Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia
Sitting in a little café in Ushuaia, Argentina, sipping my espresso with the backdrop of the Tierra del Fuego National Park, I look out to the port where the Expedition is docked and loading passengers for her next adventure back down to Antarctica. A smile sneaks on my face as I recall how this whole adventure started and the secrets I now know.
Three weeks ago, we landed in Buenos Aires and were greeted by a personalized city tour guide. After paying our respects to Eva Peron's tombstone, we had enough time to freshen up for our authentic dinner and tango show. The music, composed by Astor Piazzolla, swept me away while watching the powerful dancers who had amazing chemistry. Home slowly inched its way out of my head and I finally felt mentally ready to hop on the last leg to get to the bottom of the world, Ushuaia.
The first two days on the ship were sea days, making our way to the Falkland Islands. With a busy lecture schedule and new people to meet, the land slipped away without noticing. Passenger diversity of many cultures, ages, and backgrounds guaranteed meal time to be an adventure in itself and my life started to revolve around the ship, forgetting about home. Our first landing on the Falkland Islands seemed almost staged with a few gentoo penguins eager to greet us, tropical-looking turquoise water and a wide open treeless island inviting us to hike to the top of the hill. I felt alive.
Saunders Island in the Falkland Islands is home to gentoo, king, macaroni, and magellanic penguins. We were also graced with the presence of nesting black-browed albatross with their grey chicks and a flock of sheep on the other side of the island.
After a couple days at sea, we arrived at South Georgia and were immediately shocked. From the eerie stadium sounds of cheering fans (thousands of fur seals on the beach) to the 110,000 breeding pairs of king penguins at St. Andrew's Bay, my whole body was in sensory overload. The weather was brilliant with crystal clear skies which amplified the colors of the sea, icebergs, and glaciers that surrounded this bay. Life seemed surreal. I wanted to preserve that experience, but it comforts me knowing it still exists down there today.
Between toasting Sir Ernest Shackleton at his grave, walking among the abandon whaling stations of Stromness and Grytviken, and riding the last wave on a Zodiac after dark with the full moon rising, I can honestly say I experienced South Georgia.
After three sea days, we arrived to the Peninsula via the South Shetlands. Neko Harbor was our landing to touch the continent. From my first step on the deck that morning to sledding down the mountain side, everything about the morning was perfect. My heart soared as I discovered where all the secrets of life are kept. I could see with such clarity, the light, colors, lines, jagged peaks. We had snowball fights, laughed hard, photographed each other and embraced the pure moment knowing how precious it was. Antarctica – full of clean air and endless beauty, it will rest in my head and heart for life.