Glissading in Paradise

Trip Start Jun 18, 2005
Trip End Jan 01, 2006

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Flag of Antarctica  ,
Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Today, I had to recharge both camera batteries in the middle of the day. A first! But think of this. Think of a day that will still make you smile when you are very old, when you are very gray. Today was one of those.

Last night's voyage was rock and roll, a bunk-ride, according to the slang. Today, in the Errera Channel between Ronge Island and the Arctowski Peninsula, the waters were as calm as glass, the sun was breaking through. I rushed out to the upper deck, the fresh air, my sweater warm enough. Pamela and John were there already, smiling, snapping pictures, running from one side of the ship to the other. We swapped cameras for a pose. Let's prove that we were there! Mountains behind, too picturesque for words. Mountains around, white glass, glaciers, icebergs floating everywhere.

A landing there, then lunch, the ship moved on. In the middle of dessert, we rounded Waterboat Point. Oh my! Forget dessert! Grab the cameras, head for the deck! Paradise Harbour. "Aptly named," our handout warned. Aptly named, indeed! Ahead, a cluster of red buildings against the snowbanks; it's Almirante Brown, a now unmanned Argentine base. Unmanned, that is, except for penguins, uniformed in black and white, pacing back and forth, flapping to the ship. "Come in!"

The afternoon turned out to be the best yet of the trip. The PolarCirkels hurried back and forth, one group to shore, another back. Special arrangements for Jan, her cane and walker placed aboard a boat on deck, then gently lowered to the water, no steps! The steep hill above the base was lined with those ambitious for a climb; reward a smooth glissade back to the bottom on the snow. "No, some rocks!" Bjoern reported back to me. "I hit some rocks." Paul was prepared. "I stuffed my pants with sweaters," he laughed, "to protect my bum." They are young, and full of energy. The older crowd stayed at the bottom, walking in the snow. Pamela lost her boot. "Someone had to pull it out of the snow for me," she said. "Someone had to pull ME out," Ross laughed. "I walked to where the children were making a snowman and sunk, three feet down."

Ah, summer in Antarctica. The sun kept shining.

Everybody back on board, move on. Announcement: we will anchor overnight at Leith Cove. Dinner over, took my book and cameras to Torghatten Salong, the observation deck, window views wide-angled. Sat down. The water reminded me of a toy, a mirror for a lake, it was so smooth. The mountains turned to doubles, the mountain up, reflection down. Pink clouds, blue icebergs, a thunder crash as pieces fell. Seals slumbered on a floating chunk. The sun did not set at all.

At midnight I forced myself to go to bed.
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