danced to a thrumming salsa beat. One crew member dressed as Batman, another as a TV set (god bless him), and a woman was dancing with angel wings. The claustrophobic space reminded me of what a party on a submarine must be like. Raise your hands during a particularly energetic dance move and you could palm the ceiling.

Shortly after arriving at Elephant island, waves of students set off in Zodiacs driven by experienced staff members. The Zodes cruised past penguin colonies and the exact spot where Sir Ernest Shackleton left his crew as he sought help 800 miles away. There wasn't enough room for us to land, but we could clearly see the Chilean monument erected to honor Capt. Luis Pardo Villalon, master of the "Yelchor, "the ship Shackleton used to rescue his entire 22 man team without a single loss of life. What's up with that? No memorial to Shack? What is he? chopped liver?

It's humbling to view this barren strip of rock and sand and imagine the hardships Shackleton's men faced for four months as they awaited rescue by eating little more than penguins and seal, of which there were plenty.

The scenery here is truly spectacular. We motored past blue-white icebergs as big as apartment buildings. At the head of the bay is a receding glacier that calves blocks of ice and snow, some huge, others small "bergy bits."

The wildlife is astounding. There are penguins everywhere, sitting above us on cliffs, penguins looking like miniature restaurant waiters, penguins leaping through the water in search of krill, and penguins waddling who knows where across snow and ice fields strung together by penguin "highways."

Earlier today we saw fin whales spouting, an occasional seal, and plenty of sea birds including skua ready to steal penguin eggs the minute a nesting penguin lets down its guard.

Today also included a safety lecture that included a review of the Antarctica Code of Conduct:

There are no bathrooms. Go before you hit the Zodiacs.
Picking up even a pebble is forbidden.
We're told not to approach any animals closer than 15 feet.

Geoff warns: "Never hold, never even pet a penguin. Besides, picking one up is like holding a rugby ball that bites and poops on you."

Seasick or not (and only a handful were), in just one day we certainly received our money's worth. We have another seven days to go; I can only imagine what experiences we'll all share in the coming week as we make a temporary home here, the only continent on earth devoted to science and peace.