Dec 02

Our Adventure with Julie – and Lots of Penguins!

Chris’ Field Notes

This past August, my 14-year-old daughter Claire asked if we could enter an essay contest that Quark Expeditions and SeaWorld were sponsoring.

The grand prize?

A spectacular Antarctica expedition to visit the Emperor Penguins. What made the trip even more special was that SeaWorld Animal Ambassador Julie Scardina would also be taking the voyage.Penguins by Claire Epting

So to work we went. I submitted our essay, and enough people liked our story so that we were one of five finalists.

And then we got the call. The judges had chosen our essay. We’d won!

We had one month to get ready for the trip of a lifetime. And four weeks later, there we were - at the lower tip of South America in Ushuaia, Argentina (the southernmost city in the world).

We met up with our ship, the famed Kapitan Khlebnikov, along with Julie, the Quark Expeditions team and about 90 other passengers.

The trip of a lifetime awaited.

The next two weeks provided an array of spectacular moments. Icebergs, getting up-close to Emperor Penguins, Adelie Penguins and Gentoo Penguins. And crossing the infamously rocking waterway the Drake Passage – called the roughest stretch of water on earth.

It was the most incredible journey we’ve ever taken. For my daughter, who one day dreams of working with marine mammals, it was inspirational. We’ve been to SeaWorld many times. It’s where the kids first started an appreciation of ocean life (touching the sting rays that smoothly pass by is still a favorite for both Claire and her brother, Charlie). And in the icy wilds of Antarctica, all of the previous experiences and education were put to full use. This was the real deal, and we are deeply thankful to both Quark Expeditions and SeaWorld for creating this opportunity.

Claire’s Field Notes

Julie Scardina and Clair EptingFor me, the whole experience was amazing, but what made it extra special was being able to share it with Julie Scardina.

I really admire the work she has done with and around animals, and she inspires me to work with animals someday. On the ship, I especially enjoyed her presentations on SeaWorld and animal training, things that I find very interesting. Hearing all of Julie’s stories about penguins and other animals really enriched the whole experience we had observing the Antarctic wildlife.