Ryann Stacy back from Antarctica trip
Ryann Stacy of Colrain, in blue, with other students on South Georgia Island near Antarctica January 2013.
COLRAIN — Ryann Stacy is disappointed that she didn’t get to the bottom of the world with her classmates as planned, but she isn’t upset enough to dwell on it.
“I have growled at baby seals that thought they were really tough, and I have allowed a penguin to peck at my shoe,” said Stacy, who returned home from a trip with Hotchkiss School, the Connecticut boarding school the 16-year-old attends, a little more than a week ago. “I saw things up close that most people only read about in books. I got to see icebergs up close.”
Stacy, who grew up with her parents and brother in Colrain, headed to the “white continent” of Antarctica late in December with 89 other Hotchkiss students and returned home last week, having made it only as far as South Georgia Island, between South America and Antarctica, because of an intense storm that did some damage to the ship, caused a lot of seasickness, and injured several crew members.
“We started heading toward the Antarctic peninsula when we were done on South Georgia Island, but we had to turn around because of a really bad storm,” said Stacy, who said she never felt like she was in danger.
Stacy recorded her experiences in her journal and said she will have a good time reading it sometime in the future.
She traveled with the group to South America for the first leg of the trip.
“We got on the boat on Jan. 4 and headed for Antarctica,” she said. “I was so excited.”
Stacy said her days on South Georgia Island were “amazing.”
“It felt like a lifetime there, and the penguins were so cool and cute,” she said. “I woke up the first morning there at 5:30. It was so peaceful and I could see the line of turquoise and brown on the horizon.”
Stacy said melting glaciers create the line of color along the horizon.
She said for four days, she and the other students, along with all of the adults on the trip, explored South Georgia Island.
“The geography was incredible,” she said.
Stacy said the smell wasn’t always pleasant.
“There were thousands of elephant and fur seals and 90,000 pairs of penguins there,” she said. “There are no words to describe the smell at times.”
Stacy said when the ship left four days later to head toward the Antarctic peninsula, the captain knew they were heading into a storm.
“They just didn’t know how big it was,” said Stacy. “The waves were insane.”
Stacy said she never got physically ill, but certainly felt nauseated until the ship outran the storm.
“Until then, we had to stay in our rooms,” she said. “Things were falling off shelves and it was just crazy. They didn’t want us to get hurt.”
Stacy said she was happy to get back to South America several days before she flew home, where her group was “blessed with good weather,” but said she hopes to get back some day and actually make it all the way to Antarctica.
“It’s a place so few ever get to see,” she said.
Stacy said one of the best things that came out of the trip is that “I’m now seriously considering a career in marine biology.”
She said that was never an option — until now.