Dispatch: Voyage to the Bottom of the World -- The Explorer

Antarctica Dispatch series

Travel Weekly senior editor David Cogswell departed for Santiago, Chile, Jan. 3 to begin a two-week adventure to Antarctica and the Falkland Islands, sponsored by Abercrombie & Kent. He'll be transmitting on-site reports to Travel Weekly's New Jersey headquarters on a daily basis (weather and Internet access permitting).

Installed in my stateroom, my home for the next week and a half, I get to experience the cruise industry's much vaunted pleasure, that of only having to pack and unpack once. After traveling most of the vertical length of the Earth in the last couple of days, I'm ecstatic to be here and to get settled in for the trip.

My little cabin looks as friendly and comfy as anyone could wish for. There are two little beds, a desk, a couch just about big enough for two, a TV that plays music while it shows the position of the ship, the weather conditions, the time and various other bits of information. When I walked in the door, it was playing what sounded like Django Rheinhardt and Stephane Grapelli working out on Gershwins Fascinating Rhythm.

I've brought ginger and Dramamine, and pressure point bands on my wrists to help me brave the Drake Passage, which is said to be one of the roughest in the world, without too much motion sickness. As we approached Ushuaia Port, I felt my feet touch land for the last time in a while.

We toured around Tierra del Fuego today, which is the largest island in a 200-island archipelago. We drove south of Ushuaia to the southernmost point in the world that can be reached by a road, but there are settlements beyond that, our guide told us.

Soon after we boarded, the captain's voice came on the intercom, speaking with refined articulation and the genteel accent of aristocracy. After his greetings, he announced that we would be assembling on deck in five minutes for the mandatory safety drill. Since most of the passengers have seen the movie "Titanic," no one complained. At the drill we were shown how to put on our orange life jackets and were shown how to squeeze our noses and cover our mouths with one hand while we hold our life jackets with the other hand to keep them from riding up, then to step -- not jump -- into the water. As we are venturing into Antarctic waters, where man is will is dwarfed by the elements, these are not frivolous matters.

Now, we've embarked, and at 10 p.m. it's still light outside. At Ushuaia in the austral summer, it's daylight for about 17 hours. This daylight bias will increase as we head south to Antarctica. But first one more stop along the way: The Falkland Islands.

To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].


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