Birthday on the Belgica in Antarctica

Web Update for January 4, 2008 By Troy Henkels

“Fortunate experiences happen in life, but rarely are they of the kind that one will remember forever. I have been privileged to spend two birthdays in Antarctica while working at McMurdo and the South Pole research station. And now, in my 41st year, I have spent one more.

It started spectacularly enough onboard the Euronav Belgica in Buls Bay, anchored with ice bergs, calving glaciers, and mountains all around. Dixie, Pieterjan, Laurent and I packed up our gear from the boat and journeyed over to Brabant Island. Our plan: to explore, climb, and experience the exact same places of the original Belgica crew. We decided to ascend some rock outcroppings in order to compare views from historical photographs from 110 years ago. Precariously angled on a glaciated slope, and in relatively hot conditions of 15°C, Dixie innocently said, “Hey, wait a minute! We are forgetting something.” And with that, the boys broke robustly into a chorus of “Happy Birthday,” nearly bringing tears to my eyes. By midday we set up camp in a small saddle with surreal views of Buls Bay, the Gerlache Strait, and the Peninsula, all in unbelievably, clear, calm weather. 

 

In the afternoon, the team decided to climb Celsus Peak (1375m) which invitingly towered above us. Roped up and traveling steadily, we ascended for several hours in mostly slushy snow. The summit rewarded us with views that are nothing short of awe inspiring. For all of us, this will be a day to remember. For me, back in camp, looking out across this Antarctic landscape, I knew that this birthday, with these friends, in this place, is a day that I would remember forever.”

Copyright 2008 Troy Henkels