After living on the most isolated continent in the world for 67 days, it was time to leave Antarctica. Our ticket out? Oh just your casual ice breaking cargo ship that is designed to sail through sea ice and the roughest sea in the world and dock at the Falkland Islands. No big deal. Yet for some reason in this continent nothing is ever that easy.
We were only meant to be on the ship for 14 days give or take, but with the unpredictable nature of this journey constantly going against us, this delayed our sail up to 28 days.
The longer we stayed at sea, the sooner winter approached, and the stronger the sea ice became. At one instance we did not make any progress in sailing for two entire days as we waited for the wind to blow sea ice out of our path. Even with all the technology advancements in the world, we were still powerless to Mother Nature (although we did get off the ship and play some football on an iceberg with some curious emperor penguins watching…winning!).
During the sail we were exposed to some of the most incredible wildlife and scenery you could possibly imagine. Whales, penguins and seals became frequent sights on our journey. Even our first sunset in months was finally on hand, and it was worth the wait. There is something about Antarctica that makes all the small details stand out to you. The little things are not for granted down here. In saying that even this amazing scenery came with its cost.
This journey proved to be a test of mental strength. While I might sound ungrateful, the sailing became more than tedius. Cabin fever was even becoming evident among some of the staff. Imagine being on a cargo ship at sea for an entire month with only enough space to hardly stretch your legs? It became daunting, however it did open up some avenues for me. I became an avid reader, which I was far from before. Also I had plenty of time to think. When you are shut off from internet, your phone and the stresses of modern life, you finally let yourself ‘switch off’. You gain an ability to focus and reassess everything at home and in your mind.
Now looking back on it, this journey proved to be one of the most adventurous and self revealing experiences I have had, regardless of the minor claustrophobia from on board the ship. Especially when we got to dock at Signy island. The most incredible, quaint and remote rock that became a home for a research station (and also lazy elephant seals).
When I look back at my pictures and videos I remember how lucky I am that I got to experience this adventure. Especially considering that the RRS Ernest Shackleton will be only history soon as it is set to be replaced by the RRS Sir David Attenborough vessel. A story for the grand kids as they say.