Lindblad Expeditions - From the National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica - Ian Bullock, naturalist; Radar photo: Tom Ritchie

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From the National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Feb 10, 2013 - National Geographic Explorer

6:30 a.m.: Blizzard of moving icebergs on the radar
8:30 a.m.: First light: Whales Ahoy!
12:30 p.m.: Neko Harbour: returning to the ship

Neko Harbour and Danco Island, Antarctic Peninsula

A day in the life, on board National Geographic Explorer:
5:30 a.m. - Grey skies, low cloud base, hardly worth vacating warm bunk.
6:30 a.m. - Grey skies, medium cloud base, hardly worth being on the bridge.
7:30 a.m. - Grey skies, three blowing humpbacks and a minke, OK: worth being on the bridge!
8:00 a.m. - Tannoy alert: “Killer whales on the bow”: definitely worth abandoning breakfast!
8:30 a.m. - A dozen killer whales and 4 minkes alongside the ship, worth reaching the bow.
8:45 a.m. - Zodiac with scientists stalking killer whales to take skin samples, worth using binoculars; still black water, white bergs, soaring rock spires, spotlit sun worth a photo.
9:00 a.m. - Neko Harbour: tumbling glaciers, sheer rock cliffs and an active gentoo colony, some nests with tiny chicks only three days old, sure worth going ashore today!
10:00 a.m. - Climb 500 feet to a rock eyrie with overview: glacier face collapses with a roar, minke whale swims into the bay below us, absolutely worth the heart-thumping climb.
1:00 p.m. - Swedish beef and pork: mmm! Worth the 30ft climb to the Dining Room…
3:00 p.m. - Paddling kayaks out among huge icebergs, told to move away from inquisitive leopard seals, sea flat calm: worth the paddle!
4:30 p.m. - Landed by Zodiac on Danco Island, trekked over green snow, up muddy scree, on slick rocks polished by generations of penguin pilgrims, worth our magic Muck boots.
5:30 p.m. - Racing back to our mother ship across a black sea zigzagging between white and turquoise icebergs, exhausted but exhilarated.

Has it all been worth it? Was it worth being cold and hot by extremes, was it worth being ecstatic and apprehensive within minutes of each other? How do we weigh worth? Only know that after barely two days in this frozen paradise, I feel as if I have lived two months. If the extremes make me feel this alive, then embrace the wild whiplash. Such a place takes you up, shakes you up and wakes you up: what is there to Life but simply being Alive?
 


About the Author

Ian Bullock·Naturalist

Ian Bullock is a British biologist who lives in St. Davids, Pembrokeshire, on the south-western seaboard of Wales. He grew up in Cambridge but was always drawn to the rugged cliffs of the west coast, from childhood seaside holidays in Cornwall to his university training as a zoologist in Bangor, North Wales.