World travelers Charles and Nancy Sweetman recently presented their 2011 trip to Antarctica to the seniors living at Forest Plaza.
The Sweetmans, who now live in Mason City, traveled through South America first to the city of Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, located in the Andes Mountains, at the southern tip of the continent.
It is an area similar to Alaska, according to Nancy, a Forest City native.
From Ushuaia, they sailed to the tip of Antarctica, at the closest spot to South America, through 600 miles of the roughest sea in the world, because it is where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans waters meet.
Nancy said the ship had seatbelts on the beds, railings in all the halls and barriers in front of shelves so things wouldn’t fall off.
“After two days, we started seeing icebergs, because you have to be close to the land to see an iceberg because icebergs come from the land,” she said. “There aren’t any icebergs just out in the ocean.”
When they reached Antarctica, they had to wait for the rough waters to be safe, before they can venture out on a zodiac, a small tube boat, to go on the continent.
They stayed on the peninsula and didn’t go down the 1,000-mile trek to the South Pole, she said.
Once they were able to make forays on Antarctica, they saw several different wildlife including Adelie and Gentoo penguins, Weddell seals, the imperial cormorant, crabeater seals, chinstrap penguins, the brown skua and some kelp gulls.
The group had to stay off the paths penguins made to the water. Everyone was given red parkas to keep warm, though being from Iowa they were prepared and didn’t need them.
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One day, the Sweetmans took the zodiac around the icebergs and went on a sort of “iceberg safari,” Nancy said, where they got to see the icebergs at eye-level rather than just look down on them from their ship like the had been on the other days.
“They were just quite beautiful,” Nancy said.
There was also some hot springs in Antarctica, where steaming water from underground kept coming up, and though some of their tour group went swimming in the springs, Nancy said the thought of getting out of the water and into the cold air kept her from joining them because it just wasn’t worth it to her.
“So we just took pictures of rainbows,” she said.
Altogether, they spent nine days on the ship – two days there, five on Antarctica and two days back – before they returned to the Argentina port.
Their trip started Dec. 14 and they planned to be back by Dec. 23, but because the sea and wind was so bad right outside the port they were delayed entry until Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.
Every year, the Sweetmans try to visit different countries they haven’t been to before. The trips are something they started when they were younger and in the Peace Corp.
“We got to travel some and we enjoyed it. We enjoyed new experiences, new people, new places,” Charles said. “…We enjoy traveling and taking pictures and sometimes sharing the experiences. Not everybody gets there.”
Charles said they try to visit one country only once because they want to try to travel as much as they can, sometimes even taking multiple trips in one year.
“I know we can’t see them all, but it’s fun to travel still,” he said.
This year, they will be traveling to Spain and Portugal for five weeks.