Lindblad Expeditions - From the National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica - Kim Heacox, naturalist
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From the National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Dec 23, 2012 - National Geographic Explorer

Zodiac cruisers in Cierva Cove

Cierva Cove and Enterprise Islands, Antarctica

The achingly beautiful Beatles song, Here comes the Sun, that kicks off the great album, Abbey Road, was written by George Harrison while walking about in Eric Clapton’s Garden back in London in 1968. What masterpiece might George (the youngest Beatle, but also the one in search of life’s deepest meanings) have written had he been with us today along the Danco Coast of Antarctica, as sunlight danced off a million faceted faces of icy tidewater glaciers? We sailed into diamond-studded waters made gemlike by icebergs, bergy bits, and growlers, the water so clear we could see the aquamarine profiles of ice underwater, and hyrdrobatic gentoo penguins swimming under and around us.

We cruised through Cierva Cove by Zodiac, the nimble, inflatable 10-passenger boats we use to travel from ship to shore and back, and slalomed through gardens of our own, not of flowers and trees, but gardens of ice moving with the tides. Our morning was windless, almost breathless, with the music of melting ice everywhere; sunlight gleaming off everything, and we photographers enchanted by a million images in every direction, and others among us eager to learn wonderful tidbits of natural history about Antarctica, home to 90% of the world’s ice (Greenland contains eight percent, all the rest amounts to only two percent).

Such a classroom and concert hall is Antarctica, a crystal palace and a living dream, a scientific benchmark and chance to see the world the way it was, and still is, thanks to those who came before and had the vision and courage to protect it.

We found leopard seals and Weddell seals on ice floes, and were charmed to see a chinstrap penguin next to a leopard seal, the chinnie at ease, a little soldier penguin unperturbed by a seal that preys on penguins in the water but not on the ice.

The music continued into the afternoon as we visited the Enterprise Islands, where John Lennon’s song, Come Together (also off Abbey Road), made an appropriate theme. Once again, we strangers became boatmates and partners in adventure, some of us in Zodiacs, others in kayaks, paddling the glassy waters as Antarctic terns flaunted their aerial supremacy, dipping, diving and calling, their voices a nice complement to the sounds of water dripping off our paddles.

After dinner we plunged our ship into the fast ice of Charlotte Bay in hopes that we could go for an evening walk. But the ice splintered all around us and proved too unsafe to walk upon. Still, to nose into it was a great thrill, one to give us dreams of more adventures ahead, the music to be written, the gardens yet to explore.

About the Author

Kim Heacox·National Geographic Photographer

Kim Heacox has worked for the National Geographic Society as an assignment writer and photographer since 1985, he has twice won the Lowell Thomas Award for excellence in travel writing. He’s written four books for National Geographic, including Visions of a Wild America (1996), Shackleton: The Antarctic Challenge (1999), and An American Idea: The Making of the National Parks (2001), which earned him a consultant position on Ken Burns's 12-hour PBS film The National Parks: America's Best Idea documenting the history of the national parks and the U.S. conservation movement.