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Our Antarctic Journey: A Canadian Couple’s Trek to the 7th Continent

5 min read

Canadians have a bit of an advantage when preparing for an Antarctic journey, given that an active lifestyle during the typical Canadian winter requires much of the same gear you'll want to bring to the 7th continent. Soft, breathable merino wool base layers and waterproof outers are a must, while fleece layers add comfort and warmth. Canadians are so prepared for this! So are their brethren from the northern United States, northern Europe and other cold-weather regions.

Even so, it's perfectly normal to have some worries and even anxiety about packing and preparing for Antarctic expeditions. You're venturing far from home, and for many, a healthy fear of the unknown may be what triggers those “Oh no, I'm sure I'm forgetting something” moments.

Karren & John Morrison-Antarctic journey.jpg

Photo credit: John and Karen Morrison

Here, Canadian couple John and Karen Morrison share how they prepared for their own Antarctic journey so they could have the adventure of a lifetime.

Packing for Antarctic Expeditions

For the most part, the Morrisons found that packing and preparing was more exciting than challenging. They were inspired to plan an Antarctic expedition after hearing about their son Jake's experiences visiting both the Arctic and Antarctica. Once their decision was made, it was time to get ready to go!

John and Karen took advantage and talked with a Polar Travel Adviser to make sure that all of the must-haves for Antarctica were accounted for.

“We didn't need a great winter jacket because that was supplied,” John says. “We didn't need boots – those were supplied, as well. We got a simple rundown of everything we would want to purchase before we left, if we didn't already have it.”

Karen also recommends checking in with your airline to make sure you understand the baggage policies and are keeping within weight restrictions, to avoid any surprises once you get to the airport.

Setting Out on an Antarctic Adventure via Buenos Aires

“I enjoy flying, which is good since it was a long flight,” John says. He and Karen traveled from Toronto to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they transferred from one airport to another.

While it is possible to find flights from North America or Europe that route directly through Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, it's far more likely that you'll fly into one airport in Buenos Aires and depart from another. This is because Ministro Pistarini International Airport, better known as Ezeiza International Airport (EZE), is an international hub 14 miles (22 km) south-southwest of downtown Buenos Aires, with many daily flights to and from major world cities.


Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires

Although also an international airport, Jorge Newbery Airfield, or AEP, is just 1.2 miles (2 km) from the city center and is the main hub for domestic flights. If you book a flight through Buenos Aires, leave at least 6 hours between flights so you have enough time to navigate from one airport to the other if necessary. Road traffic can be quite heavy at times, and you'll still have to clear airport security.

When you hail a cab, look for the Radio Taxi logo – it's your safest bet, as the company registers its drivers and every ride. You'll know a taxi is available when the Libre sign in the upper left-hand corner of the windshield is lit. The alternatives are remis, which are private unmarked taxis, or private luxury car services that can cost upwards of US$200 (at the time of writing) for an airport-to-airport transfer.

As for John and Karen, they quite enjoyed their trip across Buenos Aires. “We got to see the city and the unbelievable traffic that they go through. I enjoyed it – it was fun!” John says.

Arriving in Ushuaia

“Ushuaia itself gives you a nice introduction to what you might be in for in Antarctica, because it's so mountainous and cold,” Karen says. The couple enjoyed their time there and were surprised to learn about the origins of the world's southernmost city. ushuaia_Argentina.jpg

“We found out that it was actually a prison town!” says John, chuckling. Staying near the harbor in downtown Ushuaia for a night before embarking gave him and Karen an opportunity to explore the city and its rich history.

“It was similar to Australia and how Europe used to send their worst of the worst criminals there,” John says. “The Americas would send their worst people down to Ushuaia, where they had a prison surrounded by mountains and ocean. There's no escaping, that's for sure!”

John and Karen managed their own “escape” the next morning to board the Ocean Diamond and traverse the famous Drake Passage.

Crossing the Drake Passage

Antarctic Expedition-Photo credit: John and Karen Morrison.jpg

Photo credit: John and Karen Morrison

“The Ocean Diamond was outstanding,” Karen says. “Meeting other passengers was really interesting. We met travelers from all walks of life and everywhere in the world, and from every age group, as well!”

“People aren't there to just sit back and relax and laze on a beach,” John adds. “They're really interesting people, the ones who are up for this exciting kind of trip.”

John and Karen also enjoyed spending time with the expedition staff. “We met people who have lived in the Arctic and those who've wintered in Antarctica, all sharing and talking about their experiences,” says John. “Historians explained to us what the explorers went through a hundred years ago, and we also heard from a geologist, marine biologists and bird experts.”

Karen says they brought a couple of card and dice games that they ended up playing with other people, and they each spent time in the polar library. “You don't have to bring your own reading material,” John says. “Whether it's the history of Antarctica, or fish, wildlife, birds or whatever you're interested in, there are books on all of it there.”

Gentoo Penguins-Photo credit: John and Karen Morrison.jpg

Photo credit: John and Karen Morrison

While Karen did experience some seasickness crossing the Drake, John was in his glory. “Sometimes you could go out on the deck and just get sprayed with it. Or you could sit inside and watch these massive waves roll by, right over the portholes,” he says.

As with all Antarctic adventures, you have to be open to whatever might happen, the couple agree.

“Now, a friend of mine went on the same trip at a different time, and he said it was calm the entire time,” John says. “So there's no guarantee that you are going have rough water and no guarantee that you are going to have calm water. You know, you get whatever happens.”

That's the real joy and magic of an Antarctic voyage, where the only sure thing is that you can expect the unexpected! You can still have that wondrous discovery experience explorers have sought for hundreds of years, but it's now easier and faster than ever to get there.

Ready to learn more about how you can plan an Antarctic adventure of your own? Download the new Quark brochure for more information!

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