The voyage is near to its completion with Turkish scientists preparing to carry out the last set of scientific studies at Deception Island.
After spending the past three weeks apart, the two teams of the Turkish Antarctic expedition reunited. The land team consisting of 10 scientists and experts had been based on Robert Island.
They had set up Turkeys first temporary research camp in Antarctica. The group of brave souls had to battle the elements. Their tent was blown away in near hurricane force winds. They had to keep themselves warm in temperatures that reached minus 15 degrees celsius, all while conducting important research for the expedition.
So you can imagine how ecstatic they were when they were reunited with their fellow sea team members that were based on the relatively comfortable Antarctic Warrior. The hugs and smiles clearly showed just how difficult their time had been. After transferring all passengers and equipment off the Antarctic Warrior, a ship we had called home for the last four weeks, sailed off into the horizon.
The last leg of the expedition would continue on the Betanzos, a former fishing ship that had been refitted into a floating polar research station. While getting acquainted with the new ship, one person immediately caught my attention on deck. I remember thinking that this man looked like a fashionable Gandalf.
Turns out I was one of the few that didn't know who he was. I was quickly given his short resume. Name: Alejo Contreras; nickname: Alpha Charlie; job: legendary polar explorer. We soon found out that Alejo would be accompanying producer John Joe Regan and cameraman Semir Sejfovic in a helicopter ride to scout possible ice coring locations for the expedition. It was going to be John Joes first time in a helicopter. Between you and me, I think thats setting the bar pretty high, taking off on a helicopter from a ship in middle of the ocean in Antarctica to survey the snow capped mountains.
He said after landing, with his witty British sense of humour that it was such an uncomfortable experience that he would be willing to sacrifice himself and take the place of others on future flights.
Alejo continued to provide guidance to the Turkish scientists and their research. But we wanted to know more about him. One evening after dinner he invited everyone to the ships TV room for a presentation highlighting his 30 years of Antarctic experience.
It was nothing short of awe inspiring. He showed photos of his journey becoming the first South American to ski from the coast to the South Pole.
One of his other many feats was summiting Mount Vinson, Antarctica's highest peak (just a little note, he did that 15 more times) and I felt as if I was listening to a modern day Robert Falcon Scott — interestingly enough, it was a book on Scott was what drew Alejo as a young adult to Antarctica.
Soon we'll be heading to Deception Island, a crescent shaped volcanic island with a name befitting a Bond villain base. The last set of scientific studies will be carried out here before we start heading back to South America and eventually home.