Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

March 13, 2012
Cruising through Icebergs

Tooele woman tells of her recent vacation to the bottom of the world 

During the winter many people find themselves looking for warmer places to vacation. They head to small communities in St. George and Arizona, take weekend trips to Southern California, or perhaps even enjoy extended vacations to tropical destinations. However, one Tooele resident has done quite the opposite. She instead traveled to a region where, even in the peak of the summer months, the temperature often only averages around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Since her retirement in 1998, Joyce Tate has continued to swim laps at the Pratt Aquatic Center, participate in the Tooele Master Gardener Association and take time to travel. At the end of January, she returned from a 21-day cruise to Antarctica.

“It wasn’t necessarily something on my bucket list,” Tate said. “But when [my friend] told me the cruises on the larger ships were going to be discontinued, we decided to act.”

Travel by larger cruise ships has recently been limited due to their environmental impact on the area. The Princess and Holland lines traveled to Antarctica, but recent regulation changes required that ships be docked, the fuel emptied, and tanks cleaned and refueled with a biodegradable fuel. The Holland line is the only cruise line currently willing to meet the requirements for the Antarctic tour package.

The only other option for travel to Antarctica is via much smaller boats.

“I can’t imagine traveling on one of the smaller boats,” Tate said. “We had 15- to 20-foot swells through the Drake Passage and even on a ship as large as ours, you could feel the rough water. We saw pictures showing a ship that had the front hull taken off as a result from the damage of the storms. It had to come into port. The waters are too rough.”

Inclement weather is not the only limiting factor of the smaller passenger boats. The price for taking a smaller ship is nearly three times as much as the cruise taken by Tate. Even so, the Antarctic cruise aboard the Holland was a fairly lavish expenditure.

“It was expensive. I paid on it all year. Some people make a house payment, some a car payment. I paid for a vacation,” Tate said.

After three days of traveling, Tate and her traveling companion landed in Santiago, Chile, where they toured the area. The following day they boarded the cruise ship.

“Often people think you have to travel to Australia [to get to Antarctica]. Few people realize how close the Antarctic Peninsula is to the southern tip of South America,” she said.

The first stop was at Puerto Montt in southern Chile where passengers were able to take a tour into the countryside to see the Petrohue Waterfall and river.

“The water comes from a lake, but shoots out through a chute before it tumbles into an amazing azure blue pool at the head of the river,” Tate said. “We got off the bus and it poured. We ran a half mile to the waterfall, snapped two or three pictures, and ran back. We were told they had been in a drought, but it rained and rained and rained.”

While in port at Puerto Montt, tourists were able to visit the old German village of Frutillar.

Tate said: “We went to a museum with a water-run gristmill and a home from the 1800s built entirely out of different types of wood from the area. It was stunning because of the varieties of wood inside and out. The walls were wood, the floors were wood and outside were the most beautiful gardens.”

The stop culminated with a tour of the city where Tate and her traveling companion were able to visit the artisan shops vending leatherwork, crocheted items, jewelry, carvings, paintings and food.

“We didn’t buy anything, only some empanadas from the bakery, but it was fun to window shop,” Tate said.

The weather followed them as they traveled to the Chilean Fjords, where mist and fog covered most of the views of the Amalia Glacier.

“It was fantastic, but they made such a big deal about the glacier,” Tate said. “I took 10 to 20 pictures, but after all the glaciers in Antarctica, I think I erased all but two of them. Of course if you didn’t get to go to Antarctica, I suppose it would be quite impressive.”

The precipitation continued until reaching the Strait of Magellan. Fear of a pending storm from the Pacific made it necessary to bypass Ushuaia and the Shetland Islands. Instead, the cruise ship went straight through the Arctic Sound and Glacier Alley.

“That gave us an extra day to see Antarctica,” Tate said. “At the Palmer Station (on Anvers Island) an ice pilot boarded to guide us.”

The detour allowed the tourists more time to see the peninsula, and the ice pilot led them past three bays the captain had never before traveled.

“The bays had icebergs floating in them and we passed the Chilean and Argentine science stations, but I don’t know if they were occupied,” Tate said.

After dropping the ice pilot and researchers back at the base, the travelers continued through Iceberg Alley as they headed for the Falkland Islands.

Tate was also able to see Elephant Island, which is home to elephant seals and was a refuge for Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew in 1916. Shackleton was an explorer whose intent it was to cross the continent of Antarctica. His ship, Endurance, became trapped in the ice and was eventually irreparably damaged. The crew abandoned ship and traveled via ice floes and life boats for more than a year before landing on the solid ground of Elephant Island. Shackleton was later knighted because despite grave odds, not one of his crew members perished.

“The captain said he’d never spent a more glorious day in the Antarctic,” Tate said. “He’d never seen the entire island because it was usually covered in clouds or by fog. We got to see everything.”

The next stop was the town of Stanley on the Falkland Islands. Prior to the construction of the Panama Canal, this town is where people stopped when passing through the cape.

“We had to tender in [to get to the islands],” Tate said. “We were offered a tour where you had to travel off road to go see some penguins. By that time we had seen penguins, and let me tell you, they are not an endangered species.”

Tate was able to walk around Stanley where she saw monuments and memorials and visited a museum tribute to the war of 1982.

“It (the war) lasted only a month,” Tate said. “Six hundred Argentines lost their lives and only 50 British [lost theirs].”

The final two stops were Puerto Madrin — a port recently opened where one can view penguin colonies — and Montevideo.

“It looks a lot like the view on the drive from here to Delta,” Tate said about Puerto Madrin. “Montevideo held personal interest for me. My grandson served a mission [for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] there so it was fun to see some of the places and things he had seen.”

Apart from the usual entertainment one expects on board a cruise ship, guest lecturers filled the time at sea by speaking about Antarctic explorers, their expeditions and past and present research. They also talked about how ice shelves — permanent floating sheets of ice connected to the land — are disappearing.

Though the tour officially ended 19 days later in Buenas Aires, Argentina, for Tate it culminated in the excursion package to Iguazu Falls. “Originally, I wasn’t really intrigued by the idea of going to Antarctica. What sold me on it was the extension to Iguazu Falls,” she said.

Iguazu Falls, located on the Iguazu River between Brazil and Argentina, ranks as one of the largest falls in the world.

“The falls were magnificent, gorgeous, immense and beautiful. We were told they weren’t as full as usual due to the drought, but I can’t imagine what a difference that would have made,” she said.

An open sided train took them through the park to see the main falls. Next, they went through the rain forest where they caught a jet boat that took them beneath the falls.

“At that point, even with our ponchos, we were so wet we couldn’t get any wetter,” Tate said. “The power from the water as we went beneath the falls made me feel like I was being driven into the boat. We were completely drenched.”

Another couple of days to travel home ended the 21-day trip. This voyage now places Tate as having traveled to all seven continents.

“The highlight of the trip was Antarctica. It was so majestic and so stark. The white is about as white as you’ll ever see,” she said. “For me [Antarctica] was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I was surprised the number of people that had been there previously, two, three, even four times.”

Tate said she still has a lot of places to explore. She’s going to Holland in April, Ireland in June and is considering a trip that follows the travels of the biblical apostle Paul.

“I had planned to travel with [my husband] and in 1998, for Christmas, bought him tickets for an Alaskan cruise. We found out in January that he had a brain tumor and he died in March. I thought about canceling, but [my friends] insisted that I go, so [my husband’s] sister went with me,” Tate said. “That is what kicked off traveling for me. Life throws these kinks at you and you end up changing your plans and your lifestyle. You wonder, ‘what’s going to happen?’ Are you going to just sit and let life pass you by or are you going to jump on board and go along with it? I made the decision that life’s going to go on and I’m going to make the best of it.”

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