Okay, after yesterday’s ALL FACTS ALL THE TIME post, here’s a bit more about the status of our expedition at the point in which I was really starting to get penguin-obsessed.
In the photo above, Linnea (our expedition co-leader, organizer of humans, named for Carolus Linnaeus (awesome), and general fabulous person) faces down one of the many gentoo penguins on Cuverville Island. We’d hiked up a hill to a lovely overlook, from which you could see down over the rookery at penguins building nests, stealing pebbles, sitting on eggs, hatching chicks, feeding their newborns, and hop-shuffling up and down the various penguin highways on the snowy slopes. And we were there thanks to Linnea and her husband, expedition leader Tim.
Our trip was originally billed as a journey from the Falklands (Malvinas) to South Georgia Island followed by a trip to the Antarctic Peninsula, but when updated weather reports came in the night of our departure, the captain, Tim, Linnea, and I’m sure plenty of other people made the joint decision to follow the opposite path. Not only would that more accurately retrace the homeward journey of Sir Ernest Shackleton, Antarctic explorer/leader of a doomed but spectacularly resilient expedition from 1914-17, but would also give us much (MUCH) nicer weather crossing the Drake Passage, known as the roughest piece of sea in the world. Seemed like a good idea at the time, and proved to be nearly perfectly ideal. As a result of their careful and quick planning, along with their commitment to getting us ashore at the coolest places in the southern hemisphere, we all grew to view Tim and Linnea as something just short of magical.
We made two landings almost every day we were near land, waking up each morning to Tim’s “Good morning, everybody, good morning!” The skies were preternaturally sunny with just enough cloudy texture, the water serene and reflective, the penguins charismatic and the crew cheerful and thrilled to be making their first stops on the Peninsula as well. We’d all begun to get to know each other (Jenessa and Noah were always on the last boat back to the ship from shore with us, the youngest girl on board and I had started to perfect our games of Gin Rummy, and all of the photographers on board could recognize each other by camera equipment alone) and we could begin to pick out penguin and whale species from a fair distance based on behavior and coloration- each day felt like four days’ worth of activity, and we thought they’d never end. We were astoundingly lucky, both to have such an adventurous leadership and such glorious weather.