Over Christmas break, I had the opportunity to travel to the Antarctic Peninsula with the Canadian based organization called Students on Ice, whose purpose is to lead international students on educational expeditions to the Polar Regions. I was the sole midshipman traveling with a team of approximately 80 other students, polar scientists, researchers, explorers, and historians from around the world.
I participated in this program because of my interests in scientific research and maritime operations in the Polar Regions, as well as to gain multicultural scientific exposure. My experience was funded by the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation, whose goal is to provide students in their undergraduate careers with unique and influential educational opportunities.
I left on Christmas day and traveled to Ushuaia, Argentina, in Tierra del Fuego, the most southern city in the world, where I attended lectures and workshops and united with the expedition team.
We headed down the Beagle Channel and across the Drake Passage in the Argentinian research vessel, the M/V Ushuaia. The ship had an open bridge policy, so I had the chance to discuss Antarctic navigation and charting with the crew. I also had the opportunity to compare civilian maritime operations with those used in the military.
The first destination was Elephant Island, where Sir Earnest Shackleton's crew was stranded for four months during the 1914 Endurance expedition. Over the course of one week, I also visited Brown Bluff, the northernmost tip of the Antarctic continent; the Argentinian Research Station Esperanza; an abandoned whaling station at Deception Island; and a historic United Kingdom base, Port Lockroy. While at Deception Island, I had the chance to speak with Royal Navy officers aboard the ice patrol ship HMS Protector.
My days usually consisted of two Zodiac landings, with an interdisciplinary curriculum of lectures, workshops, and an introduction to field-based research. Research topic areas included oceanography, climatology, glaciology, and remote sensing. Some examples of specific research conducted included ice-cap GPS mapping, ice core sampling, marine biology studies, and CTD casting and analysis.
Overall, this expedition was both extremely informative and impactful. This trip gave me the opportunity to witness to both civilian and military maritime operations in the Polar Regions, as well as provided me exposure to a variety of academic disciplines. The perspective gained from this opportunity as well as the connections made with inspirational students and educators from around the world will be unforgettable.