Published: December 30th 2008December 18th 2008
I Spy an Iceberg
Eric the Explorer spots a Champagne-winning berg
Making excellent time across the drake passage, the captain decided to drop us in the Shetland Islands, at Half Moon Island. As I was eager to see land, not because of fear of the open sea, rather excitement built up from anticipation that I would be traveling to such a crazy place, I remained up top while all the passengers scurried to the lounge for an expedition procedure briefing.
While I looked around, thinking I should practice my self-portrait technique, I noticed the two professional Nat Geo photographers chatting nearby. One of them pointed to an iceberg, which I had “spotted” only moments before, ahem. Apparently, as one of the photographers explained to me, there was a competition, which of course I knew about, where the first person to spot an iceberg would win a prize. Although I was a bit confused, I figured if they were playing a prank on me it would soon be over. With their shady advice, I walked down to the bridge and joined the crew. “Are you the watchman?” I asked. “There’s a pretty nice size iceberg over there.”
“Yay! You are the winner!” The crew erupted into applause.
okay. Thanks.” I was still confused but decided to roll with it.
At the briefing, the entertainment guy announced I was the winner and would receive a prize to be determined. At least this was what I heard from dad, since they called my name as I ran out the back of the boat with uncle to show him my prize winning berg. The guy said, “Eric, please stand up.”
“Oh, he’s outside with his iceberg right now,” dad said with a twisted smile.
Hours later, we geared up and jumped onto the zodiac. The gearing process felt like I was going into space, or at least to SCUBA. One jacket layered another, the backpack felt like an oxygen tank on my back, but was instead carrying water and extra gloves in case we were stranded on shore.
The zodiac zoomed across the waves, and shot salty icicles into my mouth. Before I reached shore, I was dripping wet. But my dad, sitting at the front of the zodiac, got the brunt of the waves. He probably would have been drier if he swam to shore; but certainly not warmer, so it was a fair trade-off.
The incoming clouds showed rain, and soon enough it didn’t matter who previously escaped the wet, we were all in for it.
Before even reaching shore, we were all straining our necks to see the chinstrap penguins that lined the shore; probably a group of 40. Also, on top of the hill, about 100 of them had set up nesting areas.
I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of supervision we received. Truly, we jumped off the boat and started wandering around. The terrain consisted of rocky areas, snowy areas, and some ice. But the penguins seemed to like hanging by the rocky beach and nesting on the hills. We were all really excited to get so close to the penguins, and did our best to keep the 15 foot barrier between them. But many times they would walk toward us, and so there was nothing one could do but stare down the cute little penguins as they waddled and hopped their way across the rocks.
Just stretching the legs felt nice, and so we walked the shoreline a bit, taking in the scenery as a whole, and finally coming to terms with the fact that we made it to Antarctica, and were fairly impressed so far.
The captain welcomed us back to the ship that night, with drinks on him. We all started with a blue iceberg (vodka and curacao) and worked our way around the drink menu, purposely trying to pay our respects to his hospitality by sucking down glasses of grey geese and wine.
The sun went beyond the horizon that night, but it was never dark; only dusk/dawn. We had not yet reached the Antarctic Circle, but were at the point where we saw constant changes in the colors in the sky.