Classic Antarctica, Dec 7-19 2019

Classic Antarctica, Dec 7-19 2019
December 2019

Monday, 9 December 2019: Ushuaia, Argentina
We converged on the small city of Ushuaia, all of us arriving from distant reaches of the planet for the same reason: to embark on an expedition to experience the wildlife and landscapes of Antarctica. As our respective flights approached Ushuaia, the majestic clouds parted at times to provide us with striking views of the southern Andes. The glaciers, lakes and towering peaks had to be seen to be believed, and the impressive scenery seemed to go on forever.

When we arrived at "El Fin del Mundo" (as Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, is locally known), we found a growing outpost with plenty of restaurants and shops catering to adventurous travellers. We could hardly imagine a more picturesque setting from which to embark on our journey to the White Continent. We gathered at the Arakur Hotel, perched high above the town, with sweeping views of the Beagle Channel below. There, we mingled over a delicious lunch, and some of us took a hike through the spectacular southern beech forest cloaking the lower mountain slopes.

With a brisk wind and a sky of mixed sun and clouds overhead, we arrived at the pier, which was lined with a handful of fishing boats and expedition ships. We made our way up the gangway, where we were welcomed by the staff and crew of our ship, 'Le Lyrial.' After settling into our staterooms and getting familiar with the ship a bit, we headed to the Grand Salon to partake in some welcome champagne and snacks. Following a lifeboat drill, we joined our Cruise Director Paul Carter, our Expedition Director Suzana Machado D'Oliveira, and our Expedition Leader Marco Favero in The Theatre for an introduction to the ship and her staff. As each member of the Expedition Staff gave us a welcome and some background on themselves, it became clear that their passion for Antarctica and their desire to share it with us will make this a grand adventure indeed!

Our day drew to a close over dinner and some time on the observation deck watching Ushuaia disappear into the distance. Darkness fell over magnificent mountains lining the Beagle Channel on both sides, while small groups of South American terns and blue-eyed shags fished in the productive waters.

We breathed in our last breath of South America and of the green vegetation covering the mountainsides, all the while contemplating the experiences that lie ahead of us. We drifted off to sleep in our new home away from home, eagerly anticipating awakening to the vast, and hopefully calm, Southern Ocean.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019: At sea, en route to Antarctica
We awoke to the ocean in all directions, with the landmass of South America now well behind us to the north. The wind and swell had built up during the night, and so many of us took full advantage of the opportunity to have a bit of a lie-in, before carefully making our way to breakfast.

We had the opportunity to exchange our parkas for better-fitting ones before joining Ornithologist, Patricia Silva, for her lecture, "Seabirds of the Southern Ocean." Patricia highlighted some of the species we would see out in the open ocean and told stories of their amazing long-distance travel abilities, including the fact that some species regularly circumnavigate the entire globe between nesting seasons! Patricia presented beautiful photos that made us all want to spend every waking moment out on the deck, in the hope of catching a glimpse of some of these striking birds.

After taking a break to watch the impressive windswept sea surface around the ship, we joined Photo Enrichment Coach, Richard Harker, for his talk: "The secret to better Antarctica photos." A talk for beginners and professional photographers alike, Richard covered everything from protecting our camera equipment from unpredictable weather to understanding how to best deal with the challenging lighting situations that are the norm in Antarctica. He empowered us to go out and capture that perfect shot.

Over lunch, the sea conditions began to calm down considerably; and so afterward we headed out on deck to be in the company of the amazing seabirds swirling effortlessly in the wind around the ship. Black-browed and grey-headed albatrosses careened back and forth across the ship's wake, while tiny Wilson's storm-petrels kept low to the water, ducking in behind the large rolling swells for short-lived protection from the wind.

Marine Mammologist, Matt Messina, gathered us back in The Theatre for his presentation, "Whales of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica." From the far-reaching low-frequency vocalizations of blue whales to the impressive cooperative bubble-net feeding of humpback whales, Matt shared some amazing stories about this incredible and diverse group of mammals. We left the lecture hall excited for our first encounter with the whales of the Southern Ocean.

After a good dose of fresh air out on deck with our two A&K Photo coaches, we joined Micropaleontology Lecturer, Reed Scherer, for his presentation, "Climates and ice sheets: Past, present and potential futures." Reed showed how changes in climate are due to a combination of factors: ocean circulation patterns, slight variations in the orbit of the planet, and the composition of the atmosphere. It was a fascinating talk, which helped us clearly understand the drivers behind Earth's climate.

We then all donned our Sunday best and met Captain Christophe Colaris and many other members of the ship's staff for the Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party, carefully swaying back and forth with the ship as we mingled over champagne. The Captain told us a bit about himself, and then introduced several core members of his staff. It became clear that, just like those of us traveling as passengers, the crew has quite the international flare. We all had a very enjoyable evening that was rounded off by a superb gala dinner.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019: At sea, en route to Antarctica
We pulled back the curtains this morning to a steel-grey sky, and a walk outside revealed cold, crisp air and a lively group of cape petrels circling the ship. These majestic birds, very easily identified by their splotchy black-and-white pattern, played in the winds and updrafts as 'Le Lyrial' made her way south.

After a leisurely breakfast, we joined Marine Mammologist, Matt Messina, in The Theatre for his talk, "Leopards of the deep: Ice seals of Antarctica." Among other species, Matt introduced us to the crabeater seal, a krill-eater that is the most abundant seal on the planet; and the infamous leopard seal, a voracious predator of penguins often found patrolling the waters around busy penguin nesting colonies.

After a good dose of fresh air out on deck scanning for wildlife, we gathered back in The Theatre with Expedition Director, Suzana Machado D'Oliveira, and Expedition Leader, Marco Favero, for a mandatory briefing about conduct while ashore in Antarctica. The essential aims of this talk were to ensure that our visits there are conducted safely and that the environment and wildlife are not disturbed by our presence. We also learned about the ship's zodiacs, which are the transport of choice in this part of the world.

After lunch, we cleaned our clothes and backpacks that we are going to take ashore, to meet the biosecurity guidelines for Antarctica. We then met Photo Coach, Richard Harker, for his presentation, "Yes! You can capture Antarctica with your smartphone!" From adjusting light exposure to taking advantage of the array of different video features, Richard showed us how smartphones can be a very effective tool for photographing Antarctic landscapes and wildlife.

During the afternoon and with a light snow falling, Captain Christophe Colaris manoeuvred 'Le Lyrial' through Nelson Strait in the South Shetland Islands, where we had our first views of the magnificent ice caps covering these low islands. Several humpback whales were spotted in the area, and small groups of chinstrap penguins porpoised just below the ship's railing. It was also here that Cruise Director, Paul Carter, announced that we had a winner of the "Spot the first iceberg" competition.

We then met Ornithologist, Patricia Silva, for her talk, "Birds in tuxedos," a very interesting introduction to those most unique of birds, the penguins. Patricia highlighted some of the species we may encounter on this trip including the Adelies, which march many miles over the sea ice in October to reach the sites of their breeding colonies. It was a very entertaining presentation, and we left eager for our arrival tomorrow at our first Antarctic penguin colony.

Over cocktails, we gathered for our first evening Recap and Briefing, during which Naturalist Rich Pagen introduced us to the Beaufort wind scale, and Marine Mammologist, Matt Messina, spoke about ocean currents in the Antarctic. After a delicious dinner, we slipped off to bed early in anticipation of waking up just off the very tip of the Antarctic Peninsula!

Thursday, 12 December 2019: Brown Bluff and Antarctic Sound
We awoke this morning to Antarctic Sound in all of its grandeur, with calm conditions and icebergs of all shapes scattered in every direction. Following breakfast, we donned our warm gear and prepared for our first zodiac outing of the voyage.

We landed at Brown Bluff, a towering 2,200-foot-tall cliff behind a cobble beach, which is home to a large colony of Adélie penguins and scattered clusters of gentoo penguins. The cliffs made perfect nesting sites for cape and snow petrels, which we watched circling high overhead along the cliff face.

But the highlight of the landing was spending time with the penguins. The longer we watched, the more we saw. Adults methodically picked up stone after stone, going back and forth to their nest sites, adding the rocks to the nests' foundation. Perched on top of each stone pile was a penguin laying down, carefully incubating either its two eggs or, in some cases, its two newly-hatched chicks.

Tucked in beneath their parent, the new arrivals were generally safe from the patrolling brown skuas and kelp gulls, which were always on the lookout for an opportunity to snatch up a delicious meal. Along the shoreline, penguins came and went from the sea; and if we sat quietly enough, they walked right past us without a care in the world.

Back on the ship, we told stories over lunch and admired the sublime scenery around us. As we ate, Captain Christophe Colaris manoeuvred 'Le Lyrial' into Fridtjof Channel, a gorgeous narrow and ice-choked pass into the Weddell Sea.

We gathered for an early afternoon Recap and Briefing, during which Photo Coach, Richard Harker, shared some photo tips, and Naturalist, John Wright, told the unlikely story of the 1901-04 Swedish Antarctic Expedition, led by Otto Nordenskjøld. We then set out on a zodiac tour to explore the Erebus and Terror Gulf, just off the southern tip of the Tabarin Peninsula.

The theme of the afternoon was ‘ice,’ and it was spectacular! We encountered several different types and an infinite variety of shapes and sizes. We nosed up to first-year sea ice, which is essentially frozen ocean water, where we discovered some resting southern giant petrels. Small groups of Adélie penguins tobogganed across the extremely flat ice surface, in some cases picking up some impressive speed as they made their way across the vast expanse of ice.

We cruised around an impressive tabular iceberg, its flat top reaching a height of 100-feet above the sea! Snow petrels flew along the iceberg's edge, while an Antarctic tern perched on the top. It was a surreal experience to be out in such a wonderland of ice, with subtle variations in lighting making every view as mesmerizing as the last.

Over dinner, we kept an eye out the window throughout the evening, admiring spectacular scenery in all directions.

Friday, December 13, 2019: Aitcho Islands and Deception Island

This morning we awoke in the South Shetland Islands and, after a hearty breakfast, we bundled up for the short zodiac ride ashore to Barrientos in the Aitcho Islands. Conditions were perfect at the landing beach, which was crowded with gentoo penguins nesting just up from the high tide line. The most obvious feature that stood out as we approached the shore was how green it was. Moss and algae seemed to be covering nearly everything!

Once ashore, we walked up over a rise to the backside of this small island. There, we watched three elephant seals through the spotting scope. These molting individuals were displaying the classic thigmotactic behaviour that elephant seals are known for, huddling so close together that they were pretty much laying on top of each other.

Chinstrap and gentoo penguins nested in clusters all over the place, most with eggs but a few with very recently hatched chicks. Several very aggressive brown skuas watched over the whole scene, working hard to distract nesting penguins just enough to enjoy the reward of getting to feast on the penguins' eggs. One skua took its stolen quarry up a sloping hillside and repeatedly rolled it down, a behaviour that even Expedition Leader, Marco Favero, with his more than thirty years of experience in Antarctica, had never seen before!

We returned to the ship in the late morning, where we joined Micropaleontology Lecturer, Reed Scherer, for his presentation, "Tiny fossils and the big ice sheet," a fascinating talk about using plant plankton as a means to understand the history of West Antarctica's ice sheet. Over lunch, we watched the ship's transit southwest along the island chain to our afternoon stop, Deception Island.

Once the island was in sight, we lined the railings to watch the ship's approach and its entrance through Neptune's Bellows into the bay in the centre. Deception Island is so-named because, although it appears to be a normal island at first glance, it is the flooded caldera of a volcano. It is shaped like a donut with a bite out of its side, and with care, it is possible to sail a ship right inside the volcano itself!

We landed in Telefon Bay in very calm conditions and hiked inland for a look at an impressive parasitic volcanic crater. The views were spectacular, and finding a large number of krill washed up on the beach was an unexpected opportunity to see the keystone species of the Antarctic up close and personal.

After we returned to ‘Le Lyrial’ and the last of our zodiacs were craned back on board, we gathered for Recap where we learned about Deception Island's geology from Reed Scherer, and penguin behaviour from Ornithologist, Patricia Silva. The ship exited back through Neptune's Bellows, and soon the mountainous spine of the Antarctic Peninsula glowed yellow off the port side of the ship, as we headed off to bed.

 Saturday, December 14, 2019: Neko Harbor, Cuverville Island and Gerlache Strait

We awoke to the Gerlache Strait at its finest, with towering mountains off the port side of the ship, all of them covered in glaciers that looked like frosting on a cake! The cool morning air greatly helped the wake-up process, and soon we found ourselves in zodiacs pushing through brash ice in stunning Andvord Bay.

There we landed at Neko Harbor, which was named after Christian Salvesen's floating whaling factory Neko, which operated in the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula area between 1911 and 1924. Many of us decided to make the hike to the ridgeline above. We ascended a steep snow-covered hill to a rock outcropping from which we could see Andvord Bay in its entirety. It was a sight to behold!

Down below, we sat and watched the penguins, and absorbed the scene in its entirety. A massive glacier with cerulean blue crevasses cascaded down to the sea adjacent to the boulder-strewn beach. From the shoreline up to the nesting colonies stretched steep meandering "penguin highways," and we couldn't help but think what it must be like for the very first penguin that arrives there each spring and has to break trail for the group.

We enjoyed a wonderful barbeque lunch while ‘Le Lyrial’ meandered through the ice and entered the stunning Errera Channel en route to Cuverville Island. This bell-curve shaped island is covered with extensive beds of mosses and lichen.

Naturalist, Russ Manning, led a hike up to a high vantage point to get a view over the iceberg-scattered sea to the mountains and glaciers beyond. It was quite strenuous walking up the steep snow-covered slope. On the way back down, some of us took a slide down the snow slope rather than walk. It was so much fun that some of us walked all the way back up just to do it again!

The Gentoos at Cuverville have received a lot of visitors over the years, so the nearly 6,000 breeding pairs tend to be downright welcoming and quite the opposite of skittish. We watched their behaviour closely, noticing how the Gentoos constantly add stones to their rock pile nests while attempting to steal stones from the nests of others. On the way back to the ship, we took a tour through a maze of massive grounded icebergs, including one that had an impressive arch through it.

Back on board, we responded to the call from the bridge that a large pod of orca had been spotted! With blue skies overhead and not a breath of wind, we lined the railings watching this group of Type B orcas, known for their large white eye patches and their habit of hunting seals.

Over dinner, we watched the lighting outside on the frosted mountain peaks change as the sun dropped gradually lower in the sky. We headed out on deck to watch as ‘Le Lyrial’ pushed into dense sea ice in the Gerlache Strait, in a scene that can only be described as magical!

Sunday, December 15, 2019: Enterprise Island and Georges Point

This morning, ‘Le Boreal’ arrived off of Wilhelmina Bay under perfect conditions, with the mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula rising to 4,000 feet out of the sea to the east. We boarded the zodiacs to explore Enterprise Island and the small islets surrounding it. Everyone had different experiences, but most saw the evidence of the whaling era in the form of water boats, and anchoring posts. The sheltered anchorage here is named Foyn Harbor after Svend Foyn, the inventor of the heavy harpoon with an explosive head. The harbor was used by Norwegian whalers who operated there between 1910 and 1930.

The wreck of the Guvernøren, a whaling factory ship that caught fire in 1915, was beached in a small cove. Perched on top of the rusty wreck were a handful of Antarctic terns, their red beaks and feet contrasting strongly with the whites and blues of the landscape around them.

The stars of the zodiac cruise were the humpback whales, which migrate here from the tropics each (southern) summer to feed in these krill-rich waters. A group of five whales was diving frequently, raising their individually-marked tail flukes out of the water as they went, revealing their unique pattern of black-and-white-and-yellow on the underside. With so little wind, the sound of their respirations could be heard even at a distance. It was a magnificent morning, and a special treat to have close encounters with such massive creatures as these.

Over lunch, ‘Le Lyrial’ made her way south to Georges Point at Rongé Island, along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. The scenery was incredible, with small misty clouds scattered on otherwise sunlit mountain peaks, with glaciers tumbling down to the sea on all sides. Just up from the landing, we found a Weddell seal loafing in the snow, showing us its skill as a professional sleeper! Weddell seals are known for their spectacular underwater songs, and for gnawing at the ice during the winter to keep breathing holes open. In between feeding sessions, they often rest either on the ice or ashore on snowfields, as this one was so expertly doing.

We walked a trail through the deep snow, up to the nesting Gentoo and chinstrap penguins. The penguins were also using their trails through the snow, called penguin highways, but with no real plan for how to deal with two-way traffic. With brilliant scenery all around, we patiently watched the activity around the colony, ranging from penguins returning from the sea to relieve their partners at the nest to the constant maintenance of their stone mound nests.

During Recap, Marine Mammologist, Matt Messina, spoke about the amazing whale sightings we've had the past few days, and Naturalist, Rich Pagen, shared penguin colony stories including "the bouncer" from a few days back, a penguin that always seemed to show up at just the right moment to save others from marauding skuas.

In the evening, ‘Le Lyrial’ arrived at Wilhelmina Bay along the spine of the Antarctic Peninsula, where we gathered out on deck to scan for wildlife. A Weddell seal loafed on an iceberg while countless humpback whales fed in the area, some even bubble-net feeding to concentrate krill in a tight ball before coming up through it to feast. The energy out on deck and in the Observation Lounge was top-notch, and many of us lingered well into the long late-night sunset watching the changing light in this stunning part of Antarctica!

Monday, December 16, 2019: Cierva Cove and Mikkelsen Harbor

We pulled back the curtains this morning to find that the windless sunny conditions we've experienced for the past couple of days were still with us. We ate a hearty breakfast with one eye out the window, before boarding the zodiacs for a tour of Cierva Cove, a particularly scenic spot choked with ice and flanked by impressive mountain peaks.

An Argentine base called Primavera was perched on a hill overlooking the cove, its orange buildings a stark contrast to the usual whites and blues of the landscape. We cruised along the shoreline of a rocky island, where Antarctic hair grass and lush moss beds carpeted the ledges, and chinstrap penguins jumped in and out of the water coming to and from their nest sites.

Several humpback whales were in the area, and we listened to the sound of their blows while sipping surprise champagne out among the ice floes. These 15-m long leviathans migrate to the Antarctic for the short but productive summer, where great swarms of krill fill the sea. As autumn approaches, they make preparations for the long journey back north to the tropics where they calve and breed.

We headed back to the ship for lunch, and then sat with a journal for a while, recording some of the many highlights we've had on this trip so far. After ‘Le Lyrial’ anchored off of Mikkelsen Harbor, we made our way to the zodiacs for the short ride over to the landing. The early season snow still covered most of the island, and any rock outcroppings were happily occupied by Gentoo penguins.

As we climbed up from the landing beach (many of us shedding parkas along the way), we couldn't help but notice the handful of Weddell seals resting in the snow just up from the shoreline. We also got great looks at a pup of the year, that was hauled out on a snow patch just around the corner. Weddell seals are true ice seals, actually heading south in the winter to feed under the fast ice.

Further along, we came to the top of the hill where the far side of the island came into view. Spectacular glaciers and mountain peaks loomed in the distance, while Gentoo penguins went about their business all around us. Sleeping seemed to be the activity of the day, which made sense since most nests still had eggs and the attending parent's only task was to sit there keeping the eggs warm.

Gentoo penguins are the third largest of the penguins and tend to spread out at their nesting colonies much more so than the Adelies we saw a few days ago, which like to cram into a small (and ultimately guano-covered) area. Mikkelsen Harbor was the perfect place to spend some time just sitting and taking in the penguins and the gorgeous scenery.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019: At sea, en route to Ushuaia

We awoke to uncharacteristically calm seas in the Drake Passage, so windless that very few seabirds were up on the wing. We ate a hearty breakfast and spent some time out on deck before joining Historian, Rob Caskie, for his talk, "Shackleton's incredible journey." Rob told the riveting story of how Shackleton and his men escaped getting stuck in the sea ice, travelled over ice and sea to Elephant Island, sailed 800-miles to South Georgia, and trekked across the island to get help. 

We then headed out on deck for some air and to watch southern giant petrels glide effortlessly along the side of the ship. Our photo coaches were on hand to answer our photography questions, and we certainly have had ample opportunity on this trip to spend time with our cameras. 

After returning our rental boots and pants, we joined Expedition Leader, Marco Favero, and Ornithologist, Patricia Silva, for their presentation, "Albatrosses off the hook: Seabird conservation and fisheries in the Southern Ocean." Marco and Patri discussed the issue of bycatch in fishing, specifically the accidental catch of albatrosses and petrels in the Southern Ocean longline fishery for Patagonian toothfish. They also proposed some ideas for how we can become involved and make a difference in saving populations of these remarkable birds.

Following lunch, Micropaleontologist, Reed Scherer, and Naturalist, John Wright, invited us to The Theatre for their presentation, "Operation, challenges, and science in the deep field." Each sharing their own experiences from working in Antarctica, Reed and John talked about operations and scientific research in the very challenging conditions that Antarctica can offer. They also discussed how research tools have changed from Robert Falcon Scott's time in the early 1900s until now.

 Photo Coach, Richard Harker, then gave his final presentation of the voyage, "In the footsteps of Ansel Adams: Processing like the masters." Focusing on the importance of following through with the images captured by the camera, Richard gave us many suggestions about the best way to subtly adjust our images now that we've taken them. We left feeling empowered to begin the process of going through the many photos we've taken on this trip.

 In the evening, we met for Captain Christophe Colaris' Farewell Cocktail Party in The Theatre. We mingled over champagne and were introduced to so many of the ship's crew that the stage was overflowing. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to see many of the faces that have contributed so much to our enjoyable experience onboard ‘Le Lyrial.’ Soon the Captain stepped up to the stage to welcome us to the party. He thanked us for sailing onboard ‘Le Lyrial’ and summarized some of his highlights of the trip. 

A wonderful dinner was then served by the restaurant staff. Afterward, over a cocktail in one of the ship's bars, we all celebrated the friends we have made and the experiences we have had on this adventure to the south.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019 At Sea, en route to Ushuaia

Early this morning we pulled back the curtains to a fantastic view of Cape Horn, the southern tip of the South American continent, draped in a dark grey stormy sky. Cape Horn was named for a town in the Netherlands (called "Hoorn") from where the Dutch ship ‘Unity’ sailed. An occasional black-browed albatross made a close pass by the ship, investigating the "unusual large grey object" plying its way northward through the Southern Ocean. After a full breakfast, reading a good book with a cup of coffee was a popular pastime before a morning of lectures.

Micropaleontologist, Reed Scherer, kicked off the day's lectures with his presentation, "Paleoclimates: Is what's past, prologue?" Reed continued the discussion on climate change, and how likely it may lead to the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, and what the consequences of that may be. He also spoke about the role of science in influencing policy decisions regarding climate. 

Before lunch, Cruise Director, Paul Carter, gave us a disembarkation briefing, during which we learned about our travel details once we leave the ship in Ushuaia. This was followed by a showing of the trip DVD, produced by the ‘Le Lyrial’ photo team. Many of us then began the task of packing, or put it off a little longer and substituted in a nap or some time out on deck watching a light misty rainfall. 

Then Historian, Rob Caskie, gathered us back in The Theatre for his talk, "The Norwegian who took the prize." Rob provided a complete biography of Roald Amundsen, from his youth through his illustrious career as a polar explorer. He was the first person to see both the North and South Poles and, though not a scientist himself, he understood that incorporating science into his expeditions would greatly increase their value to humanity. Rob's expert storytelling brought Amundsen to life in our minds. 

During the late afternoon, we joined Expedition Director, Suzana Machado D'Oliveira, Expedition Leader, Marco Favero, and the rest of the Expedition Team for an overview of our trip. We watched a wonderful retrospective slide show of our trip, made up of photos and videos taken by the Expedition Staff and compiled by Naturalist, Richard Escanilla. It featured our various landings, and many people recognized themselves disguised behind red parkas and rubber boots. The photos were amazing, and our experiences in Antarctica seemed both years ago and yesterday at the same time.

We participated in a raffle to benefit the Save the Albatross Fund. Guests who purchased tickets stood the chance of winning a painting by our Ornithologist, Patricia Silva. There was excitement in the room as the winning name was announced. This was followed by an auction for a sea chart with original artwork by Kimberly Segura, a member of the ‘Le Lyrial’ crew. 

As ‘Le Lyrial’ pulled up to the pier in Ushuaia, it was quite a shock to see civilization after being away in the wilderness for so long and to smell the green vegetation again after being down in the ice. 

The final days of this expedition have been dominated by reflection and celebration. We have reached the end of our exploration of Antarctica. This is a special place beyond description, extremely powerful and fragile at the same time. With all that we have experienced and learned, we can return home with a newfound knowledge of how special Antarctica is, and how important it is to protect it for future generations.