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Home > Virtual Cruises > Antarctica on Lindblad's National Geographic Endeavour
Antarctica on Lindblad's National Geographic Endeavour
Day 1: Preparing for Antarctica
Day 2: Starting in Santiago
Day 3: On to Ushuaia ... and Onboard
Day 4: Drake's Passage and Onward to Antarctica
Day 5: Landfall in Antarctica
Day 6: Penguins & Palmer Station
Day 7: The Krill Debate & Really Cool Photography
Day 8: The Circle, Tropical Kayaking & Lots of Seals
Day 9: Antarctica Recedes, Civilization Approaches
Related Links
National Geographic Endeavour ship review
National Geographic Endeavour Member reviews
South America & Antarctica Cruises
South America & Antarctica Messages
Lindblad Expeditions Messages
Day 9: Friday, Antarctica Recedes, Civilization Approaches
Antarctica Recedes, Civilization Approaches
Last night at Recap, Tim let us know that, as a treat, we'd be moving at a slower pace today. Slower is of course relative. On a Lindblad trip, a relaxing day off means a wake-up broadcast at 8:30 a.m., with the first lecture starting at 9:30 a.m. And the lounge was pretty much full for the first lecture entitled, "Beyond Al Gore: The Science, Economics and Public Policy of Climate Change."

It was a college level presentation -- lasting till noon -- and we were presented with scads of detail on global climate change and graph after graph of carbon measurements in the atmosphere, followed by an open microphone forum on the topic.

In this crowd, there weren't too many people -- if any -- that weren't aware of the dangers and presence of global warming, and so the discussion centered more on what could be done about it, how we could raise awareness and what exactly the piles of data on CO2 concentration in the atmosphere means.

I thought back to casual conversations I had last night with some of the onboard naturalists on the Nobel Prize jointly won in 2007 by Al Gore and the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. While opinions amongst the naturalists onboard varied widely -- many felt that Gore's contribution was not so much in the scientific arena as it was powerful in raising public awareness, and they questioned whether he deserved the prize. The topic is clearly a complicated one that is felt strongly about in the scientific community, and climate change was debated in lively manner at many lunch tables today.

In honor of the emperor penguins we saw only a few nights ago, the movie "March of the Penguins," which focuses on the seasonal migration of emperor penguins, was shown in the lounge by popular request following dinner. Because I'd seen it already, I slipped off to the peaceful library to watch as the waters of the Drake Passage, the stretch of ocean that separates Antarctica and South America, started whipping up, causing spray and foam to be blown past the windows. Occasionally, a cup or mug slid off a table. For the first time in a week, we were far enough north that it became dark at night as we continued our journey back to Ushuaia.

For all of us, the whole point in coming on this expedition was to see Antarctica. The two days we spent cruising in the Drake Passage as we made our way back to Ushuaia took on a decidedly different mood. We didn't have the continent and its associated excitement to look forward to; the swells had built up to the point where the bow was now crashing down into the waves and sending huge torrents of spray over the decks; and we were now only hours away from the end of a wonderful trip.

After all the anticipatory buildup before our cruise, not to mention the intense excitement of the six days in Antarctica that never really let up, we were slowly coming down.

This morning's real focus was our arrival at the storied landmark of Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America. Fierce winds and mountainous seas have caused many ships to come to grief here, and with its notoriously rough weather causing it to be an obstacle for sailors needing to pass from the Atlantic into the Pacific, rounding the Horn has come to be considered a badge of honor. Today, we saw first hand why it could be so difficult. Winds howling at 30 knots made it uncomfortable to be out on deck, and some of us "adventurers" huddled on the lee side outside the bridge to avoid getting deluged from the spray. Others, obviously cleverer, stayed dry inside the bridge altogether.

We ended up passing about two miles off Cape Horn, which was plenty close enough for us to get photographs of ourselves with it in the background. Several of us were excited since we still considered this remote point a badge of honor in the same way that passing over the North Cape in Europe or rounding the Cape of Good Hope in Africa has a strong symbolic pull. Truthfully, it was the sense of history and the struggles of so many ships that occurred here rather than the relatively unremarkable sight of the Horn itself that created our excitement today.

Still, having gone one step further than Cape Horn by crossing the Drake Passage twice and reaching Antarctica, it wasn't the magical moment that it might have been if we were simply on a trip around South America. Instead of it being the focus of our cruise, the way it might be on a voyage between Buenos Aires and Santiago, Cape Horn for us was more of an afterthought. It's fun to say we've been around Cape Horn, but not nearly as fun as saying we've been to Antarctica.

By late afternoon on the second day, we were in sheltered waters as we entered the Beagle Channel, a protected channel at the tip of South America which we would follow for the afternoon on our return to Ushuaia.

Suddenly, the air smelled sweet; the land appeared surprisingly lush as we saw our first shades of green in 11 days; and we began making a slow transition back to civilization.

Tonight was the Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party, our last hurrah, and as soon as Captain Kruess entered the room, a rousing round of applause erupted. Every passenger in the lounge was on his or her feet, and the standing ovation was a moving and spontaneous show of support and appreciation, a far cry from the polite greetings or ritualistic shows of respect granted most cruise captains.

I'd never seen anything like it.

On an expedition ship, the captain plays a tremendous role in shaping the passenger experience. Our Captain found the smaller, undiscovered anchorages like Detaille Island where we decided to build the snow penguins. He mastered the ship so well that he could hold the ship's nose against an iceberg and safely jostle it into an iceberg. And he didn't excel only at the skills requiring derring-do. Capt Kruess tirelessly answered question after question on the Bridge, never once getting impatient or annoyed, even during difficult maneuvers, and he always had an excellent sense of humor. He was present at all evening Recaps. He was frequently seen around the ship, joining passengers for drinks or conversations whenever his scheduled allowed.

Most importantly on this trip, the Captain brought the ship south of the Antarctic Circle, which translated into especially long hours in the middle of the night for him. By going so far south, he had to work his way back up through the ice packs that we would have avoided had we stayed further north.

He spoke reverently about N.G. Endeavour. "We have a fantastic ship beneath us, the perfect ship for Antarctica and the ice, and we love her dearly. We love Antarctica, too, but your enthusiasm, your sharing what we see and care for so much, your interest in seeing this place like we see and know it, is what kept us pushing to deliver the best trip for you."

As we began our approach to the dock in Ushuaia, where we'd overnight on the ship before flying home tomorrow, e-mail addresses were feverishly swapped. There was a fairly brisk business in exchanging photos on memory sticks.

What didn't occur? The topic of the Explorer's sinking simply disappeared after the first day. We were consumed by so much more going on around us, and I think we all felt comfortable and secure in the hands of our staff and the ship. We were given amazing opportunities, such as the kayaking or walking on ice, but we had the confidence that we were offered those opportunities only when it was completely safe to do so.

I wondered: Were all trips to Antarctica as good as this one? And it occurred to me that we were lucky to be onboard a ship equipped with everything from kayaks to undersea videos, and from dedicated naturalists to an expedition leader like Tim who was so passionate about the region that he inspired in us an even higher level of enthusiasm than we came onboard with. In the end, though, it was really the majesty of Antarctica that defined the trip.

This "cruise of a lifetime" is over. Some of my newfound friends headed into Ushuaia for the evening to check out the hot nightspots, but I stayed onboard. I wanted to keep the feeling of Antarctica with me for as long as possible. And I also wanted to keep the rest of the world at bay for at least one more night.
Day 8: The Circle, Tropical Kayaking & Lots of Seals red arrow

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