Antarctica Awakens by Amanda Till
Try if you can, to imagine your first sight of South Georgia and all that it conjures. The sheer untrodden peaks are reaching far into the sky, heavily snow-capped and sparkling under clear blue skies. The brightness is blinding, and beneath and around the ship in azure waters soar hundreds of king penguins. In bright white, orange and black flashes, they streak through the water at break neck speed, occasionally peering up in surprise at the ship before continuing their underwater flight. They are busy feeding, back and forth between their 200,000+ strong colony and the krill rich seas you have just sailed through.
In the steep slopes of vibrant green tussock grass nest hundreds of black-browed albatross, parents swapping the role of caring for their chick at regular intervals. And the beaches are literally moving with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of fur seals as they tussle for rights to a patch of sand with which to tempt and lure the females due to arrive any moment.
The landscape is pristine as it bursts forth from the long dark winter just endured. Light mantled sooty albatross soar in perfect unison in a ritual flight magnificent enough to bring tears to your eyes. The snow has not melted, and lies full and fresh and clean where it fell. Icebergs are scattered in the bays, turquoise and twisted, silent observers of the new season, which has begun with all the abundance of spring. Mating season is in full swing by now and if you wish to see nature in its full glory, and most largely unaware of our presence, springtime is the season to do it. It is truly “action stations” in both South Georgia and Antarctica in November.
The whales are arriving with their young having made the long passage from far more temperate climes, for their first foray into the polar waters and the experience of abounding feed. The penguins are practicing their mating communication and pairing up with much chatting and wing flapping, or waiting patiently for mates to arrive, preparing the nest with devout dedication by stealing stones and tending to structural issues like experienced builders. As though a magnet, the Antarctic convergence draws its’ lifeblood back into circulation from far and wide and being present to this essential and powerful season in Antarctica is a profound and privileged experience. In many respects, it is this time of year which keeps the cycle of oceans in flow.
There is a sense of magic and urgency in the air, on the land and in the sea, and in this very short period of time, we see the stirrings of life in high speed and on full throttle, and where the promise of new life and possibilities is at its fullest.