Last day on the peninsula. That morning, we made our last stop at Half Moon Island. This Island lies in the entrance to Moon Bay, between Livingston and Greenwich Islands. The 2 km long island is crescent-shaped and home to approximately 3,300 breeding pairs of chinstrap penguins. Antarctic terns, skuas, kelp gulls, Wilson’s storm-petrels and blue-eyed shags also breed at this site. Fur seals are often present on the beaches, along with the occasional Weddell or elephant seal.
Most of the Mawson Team decided to go kayaking. The kayaking was nice as we went through narrow passages and enjoyed a slightly more adventurous paddle. Some of the people who didn’t do the polar plunge wanted to get a small flavor of it, so they decided to jump into the water with their drysuits on. Of course, this is cheating, but it was entertaining to all of us and Lisa did an ever so stylish entrance. Unfortunately though, we didn’t have time to land on the island.
Our very last stop was supposed to be Yankee Harbour, but because of the windy weather it got cancelled. So we spent the rest of the day just chilling on the boat, catching up on sleep. It was obvious that the atmosphere on the ship had radically changed and people were getting depressed, because we all realized that this trip was coming to an end.
I spent the next two days just hanging out on the boat and sorting through the hundreds of pictures I took on this trip. Even though the Drake passage was relatively calm again, many people disappeared into their cabins as they got sea sick. The last night, one of the staff members had put together a slideshow of our trip. I must admit, leaving Antarctica felt like a tough break-up. It was one of these short but intense relationships that leaves you longing for more. I have been traveling for 16 years to 50 countries, and have been fortunate to see more beautiful places than anyone could hope for: Jordan, Mongolia, Tibet, Indonesia, etc. Seeing these places changed me forever. But despite all of this, for most of them, I would be ok with never going back. Antarctica is different, it has an addictive quality to it. White, powdery and unreasonably expensive, it would be my drug of choice. I know for certain that I will return to it, as unreasonable as this might seem.
When we arrived back in Ushuaia, we were all headed straight to an internet cafe. Although I get 30-40 emails a day, to my greatest surprise, I didn’t miss much. Nothing interesting or even noteworthy had happened since I had gone. That afternoon, everyone went their own way, but as we were all wandering on our own through the city, we strangely all ended up at the same place: on the benches along the port looking out onto our beloved ship. We picnicked on those benches and as we were passing time, the new set of passengers arrived that would board our boat. It was impossible not to feel envious at them. They were about to embark on a trip that would take them to this parallel world that we all just returned from. We all would have given anything to swap places with them, to start all over again. But unfortunately, we couldn’t. We waited until their buses left port and they would embark our Sea Adventurer.
In the evening, we met up one last time for a farewell drink in the local pub. It was hard to make this trip end and nobody really wanted to leave, but it was time to say goodbye… Along with my trip to Namibia and Botswana, I will remember Antarctica as my most meaningful journey, and I’ll be back, I have to.
See more images here.