The 7th Continent: A Shopkeeper's Story

The 7th Continent: A Shopkeeper's Story

Travelling to Antarctica

In February 2020, I seized an exciting opportunity to manage the Polar Boutique Gift Shop onboard the Ocean Adventurer for a nine day voyage. Stepping away from my 9:00am to 5:00pm "office job routine" would begin with two days travelling from my home in Toronto, Canada, to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

My flight was 5.5 hours to a stopover in Panama. There wasn't enough time to explore the city, so I enjoyed some empanadas and local craft bear while I waited for my connecting flight. After making my way further South, I spent one day in Buenos Aires checking out 19th century architecture, enjoying long walks in the sun, and of course, finishing up with some local cuisine. If crunched for time, some popular locations include walking along the waterfront, Puente de la Mujer, Plaza de Mayo, and Calle Florida. My hotel was located in the city center which made getting around very straight forward, either on foot or by taxi.*Most restaurants and taxis accepted major credit cards and/or USD.

The next morning, still stiff from the walking, I quickly grabbed breakfast-takeout from the hotel and made my way to Aeroparque Internacional Jorge Newbery, which was a 15 minute drive from the hotel. Check-in was speedy so I proceeded to my gate where I had a second breakfast (because why not!) and waited for the charter flight to Ushuaia, Argentina. 

After landing in Ushuaia I took an inexpensive taxi to the hotel. Exhaustion setting in, I took a much needed nap before visiting the breathtaking resort town. There was much to see in very little time including restaurants and bars, graffiti art, historical sites, and mountainside trails.

Next up: gathering the adventurers and setting sail!

Crossing the Treacherous Drake

The team gathered, our fellow passengers boarded, and away we went! I caught wind that the Drake's Passage can cause seasickness depending on the sea conditions and an individuals susceptibility to the motion. Lucky for me, the conditions were "the calmest since season startup" and we were in for a smooth ride.

The following morning I woke with moderate nausea, which was a quick indication that I had taken my sea sickness medicine too late. Let's just say that despite the optimistic conditions, I was far from acclimatized to being at sea. The ever persistent nausea resulted in a several naps throughout the day and an absolute necessity to walk the upper decks for fresh air. Tip of the day: take your sea sickness medicine before you experience symptoms. 

The Shop is Now Open!

Throughout our second day at sea the shop was setup and restocked before our first Zodiac cruise. The excitement shared between fellow travelers was absolutely contagious as everyone geared up for our first excursion and footsteps on the continent. The skies were clear, the sun was beaming, and an unprecedented 18C (64F) blessed us with a wonderful summer-like day.

For the rest of the voyage the shop remained open in the morning before our first cruise/landing, in the afternoon before dinner, as well as after dinner before evening bar talks and programs.*Shop hours will vary depending on the voyage, weather conditions, and programming. 

In the shop, you will find:

  • Waterproof pants, gloves, and bags
  • Layering pieces including baselayers, midlayers, and socks
  • Hats, headbands, and neckwarmers
  • Souvenirs including t-shirts, sweaters, keychains, patches, and more...

Since temperatures are regulated onboard I wore comfortable trousers paired with a long-sleeved merino and warm sweater. When leaving the ship, it was important to wear layers that could be easily removed as temperatures fluctuated. This included my regular underwear, a baselayer top and bottom (think "Long Johns"), warm fleece pants and a fleece sweater, while accessorizing with a neck gaiter, hat, and waterproof gloves which were critical at higher Zodiac cruise speeds. I brought a 25L dry bag filled with lip balm, sunscreen, and a power bank for my camera.

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The next seven days involved role rotations including gangway operations, site landings, zodiac cruising (as a passenger), and hikes with our fellow shipmates. These activities allowed everyone to get to know one another and kept us engaged from the moment we woke up to the second our heads hit the pillow. During our journey we witnessed more wildlife than I could have dreamed of including various species of whales, penguins, sea birds and seals.

Still reflecting on this trip even months later, I've come to realize how it has revitalized my sense of adventure. I long to explore our world and can't wait to see where life takes me next! Antarctica, you were spectacular sand I can’t wait to see you again.

Until next time,