Five-Minute Pow-Wow: The Expedition of a Lifetime

AN INTERVIEW WITH BOB SIMPSON OF ABERCROMBIE & KENT

Abercrombie & Kent Expeditions

We were blown away when we saw the itinerary for Abercrombie & Kent’s Antarctica Expedition: dropping in on penguin rookeries, exploring glaciers, feeling the mist from the spouts of humpback whales, and absorbing the breathtaking beauty, history, and geology of this continent. A&K’s Vice President Bob Simpson chatted with us about packing, exploring, and what to expect from a trip that combines adventure with learning.

Rue La La: We have to ask – isn’t Antarctica freezing?
Bob: Well, these two expeditions are happening right at the peak of the Austral summer season – relatively speaking, it’s really pretty mild, and can actually be warmer than some temperatures in the Midwest in winter.

Rue La La: What are the most important things to pack for a voyage to Antarctica?
Bob: Always check the restrictions for international flights – they often require travelers to be prudent and creative. A good rule of thumb is to pack the same as you would for a ski holiday – light and layered. And while we are a cruise, we have no requirements for formalwear, so guests stay casual in cargoes, khakis, blue jeans, lycra tops, and pullovers. It can get really windy, so a parka is really important (we actually provide one for our guests that they get to keep at the end of the Expedition). And the sun is more intense down there – don’t forget the sunscreen, sunglasses, lip balm, and hat.

Rue La La: What kind of travelers tend to go on an Expedition?
Bob: I’ve been doing this for 13 years, and my answer has changed almost completely. It used to be people very much predisposed to go to Antarctica – college professors, people who have saved and saved for years. Now it’s become quite a hot destination (pardon my pun). While we have some of the “trophy travelers” – people who travel everywhere, who want to knock off the 7th continent, I also have a honeymoon couple going out on the next voyage. And we tend to see a lot of solo travelers, too. One of the departures is even geared toward families – so this a truly destination that everyone can enjoy.

Rue La La: Tell me about the day-to-day on this trip.
Bob: Part of the magic of being on an expedition voyage like this is that things are always changing. We may see a pod of humpback whales and follow them for a while, or the weather might change some plans. You learn to expect the unexpected. The ship is a floating and living classroom. We hire field naturalists and lecture specialists in all fields – ornithology, marine biology, geology and glaciology, history, global ecology and climate change. We usually try to get in 2 landings most days, each about 2.5 – 3 hours long. We’ll have a lecture in the morning, then as the ship repositions between landings, lunch might be followed by another lecture. And a recap session at the end of the day ties it all back together.

Rue La La: What is one of your most memorable voyage experiences?
Bob: I remember one time when we came across a pod of humpback whales – they were swimming under and around the Zodiac and spy hopping. One of our guests sent me his video after he went home, and every time I watch it I can smell it. I can hear it. I can feel the mist. Until you do it and see it and experience it, it’s hard to explain. So many of our guests come back and say, “NOW I get it…” That’s what I love about what we do – after seeing the beauty and experiencing the nature, people become ambassadors of the environment. People become changed.

Rue La La: So you can check Antarctica off your list. What’s next?
Bob: Well, I suppose I have the “polar fever” – my next trip is coming up again in a few weeks to where else?  Antarctica!

Our Explore Antarctica with Abercrombie & Kent Boutique opens Friday, November 19 at 11AM ET.


November 18, 2010