Checking something off your bucket list is a phrase that seems rather overused and cliché. But how else do you sum up so succinctly
the accomplishment of something that you set your sights on to do before you die?
My bucket list is shorter now that I have visited all 7 continents. We recently returned from a trip to Antarctica that was, to me, more about being able to say I did it than about the experience of actually seeing it. That was the case, that is, until I saw it. And then it became something more. Then it became one of the most beautiful, pure things I have ever seen. The majesty of Antarctica is awe inspiring, yet foreboding; gorgeous, yet completely desolate and lonely. Adventurers have tried and failed for decades to conquer it; and even in our technologically-advanced world, people live there much like they do in outer space – in artificial laboratories. It is just that harsh and unforgiving.
We experienced Antarctica from the comfort of a cruise ship and, yet, we had rough moments. There were hurricane-force winds and 40-foot waves while crossing the Drake Passage. Glasses crashed in the dining room, and I actually tipped over in my chair and have the bruise to prove it. The decks were sealed off so that no one could go outside, and the ship’s crew actually placed motion sickness bags on staircases, just in case. Luckily we didn’t feel the need to use them.
The scenery in Antarctica is unparalleled, but the wildlife is your focus when writing home. Where else can you see penguins swimming alongside your ship, seals lounging on icebergs, and a pod of whales on a fishing expedition within yards of you? One of our ports of call was the Falkland Islands where we visited colonies of gentoo and king penguins. The cool thing about penguins is that they aren’t afraid of people and are actually more curious than anything. If you sit very still, which I did, they will walk right up to you. I could have reached out and touched them if I had wanted to. It was one of the most exciting experiences I have ever had in all my travels.
While sailing in Antarctic waters, we would routinely see 20 or 30 penguins at a time swimming in the water beside us. In the Antarctic Sound, a trio of Humpback whales came alongside our ship. They were fishing, and they put out what is called a “bubble net” that fools the fish into thinking they are caught. This then allows the whales to feast on them. We caught a bubble net on camera and it is truly a wonder of nature, as is everything in Antarctica.
We rose at 4:00 one morning to catch the clearest sunrise I’ve ever seen; and about 19 hours later when the sun finally set, we got an incredible shot of a perfectly clear moon over water that looked like glass. We saw glaciers with a color so blue there is no name for it, mountains with snow that will never melt, and icebergs in every size imaginable – most with colonies of penguins on board. This was nature at its most raw, and it was awesome. The best trips are the ones that change you forever. This was one of my best trips. The bucket list has a long way to go to beat this one.