The Island Sky passengers and Expedition Crew- January, 2018. Photo courtesy of Zegrahm Expeditions
When you are feeling insignificant. When you are overwhelmed by beauty. When the squawk of a penguin or the elegance of a whale take you way outside yourself. It is nice to have someone there to look at you and silently ask, “Did you feel that?” “Did you see that?”. And you both grin from ear to ear and watch another penguin steal a pebble for their partner that is still sitting on that nest of hungry chicks.
I was extremely lucky to have a traveling partner that knew how to giggle. It became a baseline of communication. Especially when we found ourselves on top of mountains we didn’t know we could climb or when the boat sent you flying.
And we were both lucky that our fellow passengers were equally in awe.
We were all lucky that our expedition leaders were as excited to see the first Albatross (or penguin, or seal, or whale) of the voyage as they were when they spotted an Albatross for the very first time. Their excitement and awe at the wonders around us grounded me. It kept me from losing myself in the majestic cathedral of icebergs.
It isn’t often you see a grown man jumping up and down on a ship’s deck pointing to a pod of whales and yelling “Minkey, minkey!!” (he was our cetologist!)
Those skilled and brilliant men and women not only used their skills to keep us safe (especially if you did or were about to do something stupid) but they imparted useful information that helped to make sense of what we were seeing.
Did you know that there are three vascular plants growing in Antarctica? I had no idea. But I learned that two of them are native. The third is not. It is Kentucky Bluegrass. (that from our phytologist)
It is because Kentucky Bluegrass was introduced by explorers that you step into a chemical bath (for your boots) every time you leave the ship for a landing and every time that you return. Nothing is to be added to Antarctica and nothing is taken from it.
I have seen amazing icebergs, several species of whale, seals and penguins. And my boots have been in the cold water of Antarctica. I have seen and felt what few humans have been able to do.
I have taken something from Antarctica and I left something there…
I now have a new happy place!