After traveling through the Americas by bus, Andrew Evans boarded the MV National Geographic Explorer and set sail for Antarctica.
Waiting a lifetime for your dream to come true one day–well, that’s hard. Waiting one whole day for that lifelong dream to come true is harder still. And yet, that is what must be done for the mere act of traveling to Antarctica is a waiting game. Crossing the great distance of cold water is exactly what defines the last continent as such a remote destination.
Honestly, I was looking forward to a day of downtime so that I could rest from my cross-continental bus ride. Little did I know that a Lindblad Expedition is not about rest–it’s about learning.
My first day on the ship felt like my first day at college. For one, there were so many new people to meet–140 fellow passengers, each of them fascinating. Each meal offered a new hour of conversation and inspiration. I quickly discovered that each of my fellow travelers is a true traveler. No matter that I just bussed 10,000 miles across 14 countries. Every person on this ship had a story to match: adventures in the Himalayas, rare birds seen in rare jungles, or restaurant recommendations in countries condemned by U.S. State Department warnings.
In addition there was my class schedule. Lindblad refers to these hour-long sessions as “talks” and “lectures” but I gobbled them up like they were college credits. This time my subjects were penguins, ice, rocks, seabirds, and photography–my professors were accomplished academics, naturalists and National Geographic staff. The hi-tech lounge offered video illustration on numerous flat screen TVs and honestly, I couldn’t take notes fast enough.
Juggling a full day’s schedule, I still managed to spend some time in the panoramic, top-deck gym and enjoy the Wandering Albatrosses off the stern of the ship. Then in the afternoon–as if right out of Moby Dick, our expedition leader Bud Lehnhausen announced a pod of whales in front of us. We all rushed to the front, binoculars and cameras in hand while the on board whale specialist talked us through the scene before us. These were fin whales, they were feeding in the area and they had a baby calf among them. It was an amazing sight–the misty spouts of whale breath and the graceful way these animals moved in the water.
I went to bed exhausted that night–completely worn out after just a day on the National Geographic Explorer. The ship’s itinerary merely read “At Sea” and yet I had been running from one excitement to the next, an active day that started at six in the morning and only ended at eleven at night. If such was the pace of Antarctica, I would have to step up my game. I barely had time to blog.
Andrew Evans is in Antarctica, and is tweeting about his travels aboard the National Geographic Explorer at @Bus2Antarctica. Want more? Follow the map of his journey, bookmark all of his blog posts, watch videos, and get the full story on the project here. And learn more about National Geographic Expeditions here. Photos by Andrew Evans.