Posted 24-Apr-2018 by Norsewear
What does a journey to the southern polar region of Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic Islands offer? Adventure, a sense of achievement, and magical moments to cherish and etch into the memory.
My journey south was the fulfilment of a long-held hope to experience Antarctica, a region that had beckoned me since my teens.
In February, I joined Heritage Expeditions’ 30-day trip to the Sub-Antarctic Islands and the Ross Sea in Antarctica. The islands are like jewels in the Southern Ocean, thankfully being preserved for wildlife to inhabit without threat or exploitation from humans, as they had historically encountered. Some of the delights of the islands are the mega-herbs, chest-high tussock, and animals unafraid of humans. It was incredible to be in an inflatable boat, or sitting on a beach, surrounded by dozens of curious, beautiful and utterly charming king penguins – they were as willing to engage with us as we were with them. Or to watch a mother and father royal southern albatross exchange nest duties and preen and groom each other before the departing bird beat its wide wings and soared into the sky. While I was transfixed by this experience, it felt so intimate that I thought to avert my gaze.
The Ross Sea, and Antarctica itself, present extremes – of scale in landscape, remoteness and separation from regular life, sea and weather conditions where katabatic winds whip their fury, of cold and gratitude for layers of warm woollen clothing, in pristine and ‘undeveloped’ environments, exemplars of creatures adapted to severe cold, and of awe, beauty and pure magic. It’s difficult to convey in words, picture or film how special an encounter with Antarctica can be. To experience nature in such extremes is humbling and sobering.
A polar experience contrasts with life in urban centres and it raises issues about how we connect with and care for nature. Historically, Antarctica was seen as a place to conquer, but I see it as a majestic area to appreciate deeply and to protect.