Antarctica: Embracing Boredom on the Scotia Sea

(this post was written on Sunday, 6 January 2013 on the second of three days at sea as we travelled from South Georgia to the Antarctic Peninsula)

I am currently sitting in the warm and comfortable bar lounge on Deck 4 of the Ocean Diamond.  Twelve hours earlier I was perched at the bar with a beer in hand as I enjoyed what has become a nightly ritual with new friends.  We were a group of random travellers enjoying a conversation that flowed naturally despite having only met a few days earlier.

Today I’ve chosen a solitary chair in a corner of the room that provides me with the perfect opportunity to be alone without being lonely.

A middle-aged man sits at the window writing in a notebook as a group of women sip their tea and chat behind him. Two men lean over a chessboard, oblivious to the conversation around them as they plot their next move.  A member of the expedition crew is pouring himself a coffee as a large group of travel companions compare photos.  The room is full of conversation and laughter, sounds that could be from any bar in the world.

I am reminded that travel ignores the differences that would normally prevent our paths from crossing.  Instead it creates a bond cemented by our shared interest in exploration and adventure.   

Today is our second day at sea since leaving the rugged wilderness of South Georgia.  The wildlife-rich landscape of the island referred to as the Galapagos of the South has been replaced with open sea and the vast grey swell stretches as far as the eye can see.  We are en route to the Antarctic Peninsula but our original plan to sail via the South Orkney Islands has been thwarted by ice.  Instead we are heading to Elephant Island, a famous landmark from the epic Shackleton tales and our gateway to the Peninsula.

Ice litters the Deck, remnants from overnight winds that reached 91 knots

A persistent fog created a dull day for wildlife viewing yesterday and the outside decks were unusually quiet.  Photographers spent the day editing photos in the warmth of their cabins instead of capturing new images.  Passengers hoping to see a whale chose instead to attend a lecture from our marine biologist in the comfort of the lecture theatre.  Board games in the bar lounge were in high demand and the polar library saw an increase in visitors.

Today began differently.

A bizarre (and rather traumatic) dream about losing my pet penguin was interrupted by a wake up call that introduced a relatively mild day of 5 degrees Celsius.  Yesterday’s fog had been replaced with clear sky and the grey seas were dotted with sea ice and the occasional chinstrap penguin.  I rushed through a light breakfast, a mistake I later regretted as my empty stomach objected to the increased swell of the ocean, donned my yellow parka and joined another photographer outside.

I felt a surge of excitement as I searched the sea ice for penguins.  We were getting closer to the Antarctica I had dreamed about, the sea ice a preview of what was ahead.

But unpredictable conditions are both an attraction and frustration of the great white continent and the clear start to the day was rapidly replaced with a repeat of yesterday’s fog.

The red line is the planned route – the green line is the revised route to avoid sea ice

 

A second day at sea with poor visibility has created mixed reactions from the diverse group of travellers on board.  Some have retreated to their cabins to watch a DVD, catch up on some sleep or dive into a book.  Others are enjoying the educational lectures offered by the expedition crew and a solitary few have headed to the small gym for some exercise.  Some are clearly restless as they voice their frustrations to no one in particular and one or two are have announced they are “bored”.

I am embracing the boredom.

When I reluctantly accepted there were no photo opportunities outside I detoured to the Bridge, taking advantage of the ‘open door’ policy of the Captain and his crew.  A fascinating hour followed in a room full of equipment I have no understanding of.  With poor visibility limiting the identification of sea ice to yellow shapes on a screen that no doubt has an impressive technical name unknown to me, I watched the crew change direction a number of times to navigate safely through it.

The Captain (second from left) keeps an eye on things from the Bridge

The Captain, a friendly and experienced sailor, soon predicted what we were started to suspect: the sea ice that had created my feeling of excitement at the beginning of the day looked like being the catalyst of an abandoned landing at Elephant Island.  His fear that “Elephant Island will be completely blocked by ice” was followed by an upbeat “it is what it is”.

If it’s blocked by ice, it’s blocked by ice.  The initial feeling of disappointment will be replaced by anticipation and the adventure will continue.

It’s all about the journey and sometimes the most magical moments occur when things don’t go according to plan…

 

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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at www.kellienetherwoodphotography.com

Comments

  1. Dear Kellie,
    Where will you be on January 24, Global Belly Laugh Day? Celebrate the great gift of laughter. On January 24 at 1:24 p.m. (local time) smile, throw your arms in the air and laugh out loud. Join the Belly Laugh Bounce Around the World.
    Hope your days have laughter.

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