Featured Writer: Cheryl Harwood
When I first suggested a trip to Antarctica, the rest of the family thought I was unhinged. But it was the only continent that we had yet to visit so we read anything we could find, packed everything we could fit, and thought we were ready for anything the continent could throw at us. But nothing could have prepared us for the breath-taking beauty and extreme wildness of Antarctica. Our last day on the Antarctic Peninsula dawned with a soft, blue and pink sunrise and a surprisingly warm temperature. This provided the perfect backdrop for our first stop of the day, Cuverville.
After stepping out of the zodiac, we stopped to admire the glaciers tumbling down the mountains to theAntarctic Oceanand the penguin rookery nestled along the shore. Then we set off to hike up the small mountain surrounding the bay.
Soon we were shedding our winter layers as we made our way up the top. We walked in a tight line and there is something fascinating about walking along a path that has only been traversed by a chosen few. When you arrive at the top, the clarity of the air allows you to see majestic peak after majestic peak stretching endlessly to the horizon. And I have yet to find the perfect words to describe the deep blue of the glacier revealed by your footsteps and the magnificence of the fresh snow that has never been touched by another being except maybe a passing bird. All too soon it was time to make our way back to the ship. We walked along the path for the first 50 feet before remembering that going down is sometimes harder then going up. Our expedition leader had the brilliant idea to slid down the side of the mountain and she went first to show us how it could be done. We sat down in her path and allowed gravity to take us to the bottom in short order. We would have made record time back to the boat had we not stumbled upon another penguin rookery that forced us to backtrack back up the mountain and come down another way.
On our way to our next stop, we paused for a photo-op with the sister ship of the Le Borreal. We were excited because we had not seen another ship since leaving theFalkland Islandsat the very beginning of our trip. As the passengers yelled greeting back and forth across the bay, the crew were busy exchanging supplies. Over the course of our 14 days at sea, we had run out of several items and the other crew was generously replenishing our supply of tomatoes, sprite, and beer.Our final stop of the day was atNekoHarbor. We made short work of the small mountain located behind the harbor, climbing to the top just in time to see a glacier cave into the bay. Then we slide back down the mountain before visiting the penguin colony next to our landing site.
These penguins made stone nests to keep their young chicks warm and dry. But even though stones were in large supply at the beach, the penguins spent most of their day either stealing small pebbles from their neighbors or protecting their own nests.
As the sun sunk lower in the sky, it was time to return to the ship. The Captain hoisted the anchor and we headed to the open waters of theDrake Passage. We crowded the windows for one last glimpse of the white continent. None of us would be returning unchanged and we all harbor a fierce desire to protect “the only place on earth that can make you feel so alive and so insignificant all in the same breath.”
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