Flat Stanley: The ingenious little international phenomenon that encourages school children to expand their geography know-how and explore the world… arrived on my Missoula, Montana doorstep at the end of October, via US Post. He came compliments of my darling 6-year-old cousin, Evan, from Olive Branch, MS. The timing was perfect — I was only weeks away from departing on a two-week trip to Argentina and Antarctica. And while Stanley did not pack is parka, I insisted he join me on my Antarctica adventure. Below is Stanley’s first-hand report that he shared with Evan and Evan’s first-grade class.
My Antarctica Adventure – by Flat Stanley
Missoula to Ushuaia; four flights, and too-many hours I arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina. Ushuaia is also known as the “End of the World” as it is the southern-most city in the world. Before we set sail for Antarctica, we decided to take a little time exploring Tierra del Fuego National Park just outside of Ushuaia. We went on a nice hike, and inflatable canoe trip in the park. I saw a huge woodpecker during our hike, a Magellanic Woodpecker. Our guide told us it is the woodpecker that Woody Woodpecker was designed after (if you don’t know who Woody Wookpecker is, ask your parents).
Finally it was time to embark on our Antarctica adventure. Our ship, Lyubov Orlova, is named after a famous Russian actress. It took about two days crossing the rocky and rough Drake Passage, and finally it was time for our first onshore expedition. We took zodiacs (small inflatable boats that seat about 12 passengers) from the Orlova to shore. Our landing was on Aitcho (pronounced H.O.) Island. Here I saw four Weddell seals, an elephant seal, and hundreds of chinstrap and Gentoo penguins. Antarctica has five species of seals, and we saw two of them our very first day. The penguins are very noisy (and smelly). They are also very curious. Beth had one that tried to sit in her lap!
Next we visited Paradise Bay, which — along with many Gentoo penguins — is also home to Almirante Brown, an old Argentine research station. There are many different countries who have station in Antarctica including Chile, New Zealand, USA, Great Britain, and both India and China are looking at establishing stations as well. I went sledding on Paradise Bay during the day, and camped here during the night. It doesn’t really get dark during Antarctica’s summer months, so sleeping was a challenge. That, and the penguins decided to give us a wake-up call at about 3:30 in the morning.
The next afternoon, the ship was visited by a humpback whale. It came right up next to the zodiacs! Whales are divided into two main groups: toothed and baleen. The only toothed whales found in the Antarctic are the Orca and the Sperm whale, while a variety of baleen whales have been sited: Blue, Fin, Humpback, Minke, and Southern Right. There were a group of travelers who went sea kayaking during our trip, and they also saw a humpback and her calf! The sea kayakers also came across a leopard seal and watched an iceberg break in two!
We also visited Port Lockroy and Jougla Point. Port Lockroy is a British station — it also has a post office. I sent a handful of post cards; delivery typically takes about 2 months. How’s that for snail mail! Gentoo penguins have built their nests right outside of the station. One of our expedition leaders pointed out that he saw a penguin with three eggs (typically they lay about 1 or 2 per season). This is very rare and I feel very luck to have seen it. At Port Lockroy I also saw an huge elephant seal, and at Jougla Point I saw three more Weddell seals.
And I can’t mention my Antarctica trip without talking about the icebergs. We spent many afternoons taking the zodiacs out through a maze of icebergs and to the giant ice cliffs along the continent. The ice is a brilliant blue — in fact, the thicker the ice the bluer it is. I watched an iceberg calve; it made an incredible cracking noise as it fell into the water. And then slowly, it created great waves on shore. One afternoon, we took the zodiac through a place called the “iceberg graveyard.” This is a particular location that is known to have a lot of icebergs of varying shapes and sizes in one confined location. The currents from the nearby Ross Sea bring in, and then trap, the icebergs into this area. It was beautiful — like being on another planet.
On our last day in Antarctica, we when to Deception Island to take the legendary Polar Plunge. The water Deception Island is sometimes heated by an underground volcano — but there was nothing warm about the water that afternoon! But we were brave and did the polar plunge anyway! It was as freezing as it was fun. I brought home a certificate declaring I am an official penguin polar plunger!
It was a great trip, and I cannot wait to see where my next adventure will take me.