Mesmerised by the beauty of the stars

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Lana Kiddie-Vai

After a short break and some time to process her experience in Antarctica, we caught up with Inspiring Explorer Lana Kiddie-Vai to get her perspective on the expedition, find out the highlights of the trip and the big challenges she faced.

What was your favourite part of the trip?

That is such a hard question because really the whole trip was a highlight. Probably be when I went in the kayak by myself that was pretty cool. Didn’t think I would be able to do it by myself because when we were practising before we left, I tipped my kayak a lot and I was scared I was going to do that in Antarctica. Then the last day we were there Alex said he needed photos of us in single kayaks and that I needed to do it for a photo opportunity. At first I thought to myself, “Oh, what am I doing. Why did I agree to do this?” but then once I got in the water, it was like, “Wow, I’m actually OK.”

What went through your mind when you were arrived back in Ushuaia after 10 days aboard the Akademik Ioffe?

There was a lot going through my mind. I had just come back from a place not many people I know would ever have thought of going to. I was heading back home and thinking how I would explain this place to people. I wasn’t sure people would understand how I was feeling, or what my experience had been like. Antarctica is somewhere you actually have to go to for yourself to understand it.

Diary excerpt: We are on our way back to Ushuaia. It has been an amazing experience to be in Antarctica. This trip will forever be remembered. I am writing with a sea-sickness patch on and one of the side effects is blurry vision. Right now I can’t see ANYTHING without a blur.

What did it feel like for you to be in Antarctica?

Oh man. I was a huge mixture of emotions. I was amazed, but then I was scared at the same time. Even though I was there, I was still kind of scared of something unknown happening – even though I kept putting my hands in the water I wasn’t sure what was in there.

What do you think it felt like for the explorers of 100 years ago when they were discovering Antarctica?

I always thought about their gear and how they managed to survive with the type of gear they had versus what we have now. I always wondered how much our experiences may differ, but also how they were similar. They did not have the same food as us either or a nice heated ship to sleep in, so they had a more harsh Antarctic experience compared to us. Maybe the way I felt during the night out on the ice was how they felt most of the time.

What did you learn or discover about yourself?

I still have the same perspective on life that I had before I went but it has definitely widened my horizons for future plans. It’s definitely made me want to travel more and get out into the world.  And I won’t be scared in future, because I know that I’ve done something I was scared to do, but discovered that there was nothing to be afraid of. Career wise, it’s made me consider marine biology.

Diary excerpt: I also wonder how much I will grow while I’m away from here, or if I will at all?

What was the most challenging part of the trip?

The big challenge for me was talking to other people on the boat. There were a whole lot of other people who weren’t from New Zealand. I’m quite shy so I found it hard to introduce myself and start talking. I tried to start some conversations but I found it easier to wait for people to talk to me. Everyone was really friendly.

How was your overnight camping experience?

I was so cold and I couldn’t believe Nigel when he said he had the best sleep of his life. Really? Even though I got no sleep that night I so enjoyed looking at the stars and seeing the galaxy and being able to recognise the Milky Way made up for it. I got to see the sunrise.

Diary excerpt: Yesterday we camped on the ice with NO tent, just a sleeping bag, liner and a bivibag and thermomat. I was cold, so cold.  However I am so happy that I did it. I barely slept at all. On the bright side though the stars during the night were spectacular! I saw a few shooting stars, but I forgot to make wishes because I was so mesmerised by the beauty of the stars.

Starry night camping on the iceSiyan Wang

Starry night camping on the ice

When you go out and share your story, what will be the thing you want to share most?

A lot of people where I live don’t really like to explore. I think they are scared of doing that, me being one of them and going out on something like this expedition and telling them that’s it’s OK, you’ll be fine. You can do it. They will look and listen to people like Mele and me.

I’ll be telling them that, and also to look after the planet. We don’t look after our planet enough. There is a lot of rubbish everywhere.

Diary excerpt: I would have to say that Buenos Aires is actually a really nice city. It’s not as modern as Auckland. The road rules seem to be pretty chill too. I also like how the city is quiet during the day, but busy at night, it suits my type of body clock, haha.

When you talk to your friends about what you’ve seen, what do you share with them about the trip?

Before I went I thought icebergs were just big blocks of white ice in the ocean. But once I got there I was amazed how blue they were. Especially when there are mountains in the background. The mountains are white and the icebergs are so blue.

The temperature surprised me. I was expecting it to be freezing, freezing cold and I would have to wear all my layers but it was only cold depending on the wind. If it was windy, it was cold. If it wasn’t windy, it was pretty OK.

A comment about the team itself?

The team was amazing. I was able to talk to everyone. The experience has made me feel a little bit wiser.

What other messages will you be giving to audiences about the trip?

I will definitely keep going exploring. There is so much to see out there. In Antarctica I was excited by everything. I loved the whales. There were so many penguins and they smell – very bad.

Diary excerpt: Tomorrow is the last day in Antarctica. But today was awesome! I did so much reading in the museum today. So much information about the scientific research that has been done in Antarctic. The place we visited was called Port Lockroy. It was active from 1946 to the 1960s for scientific research by the British. It was some pretty interesting stuff.

Would you recommend others apply for future expeditions and why?

You should definitely apply. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and even if you are feeling scared about whether you will enjoy it or not, just go because you’ll find out the answer to that question. I was scared but now that I’ve been I’ve been asking myself, “What were you scared of? There was nothing to be afraid of.”

Diary excerpt: I slept through the morning call! It is the longest and best sleep I have ever had. It is now almost dinner. I am going to miss Antarctica but hey, at least I have one continent that I can check off my travel bucket list!

Lana Kiddie-Vai solo kayaking in AntarcticaAntarctic Heritage Trust

Lana Kiddie-Vai solo kayaking in Antarctica