The extended winter break offers students an excellent opportunity to spend time with loved ones to do a little bit of travelling. Jackson Sander ’19, a political science major and member of the ultimate frisbee team, made the most of his vacation and journeyed to Antarctica for a once-in-a-lifetime ski trip with his family. Below is an interview with Sanders on his incredible feat.
Q: Where exactly did you go this winter break?
A: I travelled to the Antarctic Peninsula first, flying to Buenos Aires, then a flight down south to the town of Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego where we boarded our cruise to sail around Cape Horn and cross the Drake Passage to Antarctica.
Q: Where did the inspiration for this trip come from?
A: A few years ago, my dad realized that we could potentially have the opportunity to become the first family to ski together on all seven continents. So, over the past few years, we travelled to Morocco, New Zealand and finally Antarctica. Skiing became a great excuse to see the world and learn about all of the many different cultures as well as witness first-hand the effect climate change is having globally.
Our feat may not be possible to accomplish in the near future as the Atlas Mountains in Morocco as well as Kilimanjaro and Africa as a whole receive less and less snow every year. We were incredibly lucky that it snowed in Morocco a week before we arrived, as the window is only a few weeks long each year. In New Zealand on the Tasman Glacier on Mount Cook, our guides there informed us that the scientists doing research a few weeks prior had discovered a river running deep beneath the glacier, which will exponentially increase the melting process.
In France, where we skied the famous Vallée Blanche glacier below Mount Blanc in Chamonix, where you once could ski all the way down to the train station that takes you back into town, you now have to walk up in ski boots about 20 flights of stairs built into the side of the valley, as well as take a short gondola ride just to get to the train station, because that is how far the glacier has melted.
Q: During your trip, where there any struggles or tight situations?
A: There was one nerve-wracking moment on our second day of skiing on an overcast day when we had reached the bottom and were waiting for the zodiac to pick us up and bring us back to the cruise.
The ice started to flow in as a result from the current and, seemingly, blocked all paths for a zodiac to reach us on the shore. The was a nearby unoccupied Chilean scientific research hut but it was located on a small island only yards away from the continent itself where we were. However, that would’ve meant needing to swim in polar temperature waters.
Our guide also kept an emergency tent in his pack. As we waited, we were able to have an unforgettable intimate experience with the wildlife as the penguins and petrels walked right up to us, which never happened when we were walking around the penguin colonies with the rest of the passengers on board on other days during the trip.
Finally, after an hour and a half, the ice cleared enough for the zodiac to zigzag its way through to shore.
Q: What was the most memorable moment?
When we skinned up to the top of a small island (there are no ski resorts in Antarctica) on the only blue sky day of the entire trip to ski down and we could see down into the bay where other members of our cruise were driving around on zodiacs watching humpback whales, seals and the ice calving off the glaciers, as well as seeing everyone wave to us on our way up.
Q: What did this trip mean to you and your family?
Overall, an unbelievable and a once-in-a-lifetime experience!