Barrientos Island (Aitcho Islands)

Nov 30, 2017 - National Geographic Explorer


This morning began like many others for me: on a treadmill. However, this time I was running stationary from the aft of the National Geographic Explorer as I watched the waves roll from outside of the tall windows while clutching to the machine to keep my balance against the sway of the ship.

I cooled down in the lounge after my workout but my heart rate shot straight up again when we spotted the first glacier and then rock formations announcing that we had reached land!  I was so excited when it was my group’s turn to take the Zodiac ride to Barrientos Island that I ran to the mudroom without my life vest. The naturalist guide graciously forgave my rookie mistake and provided me with a spare for this outing.

Once out on the Zodiac, we were fortunate to see a leopard seal, the most aggressive of seals in the world, but it had no interest in us as it prefers to prey on penguins. We made a wet landing on Barrientos Island where we had our first encounter with Gentoo and chinstrap penguins. We watched them awkwardly waddle around on land then gracefully plummet into the freezing water, smelled the guano, and listened to their squawking.

We returned to the ship and enjoyed a cocktail party to welcome us to Antarctica. Our charismatic Captain introduced with laud all of the behind-the-scenes crew members who make this amazing experience on board so comfortable and accommodating.

At dinner, listening to the stories of our guests’ lives, I thought about causation. Every minor decision that we make brings us to where we are now, somehow, by fluke, here I am among these fascinating people traveling to the least encountered continent of the world. Tonight I will return to my cabin and fall asleep with partial sunlight still bright, although it will be nearly 11:00 pm.

 

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Lisa Saunders

Lisa Saunders

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