Drake Passage & Ushuaia, Argentina

Feb 15, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer


We slowly wake from a dream: whales, ice, penguins, ice, mountains, and sky. At first there is only ocean and birds, motion and clouds. Snatches of the dream remain, black and white, tall fins, gigantic lunging bodies in the water, endless parents and children on the land, not a tree nor a shrub to be seen… so strange, so different, so beautiful!

Yes, it is over, but it really did happen. It might seem like a dream, especially the whales, from the ship, from the Zodiac. Who has ever seen that before? Where is it written? Nature so raw. Killer whales so arrogant, so strong, swimming between giant icebergs like streets in a city. Now it is behind us, literally and figuratively. Now we try to put it in context.

By noon we start to come back to our world. There is Cape Horn. Some call it the end of the world.  So it is, the end of our world, but we come from beyond that. The albatross fly around us…no, not fly, soar, so different, the last wisps of our dream before morning and a new day and we are different now ourselves.

After lunch we enter the Beagle Channel, narrow hills and mountains with trees, even cows and roads. Pack our bags, get our passports, gather images, pixels not pictures from a computer, left by our shipmates and ourselves. End of the world, end of time, and now it is tomorrow with memories of yesterday that become part of ourselves.

During dinner, we arrive at Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. May it always be that, a million steps from Antarctica where nature rules and dreams begin.

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About the Author

Dennis Cornejo

Naturalist

Dennis began scuba diving during the mid-1970s as part of a research project. At the time he was a research associate at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona, studying the population of winter hibernating sea turtles.  What began as a scientific study soon became a conservation project that expanded to three species of sea turtles along the entire Pacific coast of Mexico.  This project received major funding from the World Wildlife Fund and was eventually taken over directly by that agency with Kim Clifton and Dennis Cornejo as co-principal investigators.

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