AMANDA’S ANTARCTIC MAGIC

A midnight cruise down the gullet in search of a penguin rookery in the dying dusk of the day, revealed a group of fledging cormorants, inquisitive Weddell seals playing near a berg, but no penguins. Searching further afield in the almost darkness, a pod of Orcas appeared. They surfed right up to and under the zodiacs, porpoising all around us in a remarkable display—moving quickly and with direction. It was too dark to take photographs, and after 30 minutes with mothers, calves and perhaps young males, the ship came to meet us, its lights beckoning warmly. The Orcas moved on, but we had experienced them a metre or less away from us, all having a personal experience with them. It was an incredibly powerful experience for all of us to be so close to such intelligent prescient creatures, and the sensation and awareness of our true vulnerability was definitely a highlight of the season.

Having Fiona Given onboard was a wonderful reminder that it is possible to grab life with both hands and to dream, regardless of how unlikely the outcome might be. Fiona, who has cerebral palsy, was a fabulous example of the manifestation of dreams, and being able to watch people come to assist in creating that reality. Her spirit was always high, though I know it was sometimes quite difficult for her, and she gave so much to making her experience of Antarctica a reality, as did the people around her. It was an honour for me personally, and I'm sure it was for many passengers, to be able to assist her in visiting Antarctica, and follow through on one of the commitments made by Greg and Margaret Mortimer.

Ice beset Seymour Island, and we were unable to access it, despite our high expectations, hopes and long made plans. The Captain's suggestion to land at Lamb Point turned into one of those magical experiences that left everyone surfing on high energy for days. Landing at a place rarely visited, if ever, and the site itself was remarkable. We were so far away from the material world, and the presence of so many fossils meant a connection with nature and with the world that everyone seemed to understand and feel. All onboard had a really powerful experience here, the weather was divine, the mud challenging enough to be fun, and the glimpse into the distant, distant past, with petrified tree trunks, ammonites and ancient crabs, made us feel like true explorers of a world hardly known.

An unscheduled diversion to Diego Ramirez. Wow! This was SO exciting. To zodiac cruise around hundreds of grey headed and black browed albatross, amidst a twisting mass of swirling playful seals, with tussock birds landing on the heads of passengers and staff, chicks screaming from their nests, magellanic penguins—a mass of wildlife so reminiscent of the sub-Antarctic, on a non sub-Antarctic voyage, was incredibly special and surprising. It was so distinctly in contrast with the rest of the voyage and a beautiful link to the land of Tierra del Fuego.

Desolation Island: a new landing, incredibly special and full of surprising amounts of wildlife. Nothing desolate about it at all.

Discovering a lone Emperor Penguin on an enormous iceberg and being able to land all passengers, staff and some crew on it to watch. It was completely unconcerned by us, and was a remarkable reminder of the wonderful, random and unexpected experiences that Antarctica regularly delivers. I never doubt Antarctica's ability to change but I'm always surprised at what she manages to reveal. It's always different.