Where should we go on vacation this year? It was an innocent enough question, and one that we pondered at the beginning of every year. It had been a couple of years since our last big trip, which was to Belize in 1999, and we were in the mood for something new and remote. Checking our destination wish-list we saw Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia perched at the top, but with the two latter entries positioned on the under side of the world, we opted for Great Britain, which was at the top of the list after all, and besides, we didn't feel like spending nearly 24 hours in transit. It had been more than a decade since either of us had been to the UK, and we both had such fond memories that we knew this was the right choice for this year's vacation.
As the weeks and months passed we became very excited about our big vacation, and had already purchased guide books for Antarctica and some of the countries we'd pass through on the way. On the way down we'd pass through Chile and the Falklands, and on the way back we'd travel through Argentina. True, we'd only have a short time to spend in each of these locations, but we were determined to make the best of that time.
We weren't the only people making extra plans for the trip. Our fellow Audubon Society members who were also taking part in the trip made reservations for bird guides in Santiago and Buenos Aires for day trips into the country to see the native wild life in the hours between flights. We signed up to participate in these as well because we had no idea when the opportunity to travel in Chile or Argentina would come again.
The trip to Antarctica itself was conducted by Clipper Cruises, whom would take care of all of our flights and lodgings for the trip from and back to Miami. We would fly to the Falklands via Santiago, Chile, board a small ship for the cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula which would drop us off at Ushuaia, Argentina, from where we would fly up to Buenos Aires, and finally back to Miami.
Clipper Cruises conducted trips on end one after another throughout the season, and so the route and stops for the Antarctica portion of the trip were well defined and controlled. The accompanying map shows our itinerary, which will be available throughout the rest of the trip report.
The months before the trip passed in a blur as we prepared for our trip. In addition to the cold weather gear and other trip related paraphernalia we had to find (either in storage or purchased new), we had to prepare the ferret shelter for our trip. Most people, when they go on vacation, simply have a friend or relative over to take care of their pets while they're gone. Things are a little different with us: Elayne is the coordinator for the Cascade Ferret Network, and the central facility is in our house, which at the time housed around 50 ferrets. And then of course there were our pets (11 ferrets and 2 cats) which needed looking after as well. Obviously arranging care for all of these animals would require more than just asking a neighbor to peek in every now and then. We had to hire a full time live-in shelter worker and another part time worker to make sure every ferret received its proper care each day we were gone. In addition to the paid staff we also had a group of volunteers come in and assist where needed. We created a check list for each day we were gone which included every task required for every animal, and as you can see by looking at the shelter checklist and pet checklist for the first Sunday we were away, there was a lot of work to be done each day. We were fortunate to find such dedicated ferret enthusiasts willing to work while we were off having fun.
The day of our departure finally arrived, and even though our flight was delayed such that we would not arrive in Miami until after midnight, we were off on our grand adventure at last!
This trip report has been organized into chapters for a particular day, location or experience. Each chapter includes images and notes from that portion of our trip, and is followed by a gallery of related images. Clicking on any image in this report will reveal a larger (usually much larger) copy.