Talgat Subanaliev, a junior student of the Journalism and Mass Communications department at the American University of Central Asia, recently became the first Kyrgyz student and perhaps the very first Kyrgyz to go on an Antarctica trip. Having never gone far from home, this certainly was far from what he had ever done and far more than what most people, even the most seasoned travelers, may ever do. He took the opportunity to share his fascinating experience with us.
Once Upon A Time..
On my last birthday, my best friend gifted me a smartphone and that’s where my photography experience started. Basically, I take pictures of everything I find beautiful, but mostly I’ve got a predilection for landscape photography. My passion has been gradually rising by taking more and more pictures. I started taking pictures with my smartphone and post them on my Facebook, many friends would like them and positively comment, which would motivate me to take more.
While I was passionately taking pictures, the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) announced a photography competition sponsored by long term supporter of AUCA and philanthropist Dr.Hersh Chadha.
Dr. Chadha has travelled to 91 countries, all continents except Antarctica. It had always been his dream to make an Antarctica trip as well, but unfortunately he isn’t able to visit. And so he decided to give such an opportunity to a student by organising a photography competition to win a trip of a lifetime to Antarctica. And that lucky student became me!
The Journey to Antarctica
My journey to Antarctica was pretty long, going through Dubai, Buenos Aires, and the southern-most point of the inhabited continents – the town of Ushuaia from where we took off.
For 10 days, the ship The Ortelius became our home. We were fed every day like in posh restaurants. Just imagine what it’s like to eat watermelon or orange in Antarctica! There was even Internet access, although limited and very expensive.
Before getting to see Antarctica, we had to go through moments of despair. When we floated in Drake Passage I promised myself that I would never again sail on a ship. Seven-meter waves threw and rocked the ship in different directions. We all had to go through seasickness.
When we floated in Drake Passage I promised myself that I would never again sail on a ship…
The picture began to change when we approached the continent. Dawn was at 4am and we saw the first icebergs. By the middle of the day we were on the mainland. We met the first whales and killer whales orcas. They floated and made fountains. On the icebergs we saw seals chilling. The sight was simply indescribable!
An ‘Ordinary’ Day in Antarctica
We would be woken up at 7 am every day, then have a delicious breakfast and get off the Ortelius on “Zodiacs” to go ashore. After the landings we used to have lectures given by the crew. They were scientists, professors and MSc students. They talked about Antarctica, its flora and fauna and the impact of climate change.
The crew was very strict with behaviour rules and safety in Antarctica. We always had to remember that we were guests in Antarctica and the impact our visit could have on the living creatures there. Before getting off the ship, we vacuumed all our clothes and treated our boots with antiseptic water in order not to carry any possible viruses onto the mainland.
We had to keep a certain distance and never approach any of the animals close. These rules didn’t apply to the penguins themselves, so they sometimes quietly approached us in a small group. They’d stand near us and look at us a couple of minutes and then move on.
Sometimes a small group of penguins would quietly approach us.
One of the most amazing parts of my Antarctica trip were the people. We were from 34 countries, speaking 20 languages and each of us had their own interesting story. Among us were ambassadors, businessmen, and scientists making up a very friendly travel group.
Uniqueness of Antarctica
Each place we visited in Antarctica was very unique and special. I did a polar plunge, even swam a little bit, but the water was extremely cold. It felt as if a thousand needles pierced into my body and when I came up to the surface my hair was instantly covered with icicles. Such a refreshing dip I will remember for a lifetime!
We also visited a place with a dense cluster of icebergs. They were very massive and shining from the inside with cool and blue colors. There were also large, big seals. We couldn’t get our eyes off from them and they kept looking back at us. There were several whales that came under one of the zodiacs, blowing bubbles underwater and floating a bit around, and in the end poured a fountain over the people in the boat. My zodiac had already gotten back to the ship and I watched the spectacle with envy.
There were several whales that came under one of the zodiacs, blowing bubbles underwater and floating a bit around, and in the end poured a fountain over the people in the boat.
These 10 days have been like a fairy tale! It was very sad to realise that my trip to the magnificent Antarctica, to which I was preparing for six months, came to its end and I had to say goodbye to everyone. Antarctica is the absolute silence, pristine beauty, which conquered me with its majestic landscape, stillness and mightiness.
Despite being perceived as the most isolated place on Earth, it displays a variety of scenery, where I felt an unusual and strong connection with nature and its dominance over us.
My dream is to continue to travel the different, unusual places in the world. My next destination would be the North Pole: I became passionate about the beauty of permafrost.
Watch an interview with Talgat on his recent Antarctica trip below or visit our website for more information and our complete offer of Antarctica trips.
All images used in this Antarctica trip traveller story are copyright of Talgat Subanaliev.