It’s customary this time of year to flee these cold climes by heading south. Anna Friedman took it to the extreme. She escaped to Antarctica to enjoy temperatures that were balmier than Chicago. She didn’t go just to soak up the Antarctic summer. Her traveling companion, renowned tattoo artist, Lyle Tuttle, was out to set a world record.
Tuttle, 82, has been tattooing since 1949 and has inked such notables as Janis Joplin, Cher and Henry Fonda. After retiring in 1990, Tuttle occasionally tattoos his signature on a friend. That is what he did for his pal, Anna, just above her left ankle, adding “Antarctica 2014” underneath. Tuttle thus became the first person to tattoo on all seven continents.
Anna, an authority on tattoos, is verifying Lyle’s record. She has a Ph.D. in History of Culture, teaches tattoo studies at the School of the Art Institute and writes a popular tattoo blog. She’s also a “voracious” traveler, who has visited exotic locations around the globe. Closer to home, she attended a tattoo convention in St. Louis, where she learned of Tuttle’s quest to practice his craft in Antarctica.
Combining her talents for planning “elaborate travel adventures,” with her passion for tattoos, Anna agreed to arrange the journey. The tricky part was finding a way to spend the night on Antarctica, a privilege enjoyed by few. Anna discovered a Chilean charter flight company that offered an overnight stay.
The pair first traveled to the southernmost city in the world, Punta Arenas in Patagonia. From their hotel, they could see across the Straits of Magellan to Tierra Del Fuego. The area was home to a large number of flightless rheas. They also watched whales during their ferry ride across the strait.
After a few days exploring the region, their flight to Antarctica was ready for takeoff. Pilots can only fly to the continent during clear weather. They landed in a section where several scientific stations had been built on scarce non-glacial surface. The stations were operated by scientists from Chile, Russia, China and Uruguay. Anna and Lyle shared the Russian guest house with scientists visiting from Germany.
Outdoors in the 35 degree weather, their guide took them down a cliff to watch elephant seals in the Ross Sea. They also saw a great many whales, including one that made a spectacular leap (the first jump the guide had seen in eight years) and an abundance of penguins. Besides the wildlife, they witnessed the majesty of a glacier calving ice masses into the sea.
Aside from the natural grandeur, Anna loved hanging out with an “iconic character” and hearing his stories. Tuttle once identified feminism as the major force behind the popularity of tattoos. Anna would second that. As a “real nerdy punk rocker” she got her first tattoo at 18 and was a female pioneer in getting a sleeve.
As a tattoo historian, Anna can also dispel many myths about tattoos. She said they date back at least 6,000 years, if not 60,000. They were applied to mark rites of passage, as identifiers of culture and as a prehistoric cure for arthritic joints. “Ice Man” who is 5,500 years old, bears these therapeutic tattoos. Anna visited him in Tyrol in northern Italy.
Meanwhile, as someone who grew up in a small town, Anna loves the feel of Forest Park. She has an easy commute downtown and O’Hare International Airport allows her to make her travel dreams come true. She’s also a short walk from the dog park, where she brings her large but friendly Newfoundland. Wouldn’t you know his name is Magellan?
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.