The last time I flew anywhere was back in November 2019 for a 3-day trip to Washington, D.C.
On my second evening there, after a long day in a working meeting, I arranged to meet a friend at the National Art Gallery on the Capitol Mall. My hotel was roughly within walking distance, but I decided to shave off some time by taking the Metro to the Mall, then walking to the gallery from there.
“You want to have everything clean before serving tea,” says my great-aunt Anna as she brushes crumbs from her kitchen tablecloth and sets out the tea stand. She moves slowly, using her cane as she shuffles to the refrigerator to pull out the cream. She’s 98 years old – maybe the only person I know who’s more than twice my age. She’s the only person on this planet allowed to pinch my cheeks. I ask if I can help her with anything, but she shakes her head and keeps pulling dishes out of her cupboard.
Sometime after our first week on the ship, we learned not to ask where we would be going next, or where we would be stopping. Our itinerary was completely dependent on weather, ice, and the comings and goings of other ships in the region. So it wasn’t really a surprise when we were told that we would be making our way back north across the Drake Passage a day earlier than expected. There were two storms coming, we were told, and the captain wanted to outrace the second storm.
Ok – But what about that first storm?
We tried not to think about it too much so we could enjoy one last landing in Antarctica at Deception Island. Because the captain was really eager to get going, we wouldn’t have much time onshore as the ship would be headed out to open sea by 10:30 am.
Everyone was up and on deck early in the morning for our approach to Neptune’s Bellows, the narrow entrance into the caldera at Deception Island.
As I write this, the fourth Homeward Bound cohort – 100 women from 33 countries – are exploring the Antarctic Peninsula as they work toward empowering themselves and each other to take on leadership roles in this world as it undergoes rapid transformation. Since my own journey to Antarctica last January, I’ve been posting stories here about our trip. The past few weeks I’ve been prompted to relive my experience by updates from Homeward Bound and friends in my HB cohort. I realized I still have a few photos and stories to share from our journey. Today, let me take you to the post office.
Penguins and people clustering around the museum, gift shop and post-office at Port Lockroy.
Another day in Antarctica. A layer of stratus hangs over the Melchior archipelago, sending thick, grey undulating waves over the group of small islands. These snow-capped islands sit in glossy black water like scoops of ice cream floating in dark root beer. There is an abandoned Argentinian base here, but we’re not doing any landings. Instead, we’re in the zodiacs cruising for views of seals, penguins, and fantastical ice sculptures. We meander in and out of rocky coves painted in lichens and moss.
I sometimes like to imagine that the people I have loved and lost are sitting on my shoulders, riding along through life with me, marveling at the world as much as I do.
Last January, I stepped onto the continent of Antarctica. I’m fairy certain I’m the first person in the history of my family to do that. In the months leading up to my trip to Antartica, I thought a lot about my Mom – how thrilled she would have been to go on a trip like this. Or, at the very least, she would have followed every tidbit of news from Homeward Bound about our journey. She passed away five years ago on June 1st, but I clearly felt her with me as we stepped off the zodiac for our continental landfall.
My perspective, standing on Antarctica. It’s much warmer than I thought it would be.
By the time we anchored near Danco Island in the Gerlache Strait on January 12th, we had been on the ship for four days straight. We were itching to move after a series of cancelled landings. The steady hum of the ship had started to seep into our bones and we had become accustomed to occasional rocking of the world beneath our feet. On Danco Island, we were promised a hike.
I haven’t posted in awhile – but don’t think I’m done with Antarctica! This is simply what happens in March and April. This time of the year is the equivalent of Christmas holidays in the academic world. There’s a race to wrap-up old work, the year-end meetings, reference letters, student advising, drafts of papers to read. And, at the same time, the weather is shifting: color returns to the world as the grass becomes green and tulips push their way up through piles of autumn leaves that still litter the backyard. There are warm days that pull me outdoors for long-awaited bike rides, followed immediately by two inches of snow and brief returns to winter.
With this post, I want to carry you with me down the icy waterway of memory lane, and share some of my favorite photos of our meanderings along the Antarctic Peninsula.
Our zodiac took a brief tour through some very icy waters in Flandres Bay along the Antarctic Peninsula.
View from my bed as I missed out on a zodiac cruise.
What is it you’re afraid of missing out on while you read this post? What do you feel tugging at you’re attention, while at the same time you looking forward to the cute penguin picture you know I’ve buried somewhere on this page? I know that feeling of missing out. That anxious feeling that urges you to skip ahead and skim right to the prize, then move on to something else.
The Ushuaia at Paulet Island, and penguins everywhere. Here, they are perched on the ruins of a hut built by the shipwrecked crew of a Swedish expedition in 1903.
The smell was thing I wasn’t quite prepared for. I didn’t realize Antarctica would smell like the end of a fishing pier, where gulls spend their days fighting over rotting fish guts as clouds of seal breath waft up from the water below. Although, I should have expected it. Penguins are not much different from gulls. If their biology allowed it, I’m sure they would be perfectly happy to be trash birds. They certainly don’t mind wallowing in their poop. Continue reading →