June 15, 2024

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Navigating Travel Tales

Hunt: Next stop for travelling couple: Antarctica

5 min read

Jeff Whipple and Tracey Gibson travel. A lot. But this next adventure will take them to where few have tread

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For Jeff Whipple and Tracey Gibson, it’s the final frontier.

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Shots updated, medicals passed, passports current, the Fredericton couple will conquer their seventh continent when they head out on Boxing Day bound for Antarctica.

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Fredericton to Toronto to Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires, Brazil – where summer temperatures will be around 30 C – to Ushuia, the southernmost city in the world, where they’ll board the boat that will take them across the Drake Passage to Antarctica. 

Married 19 years, they estimate they’ve been on nearly 20 cruises together since they first got the bug in 2010. Their first trip was with another couple, the late Rick Lifford and Ellen Gallant, sailing on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, through the southern islands – “still some of my favourite places,” says Jeff. They went by themselves the next year; Gibson in tears on the way home because she wished the kids were there.

“We can make that happen,” said Whipple.

They are a blended family. Whipple and Gibson were matched up by a mutual friend and went on their first date in June 2002 on the patio of the Lunar Rogue. They married in a backyard ceremony in 2004.

“It was like it was meant to be,” said Gibson.

They each brought two kids into the relationship. The following year, all four kids came along for the next trip, one bringing her partner.

That cruise, said Whipple, “changed our family.”

When they got together in the fall of of 2003 – think “The Brady Bunch” – they bought  a six-bedroom, three-bathroom home in Lincoln. The kids all had their own friend groups and social lives.

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“They were like roommates … they never became family, until that cruise,” Whipple said. “They spent a week together, and it was like a light bulb turned on.”

There have been others where the kids and their partners have all come, including one where they caught the last couple of days of Mardi Gras in New Orleans before setting sail somewhere.

“Best money we ever spent,” said Whipple. “We left to go back to the hotel and they were all hanging out together. They hang out together and they don’t even invite us.”

There’s a standing Sunday breakfast reservation at Cora’s downtown.

The highlight so far, they agree, was last year’s two-week junket to the Mediterranean – Rome, Greece and Turkey, with all four kids and their partners, compliments of mom and dad.

This one may top it.

This is an expedition as opposed to a cruise. Passengers are allowed to leave the boat and are transported to land by Zodiac craft, where they’ll see penguin colonies and science stations and the spectacular scenery of the South Pole over six days.

The land is pristine – to the point where the only things permitted to touch it are your boots. You can’t set up a camera, a tripod, can’t set down a backpack, can’t so much as use the bathroom. Not that you’d have any desire to do so in -25 C temperatures, mind you, and about 22 hours of daylight.

Jeff Whipple

Gibson will be carrying her Canon Rebel camera and a lens. Whipple will have his binoculars.

Gibson is the manager of palliative care nursing at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital; Whipple is the digital learning lead at Anglophone West school district. They live comfortably, but they live to travel.

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“Some people have expensive cars, some have big, expensive houses, some drink and eat out a lot … we travel,” said Whipple. “We’re not rich. We both have good jobs. I don’t have a million dollars in my bank account. If I did, we’d be traveling a lot more.”

But they have family. And they have experiences. Photos and and souvenirs are sprinkled through their downtown condominium.

And more to come.

“Everything we do is based on: can we travel and see something new?” said Gibson.

“I think our next thing will be a river cruise in the Danube,” Whipple said.

The best one yet is probably five years away.

Sylvie, the oldest of the couple’s three grandchildren, is turning five in January.

“I used to sing songs to her about giraffes and elephants,” said Whipple. “I’ve told her over and over again that when she’s 10, I’m taking her to Africa to see the elephants.”

“And the giraffes,” said Gibson.

“That will be just the three of us,” he said.

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