Tuesday, 31 January 2012

A taste of life as a penguin - going for a dip in the Antarctic sea

Of course, all good things must come to an end, and after barely exploring the top layer of what Antarctica had to offer, it was time to head back to Ushuaia. We'd seen incredible wildlife, stepped foot on the continent twice and visited numerous islands surrounding, seen icebergs many times bigger than our ship and alternated between freezing our fingers off and basking in the warm summer sun. We'd partied late into the night with the crew, whizzed through the waves on zodiacs, and climbed steep hills in the most uncomfortable boots possible. My heart had sang watching whales playing next to the ship, and I'd felt completely at peace staring out for miles, the dramatic landscape and it's unexpected variety of colours truely captivating.

Naturally there was still time for a little adventure though, and our final landing before hitting the Drake passage once more was on Half Moon island. After a couple of hours exploring the land, watching young seals flopping towards to the sea for a swim, saying a final farewell to penguins and admiring the dramatic sweep of the coastline, it was time to experience a taste of life as an Antarctic animal.

The wind gusting around us, F and I gingerly removed one layer after the other, scattering our clothes in a pile on the pebbly beach. Down to the final layer, we grabbed each other's hand, and dashed into the water before we had the chance (good sense?!) to chicken out. The instant my feet hit the icy waves they began to numb. We walked out to waist depth, then quickly submerged ourselves fully, splashing water all over, before hastily rushing back. My feet were throbbing, but the rest of my body, after the initial shock, was fine. Clambering back over the pebbles (top tip: wear socks or water shoes - painful feet plus hard, tumbling rocks are not a good combination...) we sat, the air suddenly seeming much warmer, until our hearts calmed down and we could dry off. The water had been 1 degree celsius at the most, possibly colder.

After it was all done and dusted, we were glad we'd gone for it. The excitement of dashing into the water, in a place not many people have the opportunity to visit, with new friends (and penguins staring on) was wonderful, and I'd do it all again right now. It was bloody cold though...

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