Time has flown since we arrived recently at Palmer Station, Antarctica. There has been much to do to set up our research laboratory and begin our field work. But before too many more days pass, let me recount to you the marvelous final day of our traverse of the Drake Passage spent sailing amidst the many islands and passages along the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.
I fell asleep anticipating with excitement the dawn that would bring our first sight of land. But nothing could have prepared me for what I saw when I made it out onto our shipís deck at first light. Off in the distance, a cloud shrouded island, its massive glaciers plunging into the sea from all directions, and there, through a mosaic of cloud, its snow covered peaks climbing vertically at least 8,000 feet. This was only the appetizer.
Before long we were surrounded by islands on either side of the ship, some smaller than others, some flat, others precipitous, but all distinctly shrouded with their own unique collage of clouds and mists. Ice bergs floated by us painted with hues of lime green, azure, and lapis blue.
And then around a bend, many miles in the distance, a massive peak shrouded not in cloud, but lit in brilliant sunshine, as if somehow it had been singled out to be highlighted amongst a landscape that had lost all sense of scale. Itís this lack of scale that I find most profound about Antarctic landscapes. One's photographic attempts are feeble, almost laughable. To experience this sense of immeasurable distance and scale, one must, quite simply, be there.
And amidst all this geophysical grace, life erupted! Storm Petrels, Giant Petrels, Sooty Albatross, Royal Albatross, Shearwaters, Skuas, Capetown Pigeons, Adelie Penguins, Gentoo Penguins, Fur Seals, Leopard Seals, and pods of humpback whales. Everywhere one looked, a cacophony of sea life. It was indeed a most royal welcome to the Antarctic set upon a stage without measure.