Inside Antarctica: The White Continent

Nate Small December 19, 2013 0
Antarctica

A glimpse of the shore as our ship emerged from the fog. © Nate Small

My Antarctica guiding season begins with a classic Antarctica trip across the surging seas of the Drake Passage, followed by exquisite landscapes, absurdly hilarious penguins, and of course, the one thing that never ceases to surprise me: ice.

As we roll on through the Drake Passage, passengers are out on deck practicing with new cameras or inside at the presentations, learning about the birds of Antarctica or the continent’s interesting political history.  By day two, guests are finding their sea legs and we’re all being entertained by the birds cruising about…well…that is until the fog rolls in.  When a ship is enveloped in fog, it’s is like sailing along inside a golf ball–white as far as you can see.

Icebergs in Antarctica

Antarctica’s icebergs never cease to amaze me. © Nate Small

To me, one of the joys of Antarctic cruises, and of cruises in the polar regions in general, is that if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.  The weather can go from beautiful blue skies to blistering gale force winds in a very short time, and the best of sailors learn to just roll with it.  Really, what choice do you have?!

So back to the fog–as the fog starts to lift, you can catch fleeting glimpses of…more white!  But this white is different.  This is the glittering white of the monumental glaciers and icebergs–the white that draws explorers and adventurers like myself back time and time again.

Colorful iceberg floating in Antarctica

Iceberg’s aren’t just white. One iceberg can have hundreds of shades of blue, purple, and more. © Nate Small

I think the most unbelievable thing about Antarctica is the sheer amount of ice.  In Antarctica, there is no such thing as a mountain that doesn’t have at least a 40 foot glacier on top of it.  The peaks around you are all covered in ice, with vast glacial tongues filling the bay along with debris from all that spills out into the waterways as icebergs and brash ice.  This expanse of ice takes on brilliant hues of blue in its cracks and crevices, and is sculpted by the wind and waves to form unique statuesque structures.

As we sail further into Antarctica, the wildlife is starting to show up and show off….but we’ll have to save that for the next post.

Here’s to finding adventure in the poles and beyond,

Nate

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