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From the National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Dec 2, 2012 - National Geographic Explorer

National Geographic Explorer parked in the fast ice

Charlotte Bay and the Enterprise Islands, Antarctic Peninsula

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” - Hilary Cooper

And this was a breath-taking day – literally and figuratively. Antarctica doesn’t get any better. Expedition Leader Lisa Kelley awoke us with news of not one, two or three, but four emperor penguins on the ice alongside the ship, which was parked into the fast ice. We scurried from our cabins with cameras in hand to photograph these wayward juveniles, far from the place of their birth. They looked like giants compared to the gentoo penguins nearby. We didn’t expect to see these statuesque penguins (made famous in the film March of the Penguins) on an ordinary trip to the Antarctic Peninsula, but this is no ordinary trip.

As the sun climbed, a glorious light spilled onto distant icy mountains under a brilliant blue sky. We slam-dunked breakfast, donned our lifejackets and walked on the frozen waters of Charlotte Bay. It was pure magic. Not a breath of wind, and as the morning warmed we found ourselves over-dressed. Who would have thought that possible after yesterday’s snowstorm and last night’s 40-knot winds? Over and over, we’d hear the sentiment expressed: “If the trip ended now, it would be a complete success.” Or, “We could go home now and feel as though we had seen the best that Antarctica has to offer.” Amazing to think that the Captain’s Welcome Dinner was just last night.

As for taking our breath away, try jumping into the icy 29-degree waters of Antarctica, without a wet suit. GEEZE! For those who jumped in: well done hearty shipmates! For those who didn’t: good thinking wise elders! The photos and the memories will last a long time (as will the cold toes!)

After a well-deserved hot lunch, we headed for the Enterprise Islands, in Wilhelmina Bay, where we enjoyed a round of Zodiac cruising in what can only be described as “perfect” conditions. Crystal clear calm waters, blue icebergs, bright sunshine, snow-covered peaks, and mirror reflections. The only thing that could make this day absolutely more sublime would be a good look at a leopard seal….

If life is indeed measured by the moments that take our breath away, then we aboard National Geographic Explorer are living life to the fullest. Sleep well, breathless shipmates.

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