Antarc­tic, the icy thrill of ad­ven­ture

Avion Luxury International Airport Magazine - - TRAVEL -

As you leave the known world be­hind, the ha­bit­ual world lost in a whirl of daily rou­tine, and head to­wards one of the po­lar re­gions, the an­tic­i­pa­tion of ad­ven­ture sends a shiver down your spine. In front of you lies an un­known slice of the planet, a wild sym­bolic place, cold and in­hos­pitable, a metaphor for ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, abound­ing with dif­fi­cul­ties to con­quer, where you can test your­self and en­joy an ad­ven­ture that tran­scends all imag­in­able ex­pe­ri­ences. Firstly there is the Drake pas­sage to over­come, three days of tem­pes­tu­ous sea as you head to­wards the South Pole. A feel­ing of iso­la­tion sweeps over you as you leave Cape Horn, the ex­treme tip of Tierra del Fuego, ac­com­pa­nied by al­ba­trosses who swoop head­first, skim­ming over the crests of the waves. The world is far be­hind. Ahead lies a bound­less ex­panse of ice, float­ing like an enor­mous raft on the waters that sur­round it: the Antarc­tic. There is noth­ing friendly or re­as­sur­ing about this place, no­body lives here; the only hu­man pres­ence is in the form of re­searchers in lonely sci­en­tific bases. Dur­ing the long win­ter nights the tem­per­a­ture can drop to be­low 80° C; in sum­mer, from Oc­to­ber to Fe­bru­ary, the tem­per­a­ture set­tles around 0 C° and the sun shines con­tin­u­ously. Fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of ex­plor­ers and whalers, who since the nine­teenth cen­tury have ven­tured to th­ese lat­i­tudes, en­ables you to piece to­gether the ex­ploits of th­ese fear­less men. The out­line of high moun­tains can be seen on the hori­zon as you sail along the jagged coast­line, weav­ing be­tween the labyrinth of ice­bergs which, carved from the pack ice, ap­pear on the sur­face of the ocean. Cathe­drals of ice, with peaks that touch over 3,000 me­tres, rise up through banks of fog that seem to swal­low up ev­ery­thing. The si­lence is pro­found, and the sheer im­men­sity of this un­known, un­pre­dictable wilder­ness is stag­ger­ing. The si­lence is ab­so­lute, bro­ken only by the vi­o­lent shat­ter­ing of splin­ter­ing ice that re­leases sprays of wa­ter with light blue hues. The is­lands of Cu­verville and Mel­chior, and Par­adise Bay, along the Danco Coast, are stops in a crys­tal jour­ney where the nat­u­ral land­scape is trans­formed into a the­atri­cal scene. Sail­ing through the Le­maire Chan­nel, past end­less kilo­me­tres of ice walls, is an ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­pe­ri­ence. The Chan­nel opens onto a penin­sula of smooth rocks and a sheet of in­tense turquoise-coloured sea be­low a dark an­i­mated mound: Peter­mann Is­land. The is­land is home to colonies of pen­guins, clumsy and awk­ward in their move­ments, with un­usual backs and black heads with orange-coloured marks. Af­ter imag­in­ing the fever­ish ac­tiv­ity that took place in the bay of Port Lock­roy, an old aban­doned whal­ing sta­tion, and sail­ing north to King Ge­orge Is­land, from where the re­turn flight to Ushuaia in Patag­o­nia leaves, you can un­der­stand that in this com­plex and frag­ile ecosys­tem, an un­spoilt par­adise of si­lence, fjords and ice­bergs, in whose belly lie oil, ura­nium and

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