The First Landing

First thing I did this morning was to throw on my clothes and head to the bridge. The storm completely passed overnight, though judging by the amount of rocking and sliding in my bed it got worse before it got better. This morning the sea was flat. A new wave of excitement – Antarctic islands and icebergs springing up on the horizon. I ate breakfast this morning watching icebergs float by the porthole windows of the dining room. That set me up for a day on full throttle; no sea sickness, no drowsiness, 100 percent health and spirit.

A quick briefing on Robert Swan’s e-base and I got kitted up and headed out onto the lower deck ready for the Zodiac launch. We anchored up at King George Island, the most populated part of Antarctica with scientist communities from all parts of the globe. A short zodiac taxi across to the island and a first sighting of a chinstrap penguin and a seal. We then took a walk up to the e-base that Rob and his team have brilliantly constructed, running entirely on renewable energy. One of the wind generators was down due to the excessive 80-90 knot winds of last night (50 knots is hurricane level). We then set out on an hour’s walk to a glacier at the end of a cobble beach, before returning to the Zodiacs and lunch back onboard. The place is incredible. I really cannot literate anything more than that. It is a white wilderness with spectacular scenery – no doubt the photos will attest to that much. But most palpable is its sense of “untouchableness.” In spite of the gigantic Russian oil drums left to rust on the shore and the scientist community living on King George Island, this continent is quite simply the last place on earth untouched and untouchable by mankind. There are no governments, no laws, no wars and scarcely any human life. I hope it stays this way.

This afternoon I went to a session by a chap from the BP Institute at Cambridge University, followed by an attempt at whale spotting on the top deck, to no avail, and a session on the geology of Antarctica in the presentation room. After dinner Rob delivered part two of his presentation. I can’t understate the admiration I have for this quintessentially British eccentric and his story of ambition, vision, conviction and achievement.

I am once again reminded of the peculiarity of the position I am in. We just sailed clean through a storm of 40 foot waves, which I understand ripped all of the cargo off the back of a Chilean ship in the passage last night and all but caused it to capsize. This morning I walked on the continent of Antarctica. There is little more to recount than that. Rob, his team, and this place are truly inspiring. I will do my utmost to capture all of that over the next three days. Good night from Antarctica.


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