Office ofAlumni and Constituent Relations

Student Voice - Hannah Peay '12

The end of the Earth: a journey unlike any other. 

Hannah Peay holds up a baby magellanic penguin

My name is Hannah Peay, I am a senior majoring in Hispanic studies and this January I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Antarctica.  Antarctica is the last frontier; no light pollution, no honking cars or ringing sirens, only the cracking of ice, penguin calls and the lapping of waves against the boat as we sailed through a sea of clear blue water and ice bergs the size of city blocks.  A place so tranquil and untouched I almost felt as though I was in a forbidden land, somewhere I was not supposed to be.  It was an experience unlike any other.  The blue of the ice bergs the penguins use as slides, the stench of their colonies and the noise of their calls as they share their excitement with us, the bright orange glow of Mt. Fitzroy in the Andes mountains as the sun begins to rise and it casts its first rays on the smooth white face of the mountain; nothing could have prepared me for the sights I have seen at the end of the world. 

My month in Antarctica and Argentina was the experience of a life time, images, emotions and friendships that will last the rest of my life.  I experienced a pair of minke whales close enough to touch in the wild of Paradise Bay.  Their curiosity driving them to come closer and closer to the boats, close enough that we made eye contact and saw the wonder in its eye; the same wonder and awe I’m sure it saw in my eyes as the beast twice the size of our boat peacefully swam around and under our tiny boats floating alone in the ice covered Antarctic bay.  I had adélie and gentoo penguins gnawing on my boot as if they were trying to rip it off and take it back to their mate in the nest they had gradually built in a colony of over 300 thousand penguins on Paulette Island.  On Martillo Island I held a baby magellanic penguin as I measured its beak and weighed it for a scientific study.  The look on mine, and everyone of my peers faces, was that of pure joy, something we affectionately termed the “penguin glow,” the inability to stop smiling from ear to ear, and the warmth we felt for each other and for the adorable little penguins that reminded us so much of ourselves as children.  All of these experiences that caused raw emotions unlike anything I have ever felt.

Traveling to the end of the earth created bonds and relationships that we could have never built at home, in school, within our comfort zone.  As the boat was rocking back and forth, throwing us about the boat so hard we can barely walk, we just looked at each other and smiled.  We were headed to the end of the world, and we were all so excited and anxious I think we would have swam all the way there if the crew of the Ushuaia, our home for 10 days, would have told us to.  We built forts as the boat crossed the quiet waters, and shared life stories as we were lying on the floor trying to keep from getting sea sick as it tossed so hard the whole ship felt like we were doing somersaults.  We looked in to the whales eyes and later saw the same look in each other’s eyes.  We have shared experiences that only a handful of people in the world have experienced, and through these experiences, we formed friendships and bonds that we will carry with us forever.  The sort of friendships that withstand all tests of time and distance, these friendships, the ones we have now that will never end, are the most wonderful gift of the entire trip; the knowledge that we will forever be able to look at each other and see the whales, and the penguins, and the glow of the mountain in the other’s eyes.  This gift is timeless.