Over the Christmas holidays I had the unique privilege of going on an expedition to Antarctica with a group of teachers. Antarctica is not the typical tourist vacation spot as there are no sandy beaches, no ski-resorts, no cities to explore, no cultural events, no museums and no access to computers, phones or TV. In fact for the 2 days that it takes to cross the dreaded Drakes Passage from the tip of South America to the safety of the South Shetland Islands, as you stare at miles of open ocean with nothing to look at and the boat tilts back and forth on 10 meter (no typo I meant meter) waves you might ask: Why go to Antarctica?
In fact for several months before I even stepped on the boat that is question that many people kept asking. You are taking a cruise to Antarctica? Why? This was often quickly followed by the question "Are you going to see polar bears?" Well, there are no polar bears at the South Pole, no Santa Clause or North Star either.
What Antarctica offers is a spectacularly harsh landscape that is probably the closest thing to completely unspoiled wilderness that one can see without being a researcher with special permits. It is its harshness that has protected it from people. It takes a full 48 hours or longer to cross the Drakes Passage and the water is some of the roughest in the world. While crossing it with nothing to see but miles and miles of ocean and nothing to do but think, read and talk to other passengers you discover something very important. Only those with a real love for nature, a love for its' stark and wild breathtaking beauty, would travel so long and so far through the cold, wet and rough seas to see it.
When we got there our little stalwart group of teachers and scientist met and discussed and measured important things like the number and species of Penguins, the level of ozone in the air, the temperature, etc. However, more than the facts and the data I think we learned something more important. There amongst the fast mountains of white ice, where no grasses grow, where the wind blows fiercely and where penguins go about their business completely ignoring us while they proudly bring their mates pebbles to decorate their nests, preen each other and chatter away communicating a hundred things we may never know, you learn that the only way to truly understand what it is like to be in true un-spoilt wilderness where nature rules supreme is to go there yourself.
If you ever have this chance to go somewhere far away from civilization to see un-spoiled wilderness I suggest you do. If you do then when you come back I think you will find that you will care for the environment far more deeply and maybe even worry about your cell phone a little less.