Black and white and blue all over
Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.
Who: Ellen K. Schwab of Bethesda and Peggy Strand of Arlington.
Where, when, why: We went to Antarctica for two weeks in February with Quark Expeditions.
Ellen: Lots of people asked “Why?” when I told them where I was going, and it was hard to answer. But I had wanted to go for at least 20 years. It would be a chance to set foot on my seventh continent and a way to see penguins, as well an opportunity to go someplace unlike any other.
Peggy: Antarctica is a continent without government and dedicated to science, uninhabited by permanent residents. I went to see this vast, cold, isolated place that is largely free from international conflict.
Highlights and high points: We enjoyed seeing huge icebergs in fantastic whites and jewellike turquoise blues, dramatic mountains and glaciers in every direction, whales and seals swimming several feet from our rafts, and, of course, penguins. Our first stop was Cuverville Island, home to thousands of them.
Cultural connection or disconnect: It was a treat to be on a ship with 100-plus happy passengers from all over the world — we were all so happy to be there!
Biggest laugh or cry: There were so many things that were purely delightful, and many had to do with penguins. We watched a penguin feed her baby by regurgitating food. We could also look out our cabin window and see penguins swimming, popping in and out of the water.
Peggy: I was struck by the severe and stark beauty of the landscape, all blues, whites and browns. In addition, I loved being able to look out my cabin window and see nothing but water, waves and big swells.
How unexpected: The most unexpected elements of the trip had to do with the weather. We were lucky to have a calm Drake Passage to cross on the way back — that only happens twice a season, said one of the staff. But we also experienced an Antarctic hurricane while on the ship. It was exciting, with winds gusting up to 90 knots and sea swells up to 18 feet. It wasn’t really cold: Because it was summer there, the average temperature was in the mid-30s. The weather was much worse in Washington when we returned.
Fondest memento or memory:
Peggy: I couldn’t bring it home, but I held glacial ice in my hands that was more than 15,000 years old. Antarctica reminds one of geologic time, an insight into the role of humans and our history.
Ellen: It was more what we didn’t come back with: penguin poop on our boots (you had to scrub your boots whenever you returned to the ship) and a pebble from Antarctica (we were told not to pick up any). I will admit to buying one penguin thing from the Polar Boutique on the ship — a silicone tray to make ice cubes in the shape of tiny penguins. I couldn’t resist.
Ellen K. Schwab, shown above on the deck of the ship at the Antarctic Peninsula, and Peggy Strand ventured fromWashington to Antarctica in February for the comparatively balmy weather. Well, and to see its delightful (non-human) residents, below, stunning landscape and millennia-old ice up close.