Below is a blog from Expedition Guide, Diane Erecg. Diane is aboard the Sea Spirit, on Quark’s Crossing the Circle, Southern Expedition:
The leopard seal darts around our zodiac with finesse and curiosity. It twists, turns and tosses about, keeping us guessing where, after each dive, it might surface again. There it is, at our stern, its large triangular head and thick muscular neck perched well above the water’s surface as it watches us. A splash soon follows and it disappears into the depths again. We shuffle restlessly in the zodiac. Where did it go? Moments later it reappears as a sleek grey and white mass underwater beside us. It glides along our port side with one stroke of its massive pectoral fins and turns its head up at us, its green eyes fluorescing through the water that separates us.
We are in the picturesque Pléneau Bay, exploring by zodiac the maze of grounded icebergs that pack this shallow, sheltered bay. Winding our way around these magnificent works of nature, we admire towering bergs of a multitude of shapes and sizes. Some display a gentle golf ball-like sculpting on their surface while others stand tall with steep jagged edges. Holes, tunnels or arches feature on several and the colour of the ice varies from transparent to a deep, haunting blue. No matter their form, the bergs capture our imagination and compel us to call out an endless list of adjectives and similes in our quest to describe them.
Then, out of the blue, appears our friend the leopard seal. Determined to distract us from the icebergs it succeeds in keeping us its captive audience for the next 30 minutes. It continues its impressive displays, showing off its muscular body and razor sharp teeth. We look on, privileged observers to this outstanding encounter with an apex Antarctic predator. Any other plans we might have had for this afternoon’s zodiac cruise are abandoned and we settle in with our leopard seal for this rare and priceless viewing.
Just like our afternoon in Pléneau Bay, wonderful surprises and changes of plan characterised our voyage to Antarctica. From a post-dinner encounter with a pod of Orca in Marguerite Bay to a wet, bumpy and foggy zodiac cruise in Cierva Cove that transformed unpredictably into a Humpback whale-fest, we made the most of every opportunity that came our way.
At the beginning of the voyage, Shane and the expedition team asked us to be flexible and ‘go with the expedition flow’. They promised that if we were receptive to their knowledge and passion, and were willing to see everything they had to show us, that our expectations of our Antarctic voyage would be exceeded.
Finding ourselves at the end of our dream adventure to Antarctica it is hard to believe that we have achieved, shared and borne witness to all we have. Assembled together to view a slideshow of our voyage, lovingly compiled by guide and zodiac driver Liz Teague, we are steered through our journey all over again. Each of the fantastic photographs contributed by staff and guests triggers in each of us the vivid memories we have created and the heartfelt emotions we have expressed over these past 13 unforgettable days.
Finally, Shane stands before us and, in bidding us farewell, asks us to listen to a song that he wishes to dedicate to us. “If you happen to hear this song some day in the future,” he says, “perhaps when you’re stuck in traffic or some other kind of jam, I hope you’ll think back to your time in Antarctica and that the memories we’ve created together will come flooding back”.
Seated together one last time, we reflected quietly as the soothing tones of a guitar, cello and voice filled up the room. “It’s something unpredictable,” went the chorus line, “but in the end it’s right. I hope you had the time of your life.”