Rocking it in Antarctica

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Caragh Doherty stepped outside her comfort zone - all the way to Antarctica!

Rocking it in Antarctica

After a short break and some time to process her experience in Antarctica, we caught up with Inspiring Explorer Caragh Doherty 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?

My favourite moment was when we were in Paradise Bay sitting in a kayak facing all the glaciers. It was 360 degrees being surrounded by ice that I felt so small, and so humbled by Mother Nature all around me. It was the most raw, beautiful pure moment of my life. It was amazing.

Dairy entry: Sunday 10th March 2019

After lunch we set out Kayaking.  What an amazing kayak it was.  We kayaked through so much brash ice. The noise it makes, the shapes of the ice, the way it bobs up and down in the ocean and the way it pops as it starts to melt in the ocean. We paddled quite far this afternoon and ended up in Paradise cove. A remarkable spot at Admiral Brown Base. We were almost surrounded by glaciers. They were shaped like dominoes and just looked amazing. Then you heard this thunderous crash and there would be a slide in the ice. Some would end up in the water, and a significant swell reached our kayaks. That was the moment when it struck me about how powerful Mother Nature is and is certainly not a force to be reckoned with. I felt very small compared to the massive ice, which we were surrounded by.

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

It was more what was happening to my body than my mind. It was rocking, and even we got onto land my body was still rocking. I was sad that we were finishing that chapter of our lives, and remember thinking “I hope we don’t just go back to our everyday lives, but that we keep the story going.” Although, I did have mixed emotions arriving back in Ushuaia, because while it meant saying goodbye to everyone, I was one step closer to getting home to my kids who I missed terribly.

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

I want to share the legacy of Antarctica. I want people to know how powerful Mother Nature is, and how untouched the planet can be. We’ve altered the planet so much in the society we live in. We have wrecked a lot of the environment and if we could just simplify things and preserve what things we have rather than get rid of parks and put up more buildings.

What was the most challenging part of the trip?

There were a couple. Definitely getting in and out of the kayaks, especially from the zodiacs. It was difficult enough on land, but add in the layers you are wearing, the ocean and the ice and the zodiac, and there were several made-for-YouTube moments, but I didn’t fall in so that was a good thing. The other challenge was the same but in reverse when we had to get back out of the kayak and into the zodiac.

What did you learn or discover about yourself

I learnt I can do anything. I can go anywhere, and mix and mingle with anyone. Before this trip I did underestimate my own ability and doubt my place in the world, but little ole Caragh from little ole Otara – we rocked it in Antarctica. Especially being older, I wondered how I would keep up, but it was fine.

Diary entry: Sunday 3 March 2019

So, what a busy few days we have had with soooo many first and new experiences for me. Talk about lost child at the airport, not even knowing how to check in. Lucky for Toni (Mele’s dad) guiding us through the process. It was so cute that the families and school family came to the airport. I said goodbye to my two boys at home and surprisingly I was ok (as were they). I was glad to be sitting with the girls (Mele and Lana so I could keep an eye on them and felt a sense of ‘normal’ to the very ‘un normal’ situation I was in. I feel a sense of protection and guardianship towards the girls and even more so – to their parents.  But at the same time I want then both to grow immensely on this trip.

What was something you experienced that was different to your expectations?

The other guests on the boat were worldly and well-travelled so I wasn’t sure what to expect of them or how I would fit in, but everyone was so relatable. The whole ship became one big family. We all sat at different tables at meal times and moved around to meet people so by the end of the trip we were all friends. It was a lesson for me not to judge, because my expectation was that they would be different, but everyone was amazing.

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

I want people to know that they shouldn’t settle for what’s in front of them. Whether it’s your lounge, your local park or your school, you need to push your boundaries and get out and explore. Step out of your comfort zone because you never know where it will take you. For us it took us to Antarctica, for other people who knows where it will take them. I will say don’t just settle for what is right in front of your eyes, but see what else is out there. I also want people to know that we need to look after our planet, because it is precious and we need to take better care of it.

Diary entry: Monday the 4th of March 2019

Sitting on the bow of the boat and just staring out to sea is my favourite way to pass the time on the Drake Passage. So far we have seen many lighthouses and a range of birds. There is a keen birdwatcher on the boat so I will make sure to learn what I can from him. Today I say a very elegant albatross playing chicken with our boat. It was pretty staunch but eventually retreated. In due course the sun set and I could no longer see anything so retreated back inside.

Any comments about the team itself?

I didn’t realise how much the team and all their little quirks meant to me until the night they went camping. I stayed on the boat and ended up writing in my diary about how much I missed them. I couldn’t believe I was more homesick for my boat family, than my real family! Marco was like a goofy little brother and Georgie was like my big sister, even though she is younger than me, and Leah was my little sister. Everyone was so comfortable with each other, we were just who we were.

Would you recommend others apply for future expeditions and why?

Of course you should. Grab any opportunities that come your way and never underestimate your ability or fitness levels. Don’t doubt yourself, just go for it.

Do you have any advice for future expedition members?

Make the most of every opportunity given to you. The trip is full of opportunities to make connections and to challenge yourself. You definitely need to live in the moment because you can’t take back the time if you miss it.  I didn’t want to go in the single kayak, but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t, so I went and I did it.

Diary entry: Sunday 3 March 2019

We survived Buenos Aires and headed out early in the morning to Ushuaia. How about it, I had two seats to myself. Went out to dinner and it was hands down the best BBQ lamb ever, and the biggest!!

Now that you have settled back in at home, what’s next?

Georgie inspired me when she talked about her experiences as a solo camper so the day I came back I went with my partner to find out about buying a tent so we can do family holidays that aren’t touristy things. We are going to go and look for DOC campsites and go and explore Mother Nature around New Zealand. We’ve camped before but always borrowed kit and gone to the popular places. Now we’re going to head out simply and without the mod cons and have an adventure. The kids are so excited.

Caragh explores Deception Island in AntarcticaAntarctic Heritage Trust/Leah Stewart

Caragh explores Deception Island in Antarctica