Our first landfall was in the South Shetland Islands. We went ashore in the ship’s Zodiac inflatable boats, feeling like we were the only people in Antarctica. It was a privilege walking carefully around on land, seeing chinstrap and gentoo penguins nesting, and imagining early Antarctic explorers trying to survive in this icy and harsh landscape.
We dawdled purposefully around this island group for a few days, doing workshops on leadership, vision and values, and going ashore in spectacular places, with no one else around. We also had the privilege of visiting an Argentine research station, Carlini Station, where we met German and Argentine scientists who showed us around their labs.
On board, we worked and worked on our values, purpose, our learning styles and strategy. We watched videos of the filmed faculty, Jane Goodall, Sylvia Earle, and Christiana Figueres. We also had science presentations from onboard faculty members Mary-Anne Lea and Justine Shaw. We started our short participant presentations on our work – called the Symposium at Sea. The 3-minute Symposium@Sea talks provided a great insight into what various people are working on and are passionate about. After my talk about preparing a climate change adaptation plan for a coastal national park in Australia, a couple of people came up to me and expressed an interest in collaborating on scientific papers. Exciting!
We headed to the great Southern Continent, with the mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula coming slowly into focus late one evening as we entered the Antarctic Sound.
Huge tabular icebergs marched north from the ice shelf like cars rolling off an assembly line. Adelie Penguins huddled gracefully on many of them. How do they get up on these bergs??? Do they use stormy seas to fling themselves up at the crest of a wave? The following day we landed at Paulet Island in a beautiful snowstorm. It was stunning. Then we had a sublime sunny beach experience on the Continent with Penguins, at Brown Bluff. Cape Petrels, delicate white Snow Petrels, and Wilson Storm Petrels nested high in the cliffs. Kelp gulls nest on the volcanic tufs on the beach. It was magic!!
Every day we have landed somewhere special. Greg Mortimer’s decades of experience and love of this region mean he keeps finding us gems hidden away, depending on wind direction, ice conditions and what else is happening on the boat.