Antarctica through the eyes of a preteen
By Rachel Belkin
Most kids asked for big parties and lavish gifts for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah - I however was begging my parents for a trip to Antarctica. I was a 12-year-old science nerd with a love of penguins and whales and my biggest goals were not to mess up my torah reading and to somehow make it to the ultimate whale and penguin paradise, Antarctica. My parents, who raised my sister and me with the intention of having us be travelers, easily gave in and the year following my Bat Mitzvah we were on our way. It has been almost 7 years since that two-week trip but I am still feeling the effects that a trip to Antarctica leaves on people, a desire to conserve and protect the icy continent.
The type of experiences I had while traveling to Antarctic on a Russian icebreaker range from life changing to hilarious situations. On the boat there were several other kids around my age. This was extra exciting due to the fact that I found other kids who preferred to go whale watching to going to the mall. We formed a tight group and like all preteen friendships we were all instantly the best of friends. Together we passed the time while cruising through the Drake Passage hanging out with the captain, exploring the ship and learning some Russian from the crew. After we actually got to Antarctica we did everything together and took advantage of everything offered to us.
During those two weeks, we visited research stations, penguin colonies, traveled past icebergs and icepacks crowded with leopard seals and penguins, I rode on a zodiac next to a minke whale, visited the only Antarctic post office and even did the ultimate polar bear plunge on New Year’s day. I made great friendships, learned a thing or two about Antarctica and had legitimately the experience of a lifetime.
As I mentioned before, my trip to Antarctica left a lasting impression on me. Since then I have continued to travel and take advantage of every opportunity given to me. I am majoring in Environmental Science and Policy mainly to conserve the places that I have seen while traveling. I know exactly what is at risk if we don’t work towards protecting fragile ecosystems like Antarctica and that is not a risk anyone or I should be willing to take.