BRUNSWICK RESIDENT Kalyn LeBlanc is shown during her recent trip to Antarctica.

BRUNSWICK RESIDENT Kalyn LeBlanc is shown during her recent trip to Antarctica.

BRUNSWICK

Brunswick resident and University of New England senior Kalyn LeBlanc, 21, recently returned from a trip to Antarctica, as part of the Students on Ice educational expedition. LeBlanc spoke with The Times Recrod about her time in one of the most isolated regions on Earth.

Times Record: How would you describe your impressions of the Antarctic?

 

 

Kalyn LeBlanc: Antarctica has a reputation of being the harshest climate on Earth, but many people don’t realize it is probably the most beautiful place someone can find themselves. No, it does not have the colors or warmth of the tropics, but what you can find there is the lack of human involvement. You can truly disconnect yourself from your everyday schedules and live in that moment.

There is a quiet characteristic to this cold climate, and crisp cold air wakes you up. The clouds are very ominous as they are gray, they sit right over the tops of the mountains as to rest from a long day’s travel. The sun shines between the clouds on the mountains giving them an angelic characteristic as they are painted with the yellow of the sun’s rays. The clouds shadow paint the white canvases of the mountains covered with white from the snow.

In the most simplest terms, Antarctica has a mesmerizing beauty that can’t be shown, no matter how many photographs you see of it. I feel very fortunate and thankful that I was able to have the support of the people around me to be involved in this trip.

“… Today at 16:00 we were in zodiacs cruising through ice-covered water as we slowly maneuvered through the rocky outcrops and mountains. Penguins were seen everywhere you looked as though they were grass growing in a field. There was a beauty in the enormity of the glaciers and mountains, as we were visitors in a foreign land. Us students brought a rainbow of color to Antarctica dressed in all sorts of cold weather clothes ranging in color from reds, to greens. Antarctica itself has many natural colors ranging from the gray colors of the mountains, to the icecold blues of the southern ocean; different variations in the ocean’s range from turquoise to dark blue. Brown streaks were found in the icebergs and orange within the beaks and feet of the penguins around us.” — Kalyn LeBlanc’s journal, Dec. 30, 2014

TR: What is it like being in one of the most isolated parts of the world?

KL: Antarctica has many characteristics to it, it’s called the white continent, or the southern most continent, and the seventh continent, but the characteristic I enjoy most is how quiet it is. On most days you could sit on the deck of the ship and just listen to the wind howling or the waves splashing on the side. The only outside noise was the laughter of the students around me, the clicking of the photos as to catch a memory, and the penguins conversing with one another.

I was never able to tell what time it was as the sun was not good at setting. It left us every evening with a streak of yellows and oranges at bedtime as we tried to fall to sleep. We were lucky enough to enjoy an endless sunset every night since the Antarctic summers leave us without the stars. I measured my days in Antarctica by the never setting sun.

Being in Antarctica you truly feel alone as soon as you pass the Antarctic Convergence. As we were passing through Drake Passage, our only companions were the wandering albatross and the occasional penguin leaping out of the water to catch their breath. It is a humbling experience as I stand at the base of Danco Island, and even more so as I climb to the top to over look a 360- degree view around me.

The most memorable experiences was the time spent with the wildlife. Antarctica is one of the only places you can go and see a rookery of half a million penguins singing together in a choir of squawks. Antarctica for me engaged all my senses and opened my eyes wider than I could have imagined.

TR: What was the most difficult or challenging part of the trip?

KL: The most challenging part of the trip was making sure I was prepared enough for the day relating to the climate conditions. I was equipped with several layers and throughout the trip I had an average of three, ranging from long underwear, to a mid-layer and an outer layer. I was pleasantly surprised that the weather at home reached lower than some of the weather in Antarctica during the trip.

The student community on the trip was very welcoming and I was excited to see lots of interest for the environment; it made connecting with others very easy. Another challenge came at the end of the trip as we had to say goodbye to the wonderful people we had met on the trip; we had become a family. And we had experienced the bottom of the Earth together and its something I’m hoping will keep us connected for many years to come.

TR: What advice would you give someone planning a similar adventure?

KL: Being a very expensive trip, I would tell someone to engage the community and get sponsors to help raise the money, because this is an incredible experience to be a part of. I would also tell someone to write a journal about their time abroad, because for myself this was a whirlwind trip that began and ended so quickly … it’s as if it was a dream.

And no matter what career path you decide to go into, this trip has been designed around different interest points, my interests happened to be marine biology. But the over-arching message about this trip was the human impact on the environment and how we are affecting the changing global climate in our backyards. And the choices we make now will affect the environment of the future.

TR: What did you gain from this experience?

KL: As I approach my graduation toward my undergraduate degree I was able to use a hands-on approach and engage my studies that I have been working toward the last four years. I was able to network with several people currently working within the scientific community. They were able to inspire lots of good advice as I approach my master’s degree.

But more than engaging my studies, I have found myself opening up to a larger community of people. I was able to meet several students from around the world such as China, India, Switzerland, Australia and Canada. The atmosphere around the ship was a combination of different languages. Although I only went to Antarctica I was able to share experiences with a diverse global community and learn more about the studies they were involved in and about the places they live. It was like I took a trip to more than just Antarctica.


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