Part 1: The Injury

Near Neko Harbour, the lower snowfield looks a lot like the scene of the crime

As the dark clouds of the last four weeks recede, I am increasingly aware of silver linings. On the first day in the Falkland Islands, high winds and big waves prevented the tenders from shuttling the newly-arrived passengers onto the Kapitan Klebnikov, the icebreaker that would serve as our home for the next 31 days. The tiny town of Port Stanley had no hotel rooms available, so the expedition crew scrambled to find home stays or any temporary housing for the 100 stranded passengers. Dana and I, aware that the wind might delay our departure, took the kids up the street to the Globe Tavern for burgers where we quickly befriended a lovely, generous, accommodating local couple. We were stranded, but spent the night at their home playing Wii Fit, singing karaoke and laughing uproariously with our new friends. Silver Lining #1.

Then came the Drake Passage. The big winds in the Falklands portended rough seas across the 900 miles considered to be the nastiest ocean on the planet. It was rough, but none in the family puked and we passed through the Antarctic Convergence unharmed. We crossed less than 24 hours ahead of the Argentine ship that was battered by waves, lost their electrical service and were towed back to the South American continent. The luck continued.

By the morning of December 8th, we were anchored in Neko Harbor, a magnificent inlet east of the South Shetland Islands and our first chance to get off the ship and step foot on the Antarctic continent. It was a crisp, clear morning; the bright blue sky reflected off pristine glacial snowfields. Everything was deep blue or bright white. Imagine the most beautiful mountain scene you can conjure, now multiply that by five and turn around to see that vista 360 degrees around you. That is Antarctica. As spectacular a place as I have ever been. We landed, made our way past Adelie penguin rookeries, climbed a ridgeline around a snow bowl up to a promontory and on to the edge of a glacier where we stopped and sat in silence for a full five minutes drinking in the enormity of the place and listening to the sounds of a completely untouched and unspoiled corner of the planet. Glaciers heaved and calved. Birds called and, at minute 4:30, two whales surfaced and blew cold spray below. Among the most memorable 5 minutes of my life.

The next minutes would become memorable too, but memorable because of poor judgment, not natural beauty.

We slid to the left of the tracks but could not see the frozen hazards waiting below

On the way up the ridge, I had noticed tracks down the snowfield where people had slid down on their butts. Even though we could not see the bottom over the lip of the slope, we decided to give it a try. Emma went first, then me. It took about 4 seconds to realize that this was a bad decision. People had indeed slid down this snowfield before, but in the afternoon when the snow is soft and slow. We were sliding at 7:30AM and the snow was hard, granulated ice and the tracks and footprints made by previous afternoon adventurers were deep, icy hard hazards as we hurtled towards them at an uncontrollable speed. Emma made it to the bottom. I caught my left foot in a hole, heard the proverbial “pop,” and then came to rest in a frozen hole with my leg beneath me and my knee cap protruding in a most unnatural way. Emma and I screamed to the rest above to stop, but saw Reis flying toward the minefield with a look of real terror in his eyes. He made it through with bruises. Dana heard the warning. Alexandra did not. The image of her body speeding out of control, toward almost certain injury is one I shall never erase. She is in slow motion. I am thinking to myself, “I am about to witness my daughter’s severe injury and I am helpless, motionless, unable to take any action.” She also made it with just a few bruises. Again, the stars aligned. It was me that got hurt, not them and no one had a spinal or head injury. Silver Lining #2. But, it was clear, our year long explorer’s adventure was surely about to change.

My left knee was swollen after the accident

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6 Responses to “Part 1: The Injury”

  1. I hope you get better soon!!!!!!!!!!! miss you all=(


  2. Anthony and Nancy 02. Jan, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Happy New Year all. Greg, glad your not seriously injured. We await your return this Summer. Look forward to hear the rest of your adventures. Nancy and Anthony

  3. Sarah Barpoulis 03. Jan, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Having PU ’87 gathering in January… checking website in hopes of sharing awesome factoids of your exploits…. Yikes! Hope Greg feels up to his old tricks ASAP. HAPPY NEW YEAR Explorers. The Barpouli

  4. Hi it was great to see you at your home hope you get better soon.

    Happy New Years

  5. judie robbins 06. Jan, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Greg and Dana:
    Whoa! What a spectacula journey you all are having. I think you have to be grateful it was only a knee you experienced. Sounded frighting, but I can truly experience that fear. Ken and I went down Mt. St. Helens on garbage bags and even tho I had an ice pick in hand I was going so fast I had trouble using it…I do hope you will be able to continue your trip as planned. I am now in Phnom Phen and will be here until Feb 3rd when I head back to Vermont. Please let me know if you get a chance to pass this way. Plheoun and Phany said you might come around the end of Jan if your knee doesn’t change your plans. Keep in touch. Love Judie

  6. Hi Reis and Andrew!
    Today we go a TFK and the cover story was about one of their reporters going to antarctica and she was also on the Kapitan Klebinov! A lot of the info in it was some that you have posted. It was really cool that it was about the same boat and the same places you had been. I can’t wait to hear more about your adventures!