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The new millennium is five days old. I book passage on and board the Yermelova, an ancient Russian icebreaker. Her rusted hull and dilapidated decks do not instill confidence. I make note of the nearest lifeboat and pay attention at safety drills. We are making the long, circuitous voyage from Ushuaia, Argentina, the world's most southerly city, to the Falkland Islands, then South Georgia, and finally the Antarctica Peninsula. We will close the loop by sailing across the infamous Drake Passage, stormiest of seas, past the forlorn outcrop of Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America, then back to Ushuaia.

By any measure this is an adventure. Not Shackleton or Scott mind you, but macho by Y2K standards. There are no balmy ports of call, feather pillows, or medivac. No five star anything. The Yermelova is not a cruise ship! She will roll with the punches, so everyone has a patch or pill, something to tame the tempest in their gut. On the plus side, I've been told the ship's cabins have heaters that sometimes work.

Rather than a luxury cruise this is a floating seminar with a glorious outdoor lab for nature enthusiasts. Lectures are scheduled, by naturalists, geologists, photographers, and other assorted experts. We will spend long days at sea, to read, watch for whales, and marvel at the flight of the albatross, gliding effortlessly over the rolling sea.

But mostly there are the shore excursions, hours and hours each day to mingle with, observe, and photograph the fabulous wildlife of the Southern realm, twice as tame and nearly as inquisitive as we are. It should make for high adventure that some say rivals East Africa for nature red, tooth and claw. (next photo)

© Danny Kimberlin 2015