[top - Munira Shaipudin Shah (left) and Thary Gazi (second from left) being welcomed back by fellow students Siti Sarah Sharuddin, Abiramy Krishnan, Wong Chiew Yen and Leelatulasi Salwoom yesterday.]
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: Two Malaysian students left the comfort of their homes two weeks ago to set foot in one of the harshest places on earth -- the South Pole.
The two, from Universiti Malaya, were among 69 students and 18 researchers from Germany, Canada, Australia, the United States and New Zealand, who were on a study tour of the South Pole to learn and explore the majestic glaciers, icebergs and wildlife.
It was not an easy trip for Munira Shaipudin Shah, 24, and Thary Gazi, 21.
First, they had to endure 25 hours of flight, and then two days on a ship in which they were constantly hit by seven-metre high waves, before they finally reached their destination and met up with the others.
Thary said their ship was "as small as an ant compared with the icebergs which were either blue, white or transparent".
"It was awesome. We kept hearing the sound of ice breaking, the popping sound which was as loud as a thunderstorm.
"We were told this phenomenon was not unusual. It would happen at 10-minute intervals. It was a real experience," said Munira, who came home two days ago.
The Behavioural Biology masters student was also surprised by the penguins as they would playfully come up to them and peck their pants.
Thary, who is majoring in Ecology and Biodiversity, said the region was becoming a popular tourist destination with thousands of visitors annually.
"There is one souvenir shop. It sells about 70,000 postcards and it takes about four to six weeks for the mail to get to you," he said.
Munira and Thary were chosen for the trip to the Antarctic after they won an essay competition on the polar regions.
Their trip was under a programme by the Students on Ice Expedition, an award-winning educational organisation based in Quebec.
UM and the National Antarctic Research Centre, which coordinates the Malaysian research in the Antarctic, jointly organised and sponsored the trip.
As ambassadors for UM, Munira and Thary will hold talks in schools and colleges to create awareness on global warming and the impact it could create worldwide.