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Authored by Niamh Shaw

 

We’ve all become accustomed to a daily routine here on the Island Sky. I look forward to our morning announcements over the PA system, but this morning’s announcement was particularly special. Our expedition leader, Claudia, asked us to look outside the window. Jill, who I share a cabin with, and I leaped out of our beds, pulled back the curtains, looked out the window with astonishment and excitement. We’re here! Seven days after we departed Puerto Madryn, we have finally arrived in Antarctica! It was like Christmas morning when your parents tell you to run downstairs to see the gift that Santa Claus had left.

Photo: Departure from Puerto Madryn, Argentina

 

After our daily morning meeting (which we call the Daily Setup), we were off to visit Aitcho Island; our first Antarctic landing. We had prepared for this moment two days previously, when our boots and outer wear were inspected thoroughly, as part of biosecurity screening.

The zodiacs lined up beside the ship and as I waited my turn to jump aboard, I looked down at the water. It was a glassy blue, vividly clear and clean. I’ve never seen sea water that clear or that shade of blue.

We had been told to wear our warmest clothes in Antarctica, so I had six layers on: a faux-fur-lined hat, two pairs of gloves and two pairs of socks. My neck gaiter covered my mouth and nose, and sunglasses covered the rest. Jumping into the zodiac, I was glad I was so well insulated. The battery on my GoPro camera lasted about 20 minutes, I had forgotten that I needed to keep it warm to avail of its full charge. Not that it mattered. It was impossible for me to capture what I witnessed.

 

Photo: Aitcho Island, our first Antarctic landing.

 

We landed near a Chinstrap penguin colony, and this small stretch of land was teeming with life. This was a community in full flow, getting on with their day-to-day life: increasing their rock collections by any means possible: flirting, swimming, eating, mating. So much to take in. Standing there, in my multiple layers of protection from the icy winds, I was completely focused on this beautiful community. And my good fortune to bear witness.

Photo: Chinstrap penguin colony.

 

Travelling back to our ship in the zodiac, none of us really said much. I think we all felt the majesty of the moment we all shared on Aitcho Island. Sometimes words are not enough, nor a photograph or a video. These moments are captured in our hearts and are a reminder of the responsibility we have to ensure that the world of the Chinstraps continues.

The day is coming to a close here and I’m watching the sun set on an iceberg in the far distance. Another majestic moment from Antarctica.

Photo: Sunset on an iceberg

 

I hope that when I’m back at home at my desk and I encounter some technical glitch that infuriates me, I’ll remember that I spent a morning with Chinstraps who reminded me of the beauty in simplicity. And the awe that surrounds us on this planet every day.