I believe some journeys just do not end with the moment of coming back home. They last much longer, until one is finally ready to let it go. My sailing trip to Antarctica was one of those. Some friends were laughing for weeks later that my mind was still sailing somewhere far south. And they were right. My thoughts were drifting between white and blue icebergs, chattering with penguins and whales, for a long time after I returned to Ushuaia. Obviously I was already thinking about going there again and I know that I will not find peace until I make a plan for my next journey to the White Continent. I feel like I left part of my soul there. The other part already belongs to Arctic. I only have to find a way to pass the tropics in between and I think I could live travelling from the top of the World to the bottom beyond the End.
Fortunatelly that was not my first time in the lands of ice. When I first visited Arctic region, I went for sailing trip to Svalbard and I was totally overhelmed by the beauty of the landscape and wild life I had chance to see on the west part of Spitsbergen. There were moments when I was just standing motionless, looking straight towards snowy peaks and calm sea surface covered by icebergs, and I was moved to tears. Afterwards I also went to East Greenland and Alaska and even though they were totally different, they all together made me ready to see Antarctica. If I wasn’t prepared for what I saw there, I think I would just stay there forever, at the edge of the snow cliff, admiring the view until the end of time… The feeling of being in the last remote and truly austere place was somohow very satisfying. All the answers in one place.
Our original plan was to first stop in Deception Island. I was already planning taking a bath (at least with my feet) in a tiny hot spring that apparently exists on this caldera. But as it often happens with all plans at sea, we had to adjust it to the new weather conditions and we changed our destination to Trinity Island instead. It was like in the opera. At the beginning we could only see foggy shapes of the mountains and a darker spot of some cruise ship anchoring close to the landing point. As we were passing by some ice bergs, the vision became little more clear and we could slowly recognise the argentinian little hut and gentoo penguins colony all around it. Before we could distinguish the silhouettes of this funny birds, we could recognise their specific aroma. Unlike some of my friends, I did not expect them to be the size of Emperor Penguins. But I was equally surprised how noisy and clumsy they are when walking on shore. Everything changes when it comes to swimming. Once in the water, they look as if they were flying, so graceful, so pertly. It is a pleasure to watch them chasing the game.
Whilst we were wandering around the little rocky island, between groups of dirty penguins (not much left from their black and white stylish suits), they were feeding their newborn chicks or still sitting on the eggs. Every now and then some arguments started about little rocks for their nests, equaly amusing as their funny jumps into or from the water. I think that is the best time of the year to visit Antarctica for the first time!
Except the penguins colony, there are also ruins of the old whale boats and gigantic whales vertebrae which altogether are like a monument of the past. Penguins walking this way and back between them make it look almost surreal. And then the sky cleared up a little and we could see the sourrounding mountains covered with snow and melting ice in all shades of white and blue. Magnificent.
We visited three polar stations. Starting with the most commercial one, Port Lockroy, where are small museum and the post office situated furthermost south on our planet. Lots and lots of tourists, and the limit of people per visit at a time. So we were squized together with part of the crew of some cruise ship. Nearly more people than penguins and the road marks for both to separate the traffic for different species. Penguins have the privilege on their highways and I am not sure who actually moves more clumsy of this two groups. In such an environment they are trying to make research on tourist’s impact on wildlife in Antarcica. Good luck.
The next two stations were totally different. In chilean base at Waterboat Point we were invited for the barbecue and it ended up with crazy dancing with the crew for half a night. We all had great time and many great photos around that site were taken as the weather was excellent! Most of the time.
Just before we headed north for the last time, we also enjoyed a dinner together with the whole crew of argentinian Melchior Base. It was the tiniest one, that had been operated not for long before our visit (after couple of years of break), even most of the supplies were still waiting to be arranged. And people were just getting to know each other and the new place, that was going to be their home for few months. Only there I realized, that however nice the thought is to live in Antarctic for a while, I don’t think I would like to live in such a small place without the real possibility to go anywhere out. On the other hand, maybe finally I would catch up with my blog…
Early morning watch is always my favourite. I love to see the sky turning slowly in colors, the first glimpse of Sun and the feeling that „everything can happen today”. And the beauty of the sunrise is always touching. But there, among the fanciful icebergs covered by melted gold of the first sunrays, the misterious mist giving slowly way to the expanding universe – that was unreal and nearly took my breath away. No words can explain that emotion.
We went once for a walk up the snowy hill to look at our pretty yacht Lady Dana 44 moored to the wreck of the whaleship Governoren, which got in fire in 1916 and stayed there as a half sunk rusty monument. Our tiny temporary floating home next to the hungry monster. But it was bloodless encounter. So was the other one. How nice it was to knock into our friends from another polish sailboat Isfuglen! To stay longside with them and drink mate together somewhere in the middle of the channel next to Antarctic Peninsula – what a meeting! We took some photos together and then we sailed in two different directions… Two defferent boats, two crews, two stories. But sometimes they interlock.
There were penguins, and more penguins, whales, Weddell Seals, many kinds of sea birds and though, especially the first ones were quite noisy, somehow all together it concurs to create a very peaceful world. Swimming there in icy fresh water, while having amazing white and blue scenery around and penguins company – the best bath ever!!
Finally the time came to come back. Only there is no true coming back from a journey like this. It changes you and you leave part of yourself there. All the people you met. All the feelings you shared. What is left is bunch of photos, personal memories and the hole in your heart. You can only fill it up by returning there again…
Let it be.