We live in the world of colours; almost everything we see, touch and handle has colour. All of that changed for me in an instant when I visited Antarctica last summer.
People have asked me many times “Why Antarctica?” and frankly, I haven’t been able to answer that question. All I can say is: imagine a world that is so pristine that the human presence feels dream-like; imagine nature at its best; and imagine the uncertainty of sea-ice; water currents and katabatic winds and you have got Antarctica.
The lowest temperature ever recorded at Antarctica is about -89°C. Thankfully, we went there in summer so the temperature was only about -5°C most of the time. Our ship Ushuaia was a small cosy ship with about 80 passengers. She had her hull strengthened so we could penetrate the ocean ice but this also meant that we only had basic facilities available; our on-board entertainment mostly consisted of lectures, documentaries and other multi-media based activities though a couple from Australia did get married and we had a great party to celebrate.
The trip generally consisted of staying on the ship and exploring the continent as far out as our ship could take us. We saw icebergs of all sizes; the huddled ice pieces collapsed together by the ocean currents; and beautiful birds and wildlife.
Our main aim was to explore Weddell Sea – a less touched part of Antarctica with the biggest icebergs. On the way, we anchored Ushuaia and took Zodiacs to explore the area around us. It was a particularly gorgeous day; the sea was strewn with sea ice, which was moving as fast as we were. Suddenly, a big ice pallet hit the propeller of the Zodiac and stopped her for 10 seconds before dislodging itself. Those 10 seconds were more than enough for the sea ice to completely surround the Zodiac. She was stuck!
Imagine if you are in a small dinghy and you see a gigantic ship coming towards you stopping only a few yards away… Scary! Well, that’s exactly, what Ushuaia did to break the ice around the Zodiac. It took three hours for the rescue but in that experience, I fully appreciated the phenomenal power of nature and felt my deepest respect for people who have ever charted this dangerous continent.