As I sit in the lounge of the Plancius and look out at the endless expanse of ocean, the sun shines brightly as we roll over a calm Drake Passage. It is the last day of my Antrarctic adventure, I am truly blessed to of been able to experience this amazing place and even moreso for the incredible weather, abundance of wildlife, spectacular scenery and the wonderful people I have shared it with.
I have been looking over the photos, my own and those shared by others and couldn't keep the smile from my face or the tears from my eyes. It has been day after day of penguins playing, seals lazing on icebergs, humpback whales providing lunchtime entertainment and the most brilliant and awe inspiring scenery that nature has to offer.
March has been a month of the Greatest Shows on Earth, from man and mother nature and a birthday so unique and fabulous that I wonder how it could possibly be topped in years to come!
After two days at sea we arrived at our first landing site, Half Moon Bay. The air was thick with misty fog but the excitement and anticipation to explore was overwhelming and we were greeted by hundreds of chin-strap penguins and playful fur seals....too playful in fact, the juvenile ones wanted to play with us and despite being bigger than them they are quite intimidating when they bound up to you, growling and smiling at the same time. Later the same day we arrived at Deception Bay and had the chance to go kayaking, the mist had cleared and the fur seals were in abundance, playfully swimming alongside our kayaks.
The coming days brought my favourite landing of the trip and my Antarctic birthday celebration. After cruising past icebergs we arrived at Neko Harbour, the sky a perfect combination of blue and grey clouds; the sun streaming through brightly creating a rainbow of colours reflecting off the glaciers, the snow and brash ice. Neko Harbour provided our only continent landing and a chance to raise the heart rate a little with a walk up to a panoramic view over the harbour, the beautiful reflections, carving glaciers and tiny ship sitting in the harbour below looked spectacular. I wondered how it could possibly get any better than this.
I think this is a good point to introduce my wonderful room-mates, I stayed in a quad share dorm room on the ship and was blessed with the company of Dawn, an artist from London, Jamie, writer/producer from LA and Maartje, one half of the super fun couple that is Maartje & Barry, from the Netherlands. Upon returning to the ship that evening we were all excited and estatic to discover that after nine years together Barry had popped the question to Maartje during their continient landing and they were engaged. A dorm party ensued in which we toasted the happy couple with whiskey on the rocks, the rocks being glacial ice that Ryan had brought back from the afternoon zodiac cruise! I am not one for whiskey but with the hundred year old ice and the happy circumstances it was delicious.
The following day was my birthday and the day we crossed the Polar Circle, I started the day with champagne on the bow deck as everyone celebrated the crossing and sung Happy Birthday to me, a pretty amazing way to start off what was to be a fantastic day. After a landing on Detaille Island a few Humpback Whales put on a show outside my lunch table window, diving up out of the water just meters from the portal. A lazy lunch and a few glasses of wine later and the sea became the stage for Orca (Killer) Whales, a pod of them hunting starboard of the ship. The evening brought more food, more wine, another rendition of Happy Birthday, a birthday cake and the birth of Article, a small toy penguin that my new friends gave me along with a birthday card signed by everyone. The seas were quite rough that evening and one by one my birthday crew retreated to the safety of their beds and the few of us that remained played yet another game of cards. Then there was two....another year and another birthday came to a close with a shot of jager and a sneaky hallway pash...
As we approach dry land and my Antarctic tour comes to an end I am looking forward to the next chapter in my big adventure, Antarctica has been the experience of a lifetime and the only way to decribe it is the word we have all said at least a hundred times each on this trip.... AWESOME!