By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Steve and Janet Doolan bring new meaning to the term “carry the news.”
The intrepid Chatham couple recently completed a 10-day expedition to Antarctica and they brought along a copy of The Chatham Voice.
“Since you are the voice of Chatham, we wanted your voice to travel with us to the far reaches,” Janet explained. “It’s like taking a piece of home with us.”
Antarctica is the seventh continent these globetrotters have explored, and they did it to mark their 40th wedding anniversary, with Steve planning it on the downlow as a surprise.
In a telephone interview with the pair from El Calafate, Argentina, both called the trip to the most remote part of the world “mind blowing.”
“We thought it would be pretty neat to celebrate in Antarctica,” Steve said, adding it also marks the 100th country the two have visited.
“It’s not really a country, it’s a continent,” he added, “but we thought it was a great way to mark the occasion.”
Travelling more than 15,000 kilometres without taking direct flights is no easy task. Not your typical snowbirds, the Doolans like to get off the beaten track, and experience the people and culture of the countries they visit.
They set out from Chatham last November and headed to Fort Lauderdale where they caught a reposition cruise (a cruise that’s ending its season) to Rio de Janeiro, stopping in Barbados, St. Lucia and Antigua before arriving in Brazil. They then flew to Iguazu Falls where the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay intersect.
The Doolans then made their way to the southern tip of South America, sailing on the 140-metre M.S. Fridtjof Nansen from Jan. 8 to Jan 18. The 500-passenger boat carried a wide array of travellers, including scientists and researchers from around the world.
They learned about climate change and how melting ice affects the world.
According to the Doolans, the rules are strict when visiting Antarctica. A special parka issued by the expedition had to be worn. As well, clothing had to be vacuumed twice before passengers could get off the ship, and boots went through a two-step decontamination process.
“It’s all about safety and the environment,” Janet explained. “They have very strict rules about making landings. They don’t want anything left behind.”
The Doolans said the landscape and views were spectacular, featuring massive blue and turquoise ice formations. They also discovered the Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins to be natural comedians performing some hilarious moves.
“They come towards you and just stand still,” Janet said, adding travellers had to stay 50 metres away from them. “Sometimes they try and steal each other’s pebbles to make nests which is very funny.”
Whales, unending vistas and glacier water “so clear you can drink it” were also part of the experience.
The Doolans, both 62, are no strangers to adventure. The pair spent 12 years working and teaching overseas and have lived in England, France, Mexico and the Sultanate of Oman.
Steve, who is originally from Brantford, and Janet, who hails from Toronto, relocated to Chatham-Kent nine years ago. They bought their house in Chatham sight unseen while in Oman, after previously visiting friends in Dresden.
“We love our century home,” Janet said, adding she’s looking forward to gardening and sleeping in her own bed.
Is a visit to the North Pole on their agenda? The Doolans hope so, but first they will be touring southern Europe next winter. The couple will be pet sitting at various homes as part of their travels.
Steve said the two have a philosophy they follow, one that changed as they aged.
“We used to say, ‘go with the flow.’ Now we say, ‘do what you can while you still can,’” he added.