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Published: January 19th 2016
Back to Antarctica.
Beyond this flood a frozen continent
Lies dark and wilde, beat with perpetual storms
Of whirlwind and dire hail, which on firm land
Thaws not, but gathers heap, and ruin seems
Of ancient pile; all else deep snow and ice...
MILTON, Paradise Lost.
It was the best of crossings it was the worst of crossings.
The Drake Passage is a rite of passage for most people visiting the Antarctic and it is usually a bumpy, stormy passage. We got tossed around on one of the crossings as a Beaufort Force 9 slammed the sides of the vessel – truly spectacular waves hammering over the bow. However, our southbound voyage was a tranquil, peaceful passage with the company of the majestic fin whales and the mighty albatross.
I love the sea. I love being followed by the great wanderer.
It’s great to be back down here.
Antarctica is the coldest, windiest and most mountainous of the seven continents – it is also the least green. However, there are two species of grass, several moss species and a few hundred types of lichen.
Often overlooked, I have been exploring these simple-yet-complex areas of vegetation. Antarctica is essentially completely white and covered in ice, but its frigid edges have snow-free areas and a surprising amount of greenery. Hardly a forest, but by Antarctic standards, that’s what it is – a forest of green in an emptiness of white. I crawled around these micro-forests, they are lush and they smell like spring!
The Gentoos dominated the show as usual. I didn’t notice the smell of the guano as much, not even the squawks and squabbles. I noticed the harmony between predator and prey. The south polar skuas and kelp gulls are forever trying to grab penguin chicks and penguin eggs – everyone has to eat. There is a gory side to watching penguins getting attacked and killed –but this is raw, untamed nature.
Interpreting the Antarctic emptiness is a challenge. This blog, with only a few words and a few pictures hardly does justice at all. It is a special place – one that words and pictures cannot describe…
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