The day I met the Emperor of the Drake
There are certain moments in life when a series of events combine to create an experience that is both unexpected and unforgettable. These are the times when you are reminded how fortunate you are to be a part of something that few people will ever have the opportunity to experience. This trip to Antarctica was full of these moments for me.
We had been blessed with idyllic weather most of the trip. As the photography guide, I found myself in many euphoric moments as amazing light revealed surreal landscapes and the wildlife encounters ranged from a pod of more than 25 orcas to breaching humpback whales right next to the ship. The excitement of the crew and passengers was contagious and as we set sail into the Drake Passage, many stories, reflections and revelations were shared on the decks and in the bar.
My first Emperor penguin
The next morning we awoke to another surprise, the notoriously rough Drake Passage was calm and the sun was shining. It was decided that because conditions were so favorable we would attempt a Zodiac cruise on “Drake Lake.” At the Antarctic Convergence, in the middle of the Drake, the Zodiacs were lowered and the gangway readied.
Suddenly a very excited message came across the staff radios from Simon “EMPEROR PENGUIN RIGHT NEXT TO MY ZODIAC!” At first we all thought it was a bit of a joke but soon it became clear that it was reality. My heart raced as I am I fairly passionate birdwatcher and the thought of seeing this rarity in such a unique situation kicked on my adrenaline.
I wildly scanned the horizon with my binoculars and found Simons Zodiac already a long way from the ship. The first Zodiac full of passengers arrived and it was confirmed by radio that the Emperor was still there. I knew that I would be in the last boat and was sure that there was no way that I was going to see this incredible bird. Amazingly the Emperor politely waited for all nine zodiacs to arrive, greeting each one with its ethereal call. And as the last Zodiac arrived, with me in it, I was awestruck. There it was… my first Emperor penguin… on a Zodiac cruise in the middle of the Drake Passage. Magic!