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Destination Antarctica: Heading Home

Destination Antarctica: Heading Home

[ November 20, 2009 - 5:54pm ]

Tabular iceberg near Half Moon Island, South Shetlands

With his last update from the Southern Hemisphere, Sam Bass signs out.

Yesterday I awoke to expedition leader Laurie Dexter’s Scottish lilt announcing through my in-cabin speaker that Cape Horn lay directly off the bow. I rushed to the deck, bleary-eyed, and got to see one of the most storied spots on earth—a place I’d heard about my entire life, and where nearly 30,000 sailors died. Fortunately, the sea was calm as can be and I was able to take in the moment peacefully. In fact, our entire recrossing of the Drake was about as placid as it gets. First mate Santiago said that a friend of his who had made hundreds of crossings and crossed around the same time we had reported that it was the calmest he’d seen it in nearly 10 years.

This morning, Laurie woke us up just as we pulled to the pier in Ushuaia, 12 days after we steamed East out of the Beagle Channel and headed south for Antartica. After a final breakfast on board and a lot of goodbyes, Colin Witherell and I walked the pier back to town, toting heavy packs loaded with undeveloped film for the Antarctica segment of next year’s Warren Miller film. I can’t believe he and Tom trust me to get these valuables back to Boulder safely.

Now I’m sitting in a café overlooking Ushuaia’s waterfront. In the distance I can see the Clipper Adventurer being readied for its next Antarctic voyage, an educational trip of 15-18 year olds. Out the window, I just saw our dear leader Doug Stoup crossing the street after exiting the pier. He was likely the last of the Ice Axe team to leave the ship, shaking everyone’s hand and bidding final farewells to his team of 70, participants in his dream of bringing a group of like-minded skiers to ski the Antarctic peninsula. He crossed the street, looking sunburned but satisfied, betraying nothing to the casual observer as to what he had just pulled off.

Beyond the busy pier and the smokestack of the Clipper Adventurer lay the snow-capped peaks of Isla Navarino, across the Beagle Channel, part of Chile. Beyond that is Isla Hornos, the island that forms Cape Horn. Beyond that is the most unforgiving stretch of water on the planet, and just beyond that, some great skiing. I’d like to go back and ski some more down there sometime, but right now I’m pretty excited to get home and hug my wife and kids.

Thanks for following along.  —Sam Bass

Sam Bass has just returned from an 18-day ski expedition to Antarctica. To read about his journey, check out photos, and see a video interview with Sam, go to

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