Antarctica, the Wildest Place

The End of the World
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Aerolineas Argentinas flight 1626 pivoted on its port wing tip and dove toward a short, humpbacked runway extending into the Beagle Channel. Wheels hit hard, engines roared into full reverse thrust, and I smelled scorched brakes.

We'd arrived in Ushuaia, a port town of 35,000 located in Tierra del Fuego on the southern tip of Argentina. Lying on a low shelf at the foot of jagged, snowcapped mountains, Ushuaia calls itself fin del mundo, end of the world.

For us, as the jumping-off point for a voyage to Antarctica, it was where we boarded the 350-foot Marine Adventurer. It had been an ice-hardened Russian scientific research ship know as the Akademik Sergey Vavilov before being converted to first-class passenger service when research money dried up. We were eager to return to the Ice Age—in comfort.

Even though we had to cross the infamous Drake Passage and the "Roaring 40s" between Cape Horn and Antarctica, considered the most violent stretch of ocean on the planet, the captain was reasonably confident we'd arrive safely. He knew what to expect when we reached the other side and that hasn't always been true for sailors in Antarctic waters.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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