Andrew Evans takes us along for a cruise on board the National Geographic Explorer.
This is not a pleasure cruise–Lindblad Expeditions is quite clear that the experience they offer is one of real exploration and expedition. On so many days I’m up and out on the front deck before six in the morning in order to catch everything that’s going on outside, and given the late summer light that lingers well past eleven o’clock at night–well, let’s just say that I’m on sleep rations right now. How can anyone stay inside when Antarctica is outside?
Cruise or no cruise, my expedition has involved several blissful hours of pleasurable “cruising”–moving slowly along the staggering coastline of rock and ice that rises up before us. One morning we drifted through the narrow strait of the Lemaire Channel, whose dramatic mountains inspired audible “oohs” and “aahs” from fellow passengers. The wind was howling and chilled the air well below freezing, yet we all stayed out in the cold, unable to take our glance away from the sights before us.
Indeed, Antarctica’s landscapes are hypnotic. The constant scenery and changing skies instill a reverential mood and the moving floes of brash ice below pulls one’s gaze right into its cold and shifting pattern. Real Antarctic explorers–the heroes of earlier centuries and the daring adventurers of today–often speak of the “pull” of the polar regions and how once you’ve been, you feel the incessant need to return. How true that is–if I spent a lifetime dreaming of Antarctica before I got here, I will spend the rest of my lifetime plotting my return.
I have got the bug and so does everyone else on the ship. In fact, several of my fellow passengers are return visitors–they came to Antarctica a few years prior and couldn’t get if out of their minds. Now they are back and remembering why. Five seconds on deck is all it took.