Waking up in Antarctica

, ,
Rosanna Price

 Waking up in Antarctica

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

There were many moments but the highlight was definitely the night we spent on the ice. It was such a unique experience. I’ve never done anything like that before and I think I was a little bit nervous. When it was first floated that it was a possibility I thought we would be heading out with a sleeping bag and a tent. I imagined us sitting in the tent drinking hot chocolate. The next minute we got given a spade, told to walk up the hill, dig a hole and then tuck in our bivvy bag. I have gopro footage of me digging my hole in lots of real powdery snow, but I didn’t dig it deep enough because it was getting dark. Once you are in it, you just lie back and look at the stars. I woke up around 5am and the direction I was facing was perfect to see the sun rise. You could still see all the stars but the sun was this red glow coming up, and then all the colours started to change on the ice on the horizon, it was beautiful.

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

I was just really sad and I didn’t want to leave the ship. It was a whole surreal experience and I just want to do it all over again.

What was the most challenging part of the trip?

I got quite sick on the way back and it was challenging for me to call the doctor because I knew I was at risk of getting put in quarantine. In the end I was diagnosed with a chest infection and spent 24 hours away from the others. It was a spacious room though and I had an amazing view sleeping right next to the window.

I also know there was one time we were kayaking when we had the opportunity to paddle through an area between rocks. It was a bit like a washing machine with waves coming from everywhere. The instructor said that if we weren’t confident not to worry about doing it. I nearly didn’t go through, but the others did so I thought to myself “just do it”. It turned out to be fun and I even turned round and came back through it. It was quite thrilling.

Diary excerpt – March 12:

We have just explored an Antarctic volcano on Deception Island. This morning we paddled around the coast of the island, including through a choppy passage between a cliff and a high rock. The waves arose from all angles, making for such an exhilarating ride we did it twice. Humpback whales were spotted and playful seals followed our kayaks round the shore where we headed to the remnants of an abandoned whaling station in Whaler’s Bay. Seals everywhere!

What did you learn or discover about yourself

I learnt to trust myself a bit more and just have fun. But by the end of the trip I was really having a good time, rather than worrying about falling out of the kayak or hitting ice bergs.

Diary excerpt – March 7:

The weather has taken a turn – the waves have become bigger, wilder, crashing over the bow and sending the boat into a pendulum-like motion. On the top deck we have to be extremely careful. The winds can knock you over if you don’t hold onto the rails. We kitted up in our kayak gear today, in preparation for the adventure that awaits tomorrow. The prep consists of layering up our clothing, getting into a dry suit, pulling on a skirt which attaches to the kayak, securing our life-vest and practising entering the kayak. While all this was going on, it was snowing on the deck. Amazing.

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

I didn’t expect the ice to be so amazing. The scale of it and how important it is. I was looking forward to all the wild life and animals, and seeing the whales up close, but for me actually the ice was breath taking. I was surprised by the magnitude of it, and how amazing the icebergs looked, how blue they are. I wasn’t expecting the colour, nor the wonderful shapes and sizes to be so captivating.

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

This expedition has made be even more aware of how important Antarctica is for the world and our environment. It really hit home on this trip how important it is that we look after our environment and our oceans. On a personal level, this trip is one of the highlights of my life. It’s so different from watching documentaries or seeing things online to actually being there. It has really inspired me to keep exploring and keep pushing myself.

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

They will be about getting outside your bubble and outside your comfort zone, but also learning about your environment and learning about Antarctica and educating yourself.

You are travelling more than a century after the early Polar explorers who first visited the continent. How would you compare your experience with theirs, what would the similarities and differences be.

With modern technology and a vessel with all the comforts of home (showers, beds, hot meals), we travelled to Antarctica in relative luxury compared to the early polar explorers like Scott and Shackleton. I think the night on the ice may have been the closest experience to what they may have experienced in terms of discomfort (although definitely nowhere near the same degree), so I have a whole new level of respect for them. But I think the sense of wonder and amazement at this beautiful continent is inspiring no matter who you are, no matter when you visit Antarctica – whether a hundred years ago, today or a hundred years from now. I feel that just being there connected me to the great feats of these polar explorers.

Diary excerpt – March 11:

Today we stepped back in time by visiting Port Lockroy, a historic site maintained by Antarctic Heritage Trust’s sister Trust, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. We explored the station here, Base A, which was established in 1944. The facilities have been preserved right from the tins of food, to the Reader’s Digest catalogues, to the scientific equipment, as well as sleeping and living quarters. We mailed postcards to ourselves from Port Lockroy’s famous Penguin Post Office – they won’t make it back to us until November as the staff, (including AHT’s own Conservation Programme Manager Al Fastier), have left for the season. In the afternoon we kayaked around Argentinean base Almirante Brown Station, to Paradise Bay. The Bay is a stunning vista filled with tall mountains, glaciers, and brash ice on a still harbour. Mike, Mele and I chose to hike up a hill, to view the beauty from above.

What skills did you bring to the team, and how were you able to use those skills on this trip?

I wrote the daily updates back to the Trust. It was challenging because we couldn’t send images so I had to create word pictures to describe views and experiences that actually defied words. I feel like I got to know the team well and build a good rapport with everyone. Particularly it was important to hang out with Mele and Lana who I will be keeping in touch with over the next year as part of my mentoring outreach programme.

Any comments about the team itself?

I don’t think there is a better bunch of people I could have gone on the expedition with. We gelled so well together. Everyone was really encouraging of one another, and helpful and excited for each other. I really miss hanging out with the team.

Would you recommend others apply for future expeditions and why?

Yes, yes. Of course. You really grow as a person, you get to experience Antarctica and you make connections that will last a lifetime.

Do you have any advice for future expedition members?

Take a moment to put down your camera and just experience being there, and absorb it. Waking up in Antarctica – that is the moment that has really stayed in my mind. I wasn’t focused on getting out my phone at that moment. Just breathing and being there. I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.

You joined the group for the Polar Plunge – tell us about that ‘chilling’ experience

The polar plunge was epic. Although I wasn’t feeling well, I definitely forced myself to do it because how many people can say they went for a swim in Antarctica? Now I can!

The morning we were in Whalers Bay before we got ready to go kayaking, the guide said to wear our togs in case we wanted to go for a polar plunge. Then once we were on shore we stood on the edge of the water in a group waiting for the first person to make a move and start undressing. When I saw Georgie ditching the dry suit, I though “this is it”. Then we quickly stripped off and ran in. A passenger from Kazakhstan did it about three times. I managed about two strokes and then ran back out. It was so much fun. They had staff on the shore with towels and then they zoomed us back to the ship for hot chocolates, a plunge into the hot tub and then into some hot showers.