On January 5th, 2011, the general consensus aboard the Sea Spirit was that life couldn’t get much better after having stepped onto the Antarctic continent that morning and mingled amongst penguins and icebergs. Yet again, however, we drastically underestimated the vast and endless wonder of Antarctica.
That afternoon was absolutely unforgettable. Any glorious imaginary world I could have conceived in my head would never have come close to the unbelievable splendor of reality. The surreal, dreamlike quality of midnight sun in January paired with mirror calm seas and absolutely bluebird skies shaped a universe so overwhelmingly beautiful that it was difficult to actually comprehend. A breathtaking world of ice stood before us, towering to astounding heights, perfectly balanced on the surface of the deep, dark ocean.
Our fearless captain steered the Sea Spirit straight into the ice. As we ate lunch, we were entertained by constant jolts and shudders of the ship’s hull striking icebergs, listening to the groans and screeches of giant pieces of ice scraping into the sides of our Caribbean-based cruise vessel. While this caused some people to panic, such as my father, (jumping out of his seat every couple of minutes to exclaim “Seriously!?” and stare wide-eyed out the porthole) I took comfort in the happy, relaxed behavior of the expedition staff and accepted it as normal.
The ship absolutely glided through that stunning dreamscape. We stood out on deck, exclaiming and staring down into the blackness of the ocean, watching for signs of animal life on passing icebergs. We noticed the ship’s paint being scraped off in large quantities, showing up as unnaturally bright blue streaks on the otherwise pristine ice that bounced off the hull. We marveled at the occasional penguins, so far from land. We took zodiac cruises close to the icebergs, looking for pictures in them much like one searches for images in the clouds.
We celebrated, ate dinner on deck, drank champagne and stayed outside, watching, absorbing, until the sun had sunk behind distant mountains, and still the youngest of us stayed awake to watch the summer night unfold, and then there was music and then there was dancing until late into the night and we were singing along to our favorite songs and we were euphoric and amazed at our existence on earth and our incredible luck.