Bessie was no stranger to the joys of exploration. Her son was Lieutenant Commander Edward C. Sweeney, a lawyer, serviceman, and president of the prestigious Explorers Club, whose members boasted famous geographical firsts like reaching both poles. Edward accompanied Admiral Richard Byrd, on two exploratory trips into the South Pacific, and was also close friends with Captain Finn Ronne, another prominent polar explorer. Edward even had a mountain range named after him in Edith Ronne Land. But despite these incredible family ties to the world of polar exploration, Bessie had long resigned herself “to never being able to see that icy continent.”
Then, in her sunset years, Bessie learned about Lindblad Travel and Lars-Eric Lindblad’s upcoming voyage to Anatarctica, presumably from her son. It didn’t take long for the elderly widow from Rock Island, Illinois (known as “Gram Bessie” to her grandchildren) to make up her mind. She paid her $3,000 and was soon on her way to fulfill her lifelong dream.
We salute Bessie’s fervent curiosity and her shining example that it’s never too late to explore, learn, and experience this great big world. On her return, Bessie penned an article for the Associated Press that was printed in a number of national newspapers. We leave you with her own words about the experience—perhaps they will inspire you to make Antarctica a reality: