Andrew Evans reflects on his six weeks of haphazard bus-filled travels, and the wonder of actually setting foot on Antarctica.
I’ve been waiting a long time, too. It’s taken me six weeks to get to Antarctica and I’ve found out that the closer I get, the less patient I feel. When I woke up that morning–on the day that I was supposed to arrive in Antarctica, I ran to my cabin window and looked out. There it was before me–just a few minutes away–and it was real.
To spend a lifetime reading about a place, watching documentaries, flipping through National Geographic photo spreads, and fingering the final page of the atlas–and then to actually see it with your own human eyes–well, it’s a truly remarkable sensation. Beyond my window and across the water I finally saw it in real life: a cold coastline of grey rock, with a mighty glacier upon it, snowy mountains above and as promised–so many penguins scattered about.
I bundled up to head outside, reliving the ritual of Midwestern winters from my childhood–tucking in, pulling on, and strapping down until you move like an astronaut and smell nothing but the stale fabric of coats and scarves.
Click through for a video and more photos from Andrew’s arrival.
I boarded the ship’s zodiac and couldn’t help romanticizing this little rubber boat. Here was my final leg of a very, very long journey. I remembered back to that first step onto a Washington, D.C. Metrobus, then fast-forwarded to this final step onto this inflatable boat–a zodiac that zipped me across the steel blue water to the shore of a place that has no public transportation because it has no public.
Transparent waves hit the rocky shore–the shifting line where the ocean ended and the land began. I was looking at Antarctica–there it was, just a couple of feet away. And here I was, finally. I swung myself around, lowered my boots into the cold waves and then did it: I set foot on the continent. I made it. I had arrived in Antarctica.
For me, this landing of mine demanded brass bands, fireworks, and long speeches followed by even longer banquets: One small step for me and one giant leap for all my Twitter followers. Honestly, I was beyond exuberant and wanted the world to be exuberant with me. I wanted to laugh and cry and hear the stadium roar. But dreams that are silently made often come true just as silently. The only hubbub around me was the everyday noise of several thousand pairs of Adélie penguins. They paid me little mind as I stumbled onto a shore of fist-sized stones. None of them clapped. For me, Antarctica was silent–the most silent place on earth–and all the Adélies looked so busy posing just so upon their rocky nest remains and ice patches.
Is it beautiful? Oh yes, it is. No country compares, no nature comes close to what I saw and felt in my first ten seconds in Antarctica. The penguin pictures will follow, I promise (I’m here for three weeks!), but first, I needed merely to take it all in–the continent, this shoreline on Marguerite Bay on the Antarctic peninsula, and something much bigger for me personally–that I had made it.
I made it to Antarctica. I did it.
All in all it took were 40 busses, a singing truck driver, a speedy Nicaraguan taxi, a plane hop from Panama and two Lindblad ships. Also: a dead cow, some near misses, many restless nights and several thousand Tweets–there were high mountains and low deserts, steamy jungles, Louisiana swamps and Colombian swamps and blue icebergs–snow, rain, hail, sleet, and burning sun–a bout of altitude sickness and a lot of bad movies on bumpy buses. There were beautiful mornings and starry nights, some tricky patches followed by bright moments and new friends and some unexpected destinations. It wasn’t always fun, but it was always amazing.
Most of all, it was an adventure.
Andrew Evans 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. Photos by Sisse Brimberg, Keen Press.