3.1 Snow Island
A basaltic outcrop with cloud streaming from its top. Livingston Island is in the background.
One of the things that I had been really looking forward to when setting off for Antarctica in 2002 was to experience its grandeur. The snow-covered mountains disappearing into a blue vault; the enormous tabular icebergs floating past with some twenty stories above the waterline; glacier faces crumbling into the sea and the black of volcanic outcrops against a white backdrop of snow.
As it turned out we did not quite get to see all of these things, partly because we were not in the right place for all of them and partly because, on that first visit, we had very little sunshine. Yet, I am certainly not sorry that we went because we did see a snow covered island against the blue sky in the South Shetlands. We did see tabular icebergs in the distance when we were below the Antarctic Circle, although their size was questionable: I am reminded of that story of one of the early explorers who dropped a chocolate paper and his companion who was following some distance behind thought, at first, that it was a mountain range. We did see numerous glaciers and icebergs with their intense blue chasms and grottoes and we
3.2 A snow-covered island
This island is located off the Antarctic Peninsular.
heard one calve into the sea so that when we turned there was a mound of crushed ice bobbing up and down with a semicircular bow wave travelling across the bay. We did see black basaltic outcrops against a backdrop of cloud rather than snow: dramatic rather than spectacular. And then there were the things I hadn't expected. The sea like a mill pond in an enclosed bay so that the reflection of the foot of a glacier was almost as distinct as the foot itself. The Polar Pioneer
, a ship of over 2,000 tons, being dwarfed by a glacial foot or looking no bigger than a fly on another enclosed bay when seen from, in relative terms, a small hill.
But perhaps more important than all this is just being there: experiencing the stillness, the blueness of icebergs and glaciers, the biting winds, the social interactions with and the struggles of the wildlife.
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