Starting Our Hurtigruten Adventure In South America
“Life itself is a quotation.”
– Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)
Of all the books written on Antarctica’s most (in)famous explorers, few actually start at the beginning. Most fast-forward through the boring bits to get straight to the action: arrival in Antarctica.
My journey to Buenos Aires and Hurtigruten‘s FRAM in Ushuaia, while long by today’s standards, looks lightning-fast compared with the journeys of Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton. And a heck of a lot easier.
From Vancouver, I flew on American Airlines to Dallas, and connected on to my flight to Buenos Aires. The most work I did all day (other than writing, naturally) involved reading “The Madmen of Benghazi” by Gerard de Villiers and changing from Terminal C to Terminal D at Dallas-Fort Worth. I even scored the Economy Class Flier’s Jackpot: a window seat with no one next to me on the 10-hour Boeing 777-200 flight to Buenos Aires.
So while I was feeling very pleased with myself as I sipped red wine out of a plastic cup on the massive Boeing as it sailed along at 35,000 feet, the arduous journey I would have had to make a century ago to reach Antarctica was not lost on me.
For Scott and his compadres, just getting to the starting line was a journey that lasted for months. The expedition planned to set out for Antarctica from New Zealand as that was the closest point of departure to access the Ross Sea, near which their bases at Hut Point were located. Scott’s team, however, were all located in the United Kingdom. This wasn’t called the British Antarctic Expedition for nothing!
So, to reach New Zealand, the team set out from England on a journey across the Atlantic, around the horn, across the Drake Passage, and on to New Zealand. It was a voyage that lasted months.
Worse, this was no pleasure cruise; this was a real, working voyage where preparations were constantly being made to receive provisions, supplies, and other items for the years ahead on the ice. Even as the men sailed for Antarctica, Scott was tweaking the expedition, cajoling his sponsors into parting with more cash, and doing what we’d now term “media relations” for the Dailies back home.
There were no shuffleboard tournaments, no games of bingo, and definitely no bellyflop contests. The latter would have been particularly lost on the men aboard the Terra Nova: there weren’t any women around to impress anyway.
Bluntly put, the voyage is just not that sexy. That’s the reason no one writes about it. It’s long, boring, and ultimately depressing.
These days, things are much easier, though entering Argentina is a bit c