Tuesday 18 January 2011

Eternal Treasure

Final footsteps were set upon the beach at Brown Bluff. This area is adored by expedition staff for good reason: Adélies pour over the pebbly shores beneath 750 metre volcanic cliffs and a huffing hike up the ridge is rewarded with awesome views over Antarctic Sound, itself festooned with big beautiful ice and porpoising penguins. Gentoo chicks were old enough to perform their hilarious feeding chases, the seemingly alarmed parents managing to keep a short stride or two ahead. Who knew such short legs could propel a little wobbly object at such speeds?

Our afternoon sailing in Antarctic Sound was a befitting farewell to this magical land. Patches of blue sky broke through a grey-white cloud cover, colossal drifting tabulars dwarfed everything in their shadow, including our vessel, rafts of Adélies – thousands of them – skimmed and splashed their way across the sea surface, orcas in pursuit, and a bitingly cold wind was a constant reminder of our locale and our vulnerability in the face of nature.

As we left Antarctic Sound and entered the Bransfield Strait, the thinning field of ice shimmered, reflecting back the yellows, pinks and oranges of the setting sun. Over time, our final glimpses of bergs and ice-clad lands will merge with our first impressions of Antarctica and with all of the wonderful days in between. The rich memories we sail away with are precious. They will become fixed, cordoned off from the elements and experiences of everyday life. They will never abandon us but will radiate light and warmth and joy whenever we wish to access them. Antarctica will be with us for all time.