[Dear Readers, I have written about my Antarctica experience before and posted it here and elsewhere. This retelling is to show where that experience has led me–the changes, the reasons, and the absolute trust that the changes have made me better. I hope you enjoy this and maybe see a likeness in your own life.]
Precursors and Such
My Antarctica Experience started years before I ever thought of traveling. I joined a choir. Not your usual choir but a community choir that sang everything from early chants to James Taylor.
I mention this because that is where I met Leigh. Leigh became a travel agent and at a convention won the grand prize of a trip for two to Antarctica. Leigh’s parent’s couldn’t go. Her brother couldn’t go. Her best friend couldn’t go. That left the older woman who applied begging, cajoling, attempted bribery (I was willing to clean her house, for heaven’s sake!) and some really good dinners.
I think the dinners did her in.
And so, in January of 2018, we found ourselves in Ushuaia, Argentina walking the forest at the base of Mount Olivia. I thought I would never see anything more beautiful. Not to take anything away from Mt. Olivia or the wonderful forest (and the tree), but I was so very wrong.
The first greeting I got as I boarded the Island Sky (our boat to Antarctica) was “You’re Irish?”.
It came with that lovely lilt that only an Irishman has. It was the incomparable ornithologist, Jim Wilson. He had spotted the spelling of my first name on my name tag and knew immediately where it came from (the word Gaelic!)
In addition to spotting and identifying all the birds and whales around us, he gave a lecture on the Irishman who is credited with being the first to see and chart the Antarctic Peninsula–that would be Edward Bransfield.
I missed that lecture as he presented it on our first evening at sea. Those of you who have sailed the Drake Passage will undoubtedly understand the reason why so many missed that particular lecture. That wasn’t my reason. I was just exhausted from the trip to Ushuaia and the hike around the forest that had occurred earlier. My thought, to be honest, was ‘who cares about Edward Bransfield? Never heard of him’ And I went to bed.
As a side note I must convey my ignorance of the Drake Passage. I knew that it could have heavy seas but the reality didn’t start to set in until the crew placed a steel plate over our forward looking window. A STEEL PLATE!!! It became absolute reality when I woke up in the middle of the night and had to use the restroom. I tried to stand. The boat tried to pirouette. I found myself on my bed in a rather ungainly position. So I rolled to the floor. And I crawled. Flat on my belly. No hands and knees stuff while the ship was doing a break dance. By the time I got to where I needed to go I had closely examined the carpet and the little step I had to negotiate in order to open the door.
You will be pleased to know that the mission was accomplished and the return trip was just as exciting. It was all worth it when I opened the curtains the following morning (I slept like a rock and apparently didn’t roll)(ok, bad pun).
I opened the curtain and saw a sight that nearly reduced me to tears. Black/blue waters, black rocks/mountains, and icebergs as far as I could see.
I think I have never felt so insignificant and so awestruck. My photos do this first day no justice. In fact, I had forgotten to charge the camera battery! So pictures of that day on land are credited to Bruce Hampton from Las Vegas.
But I was in Antarctica on a trip that was in the process of changing my life. I just didn’t know it at the time.