gmhTODAY 08 gmhToday May June 2016 - Page 91

L aura Perry took a remarkable trip to Antarctica in February. For Laura, a Morgan Hill lawyer, Gavilan College trustee and Rotarian, this wasn’t just any trip. She had a special reason to go, and she had the time of her life. Here’s her story. “I had always wanted to see Antarctica but I never thought I would dive there. In 2014, my friend Jim van Gogh, a scuba diving instructor and underwater photographer, invited me to a meeting at Any Water Sports in San Jose. They were taking signups for a dive trip to Antarctica in 2016. Ten minutes into the meeting I put down a deposit to reserve my spot.” The 22-day trip was organized by Diving Unlimited International. The organizers chartered an ocean vessel known as the Plancius, a large icebreaker, to carry its travelers from the southern tip of Argentina to Antarctica and back, anchoring at a variety of far-flung islands for diving and sightseeing. Laura was in good company with 30 other experienced divers, some sightseers, and the ship’s crew as well as a geologist, a marine biologist and an historian who provided informal lectures onboard the ship. “Antarctica is the coldest place on Earth. To dive among icebergs in 30-degree water, you have to be prepared with proper equipment, including a drysuit, and you really have to know how to use it. It has to be second nature. In the months leading up to the trip I had to log 50 dives in my new drysuit, so I made multiple dive trips to the Channel Islands and to British Columbia. The suit worked beautifully.” Island Hopping “We boarded the Plancius at Ushuaia, a resort town on Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego archipelago, sometimes called ‘the end of GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN MAY/JUNE 2016 the world.’ We made our fi rst stop at the Falkland Islands, where we did our fi rst dive in relatively warm (48° F) water.” “Before each dive we had to suit up. First comes thermal long underwear, then a really heavy one-piece undergarment, then a drysuit, a hood, two pairs of socks, booties, and two pairs of gloves. We were sealed from head to toe, and added about 30 pounds of weight, before we even put on our scuba tanks.” 91