Looking Back

What I will remember is the isolation. I won’t see the ship or the people I traveled with, but the pristine land, pure water, hanging ice cliffs, abundant wildlife and the floating icebergs, astonishingly beautiful while reeking with danger. We only touched a tiny area in our time there. It’s like sailing around the San Juan Islands and saying you’ve seen North America. Or looking at a phonograph record from the edge and thinking you know what a record is. We were fortunate to have on the ship several people who had spent research summers or long winters in the Antarctic region, most of them far inland. Through their experiences, we got a good sense of the barren continent, its resources and the challenges for humans even with our modern equipment.

Ancient Tractor

We were reminded that wildlife is found on the edge of that continent. Imagine all our wildlife living only on the shores of North America. The adaptations the Antarctic species have undergone to thrive in that place, that looks so forbidding to us, are incredible. Just watching a sleepy crab eater seal raise its curious head off its iceberg, knowing that it never goes ashore, is mind boggling to such land oriented creatures as we humans. Imagine most of the wildlife depending on tiny krill, the bottom of the food chain, whose population is so fragile, doomed if the ice melts.

Images rich in history spurred my imagination so far beyond anything that I ever could have experienced. Visiting Antarctica was similar to my visits to the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, the Galapagos, or my first tropical jungle, or African savannah. Breathtaking. Incomprehensible. I’m glad I went. I have lots to consider.