Saturday morning, and the sunrise seems late. Really late. The air is warmer now, and the sea is greener. There is no land in sight after two nights and a day, but it is there, I can feel it: South America. It seems so long ago when I was last there, where our voyage started. Not so long by the calendar…rather long in experience, in emotions. No matter if there are seven or eight continents, there is only one unpeopled continent where Nature, in all her forms–life and ice, rock and sea–reigns supreme. Antarctica!
It is breakfast, and we are just leaving the Drake Passage. The seas are gentle and so are the winds, with just enough air moving about for the gliding albatrosses that still follow us. Our first views of South America are of islands covered with grass, shrubs, and especially trees. I find myself a bit confused by the sight of the forest. Just a little while ago, the backgrounds were of ice, snow, and sharp, naked mountains. Well, there was some color at times. Specks of moss and the warm colors of lichens near penguin colonies. And yes, there was plenty of motion of a black and white kind from birds, whales, and porpoising penguins. Antarctica is different than anywhere else.
From the open ocean, we enter the embrace of the Beagle Channel with Chile to our portside and Argentina starboard. Seabirds are still in our wake, and we spot the occasional whale ahead. There are lectures and briefings today, but this afternoon is sunny with little wind and dolphins on our bow. Yes, a perfect time for a midafternoon deck barbecue! And there you have it! The coals are hot, the buns are ready, and the sausages are on the grill. There are cold sodas and beer. Head Chef Magnus runs the grill, while Hotel Manager Andrea and Provision Master Joel prepare the sausage sandwiches to order. Hmmm, they look like very fancy hot dogs to me. Can’t wait. Mustard and fried onions for me, please.
During dinner, we arrive and dock at Ushuaia. The ship is cleared by 9:00, and we can leave to explore the town. We disembark for the last time tomorrow, but today is still a great beginning to a new year.