Fort Mill resident heads to Antarctica, in memory of a friend

Special to the Fort Mill TimesFebruary 13, 2014 

— While some residents have been vexed by this week’s winter blast, Joy Smith was busy planning a trip to another land of ice and snow.

Not that she’s particularly fond of winter weather. For Smith, 70, traveling to Antarctica for two weeks is a way to honor the memory of a friend.

When Margaret Mendez, Smith’s friend from her days living in New York, died recently, she left Smith the money to do what they both loved – travel.

“I’m going because of her,” said Smith, who is planning to toast Mendez during her trip.

The choice of destination came to mind when Smith thought of Madeline Albers. Smith, a member of the Philanthropic Education Organization, heard Albers speak at a meeting about 10 years ago. Albers discussed her travels around the world and described Antarctica as quiet, peaceful and spiritual. That has stuck with Smith ever since.

“She spoke so passionately about Antarctica,” Smith said. “I can’t wait to see the continent. I can’t imagine how beautiful it must be.”

Smith will take her journey on the National Geographic Explorer, a 367-foot, state-of-the-art, ice-class expedition ship. The voyage is detailed in the magazine National Geographic Expeditions .

Another good friend from New York, who also likes to travel, will join her.

“We’ll have a good time,” Smith said.

The pair will travel a day ahead to explore Buenos Aires, in Argentina, from where the cruise departs. From Buenos Aires, they will fly to Ushuaia, Argentina, commonly referred to as the southernmost city in the world, and set sail on the Explorer. The ship will then cross the Drake Passage, where passengers can expect a close-up view of whales.

Under 24-hour daylight, Smith and the other travelers will explore the Antarctic Peninsula and surrounding islands. The travelers also will explore Paradise Bay, the Lemaire Channel and Petermann Island, which is known for its penguin populations.

To prepare for her trip, Smith borrowed gear – including ski pads, ski gloves and a suitcase that is lightweight and big enough for her gear and clothes – from friends. She also bought plastic pants to keep her dry in the wet climate.

Smith’s friends also held a “Taste of the Antarctic” luncheon for her, during which they served iceberg lettuce with ocean blue cheese dressing, “polar beared” sticks and “baked Antarctica.” At the luncheon, Smith received hand and foot warmers and a toy penguin named Waddles, which the group of friends plan to take on trips around the world – starting with Antarctica.

“I have crazy friends,” Smith said.

Smith’s trip will not be a typical vacation.

“It’s a part of the world where very few people have the opportunity to go,” she said. “It’s an expedition.”

Smith, who describes herself as adventurous, recently went skydiving. She also enjoys horseback riding and climbing the Peaks of Otter in her home town of Bedford, Va., each year on her birthday. She is also writing a cookbook.

“Retirement is the best time of your life,” Smith said. “Every day is a vacation.”

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