The rest of our Antartica adventure was a blur of white and blue and black, ice and snow and water, penguins and seals and soaring, graceful Albatross (Albatrosses?). There was another game of Kubb, this time in snow, and lots of sailing. On January third, it was time to start the long trek home. We figured with winds, it would be four days of sailing through the Dreaded Drake Passage. You may remember, I was unconscious most of the outgoing journey, besides regular trips to give back food I hadn’t even eaten. This time, I went with tried and true Dramamine instead of my intense and all-encompassing holistic and prescription prevention strategy. It worked. I was woozy and queasy for a couple of our watches in the pilot house, but mostly, I was fine. Which was impressive, as the sea was not as cooperative as it allegedly was on the way out. We had 12-14 foot swells which came from every direction, including head-on. I did have the record, having been at the wheel when we hit 13.1 kph during a squall.
We took three-hour turns on watch, teams of two helming the OT and/or watching out for ice and kelp. My watch partner was Laura, and our shift was midnight to three a.m. That wasn’t so bad when we had 24-hours of light, but after a couple of days, we started to get night again, and waking up in the dark at 11:51 p.m. wasn’t so awesome. Noon watches were much better, as other crewmembers visit to chat and bring you snacks and play games. Laura and I put together some hilarious (to us) games and jokes in our hours in the pilot house. (What does a penguin eat for lunch? A KRILLED cheese sandwich!) We were KRILLING it!!
It was a bit surreal when we finally saw land. We hadn’t seen anything green for three and a half weeks. When we hit our last anchorage in Harberton, we could smell the land. We heard dogs barking and saw a car driving down the road from the deck of the OT. As magnificent as the trip was, it was good to see and smell land and trees and flowers. Miguel said, “It smells like home.”
We’ll land in Ushuaia this afternoon, fly to Buenos Aires tomorrow, then I’ll head home through Houston to Salt Lake City. As magnificent as this month has been, I can’t wait to go home to my lovely Park City and Patrick. And Linus and Lucy. I’m looking forward to sharing my photos and stories with everyone, but I already know I can’t do justice to our experience. A photo can’t capture the raw beauty of this place that seems from another planet that was 360 degrees around us. I don’t have the right words to describe penguin sliding on my stomach down a snowy mountain or having a Humpback whale so close to me that it filled the viewfinder of my camera.
The trip was rugged at times, challenging on a regular basis, but truly was the adventure of a lifetime in a lifetime of adventures for me. I’d never really sailed before, but we sailed and motored nearly 1800 miles from Ushuaia to Antartica and back. (Go big or go home!) I lived in (very) close quarters with a group of mostly strangers, pretty much just trusting that there would be no funstoppers among us (there weren’t), and met some of the most interesting, funny, well-traveled people I’ve ever met. I wasn’t sure what we’d do for 25 days, but with the exception of too much sleeping during our Drake Passages, there wasn’t a boring moment. My head is full of new information about Antartica and her deep history and animals. And I, who avoided science at all cost in college (how else would I have gotten a mostly straight A transcript), got to help with an experiment that could eventually help keep whales safer.
I’m a broken record, but even I am impressed with this example of my philosophy to just say Yes and take the chance for a life experience. As I just told Bertrand, the greatest risks bring the greatest rewards, and the rewards from this adventure are on the pinnacle of adventure life. Go for it. It’s all out there just waiting for you. You know, Adam’s right when he says, “You can’t shoot a moose in a lodge.” Shoot the moose with your Nikon, but for God’s sake, get out there. #Deft #LiveFearlessly