Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Vanishing Ice 27/1/2012

As infinite and diverse as clouds 

Our final day on the peninsula carried a subdued undertone, as we boarded the Zodiacs for the last time. After visiting the Chilean research base at Paradise Bay, we cruised the waters one last time, still transfixed by the world of ice sculptures and glaciers that rose and crumbled, bobbed and swayed around us.

Final kayak cruise through the Antarctic waters

The luminous underbelly of Antarctic ice
Overwhelming glaciers near the Chilean base

We beached the Zodiac on snowy pancakes and starred at seals whose gashed sides and bloody mouths reminded us again of the everyday survival game played out here. We pulled up besides penguin colonies to smell the familiar pong of guano and regurgitated krill for the last time; we watched the popping chests and peach coloured-beaks of the gentoos as they heralded our departure with resounding calls; we starred through the clear water beneath our boat as penguins darted beneath us, flashing their white chests and pink feet as the propelled themselves across the surface; we pulled up beside the crumbling snout of an exposed glacier and sat in silence, gazing at its fissured surface, tracing our eyes over the intracity of the ruptured ice and glowing crevasses  we drew breath as detonated blocks collapsed into the water and sent waves across the surface that rocked our Zodiac; we followed nuggets of ice as they drifted on currents; listened as freshly calved ice fizzed and crackled in the water; deciphered the contorted shapes of elaborate iceberg sculptures and starred at their luminous-blue bellies that glowed beneath the surface.

Final Zodiac cruise in Antarctica

Endless ice sculptures in Antarctica
The waves created by recently carved ice
 "As diverse and infinite as clouds" John - our Zodiac driver and ship's naturalist - remarked, sensing our ceaseless fascination with Antarctica's frozen vistas.

The soft skin of a crabeater seal

So-long seals -sating goodbye to Antarctica's inhabtants
Reflections and depths of Antarctica's ice

Gentoos at the Chilean base

We stayed out on deck to watch Antarctica melt away, each of us willing the ice to close back in. But as the ship gained speed, the landscape of white gorges and unnamed Antarctic peaks dissolved to give clear horizons and towering bergs became occasional ice-cubes in the open sea. It's with heavy hearts that we leave Antarctica behind and begin our passage back to Ushuaia, across the whale-playground of the Gerlache Strait and brave it through the notorious Drake Passage, past the infamous Cape Horn and back to Argentina via the Beagle Channel.

Gentoo chicks at the Chilean base 

At the Chilean base on the Antarctic Peninsular
Time to head home 
This blog-post forms part of a series of adventures experienced on-board the M/S Expedition in January 2012, whilst on an Antarctic Cruise - The Spirit of Shackleton - courtesy of Gadventures

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