|Friday, January 21, 2011|
Basking in the Midnight Sun
The Bob Barker has been my home during the last two Antarctic summers and a life support system in this inhospitable world of ice and salt water. It is the real equivalent to a spaceship because unassisted survival in these frigid waters is as unlikely as survival in outer space.
Not long ago, I was part of a crew of volunteers that had a really unique chance. For me, it was to change perspectives on Antarctica from the coziness of the heated bridge of our ship to the pilot seat on one of our small rigid hull inflatables.
Our two small boats set out to ambush one of the harpoon ships that had stuck to us since we found the whaling fleet on December 31st. As soon as we reached the iceberg where we were going to wait for the harpoon ship to pass, we discovered a leopard seal logging in the water. She seemed as interested in us as we were in her.
After we caught up to the harpoon ship, we were able to distract it long enough for the Bob Barker to leave the area. In doing so, we had to cover the greatest distance ever recorded by any of our small boat teams to get back to our ship. Unlucky for us, on our way back to the Bob Barker, the boat I was driving broke down. Both boats had to wait for five hours on the lee of an enormous iceberg until the Bob Barker recovered us.
While on the bridge, I normally look at the ice and the incredible creatures that live around it through a glass window, so it was amazing to be so close to the water sharing quiet moments with seals, seabirds, and whales in the great liquid expanse. Spending 12 hours out at sea away from our ship strengthened my admiration towards all the inhabitants of the Southern Ocean, and my belief that all of these creatures have the right to live free and unmolested in this, the last great truly wild place on earth.