Where it All Began: Antarctica
When my friend Dan persuaded me to go to Antarctica last summer, little did I know it was going to change my life. “Samantha. ANTARCTICA.” “Dan, I hardly know where Antarctica IS, or how to even get there. Plus, I have to make an album! I can’t go to the bottom of the earth!"
”Trust me, it’ll change your life,” he said. So I did. And it did.
Flash forward 3 months, I found myself sitting on a plane headed south to Buenos Aires. I’d never been to South America before- all these years of being a US-based musician had kept me primarily in the States, seeing only the inside of venues and hotel rooms. Instead of a guitar case, which had served as my traveling companion for so long, I now carried a backpack full of snow gear and SmartWool. I was part-terrified (my Spanish is horrible) and part-baffled (in all seriousness, who goes to Antarctica? Couldn't I have started with, well, Alaska?)
My new group of American friends and I reached Ushuaia, the "southernmost city in the world," and boarded the M/S Expedition, a no-frills Baltic cruiser ship that looked ready for business. To get to the Antarctic peninsula, you need to first cross the preposterous Drake Passage- home of the Westerly winds, 8 meter swells and 20-degree ship tilts. The roughest waters on the planet.
There was no time for games. I was catching air in my bunk at night, and the crew could have passed for the gravity-defying acrobats in Cirque Du Soleil (the ones who can balance on one finger). And to think we were this insignificant vessel of metal barreling through the freezing ocean tundra, hundreds of miles from anything, was nothing short of otherwordly.
Once we crossed the Antarctic convergence, the temperature dropped 5 degrees almost instantly, the sea calmed, and icebergs that could have passed for Frank Lloyd Wright dwellings floated by.
Summertime in Antarctica meant 24/7 daylight, so we were able to see the magnificent albatross, mother & calf whales, and Weddell seals languidly lounging on ice floats like spring break in Vegas. And of course, those busy little firecrackers called penguins that marched to the beat of their own drum. I was utterly in love. Never had I been engulfed in such a place where inhospitable terrain and wildlife truly governed people. Never had I been in such a place.
I was beginning to feel a change inside me. I met groups of Europeans who possessed a different mindset from my American counterparts. I met a funny German photographer who showed me how to shoot a proper photo. I sat for hours alone on the upper deck of the ship and felt my lips turn blue. I could tell this was the beginning of a journey.
Dan was right, it had changed my life. I had been duly yanked out of my comfort zone and am now planning to travel in 2012. Where? Not sure yet. I'm starting off in South America. I'm meeting up with a few people from the ship, including my new German friends. I'm going to keep my ears open and my heart, even moreso. For what better way to enrich the very thing that I thought was keeping me from traveling before, music?
Funny how life gives you penguins sometimes...
(written in December, 2011)
Photos: Scott Sovill, Mandy McEntire