From the Field: Kayaking Antarctica

25 May


Just back from paddling at the bottom of the world, we asked the intrepid Jon Bowermaster to tell us about his trip. Stay tuned for the upcoming feature story.

The Explorer: New York-based ADVENTURE Contributing Editor Jon Bowermaster 

The Adventure: Five weeks sea kayaking the Antarctic Peninsula, the final of expedition of his OCEANS 8 project, a decade-long endeavor to explore the world’s oceans and coastlines. In January, the team went to Antarctica for an up-close look at how climate change is impacting this very rugged, fragile part of the world.

Most Exciting Moment: “We were at about 66 degrees south, past the Antarctic Circle, when we spotted a sizable iceberg with a beautiful sculpted arch when we decided to get closer for a look. By incredible coincidence, as we sat in our boats, the iceberg the arch began to collapse, ice block by ice block, dropping with a huge bang into the sea. As we watched the entire arch collapsed in front of our eyes, which none of us–-with more than 100 collected years in Antarctica-–had ever seen before.”

Most Underappreciated Piece of Gear: “Thermos. Nothing like a hot drink in the middle of a cold paddle to revive fingers, toes, energy, and psyche.”


Strangest Animal Encounter:”We paddled through the beautiful Lemaire Channel, known as “Kodak Channel” by many for its incredible picturesque qualities, and passed an ice floe bearing an 800-pound leopard seal. Initially we were cautious about paddling too close, knowing that it could split our kayaks in two with a single bite, but eventually we did get close enough to hear him snoring. At one point he lifted his head and stared us down, but with the knowledge that he was definitely at the top of the food chain … he went straight back to sleep.”

Favorite Expedition Meal: “The advantage of traveling in sea kayaks is that you can take lots of stuff. A memorable tent-side meal was spring vegetable soup, with rice and parmesan cheese accompanied by chorizo and pate. More typical, of course, was a handful of nuts and hunk of jerky.”

Best Way to Keep Warm: “Don’t change clothes. Despite the temptation after a long, cold paddle, it’s best to stay in your paddling gear while your tent is set up, camp is made, etc. That way you are left with one wet set of clothing and another that remains perfectly dry until you get into your tent and change. Though I don’t use them, several of my teammates are firm believers in hand and toe warmers, the kind you put inside gloves and shoes. Just make sure the expiration dates are still valid!”

Photographs, from top, by: Fiona Stewart; Sean Farrell

From the Field: Kayaking Antarctica


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