“Tongue and pen fail in attempting to describe the magic” - Ernest Shackleton
To put into words my time in Antarctica and South Georgia is nearly impossible. I had always described it as a once in a lifetime experience, but as soon as I stepped foot on the continent from my very first zodiac excursion, I immediately knew I needed to return.
I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. About 50% of the passengers aboard our expedition cruise had been to Antarctica at least once before. This goes to show just how magical of a destination it is. One of the most remote places on earth, yet we all wish to visit and return.
All your senses will be tickled and sometimes slapped…is the best way I can describe the time on the white continent. How tiny you feel next to towering glaciers and icebergs. The icy water moving through your body as you take the infamous Polar Plunge. The pungent smell of an elephant seal’s breath, even from a safe 10 meter distance. The learning of heartwrenching stories of survival from explorers of the past. The swarm of different yet cohesive calls from a massive king penguin colony. The unexpected hello from a Minke whale just meters away from your zodiac. The list goes on.
Antarctica makes you feel so small and insignificant, in the best way. Everything has a purpose, and the cycle of life is evident. You get front row seats to witness the most incredible show: nature. It is as much beautiful as is it harsh. Like seeing a brown skua attacking a gentoo penguin chic. Your heart aches. Then your expedition guide regretfully tells you that a chic that small in March would have very slim chances of surviving the upcoming winter. The cycle continues, and you’re left wondering who to root for. It’s like watching a Planet Earth episode in HD!
Things move fast in Antarctica, and every month offers something really unique and special to see. In March, the weather is a bit more unpredictable, and the sea ice is beginning to form again. Our voyage was the last of the season. In two more weeks, expedition ships would not be able to break through the ice.
The penguins are completing their yearly molting process. They are really vulnerable during this time, and cannot go in the water until they shed their coat. The expedition team made sure we kept our distance and did not scare them into hiding under water, where the freezing temperatures may cause them harm or even death.
The black-browed albatross chics, who are already bigger than their cliff companions, the rockhopper penguins are weeks away from heading out to sea for 5 years. Most of them successfully return to their very own nests to raise their young. As if their perfectly smoky eye makeup wasn’t enough to make these birds extraordinary, they spend years building perfectly-shaped cylinder nests made of mud, guano (penguin poop), seaweed, and tussack grass.
Humpbacks are filling up on krill and getting ready to migrate north for the winter. During migration, breeding, and calving, the whales do not eat. Meanwhile, if I don’t stuff my face every 4 hours, I become unbearable.
These animals, arguably the cutest you will ever see, endure such unfavorable environments. It’s absolutely incredible to witness the challenges, the skill, the efforts, all of it. I am forever grateful to have been a visitor.
These moments are just the tip of the iceberg. Pun intended.
The only way to truly understand is to experience it for yourself.
Interested in reliving my expedition cruise? Take a look at the trip!