More ocean crossings commenced. Naturally, more time spent at sea meant more time spent with our fellow passengers, and I was happily surprised to discover that Devin and I were not the only young people on board. Within a few days, I had befriended most of them. There were Wendy and Jasmin, two sweet and funny girls from Boston and New York, who despite being a little older than I was, still seemed about 20 both in appearance and spirit. Then there was Verity, a hilariously fun physical therapist from Perth, Australia, who was affectionately referred to as either Variety or Verify. Also on the trip were Josh and Tom, brothers from Sydney, Australia, who seemed to be in a constant competition to be funnier than the other. In addition, it was revealed that Alex, one of the expedition leaders, was only 25. All the down time I had envisioned was quickly replaced with social time as we all bonded over pranks and inside jokes, most of them in Australian, which, I must admit, took a few days to get the hang of. There was a lot of ship-related humor (comments like “whatever floats your boat” and “let’s not go overboard here”), as well as inside jokes, such as the forming of “our band”, The Red Stripes. Between meals, teatimes, snacks, lectures and naps, time passed more and more quickly.
Gradually, we became accustomed to the constant motion of the ocean swells. That lurching, drunken gait we all adopted became normal. Walk, stumble forward, walk, stumble backward, walk, repeat. We all found our perfect doses of seasickness medication, and napped happily through any side effects. Even the disgusting ship water, desalinated ocean water that usually came out of the faucet light brown, became tolerable, even in the coffee. Our legs got used to the constant shifting of the floor, and we started remembering to put belongings in drawers and closets so they wouldn’t slide around. It seemed perfectly natural when I took a bath that was more like 3 seconds of bath, 3 seconds of no bath, repeat. The most mundane things began to seem fascinating, or even hilarious.
All around us stretched that neverending blue, the horizon more noticeably round than ever before. I thought about that huge cruise ship we had seen in Stanley, how absolutely tiny The Sea Spirit was in comparison, how bold a ship like ours was to even venture into these waters. Seabirds continued to follow us. The interior of the ship grew increasingly frigid as we moved South. We prayed for good weather, and miraculously, the weather stayed calm.
Then out of the blue, out of the haze of the distant horizon, came the Shag Rocks, a forbidding series of jagged peaks looming dramatically in the middle of the sea. Surrounded by flocks of shags, prions, and wandering albatross, the bird guano gave the impression of snow-capped mountaintops protruding from the ocean’s depths, here, at the ends of the earth. Our captain maneuvered the ship expertly around the rocks, and we stared in awe at the force of the sea as ocean spray exploded off the stone spires amidst the cries of circling seabirds. I can still hear it in my mind as I write this, the crash of the waves, the calls of the birds, the hum of the ship’s engine. And suddenly the rocks were disappearing into the distance, the only solid thing in this endless ocean, fading back into the shifting oblivion of blue.
We were nearing South Georgia.