Wherever you start your journey, a trip to the end of the Earth is never an easy one. Ushuaia, Argentina markets itself as the ‘end of the world’ – and given how long it takes to get here, you feel like you’ve traveled the Earth over. But this is just the launching point for what I think will feel like a trip to another planet.
I’ve spent the past week in Ushuaia. For part of that, I was sitting around at a cozy AirBnB with a bedroom view over the Beagle Channel. I watched the sky change from blue and grey as it spits hail or rain – to shades I associate with summer: peach and vermillion. Each day the sun circles to the north, then lights up the southern horizon in a slim line of pink during each short night.
Sunrise over the Beagle Channel
After more than a year of anticipation, the clock is ticking down. On New Year’s Eve I set sail for Antarctica from Ushuaia, Argentina with 80+ women from around the world! Over the past year, we’ve gotten to know each other – through video conferencing, lengthy Facebook threads, and a few in-person meet-ups. We’ve shared stories about our lives, our passions, and our hopes for this world. We’ve been prompted to delve deep into our own stories – the stories we tell ourselves about what we can do, and what’s holding us back. And we’ve been exploring questions about our role in this world – a world that has been tumbling through what is clearly becoming the largest mass extinction in 65 million years.
Map of Antarctica (credit: NASA)
The village of Dingle at sunset
I wanted to go to Dingle in 1992. I spent two months in Ireland, and mentioned it in my journal at least four or five times. Dingle, in 1992, didn’t quite have the reputation as a tourist destination that it does now – but I wanted to see the end of the Dingle Peninsula and look out across the Atlantic. I had ridden to the southern side of the peninsula, to Inch Beach. But that was the extent of my travel. Every day that we hoped to go, it rained, or something else came up. Continue reading
A photo from the first Homeward Bound voyage in 2016. (Photo Credit: HB1)
In 50 days I set sail with Homeward Bound for Antarctica.
This is the culmination of my year-long professional development journey with 80 other women scientists from around the world. In the past 10 months, through discussions, reading, self-reflection, we’ve explored what it to be a woman in science, what leadership means, and what does it take to compel others to take action on climate change. We don’t always have the answers. But we have enthusiasm – and a growing conviction that there are solutions.
I followed a mossy, fern-lined forest trail that wound around a bend, and I stumbled upon this little place. It felt like something I’d find in a fairy-tale and I was surprised not to see fresh-baked scones cooling in the window. But this place has been closed up for awhile. I think it used to be the visitor’s center for Connemara National Park in western Ireland. Now, a white-washed, newer, larger visitor’s center sits a five-minute walk through the forest and up a steep hill.
I love any landscape that takes me far away from suburban sprawl. I long to see stark, lonely mountains beneath wide-open skies and I want to ramble through dense green forests in search of fairy-rings. That is what you find in the heart of Connemara. Only an hour or so from the city of Galway, this part of Ireland feels rugged and remote, but makes for easy day trips. Decades ago, this was the first place I visited in Ireland, on a college summer break, and I was eager to see it again, through wiser eyes – and with the freedom of a rental car (rather than a bicycle).
We brought all of our rain gear. Jackets, pants, boots. A cover for my backpack. Those super-tough zip-lock bags for protecting odds and ends in case you get stuck in a deluge. The last thing I really expected when our flight landed at Shannon Airport on the 4th of July in the southwest of Ireland was sunshine and warm weather. That’s not the image of Ireland I had preserved in my memory.
Coming from Colorado, we were hoping for some cooler, wetter weather. Certainly, it was cooler, 75 F, not 95 F. From the moment I stepped off onto the tarmac (because Shannon airport is one of those places where you still have to walk across the tarmac) I could feel that coastal dampness that seeps into my pores every time I get near a body of water. My Colorado skin is like a dry sponge – greedy for moisture wherever it can find it. But the blue sky was a surprise.
Twisted limestone pavement of the Burren, in County Clare, western Ireland.
I was recently reminded how bears can turn ordinary people into a frantic band of smart-phone wielding paparazzi. Why are people so fascinated by bears? We imagine them as vicious killers (just google ‘Stephen Colbert’ and ‘bears’, and your will be reminded of how he often joked about them as ‘Godless killing machines’), but I think we also find them cute and cuddly. A bear with cubs at Yellowstone National Park will back up traffic for miles, as we discovered on a recent trip to the park.
Nature paparazzi, after the perfect shot of a small black bear along the side of the road.
People will leave their cars in the middle of the road, emergency lights flashing, tripods and cameras in hand, and RUN to a better view point. While people tend to keep the required distance of 100 yards from the bear, I think the road gives them a false sense of security. Surely, a bear won’t cross a road, will she?