After 48 hours, the excruciating journey from Ushuaia in Argentina to the Antarctica ended finally. On 17 March we hit the latitude 60⁰S - and Antarctica was officially here! We sighted the first iceberg floating in the sea and I could sense the surroundings change drastically. Three layers of clothes became mandatory, because if the temperature doesn't get you, the winds most certainly will. I was now in the coldest, driest, windiest, and perhaps the least understood continent on Earth. Antarctica is a frozen desert, which accounts for 70% of the world's fresh water supply. Just the ordeal of getting there had deterred the most heroic of explorers in the past. It was hard to believe that I was finally here.
The next day, when we reached the icy cold but still waters of Antarctica, we embarked on our very first zodiac cruise (a zodiac is like a small raft with a capacity of seven-eight people). At the 'Iceberg Graveyard' we witnessed firsthand mother nature's majestic powers of creation. It is hard to describe this first experience in words - it was like being on another planet, magical and otherworldly.
Later that day, at Port Charcot, the group made its first landing on the island and I became part of the privileged few (less than 0.01 % of the world population) who have stepped onto the Antarctic and lived to tell the tale. We were greeted warmly by the inquisitive locals - penguins, seals and snow petrels. The first sight of Antarctica was so serene, silent and beautiful that it took my breath away.
On 19 March, sailing through the spectacular Limier Channel I realised how God had intended this planet to be. It made me question the choices we as the human race are making. Antarctica makes you take a step back, reflect and contemplate the choices you make as an individual and as a race... I felt aware that my love for nature and passion for protecting it were imbibed in me when I was really young, by my parents and my teachers. And that's exactly how I want to fuel the change in our society now - by raising awareness about these issues amongst the youth.
Soon, it was time to step out for a night in the great white outdoors, to bed down on the Antarctic ice, under the sky - with only our sleeping bags for company. In other words, it was time for 'Survival Night'. In all honesty - it was an experience no one will ever forget, mostly because of the harshness that Antarctica is - we were cold, and it was snowing all over our sleeping bags. Such an experience makes you wonder how much you take for granted in life. However, just one glimpse of the starry night sky made everyone forget their discomfort. It was as if the entire galaxy was dancing in front of our eyes.
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One of the highlights of my trip was spotting the creatures that make Antarctica home -- the humpback whales in Wilhelmina Bay logging barely 5ft away from our zodiac, leopard seals lazing on neighbouring icebergs, penguins and their funny antics all around us, a rare sighting of a sperm whale, the school of over 30 killer whales (orcas) gyrating around our ship. If you have ever seen the movie Free Willy, you would understand how it feels to see so many orcas out in the wild - and not in captivation or being recklessly hunted. It's a picture that will remain etched in my heart. I believe when we experience something as special as this, we work with undying passion to conserve it.
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