Inside Antarctica – Glacial Glissading

Nate Small January 2, 2014 0

A Christmas hike in Antarctica © Nate Small

It is always a unique experience having Christmas on Antarctica.  Some people travel to Antarctica to escape the Christmas bustle, some are traveling with family to celebrate Christmas in a special way, and some are traveling to experience their first white Christmas.  Regardless of the reasons behind their travel, it always turns out to be a very special trip.

The Antarctic Peninsula rises up out of the sea so sharply that most of the landings an Antarctica cruise can do here are on smaller islands that have been leveled off by glaciers long ago.  The opportunities we do get for landings on the continent often come along with a steep, snowy slope that we try to take full advantage of.  This Christmas, we had such an opportunity.  Sliding, aka “glissading,” is something that most people have outgrown, but in Antarctica, anything goes.  I mean, come on…Shackleton did it!

Nat Hab travelers glissading in Antarctica, © Sara Higgins

Thankfully, it’s not quite the same nowadays as Frank Worsley’s description of the Shackleton expedition’s descent in South Georgia in his 1998 book, “Shackleton’s Boat Journey”:

“In the darkness it was impossible to see whether the slope steepened to a precipice or eased out on to the level that seemed so dim and far below…I was never more scared in my life than for the first thirty seconds.  The speed was terrific.  I think we all gasped at that hair-raising shoot into darkness.  Then, to our joy, the slope curved out, and we shot into a bank of soft snow.  We estimated we had shot down a mile in two or three minutes…”

© Nate Small

Our slopes aren’t quite as steep, nor as long, nor as life threatening…but they are equally as fun.  The experience of sliding and bumping your way down the slopes is a special Christmas gift our passengers will never forget.  Well…that and maybe a few bruises.

 

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