Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person.” Antarctica is part of the world, the seventh continent. I knew God was saying go to the ends of the earth. I’d been to the Arctic Circle and now it is time to go to Antarctica. Joshua also felt he should come with his cross. We prepared our two crosses, booked our flights, arranged with a tour company from Canada to go to Punta Arenas, Chile. From there, we planned to take a ship across the Drake Passage to the continent of Antarctica.
The North Pole is water — ice and snow. Antarctica and the South Pole are mountains, soil and rock. It is a land mass covered at a depth in many places by up to three miles of ice, but it is a continent.
Antarctica is the only continent that does not have a native human population. However, there are about 45 science bases from many nations located on Antarctica with a summer population of about 2,500 and a winter population of around 1,000. At one time there were a number of whaling stations located on Antarctica. The remains of the buildings are still standing. Most have the equipment and even household supplies in place. During more recent years it has become a hot spot for adventure tourism. Large cruise ships come to several places and let people off in rubber rafts for day visits. I was not so fortunate. I visited Antarctica at a time when the big ships were just beginning to travel there. The waters in the Drake Passage between the tip of South America and Antarctica are among the roughest in the world.
Antarctica is so awesome it staggers the mind. Ninety percent of all the world’s fresh water supply is locked up in the ice caps that cover all but two percent of the continent. The thickest ice in the world is found here – 15,700 feet. Should all the ice melt, it would raise the water level of the world’s oceans about two hundred feet.
Antarctica is the fifth largest continent, almost twice the size of the United States and larger than Europe. The average annual precipitation is less than two inches of water (snow). This is less than precipitation on the Sahara Desert!
The most frequent plants seen are lichen, moss and algae. Huge seals and penguins come on shore in the ‘summer’ and whales live in the surrounding waters. Some birds nest and breed during the brief summer. The Antarctica is protected by an international treaty and is the property of humanity.
The surrounding southern ocean freezes into ice over half its area in the winter. The summer heat melts much of it, opening the area in parts of Antarctica for ships to reach the shore. The world’s coldest temperature, minus 129.3F, was recorded in Antarctica. In the summer the temperature can climb into the 70’s.
The following are excerpts from my diary:
It was a long flight from Los Angeles to Santiago, Chile, but Joshua and I finally arrived. All of our baggage arrived except the crosses; our two crosses were not there. The airline officials said all the bags had arrived. I pleaded, prayed and begged them to go back and check the plane again because we had a flight leaving early the next morning and we had a boat that was going out to Antarctica and we had to have our crosses. After much persuasion and prayer the baggage people went back to the plane and hallelujah they returned with both of our crosses. All glory to God, glory, glory, what a mess it would have been if we had lost our crosses.
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Next day: We were up early left the hotel, took a taxi to the airport. Checked in and went to the baggage area where we had left our crosses. We boarded a plane to fly south to the end of the South American continent, Punta Arenas, Chili. Again all the baggagea arrived, but no cross, both of our crosses were lost. We pleaded and begged and they looked and still no cross. Joshua and I decided to just walk back in the baggage area anyway and there we saw both of our crosses completely out of the way. Praise God, we had found our crosses at the end of the world. No one will ever know how much difficulty I have had with airlines losing my cross. Once flying back from Africa, my cross was lost for a month before we finally found it in New York. Another time the cross was lost for a week in Belgium. It has been a constant struggle and a prayer battle to have the cross when I arrive.
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Next day: We met the people from the travel company and discovered that the boat that we were to sail to Antarctica is broken and the trip has been either postponed or canceled. The devil absolutely doesn’t want us to carry the cross on the seventh continent.
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The saga goes on, at noon we found out that the trip is off. Many of the people who were going to take the trip (about 35 or 40) are leaving to return to America by taking a trip around South America. We are now scampering trying to find any other way to get down to Antarctica. Most people say that it is impossible, but Joshua and I know that God didn’t bring us this far without there being some way to make it onto Antarctica. I checked with the Chilean Air Force and they say it might be possible to get a plane, and then later I found out that it was impossible. The airport in Antarctica is closed. We went all around town talking to everyone, trying to find anyway to get to Antarctica.
Tonight I decided to take a walk around the City of Punta Arenas and pray. I wasn’t carrying the cross; I was just walking, praying, thinking and seeking the mind of God as to what we should do. As I crossed a street at the traffic light there was the sign of a green man that you were supposed to walk. The light was red and cars were stopped, it was a one-way street with three lanes of traffic going the same way. I looked to the left and saw two lanes of cars stopped. From the corner of my eye as I stepped off the sidewalk curb into the street, I noticed a car in the third lane of traffic that was not stopping. In an instance like I had imagined it happening thousands of times as I’ve walked along the road, I knew that if I were hit, standing on my feet, it would crush me breaking my legs, hips probably even killing me or running over me. I leaped from the ground and did a roll as the car crashed into me, the hood of the car hitting my hip and then I flew into the windshield, but I was rolling and I rolled onto the roof with my arm on top. The car did not even put on its brakes but slowed a little, I leaped off to the right side, and it never stopped. My left side had absorbed the full impact of the crash and I landed standing on my feet! I stood stunned trying to collect my thoughts. Joshua came running up, he too had decided to take a walk and to pray after I had left. He heard the thud of a body against the car and looked and saw me flying in the air. Only the grace and mercy of God preserved me from being crushed, broken or possibly killed. Surely Satan does not want the cross carried a step on the seventh continent, but in the name of Jesus, I stand against all the power of Satan and every demon and declare that someway somehow the cross will go south to Antarctica and we will walk with the cross in Antarctica for the glory of God in Jesus name.
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As we waited several days for the boat to leave, Joshua and I carried the cross in and about Punta Arenas. The roads were dirt and gravel with small trees and scattered bushes and tundra type soil similar to what is at the Arctic Circle. There are fields of colorful flowers: blue, purple and pink fill the heart with wonder. There is a feeling of freshness that invigorates the entire body. The people were friendly, open and amazed that the cross would be carried at their far away place on earth. I was able to share about Jesus in Spanish.
The man from the tour group found another very small boat that would only hold about 25 people. There were many more people wanting to go than vacancies and he was choosing his friends. He said Joshua and I could not go. But we refused to take no for an answer. I said that I didn’t feel it was right for him to not allow us to go on the boat. We would sleep on the floor, we would sleep anywhere but we’ve come down here, we’ve paid our money. I want you to understand one thing that these people are going on vacation or some type of an adventure, but we are men of God and we are on a mission and our mission is to carry the cross in Antarctica. We know that God is with us and He wants us in Antarctica and if that ship goes, we should be on it. You will either get in line with the blessings of God if you let us go or you will get in line with the judgment of God if you don’t let us go. Now you think about that. He walked away and in a few minutes he said, “If the ship goes, you go.” Hallelujah.
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Glory to God, by the grace of God, we have begun. The ship, Rio Baker, left the port at 2:30 p.m. today and we are on the way toward Antarctica. Joshua and I carried our crosses from our hotel room to the ship and everybody was in a state of shock as they saw us arriving. We strapped the crosses onto the top of the boat on the small top deck that was exposed to the wind and the elements and has some small seats around it which is a viewing area. This is the smallest boat, they say, that has attempted to cross the Drake Passage to Antarctica in many years. It is 150 feet long and the cabins are very small. All the people on the ship are some sort of adventurers: professional photographers, kayak-ers, climbers, skiers, painters and environmentalists. Today, we sailed along the Straits of Magellan and along the islands of the area known as Tierra del Fuego. It is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen in my life. We passed by huge glaciers of ice and snow coming down from the high mountains. The ice breaks off into floating icebergs that fill the waterway. The boat would gently push its way through. There are beautiful forests and steep cliffs jutting up from the water’s edge with snow covered mountains rising up from the water! The engines roar, the skies are blue; there is no sign of humanity, just nature. Oh I thank you God, I thank you God for not letting me miss this, and it is reality beyond my dreams. I just did not know that it could be so beautiful. Each hour the scenes change, each scene trying to out do the other, I can only try to contain all of the wondrous glory swelling up inside of me, filling my eyes, washing my soul. Tonight after eating at the dinner table, one of the men asked me directly about knowing Christ, it was just a great witness with the two crosses on the top deck and outside this wonderland of mountains, deep snow, steep cliffs, cold winds, cloudy skies, rays of sunshine, the grace of the ship. Oh God, I lay here in bed looking at the two port holes beside my bed and see the water and the mountains, oh God, glory to You, You are the creator of life and the giver of love.
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Second day at sea in the Tierra del Fuego: I sit here in awesome wonder at the beauty of the beauty, at the front of the boat you can only hear the quiet slosh of water, islands are everywhere, there are mountains on every side with green grass near the bottom and snow and ice a few hundred feet up, glaciers are here also. I am sitting in the front of the ship praying and writing and praising God. We just went by two huge glaciers, the ice had poured into the water and there was ice floating across the entire channel, the sun is shining and it is very clear today, such a reflection of God, the glaciers, the floating ice, the green, the trees, the snow capped mountains make this area so majestic. It is one time that I am at a total loss for words, and we are not even at Antarctica, wow what will it be like. We sailed on into the night.
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Port Williams, Chile: The most southern town in the Americas. I awoke early in the morning to realize that we were just outside the port, then at 8:00 a.m. we came into the port and at 10:00 we could go ashore. Joshua and I bought some food and drinks in town then came back for lunch. We took the cross off the boat and carried it into the Navy town of about one thousand people. The people gathered around as they couldn’t believe their eyes, we gave away one roll of stickers which is 1,000 Jesus stickers. As Joshua and I went toward the Catholic Church on a hill just outside the city, there were two ladies who had come to pray. The church was closed. We met them and I explained to them in Spanish that we could pray anytime, that Jesus is here; you don’t have to be in church to talk to Him. They were so moved and convicted that they both prayed and received Christ outside the church. Then we carried the cross into the town center. It was great, children running up, one man followed us for a long time and helped us witness. We went back to the ship and all the ship’s crew was now beginning to talk to us about Jesus, they are very interested. We leave tomorrow for the long passage across the sea.
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Fourth day at sea in the Drake Passage: We are up early. There are 26 people on the ship; we left Port Williams at 11:45 a.m., heading for Cape Horn, the famous passage around the tip of South America. We passed the rocks of Cape Horn at 10:00 p.m. Just after we passed Cape Horn, the sea began to get rocky and then the waves began to lift our little ship up and down, and it began to slip and slosh. I became sicker and sicker. I lay down on my small bed; Joshua and I are sleeping on cots in the same cabin. All the calm is gone and all there is, is sickness. I have been vomiting and vomiting and vomiting. It seems like I will die, how can I take this for three days across the Drake Passage. I put a patch above my ears to prevent motion sickness and it made me sicker so I took it off.
As the ship approached Antarctica the icebergs began to increase until we were completely surrounded by the white ice. It was spectacular, but cold! I wore special thermal underwear pants and shirt, a special thermal snow suit, a heavy duty coat with a hood and face mask that went over a balaclava, a face mask covering my nose and goggles over the eyes. I wore fabulous gloves and waterproof snow boots with leg warmers. No flesh was exposed.
We’ve arrived at King George Island, just off the coast of mainland Antarctica, where many science bases are located.
Seventh Day. Glory to God, this is history, carried the cross about a mile onto King George Island, but it is more than history. We had to take a small boat from the ship to go over to the main dock to unload. Joshua and I took our crosses and stepped off, my first step on the continent of Antarctica! I was so happy. There were men working nearby, I stopped and gave them gospel tracts and stickers and began speaking to them in Spanish.
The first man I met gave his life to Jesus! Glory. Several others stood there and watched. It was worth the whole trip. People were saved today at the Chilean base. The tourist adventurers from our boat were in shock, they all had their cameras and various other equipment and they began to take pictures. They just could not believe the love that we had for these people. They only came to take photos, and to see and do interesting things, but they had no interest in the local people. We walked around the area with the cross. Joshua and I wanted to mail a postcard so that we would have an Antarctica stamp on the letters that we were going to send, I inquired and they said the Post Office was not open, a man took me to the commandant at the Chilean base. We began to talk in Spanish and I discovered that he was a follower of Jesus, that he had received Christ as his Savior. We spent three hours talking. God gave me an ear to understand everything that he was saying. He called his wife on the radio and she came to see me, we had tea and cake and we prayed together as brothers and sisters. He wanted me to stay and visit the other camps; there are eight nations on this island, they were so nice to me, but those stupid tourists wanted to leave and go on, I asked about staying but they would not come back, so we left about 12:45. He took a diploma, wrote my name on it and presented it to me. It was from the Commandant, 22 Jan 1988, Chile Group #19.
This is given for two years of service in Antarctica. It is a very great honor and had never been given to a visitor to the island. I gave him a small chip from my cross and he put it in a handkerchief and folded it up. We then went back to the boat, it pulled out of the harbor and we had dinner. News came that the ship had broken down. They worked on the ship and somehow, praise God, they got it running again. Only God knows whether we will be stranded on Antarctica or not, but by God’s grace somehow we are going to get to the mainland.
Up at 3:30 a.m. for this historic day. The cross has now been carried on all seven continents of the world. It must certainly have a place in Christian history or perhaps not. Only God knows. I am writing outside on the ship and the ink from my ballpoint pen is frozen! This is called Paradise Bay and truly it is. At 4:00 a.m., January 24, 1988, Joshua and I stepped our feet upon the continent of Antarctica. There were hundreds of penguins to greet us. Warm (cold) sunny weather. The penguins are having their babies and it is so sweet. I studied them for a long time, observing the beauty of these wonderful creatures. We are at an old whaling base camp, buildings are all about, many birds and a few seals. The ship is anchored out in the bay off of an iceberg. We did not know that we had to get our crosses onto a small boat and that the boat would take us over to the Antarctica continent proper. I feel a great sense of accomplishment.
A triumph for God over Satan. Victory over death. Even here on this base with cold and ice there is a breath of summer. There is no snow on a few places. These are the areas where the penguins and birds nest and breed and have their babies. It is a race for life. The penguins must grow up during this short couple of months of summer and then go to sea in order to survive. The cycle of life and death is here and the love of the mother and father.
There are two huge birds that have made a nest at the foot of a cross that is erected on the point of the old village. It is a beautiful cross. Joshua and I climbed up near it and it’s a glorious reminder that Christians preceded us here. We left the birds in peace, but they are fierce protectors of the cross. As we drew near the birds would dive to attack us. We carried the cross around the base and then out across the snow to do a walk of about 1.2 miles. It was absolutely incredible. I would step in the snow and would sink almost up to my hips, take another step and then sink again and again. It was almost impossible to walk in these kind of conditions. The area around the old whaling base was very small. When I left that immediate area the snow depth began to increase and I couldn’t tell what I was walking over. There were deep ravines and cliffs that could give way to an avalanche at any moment. So it was actually too dangerous to walk anywhere outside that immediate area. It was just an incredible experience to wave the cross in the devil’s face and say, “It is done – all seven continents.” To go forth into all the world in the face of all types of opposition is just so wonderful. It’s wonderful to carry the cross here. The beauty is unspeakable, the animals, the purity of everything, except for a few old whaling stations, is really like it was at creation.
In the summer time, which is late December and January and into early February, there is a melting of some of the snow and ice. In the heart of winter the sea freezes over in this area and there would be absolutely no way in. The snow melts in some places and the ice melts and ships can come in. The reason that a few places have rocks and land showing is because of the fierceness of the wind. The wind is so strong whipping in that the snow hardly sticks. The snow is blown off the surfaces by the winds.
There is really very little snowfall in Antarctica. Most of what would appear to be a snowstorm is simply the wind picking up the dry snow and blowing it. While we were there a huge snowstorm rolled in, which really was just a big windstorm. The clouds and the weather change almost every few minutes. It was an accomplishment to take the cross to this part of the world and stand it in the soil of Antarctica
Joshua and I got back on the boat with our crosses about 10 o’clock in the morning. We took a good bath and then the ship pulled out. We were on the continent of Antarctica just a matter of hours. The boat then sailed to Port Rockroy at Wiencke Island, which is beside big Anvers Island. We walked around this area, which is also an old whaling base. There were thousands of penguins, birds and seals. All the time we were on land in Antarctica I had a great fascination for the vegetation. There are only two types of vegetation – moss and lichen and the colors of this moss and lichen, and the way that they grow just only slightly during a year. It is just fabulous how these two plants can survive. The animals inhabiting Antarctica are mainly seals and penguins, which are just beautiful in their majesty. There are only a few species of birds but we could climb up to where they were nesting on the cliffs and the birds would dive at us like they were attacking. We could watch with them binoculars and during this short summer breeding season life makes its mad dash to survive.
10th Day: Day at Sea
We awoke with the boat rocking terribly. We were in monstrous jeopardy of crashing into an iceberg or onto the land. A small boat in a stormy sea. I lay in bed not because I was sick, but to prevent it. At about 4 o’clock the boat sailed into a bay near Deception Island where we had visited before. It was the inside of a volcano with a small opening and mountain walls all around it so it is completely protected. That gave us safe haven from the storm that is raging in the Drake Passage and it is simply too rough for a small ship like ours. There was a snowstorm when we arrived in the bay. It was almost impossible to see any distance in front but then it ended. Six of us went ashore. Joshua and I climbed up the mountain. There was no snow along the path and it was just awesome. I photographed lichen and moss and Joshua climbed all the way to the top. I was worried, but discovered later that he was fine. I was afraid an avalanche would seep him away. We had a great walk back. Another storm came up and even whipped inside the volcano. The boat ride back to the ship on the Zodiac, an inflatable boat, was very rough. The boat was tipping and turning and almost threw everyone out, but finally we were able to get back to the ship. After we were on the ship, the crew of cast off in a small boat and went ashore and began to gather up large chunks of whalebones as souvenirs. They even tried to catch the penguins and were chasing them and everyone on the boat was angry. Back on the ship we had supper and then I was asked to speak to the whole group. Everyone was curious about our carrying the cross and our lifestyle, which was completely different from everyone else’s. I talked of our experiences with the cross and shared the message of Jesus Christ for an hour and then there were questions and answers for another hour. It was really great, praise the Lord. I stayed up talking to individuals until about 1:00 a.m., answering questions from people about Jesus. I even closed my talk with an invitation and a prayer for people to receive Christ as their Savior. I feel so good; the people were so interested in knowing about Jesus.
The last report from the ship’s captain is that the storm is moving off the passage that we can leave at 4:00 a.m. so I know that there are three more days of nausea waiting for me.
Praise the Lord. I didn’t get as sick as I did coming across. But I had to stay in bed the whole time because when I sat up, I began to feel woozy. I have eaten nothing on the crossing because even the smell of food begins to make me sick. But after all we did make it. Praise God.
I awoke at 9:20 a.m. I have been awake off and on for four days. Need calm waters with no rolling. We should be in the Straits of Magellan very soon, so the waters should be calm. I need it! It’s been one of the most difficult trips of my life, taking all the strength I can muster just sit and wait and then be sick and wait for days. I am an action man and I also like to go to bed and sleep, but not in a small rocking boat. Hoping to land in calm waters. We have at least until tomorrow night, a day and a half at least.
This thought came to me “Antarctica – you haven’t seen all the earth until you have been here. You haven’t seen it all until you are here. “Well, Praise God, we saw it.’
All Glory to God, thank you Jesus. Oh Holy Spirit — I made it. My mission is to carry the cross on the continent of Antarctica is completed. The seventh continent with the cross and approximately 2,000 miles at sea, 14 days, mission complete. The 150-foot boat was the smallest by far to travel to Antarctica since 1965. The few others that go there are big cruise ships. We are in the Straits of Magellan now, only a few hours away. Joshua and I are ready to go. Happy – we made it. All Glory to God. Tonight we celebrated by staying at Hotel Cabo De Hornes back in Chile.
Pilgrim followers of Jesus
Arthur and Denise Blessitt