It was right back into her busy life at school for Inspiring Explorer Mele Fetu’u, but we managed to catch her to ask her about the highlights of the expedition and the big challenges she faced during her time in the Antarctic Peninsula.
What was your favourite part of the trip?
The highlight for me was the night we slept out on the snow. You could see the whole galaxy from where we were sleeping. When we woke up there was an amazing sunrise, and it was so still. There was no wind.
What went through your mind when you were arrived back in Ushuaia after 10 days aboard the Akademik Ioffe?
Everything was so rocky. I was so rocky. I was sad to say bye to everyone who I met on the ship. They were all from different parts of the world; some places that I didn’t know existed. It was really cool.
What did you learn or discover about yourself
I learnt to step out of my comfort zone and just take any opportunity because I met a lot of cool people and experienced things I never thought I would experience. Even just applying for this expedition, I didn’t think I would get it because so many people applied. I’m so glad that I did go for it.
How has the trip impacted your view of the world? Are there things you will do differently now?
It’s made me want to go and travel the world. It was so nice to be out there. I didn’t realise it would be so beautiful. I also loved the flight. I want to fly more. I’m going to try and get people to take care of our environment more, especially my friends and family. I’m going to try and get them to more aware of how important it is to keep our environment safe, like it was in Antarctica. And I’m going to try and eat healthier because on the ship we were offered a lot of good food, but it was healthy. It was so nice. The smoothies were so good. They were full of ingredients that I didn’t even know could exist.
What was the most challenging part of the trip
The biggest challenge was definitely being off social media, and cutting off from family and friends. But I did feel more independent when I was out there.
You did the Polar Plunge – what was that like?
So first we walked around to warm up. When we got to the place where it was going to happen, people were exercising like mad on the spot to try and get warm. It was pretty cold. Then we started taking off our clothes and we hopped in. I couldn’t feel it at first for a second and then my body just went numb. It was freezing. I dived in and then I hopped straight out – very fast. My body was numb and I was so cold I couldn’t get out of the clothes I was wearing and just had to put my overalls and jacket over my wet clothes. And then it started snowing. The zodiacs took us back to the ship and we hopped in the spa and had hot chocolate. I never thought I would ever be swimming in the Antarctic. When I talked to my friends about it, they were so shocked I did it. They didn’t even believe me and I had to show them photos to prove it.
What was something you experienced that was different to your expectations?
Everything is so big; it’s hard to find the right words to describe things. And the icebergs are so blue. I didn’t know they would be blue. I thought they would be white but they were so nice, so many different light blues. It was really pretty.
I also didn’t know the sky was going to be so pretty. Every day when the sun was setting or rising you could see so many different colours.
Today was totally radical. Just when I think that this trip couldn’t get any better, it does! We spent the afternoon cruising around in the zodiac and saw some pretty amazing things. There were lots of sculpture-like icebergs all over the place. Each iceberg had its own unique shape, which I thought was pretty cool. We also often saw leopard seals lying on an iceberg and once an elephant seal floating in the water. There were a lot of penguins swimming around and sadly, Marco and others witnessed a penguin being eaten by a leopard seal.
When you go out and share your story, what will be the thing you want to share most?
I want to go exploring now. I think I’m going to be travelling and travelling.
Rosanna and I headed upstairs to the library to write up our postcards. The postcards won’t be delivered until December so I thought it would be funny to write the postcard to myself, just to see how much I change throughout the year. We have another full day ahead of us tomorrow and I can’t wait!
Would you recommend others apply for future expeditions and why?
I would tell then “Hell, yeah.” They should definitely apply. It was such a great experience to get out there and do everything that I never thought of doing before.
How has this trip impacted on your plans for the future?
I thought when I left school I would be going into business but on the expedition I met the staff there and we talked about the different roles they had and how they got them. There were so many different experts specialising in things like biology, and being able to talk about animals. I would like to study biology and be able to teach people about that.
What other messages will you be giving to audiences about the trip?
I thought the penguins were going to be cute but I actually loved the seals. I didn’t know they would be so cute. I had heard they were ugly, but when we were down there, they were so pretty. There were lots of seals and they were all hanging out with the penguins. It was nice.
Dinner tonight was astounding. The crew decided to mix things up a little with a nice BBQ outside. We were lucky because there were a lot of whales in the ocean today, so we had quite the show during dinner.