Archives for March, 2012

Daze at Sea

Once again, I have sailed across the ocean. Once again, I traveled aboard my favorite ship in the world, the National Geographic Explorer. And once again, I loved (almost) every minute of it. Traveling by sea is far more adventurous than flying or driving and really lets you feel the size and shape of our…

Birdwatchers are one of my favorite species of people to watch. They are curious, motivated by any flash of feathers that passes by their hawkish view. They like to tick lists and they like to count and compare. When people ask me if I’m a birdwatcher, I tell them I like to watch birds–any birds.…

Accessible

I leapt ashore across the bow, afraid to land in the waist-deep surf—afraid the driver of our rubber boat would change his mind and turn away. But I was here. I had landed on Inaccessible Island in spite of its name. Thousand-foot cliffs towered above me, so that my neck ached from the moment I…

Despite all the harm that humans inflict upon nature, nature (somehow) still survives. I know the tragic tales of lost wilderness paradise. I am often disheartened by nature’s defeat across the globe, and I am aware of how many species our species has driven to extinction — but today I’m in the mood for good…

The only thing better than achieving your dream destination is the joy of returning to a place you love. I never thought I’d ever make it to Tristan Da Cunha the first time, let alone return to this isolated speck in the middle of the ocean, but the good fortune of travel carried me back within…

A mournful call sings out on the beach, followed by another similar cry, then another. The sound is throaty and pained, echoing across a mushy landscape of tussock and glacial bog to the severe and impassable wall of rock and ice before us. With every wave, the muted sea gives birth to a new batch…

My travel heroes are many but none of them demand the kind of admiration I have for Sir Ernest Shackleton. So far, my sea voyage has followed in the wake of the very first stage of the infamous Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, in which the heroic polar explorer Ernest Shackleton sailed from Buenos Aires to the…

I keep returning to the places I love most and South Georgia is one of them. South Georgia is the largest bit of land in my ocean crossing from Cape to Cape, a 100-mile long stretch of impervious mountains that rise straight up from the cold polar waters of the Antarctic Convergence. Once the haunt…

I admit I have a thing for penguins . . . . . . but then again, who doesn’t? Perhaps it’s the way they mimic us humans: walking upright, nuzzling their mates, or slapping each other on the back. Or else it’s the way they are different from us: surviving and thriving in the most…

I keep coming back to the Falklands because I like these islands. They form a strangely serene and rather rainy bit of earth in the South Atlantic, but I keep boarding ships that take me there. Last year I was surrounded by beautiful baby birds, and the year before that I ate my fill at…

Cape to Cape

Nothing thrills quite like a great sea voyage does. To travel across Earth’s immense oceans, to feel the true size and expanse of our planet, to roll through at least a million waves, to let go of the sight of land on one side and then hope for that next rare sight of land—this is…

Today is late summer, though yesterday, it was barely spring. Lightning shocks the sky into pure white light. Half-second silhouettes paint tree branches, blowing leaves, and scared dogs. Then darkness. The thunder doesn’t wait for my counted seconds. The clouds crash together like two garbage can lids—my hands cover my ears and I crouch from…

I’ve spent the night in four different countries this week. I went diving on Mexico’s coral reef, was interviewed on French-Canadian television, did laundry in Washington, D.C., and then flew to Buenos Aires for last night’s marvelous dinner at La Cabrera. Though the life of a modern-day nomad sounds extremely fun, it is also a…

So, were the Maya right? Is the world going to end this year? I have spent the last three weeks in Mexico searching for an answer to this question. My quest for the truth has brought me to the birthplace of the brilliant Maya Calendar, into the tomb of the Palenque Astronaut, to the site…

Death Ball

“Let’s play death ball!” Such was the enthusiastic invitation of my 7-year old nephew, who pulled me with one hand out into the backyard to engage in this very strange and ominous game. Already, my other nephews and niece were busy tossing every kind of ball into the fenced-in trampoline: nerf footballs, beach balls, basketballs,…