We woke up today with very tranquil conditions. The wind was still, waters were calm, and the temperature mildly cold. When the ships engines are turned off you can hear the stillness of the environment. Perhaps a gull calls in the distance or you hear a deep booming sound when a huge piece of snow and ice calf from the shoreline.
The first part of our morning brought us to Culverville Island. We boarded our zodiac and made way to a beautiful landing base with round stones and stairs carved into the snow so we could climb and explore! There were three choices – all had Gentoo Penguin colonies! Mr. Sanders and I decided to head our way to the “big” trek up the side of a mountain that provided spectacular views. Believe it or not, there was a Gentoo Penguin colony at the top of the climb! The incline was very steep and far enough to be nervous – about 1,000 feet. I was very relieved when we got to the top. However, my relaxed state only was temporary! How was I going to get back down? Mr. Sanders handed me a piece of glacial ice to try – quite tasty! I highly recommend it. After taking many pictures, we then had to start to descend to the bottom again. What was Mr. S. going to do? I sat right on my rear end and slid about 150 feet to the base! What fun!
From there we returned to the ship and were immediately corralled into another line to go kayaking with the glaciers! This was a spectacular treat! The water was still and looked like black glass. I have to be honest when I saw that it was a little scary floating on the water, alone, with only our hands to propel us. Soon, we got the knack of it and were moving at a pretty brisk pace. From this perspective, we could see the changes in the ice sculptures floating around us. If you looked closely, you might spot a blue rabbit or a grey turkey with brown stripes floating by! Often we found our selves just sitting and taking in the crisp air and appreciating the stillness of it all. Then suddenly we would hear a giant, roaring BOOOOOOMMMMM! In the distance a side of a glacier would be sliding off into the water!!! It was so exciting to see the landscape literally transform before out eyes! And yes, I was blessed to see a seal playing "hide and go seek" with us today!
That was just the morning! In the afternoon, we were given two choices. The first was a pretty high and steep climb. If you fell, you slid right into the ocean! The second was a zodiac tour. Zodiac boats are open-air motorboats that we use every day. I felt like a nice zodiac tour capturing photographs might be better for Mr. S. in the afternoon. They told us we couldn’t slide down – that just doesn’t sound like fun! The boat ride was full of colors – brown cinnamons, tangerine oranges, radiant topaz blues and Celtic greens were popping out of every corner. A turn in the zodiac could take a light, pale blue and make it looks like it was electric and plugged into an outlet. Surrounding all of this is ocean – shimmering like billion diamonds in the water. The photos in today’s post do not have much of me in it! Look for the color and enjoy!
We were met with a bit of a surprise at the evening “recap.” This is the time where many of the naturalists talk about the things we did and the nature we bore witness. The big news was that there would be an “after dinner” landing! Nobody was expecting this. The experience was described as roughly a “mile and a half hike” that was much easier than the earlier hike where people were walking up the side of a mountain in “switchback” formation. I was game for it feeling guilty for taking the easier path with the zodiac ride. Was I in for a shock! This was no “hike.” We were walking a super steep side of a mountain where the end never seemed to stop! Many of the steps resulted with your feet sinking deep to your knee! While the road was difficult and yes, sometimes scary, it was breathtaking at the top. Was it because of the beauty or because Mr. S. needs to work out more? I will let you decide. I made it though! Hooray!
Mr. Szymanski is a 1st grade teacher at Walt Disney Elementary School in Chicago, IL. He is bringing the world to his classroom with the help of National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. Here, he chronicles his adventures to Antarctica and South America in December 2014.