Down South: Senior embarks on research trip to Chile and Antarctica


Lucia Hruby (12) stands in front of a sign with other students in Antarctica. Photo courtesy of Lucia Hruby.

Sammie Seamon

Lucia Hruby, a senior at Ann Richards, was one of the four selected from hundreds of American student applicants to go on a two-week trip to Antarctica and Chile to learn more about polar science and climate change, among other environmental topics. The program was organized by Dartmouth, funded by the National Science Foundation.

“This trip specifically is really important to encourage a new generation of scientists, and encourage people to get into this not-very-popular field of study,” Hruby said. “I definitely encourage people to do it to broaden their horizons and learn more, but also just to connect with more people, because it’s was just really interesting how science was able to connect people from the United States and Chile, and we were all there for scientific reasons.”

The ability to speak Spanish was a requirement for the trip, so Lucia was able to practice her Spanish while communicating with the seven Chilean students who also came on the trip by placing in the Chilean National Science Fair. She also acted as a translator for the Dartmouth researcher and a teacher from Vermont who accompanied them.

“I definitely grew more confident in speaking Spanish over the two-week trip. At first it was a little rocky and stuff, but it was pretty neat,” Hruby said.

They departed from Austin on December 9th. After traveling from Dallas to Santiago, the group flew to Punta Arenas, the southernmost point of Chile. They had to leave for Antarctica earlier than planned due to bad weather, and so they gathered their winter gear and left the next day.

They only ended up staying in Antarctica for 24 hours due to bad weather. They arrived at King George Island and walked to the Chilean base, where there happened to be a Spanish research boat in the bay. The researchers gave them a tour of the boat and talked about what they were doing.  

“It was interesting to hear their perspective on it because they don’t have any claims to the island, but they are still able to do research through the different shipments that they send,” Hruby said.

Afterwards, they visited a Russian Orthodox Church, where priests live all year long. They then hiked 4 kilometers to the Uruguayan base, where they gave them gifts as a token of friendship, according to tradition. Lastly, they visited the Collins glacier and then departed back to Chile.

In Chile, they listened to presentations and briefs from environmental researchers. At one point, some biologists took them on a field trip and they studied the lichens and plants growing in the area. They also took a day to hike in Torres del Paine in Patagonia.

As their time in Antarctica was cut short, they had more free time and the group was able to tour Punta Arena, walk around, and go shopping. They were able to see more of the city, eat the food, and explore the culture.

“I had been to Argentina two years ago on a family vacation, and I kind of expected since the countries [Chile and Argentina] are right next to each other, to have similar cultures, but it was pretty different than what I had been thinking,” Hruby said. “[Chile] reminded me a lot of Mexico, just like the people who are really friendly and stuff and the colorful culture. The food was really delicious.”

Hruby was eager to take the opportunity, as she wants to possibly explore polar science as a major in college. She has always been interested in topics like sustainability and climate change.

“I could put it on my resume, I could possibly write a college application about it, and just really get a good experience out of it before I started applying to colleges, so I could narrow down a major,” Hruby said. “I just went and applied for the heck of it, because it’s always good to do something, even though you don’t feel too confident in it.”

The program is also being offered this year, with applications due January 30th, for both the Chilean-Antarctic trip and a Greenland trip.

“I would definitely encourage everyone to apply, and I think it’s important to not be afraid that you won’t get it, you know?” Hruby said.