Cold Plunge

Earlier this year, 17 intrepid Flying Longhorns went to the end of the Earth to experience the frosty, fantastic wonders of Antarctica. Our multimedia producer traveled with them, and files this report.

As told to Andrew Roush

I can’t remember what I was shouting when my body went numb. But due to the fact that I’m probably the only person to run into 1° C water while wearing Google Glass, my words are recorded for eternity, even if I can’t remember them. I know I’m the only person to do it holding a Texas Longhorn flag, like a runner finishing a race at the Olympics. Trudging back to what, in

Antarctica, could be called a beach, I could slowly feel the blood pumping back into my legs. It felt like relaxing on the beach in Cancun compared to the all-consuming cold of the water. For days after, I felt rejuvenated.

I’d been fascinated with Antarctica since 7th-grade geography, so the approach to the White Continent just a few days earlier was emotional. I realized how lucky I was to be experiencing such a unique part of our planet. I imagined what it must have been like for the original explorers who first conquered the journey across brutal seas.

Our conquest was a little easier than those early adventurers, but no less thrilling. We flew from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, the southernmost city on Earth, slipping between two snowy mountain peaks before landing. We toured Tierra Del Fuego National Park, and took advantage of our free time by eating copious amounts of the area’s popular (and affordable) delicacy: King crab.

travel3Cold Plunge

We boarded our ship late in the afternoon and headed through the Beagle Channel as we enjoyed dinner and met the ship’s crew. Our entire group was like family, each traveler unique in their own ways, each one a blast to be around. Though alums from a dozen different universities were on the trip, the Texas Exes were easy to spot. Like me, they were ready for adventure.

Our 17 travelers were an adventurous bunch. For some, the trip was a bucket-list visit to the seventh continent; others went simply in search of a close encounter with nature. David Jones, BS ’68, MS ’70, Life Member, could often be found on the bridge of the ship snapping photos; Jim Bushee, BBA ’76, and his wife Marisa were always at the front of the pack on our long and vigorous hikes. Former Longhorn swimmer Greg Thompson, BA ’67, Life Member, joined me for the plunge into the icy water.

Earlier in my video production career, I got used to being dropped off in a desolate, far-flung, or dangerous country with limited resources, point contacts, and no agenda. That style requires you to adapt constantly. While this trip was also to an extreme location, the accommodation and organization of the ship’s staff, travel directors, and scientists were unlike anything I have experienced. Antarctica is pristine, gargantuan, and worthy of being protected. It’s anything but empty, and this trip was well-organized to show off the desolate beauty and complexity of that extreme ecosystem.

Our days were action-packed with outings in inflatable Zodiac boats and landings on different areas of the Antarctic Peninsula. We would usually get a morning landing, come in for lunch and lectures, do an afternoon landing, and then finish with dinner and more lectures. The pop-up cocktail parties afterward were a perfect way to digest what all we had seen.

I have a massive atlas at home, and when I returned, I had a long moment to look at where I had just been. I was proud that I had the opportunity. And I’m proud to share it.

Of course, everything we saw was so rare and spectacular that it’s hard to put into words. But with 4,500 photos and hours of video, I don’t really have to. Though sorting through all of that seems far more daunting than taking the plunge into near-frozen water in nothing but my bathing suit.

Photos courtesy John Fitch. 

 

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