The End of the End of the World
When I get ready for our last excursion, I have to choke back tears. I can’t believe that this once in a lifetime journey is coming to a close. As we ride in the zodiac to land on Half Moon Island, it begins to snow. The sun is out, and as snowflakes fall, I feel like Antarctica is saying goodbye. On land there are hundreds of chinstrap penguins and I spend some time just watching them and revelling in their presence. I have enough photos and it’s important to just be present when you are in a place such as this. The remains of a wooden life boat sit on the shore and our guide tells us that it was left here from tourist excursions in the 60’s, Everyone survived, but the boat is still there to tell their story. As I make my way to the other side of the island, I hear that the one last animal that I wanted to see is down the point. An elephant seal. It’s the only animal I hadn’t seen yet that I really wanted to see. Antarctica seems to always pull through. Two cubs lounge by the shore, while a large female tries to make her way to the water. The guides aren’t sure if the female is their mother, as the cubs are at an age and size where they would have been weaned by now.
Watching the large elephant seal make her way to the water is more than amusing - it’s hilarious. She is huge - and awkward. She pulls herself over huge boulders and flops down in exhaustion. She takes long breaks in between each attempt to get herself closer to water. When she finally reaches her destination, she collapses in the water to rest before finally pulling herself off the shallow shore. Once she reaches the deeper water, she transforms into a much more agile creature. Once she is gone, there is nothing left to do but return to the zodiacs. I have had the most incredible journey and it more than exceeded my expectations. I can’t believe it is over and I have to blink back tears once more. I definitely left a piece of my heart in Antarctica, but my soul is overflowing.
Our return journey through the Drake is much rougher than our journey there, but it is still not as bad as it could be. During dinner, the ships rocks from side to side, plates and drinks slide across tables and one stand holding cutlery crashes to the floor. One of the guides tells us that we are still relatively lucky. He remembers one journey where the guests were confined to their cabins, and they were laying on their stomachs making sandwiches and delivering them to the guests in backpacks on their hands and knees. I’m glad we only had to deal with 5-6 meter waves instead of 15. I'm also glad that we got to experience a little of the Drake Shake. It would seem like cheating if we didn’t. I probably shouldn’t tell you how I cried the last night on the ship - like ugly cried when the staff said their good-byes and the crew came up to sing Leaving on a Jet Plane. These was without a doubt THE MOST INCREDIBLE 10 days of my life. Not just the location, but the experience. New friends, new stories, 1000’s of new photos. I felt a physical pain in my heart when it was time to leave. I know I said this was a once in a lifetime journey, but I have to go back, somehow, one day. Just before dinner on the last night, as we were getting closer to Ushuaia, a rainbow was spotted behind the ship. It both warmed my heart, and yes, you guessed it, made me cry - again!
If you have ever dreamed of going to Antarctica, I will tell you that it is even more majestic than you could imagine. It was everything I expected and more. Antarctica is honestly the most fabulous place on this planet. The wildlife, landscape and adventure will never be beat. Antarctica takes a hold of your heart and never lets go. The last true wilderness does not disappoint.