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Views and hues and shades of blue

 
Views and hues and shades of blue
COURTESY — La Vernia High School senior Logan Parker aims to visit all the world’s continents by the time she’s 21. In December, she checked Antarctica off her list.

What do you think of when you think of Antarctica -- cold? Snow? Vast whiteness? During the dead of winter, would you go there instead of some warm, tropical clime?

Logan Parker, an 18-year-old La Vernia High School senior, chose to visit Antarctica during her Christmas break. On her own.

Why not somewhere warm? Her family has traveled since she was quite young. On a visit to the Cayman Islands, the travel bug bit her, and Logan made up her mind to visit all seven continents by the time she is 21.

She teamed up with the People To People Student Ambassador program, founded in 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower, to visit Costa Rica and Australia. (See “Student travel” for more.) As a veteran with the group, she got to select her next destination, and chose Antarctica, a trip coordinated by “Students on Ice.” Logan was on the waiting list for a year and had plenty of time to save for the trip, a cost of approximately $12,000. She works at H-E-B in Floresville -- and she did a lot of babysitting!

She also had other preparations for the trip.

“I had to buy a lot of warm clothing!”

Everything she planned to take had to fit in one suitcase; she learned to pack wisely.

“And I wore lots of layers,” she said with a chuckle.

In addition to the suitcase limitation, another rule was that the students could take no electronic devices -- no cell phones, laptops, i-Pads, or Kindles, only cameras. They also were allowed a deck of cards or books. Logan took some homework, but was so busy she didn’t do much studying. She also played a lot of cards with the other students -- the group comprised students from 14 countries and various ethnicities.

What was the appeal of Antarctica?

“I liked the idea that it was going to be different,” Logan said. “... It’s just nature. It’s the only place on earth that hasn’t been touched by people so it’s very pure. I like that. There are scientists there, but they don’t mess with the environment.”

If the group built a snowman, they had to knock it down to maintain the continent’s pristine state.

The trip presented physical challenges.

“Our hikes up the mountain were very steep and the snow was so deep it would come up to my thighs,” Logan said. “It was very challenging!”

Her trip -- Dec. 25 through Jan. 8 -- included Logan’s first sea voyage.

“I had never been on a ship before and the trip through the Drake Passage went through some of the roughest water and even though I had a motion sickness patch behind my ear, I got seasick,” she recalled.

A total of 66 high school and college students were accompanied by 23 instructors, videographers, glaciologists, climatologists, scientists, professors, and oceanographers.

“... we got a lecture every time we came back from an expedition,” Logan said.

They slept on the ship and went ashore twice a day for expeditions, which lasted several hours. The ship moved around a lot and they never anchored in the same place twice.

Logan was excited to see the native animals in their natural habitat.

“Once when we were taking a zodiac cruise around the icebergs, we went to a place called the Iceberg Graveyard, and all of a sudden a leopard seal pup pops up behind our zodiac and was playing in the bubbles of our wake,” she said, marveling. “He followed us a long time. Then we saw a humpback whale pop up out of the water, just 50 yards away. We also saw several albatross flying across the open water. They were huge!”

Her closest animal encounter was with penguins.

While slowly making their way up a mountain through the deep snow, the group encountered chinstrap penguins “... zooming by us on their ‘penguin highway,’” Logan said. “They go get rocks from the shore -- we were on an island -- and take the rocks in their beaks and carry them all the way to the top to make their nests.”

With the beaten path of the “penguin highway” nearby, why didn’t the visitors simply use the penguins’ route?

“We were not allowed to walk on the penguin highway because it was their road,” Logan explained.They could not interfere with the birds’ trek up the mountain.

Because it’s so remote, there is no Internet or cell service, Logan said. But she didn’t find that difficult.

“Some of the teenagers did,” she said. “It made me feel clean. I didn’t have to worry about any of the distractions of daily life.”

And in the vastness of Antarctica, “There was almost no noise,” Logan said. “It made me want to use technology a little less often and be with nature or people more ... .”

On the mountaintops, they would observe a moment of silence.

At one such moment, “... we heard a loud boom! and we witnessed an avalanche on one of the other mountains.”

The awe in her voice was palpable.

“We were in the greatest classroom on earth!” she said, with awe.

The benefits of her experience remain.

“I will not worry about what people are thinking,” Logan said. “I wish other people could feel this way -- that they don’t need other people’s approval.”

Logan’s expedition also made a spiritual impression.

“To think that God could create such a beautiful landscape,” she said, trying to convey her wonder in words. “The icebergs were so blue -- at least 50 shades of blue. Blues you’ve never seen before.

Some icebergs are green, due to the algae growing there. Not surprisingly, Logan also noticed, “There were so many shades of white.”

She tried not to be preoccupied with taking pictures, to appreciate the moment.

“Our best cameras are our own eyes,” she said, adding reverently, “To think that He [God] had a blank canvas and He literally painted everything on this earth.”

Logan looks forward to high school graduation and hopes to study abroad. She’s been accepted by Texas Christian University and hopes to study nursing and Spanish.

And she has some traveling still to do before she turns 21.

Where to next?

“Spain!” she said, excitedly. “So I can practice my Spanish and check off another continent!”

Student travel

•People to People: founded in 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower. Its mission is “to bridge cultural and political borders through education and exchange, creating global citizens and making the world a better place for future generations.” Visit www.peopletopeople.com.

•Students on Ice: This award-winning organization will celebrate its 15 th anniversary with a trip in July. It offers unique educational expeditions to the Antarctic and the Arctic. Its mandate “is to provide students, educators, and scientists from around the world with inspiring educational opportunities at the ends of the Earth and ... help them foster a new understanding and respect for the planet.” Visit www.studentsonice.com.

 
 
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