North Florida Green Chamber Board Member Takes on Antarctica

By Emily Barrett

North Florida Green Chamber board member Simmie Raiford recently visited the inhabitable continent of Antarctica on a last-minute 10-day trip.

Raiford flew to Ushuaia Argentina from Orlando. She toured the town and viewed the Andes mountains in Ushuaia for a couple of days.

After that, she took a cruise to the South Shetland Islands where she got to stroll on snow-covered islands, and then the cruise continued to Antarctica where she not only got to view from afar but walk on the continent.

To get to land they had to use Zodiacs, they are the essential inflatable boats that ferry passengers away from the cruise liner on excursions. While they were going to shore, they had to dodge through icebergs of all shapes and sizes.

To get ashore they had to use ropes and ski poles and on land, they had to walk in a single file line marked by ropes. The ropes on the trail helped guide them because there were parts of the land that had holes covered by snow, so if you stepped on it you would sink in and get stuck; this did end up happening to Raiford and she had to have people pull her out of the snow.

While the normal hiking paths were amazing in themselves, they also offered a meditative path where you could sit down and take everything in. While she was hiking, she was able to see Gentoo penguins in their natural habitat but had to stay five meters away for respect to the wildlife.

The trip didn’t end there though, not only did she get to see this magnificent continent she learned about its history. She learned about explorers and scientists who have traveled there and the research they have done. Also, about how climate change is affecting the continent, what changes have been made and what changes will come about if warming does not stop soon.

They also learned about the wildlife there that mostly consists of penguins and seals. She said you could see the impacts of climate change with certain glaciers melting.

When going back to the boat Raiford and her cruise mates even took a tiny glacier back to the boat with them and used it as ice for their drinks. She realized it could have had bacteria after the fact, but it was the coolness factor that counts the most.

Back on the boat some of her crewmates did the polar plunge in the Southern Ocean.

Raiford highly recommends doing this trip and states that the photos she took do not do it justice. The best time to go is in December/ January because it’s summer for Antarctica.

(Emily Barrett is a communications intern with the North Florida Green Chamber.)

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