Antarctic Resolution

by Thelma Wawrzonek Customer story

I looked at my husband and decided to tell him, “I always dreamed of going to Antarctica and seeing penguins. Lots of penguins.” It was finally out. Penguins? What was I thinking? I didn’t believe I would even survive that night, let alone do something so adventurous, go somewhere so remote as Antarctica. I was in a hospital emergency room. I had just suffered a heart attack. Squeezing my hand, my husband assured me, “We will go to Antarctica. You will see penguins.” His promise (albeit a “death-bed” one) ignited my penguin-hope. As the anaesthetist sedated me for an angiogram, I imagined penguins dancing, happy feet on ice. I started to count them.
Antarctic Resolution

Barco: El Ortelius

Regiones: Antártida

Antarctic Resolution

I looked at my husband and decided to tell him, “I always dreamed of going to Antarctica and seeing penguins. Lots of penguins.” It was finally out. Penguins? What was I thinking? I didn’t believe I would even survive that night, let alone do something so adventurous, go somewhere so remote as Antarctica. I was in a hospital emergency room. I had just suffered a heart attack. Squeezing my hand, my husband assured me, “We will go to Antarctica. You will see penguins.” His promise (albeit a “death-bed” one) ignited my penguin-hope. As the anaesthetist sedated me for an angiogram, I imagined penguins dancing, happy feet on ice. I started to count them.

Going south

And so, a year later, we are sailing on an expedition ship called Ortelius, visiting various bays of the Antarctic Peninsula. Towering black-rock peaks encrusted with snow and ice surround us, flanked by glaciers built up over centuries with accumulated ice, deeply crevassed and moving so slowly. The glacial faces hang poised to splinter and drop into the sea. They are cracked and sliced, exposing layers of whites, greys, and hues of iridescent blues.

Aboard Ortelius

Ortelius moves daily from one bay to another. The captain and crew closely watch for icebergs and pack ice, alert to maintain the ship at a safe distance from danger, yet close enough to access the shore, where each day we are kept busy with two activity-based excursions. Bill, a proud Scot dressed in a kilt, is one of the Ortelius expedition leaders. He prepares the one hundred and seventeen passengers to “look, see, and think” as we venture outside. Most have selected to do the adventure activities offered: Zodiac boat tours, kayaking, snowshoeing, mountain climbing, and camping overnight on the snow in bivvy bags. Bill regales us with the whaling and sealing history from last century, when thousands of whales and countless seals were decimated to near-extinction. Even with treaties to stop the slaughter, their numbers remain dangerously depleted. He implores us to raise awareness, protest against the current harvesting of krill, which is the very basic element of the Antarctic food chain. We are aware of the prevailing fear that the earth is warming and this fragile Antarctic environment is on the edge, like the shards and blocks of ice teetering on the glaciers, about to break and tumble into melting sea ice. The Zodiacs skim across the smooth water between the icebergs. The large floating ice chunks are both beautiful and mysteriously dangerous with their hidden unpredictable size. Many smaller ones are carved and hollowed out into crazy abstract shapes. They shimmer crystal whites and vivid blues. When we step ashore, we strap on snowshoes and ready our cameras. The landscape transforms from being suffused in muted light to being brilliantly sharp in dazzling sunshine. Everyone is poised to catch glimpses of: blue-eyed shags, albatrosses, whales, Weddell seals, and Adélie, chinstrap, and gentoo penguins. Anything and everything.

Penguins

One morning I stand beside a rookery with thousands of gentoo penguins. I smell the acrid penguin poo. Hear them honking. Their red beaks and white marking on their foreheads are distinctive against their sleek black coats and white chests. They waddle close by, seemingly unfazed by us as they march a familiar route up a hill to find their mates. Another day, as we alight from the Zodiac, nearby penguins slither with ease from the water, glistening and perfectly clean. They clamber over rocks and onto ice, shifting their weight from side to side with their flippers held at right angles to their torso. They drop onto their chests and slide forward, paddling their webbed back-feet for purchase on the ice. Many scamper to and fro, collecting pebbles for their nests by clasping them in the end of their pointy beaks, testing each for size and shape, dropping one, collecting another. Stealing pebbles from another penguin’s nest, they turn to sneak away. The other prods the thief with a snapping beak. I smile, laugh aloud, and silently applaud the cheeky survival-of-the-fittest tactics.

Kayaking

We go kayaking when no wind disturbs the reflections cast upon the pristine water. We stop and gently float with every sense hyper-alert. A photomontage is imprinted onto my brain, like an old movie reel capturing myriads of flickering exposures: the mountains, the crisp bright icy whites of icebergs, flashes of colour, the glare of sun striking water momentarily ruffled by mere breaths of breezes. Sensations are embedded, like subtle faint whiffs of penguin aromas, my heart racing, my mouth tasting dry and penetrating cold. Even with two layers of gloves, my fingers gripping the paddle are becoming chilled and damp. Sunlight pierces the cloud cover. I raise my eyes and hold my breath. I feel a swelling pride, yet I am insignificant. I want to cry out with exultation, yet I bow in existential humility. I am here but for a moment in this timeless frozen art gallery. I try to whisper but it catches in my throat. The sound of silence is splintered by the movement of a group of penguins dipping and plunging nearby. Buoyant, agile, leaping just above the surface as if they are flying. I laugh with effervescence because I am here. I am flushed and stirred with adrenalin usually reserved for experiencing mountaintops, rock-climbs, and skydiving. Between two icebergs a lone Weddell seal emerges, lifts his nose just above the water with his whiskers glinting. His large black eyes stare at us. We stare back. We hold our paddles aloft, not daring to break the spell by moving or speaking. We are privileged observers embracing more meaning than just taking photos. This seal is my reminder about survival against the odds.

The resolution

I return to the ship and stand momentarily on the deck, awestruck by the surrounding grandeur. I scan for whales, seals, and more penguins. I close my eyes, breathe deep with a sharp intake of cold air. I think of Captain Cook’s journal from 1775, which describes sailing south to the Antarctic and being forced to retreat with fear that his ship Resolution would become stuck in the gathering pack ice: “The [risk] one runs in exploring a coast in the unknown and icy seas is so very great that I can be bold to say that no Man will ever venture farther than I have done… that Land which may lie to the south will never be explored…” That is how I felt a year ago – facing the fear I’d never venture further. Man did venture and did explore farther than Captain Cook. I dared to dream of this seemingly out-of-reach goal. Tears could start to freeze on my exposed cheeks. I smile. Smug. I turn towards my warm cabin, reminded of the fragility of life and survival in the Antarctic. Ortelius has ventured beyond Cook’s furthest southerly position. And, like Captain Cook, I am just passing through. 

¿Le gusta este artículo? Compartir su apreciación:

Cruceros relacionados

Mar de Weddell – En busca del pingüino Emperador, incl. Helicópteros
Hasta 2000 USD de descuento

Mar de Weddell – En busca del pingüino Emperador, incl. Helicópteros

En busca de los Pingüinos Emperador

OTL22-19. Una verdadera expedición, nuestro crucero al Mar de Weddell explorará el hábitat del pingüino Emperador en las proximidades de la isla Cerro Nevado. Visitaremos el área en helicópteros y veremos una variedad de otras aves que incluyen pingüinos Adelia y Papúa.

m/v Ortelius

m/v Ortelius

Fecha del crucero:

14 nov. - 24 nov., 2019

Precio:

por encargo

Península Antártica – El viaje pionero antártico

Viaje pionero antártico

PLA23-19. Durante este viaje intentaremos realizar desembarco que raramente o jamás han sido ofrecidos por Oceanwide Expeditions – o cualquier otro operador antártico. La flexibilidad es crucial durante esta emocionante expedición. Dado que la información sobre los sitios de desembarco es limitada o desconoci...

m/v Plancius

m/v Plancius

Fecha del crucero:

20 nov. - 30 nov., 2019

Precio:

por encargo

Islas Malvinas – Georgias del Sur – Antártica

Cumplir al menos seis especies de pingüinos

PLA24-19. Este crucero a las islas Malvinas, Georgias del Sur y Península Antártica es el sueño de los amantes del animales hecho realidad. Las expedición explora una de las últimas regiones indómitas sobre la Tierra – una tierra de bellos paisajes escarpados e increíble variedad de vida silvestre.

m/v Plancius

m/v Plancius

Fecha del crucero:

30 nov. - 18 dic., 2019

Precio:

12750 USD

Antártida – Viajes de descubrimiento y aprendizaje

clásico Antártida

HDS23-19. La “clásica” ruta antártica. Este crucero lo llevará a paisajes maravillosos que se encuentran en uno de los ambientes más hostiles de la Tierra. Los grande protagonistas de la Antártida y, en total, hasta 4 especies pueden aparecer frente a sus ojos.

m/v Hondius

m/v Hondius

Fecha del crucero:

2 dic. - 11 dic., 2019

Precio:

por encargo

Antártica – Campamento Base

El mejor viaje de la actividad en la Antártida

OTL24-19. El crucero Campamento Base a la Península Antártica le ofrece una miríada de maneras de explorar y disfrutar de la región Antártica. Esta expedición le permitirá realizar caminatas, utilizar raquetas de nieve, andar en kayak, practicar montañismo e incluso acampara bajo los cielos polares antárticos...

m/v Ortelius

m/v Ortelius

Fecha del crucero:

5 dic. - 16 dic., 2019

Precio:

por encargo