Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Saturday, 12 March 2011


Just after Easter 2004 my mother died.  The last five or six years of her life were difficult for us all as she descended into the depths of alcoholism.  She was sad, lonely and afraid and I grieved for the mother I had known and was angry, bitter and despairing.
After she died and I received my inheritance, I had two choices.  I could invest the money and put it away for the home modifications, medications etc I am likely to need (be sensible in other words).  Or I could use it to fulfil a dream.  Something I had always wanted to do, and had not thought possible.
I flew to Argentina - challenging because some of my medication is injected and it is very, very difficult to fly with multiple syringes these days.  Flew again to Ushuaia (where I was simultaneously fascinated and appalled when the other passengers applauded the pilot for landing safely) and boarded a Russian ice breaker for a 21 day tour of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic.
I spent the next three weeks in heaven.  I dislocated my jaw on a daily basis gaping at the sights around me.  One day I was really, really tired and thought I would have a quiet afternoon lying on my bed.  And when I got to my room we were floating past a large iceberg with penguins sliding down it, laboriously climbing to the top again and sliding back down to the sea.  So my nap ended before it began.
Baby King Penguin in its first moult
I was appallingly seasick and it didn't matter.  I have been sick before and I expect I will be again, but never in surroundings like that.
There are restrictions on how close you can go to the wildlife - but no-one told them about it.  I had a baby seal gumming on my knee and penguins pecking at my boots.

I took every chance I had to experience as much as I could.  Which is how I  swam at Paradise Harbour when the water temperature was 1.4 degrees C, and where I had to dodge floating bits of ice.  The next day I swam again - at Pendulum Cove in the flooded caldera of Deception Island.  The water was a little warmer there - but still brisk.  I hadn't realised that there was a volcano there.
I saw Shackleton's grave, and the graves of less famous individuals.
Very lonely graves at the Argentian base.
 And everywhere I went I was filled with awe and wonder at the beauty.  One day we travelled by Zodiac (small inflatable boats) through a version of Monet's waterlilies executed in ice.
We saw Humpback, Minke and Fin whales even though it was too early in the season for many of  whales to have reached Antarctica.  There were usually Albatrosses to be seen.  And Frigate birds.  And many others too.
It was obscenely expensive and I would do it again in a heart beat.
Adult King Penguin in all its glory
Magellan Penguins
Adelie Penguins
I have literally hundreds of photos and each time I look at them my heart wells with gratitude.  And the calm serenity and beauty of the trip gave me the impetus to take the first steps towards forgiving my mama and recognising the many positive things she gave me in life. 
Blissed out male Elephant Seal surrounded by his harem.
Taken at Midnight on my last night.  Midnight and Dawn both.


  1. "Something I had always wanted to do, and had not thought possible.

    *stands up and cheers you*

    thank you so much for sharing the fabulousness with others who just wish they could do it. If I got there, I would find it impossible to leave the critters.
    I hope the wondrousness enabled you to resolve all the conflict over your relationship with your mother.
    Those of us who have/had unbalanced feelings toward Our (supposed) Primary Care-Giver, can be mighty screwed up.

  2. Thank you Marshall. It was amazing, and it was difficult to leave.
    And yes, my difficulties with my Mama are a part of me still. There is probably less anger now, but no less regret.

  3. That sounds like an amazing holiday, and must have been helpful to healing a bit.
    I'm so glad my mother is River and we have a good realtionship.

  4. Thankyou no-one. And yes, learning to know River through her blogs she is an wonderful person and would be good to have in your life.

  5. I have been sea-sick but I think I could manage it if I was going to this fantastic place. I particularly want to see Seymour Island where you can clearly see in the rock strata where the KT era ended with the giant meteorite. Oh, but the sea-sickness!
    My mum's still alive but the issues are still there, with me not her who thinks she was a wonderful mother. Just the era I was born into I guess.

  6. Maybe I'll go there someday. Have you read any biographies of Scott or Shackleton? I recommend them.

  7. A woman after my own heart! I've made not a few choices in my life that opted for an enriching and fulfilling experience in the here and now over saving resources for another distant day! Good for you giving yourself this gift. The memories you can re-live through the photographs will probably do you just as much good as a lifetime supply of meds! And the added bonus of helping you come to terms with your Mom's influence on your life - priceless.

  8. Oh my Lord, how beautiful.
    What an extraordinary experience, thanks for sharing!

  9. Thank you all.

    JahTeh: My mama also thought she was wonderous. But the issues continue. And don't let seasickness dissuade you - on one day I had to have four injections to stop the vomiting and it was still worth it.
    Snowbrush: Go. It was magic. Which biographies would you recommend?
    Two Tigers: Thank you as always. I am not sorry I made the decision I did and the memories are something I will always hug to myself.
    Librarygirl: Thanks - it was unbelievably beautiful and it would take a much better photographer than me to capture it.

  10. Hi EC, or rather, Elephant Seal's Child, that photo of the blissed out bull is simply stunning. I believe it would win prizes, if you get a competetive urge. You could win at least a subsciption to some nature magazine...hail to a great adventurer - the forgiving child, friend to penguins of all stipes. Waves flippers in excitement.

  11. It has been too long since I read them to remember, although I think that one I liked was Shackleton's own account of losing his ship, and of the many memorable scenes was one in which a man was chased by a leopard seal.

  12. Snowbrush: I will keep my eyes out. I love autobiograhpies. We saw an leopard seal on the hunt and its teeth were very, very sharp. I would not like to be chased by one at all.

  13. THANK YOU for answering my query the other day with such eloquence and beautiful photos.

    Your mother - warts and all - would have applauded you.

  14. A very good book for anyone interested in Ernest Shackleton is "South With Endurance" which uses the wonderful photographs of Frank Hurley. The ISBN is 0-7475-7534-7, and it was published by Bloomsbury in 2004.
    Another good one is "Antarctic Eyewitness" (ISBN 0 207 19617 6) with both "South With Mawson" and "Shackleton's Argonauts" reprinted.
    There is also a DVD (on the ABC sometime ago) Called "South - Sir Ernest Shackleton's Heroic Expedition to the Antarctic".
    Try the ABC Shop for all of the above.

  15. Welcome and thank you Marg. I will look out for both books and the DVD. I also noticed in one of the papers this weekend that Frank Hurley spent some time in Papua New Guinea. I expect those photos are amazing too.

  16. Wow - that's an amazing adventure - and something I would LOVE to do.

    And great photos too.



  17. I can't say anything that anyone else hasn't, except to join in with the applause and say WHAT A GREAT STORY. And I lurv the blissed out seal with all my heart.

  18. Fabulous photos! I love the moulting chick!!! My favorite. Also the Adelie Penguins...

    Love your writing. I want to read more. Thank you so much for starting the blog!!

  19. Really, nothing to add, because wow. Really. Just to the whole awesomeness of it all. (mighty glad I followed the link from your comment on kath's blog)

  20. Thankyou Nicky - you know how much your comments mean to me.
    And thankyou TC - awesome is the right word (for the experience not the blog).

  21. I've just found you and have delighted in your story and photographs. I'm going to follow.

  22. Oh, what a voyage! You're inspiring. I was attracted to this link by your handle, best beloved.

  23. An inspiring story. I love that you were not sensible! Thanks for sharing.

  24. Carol, Murr Brewster, Shadygrey. Welcome and thank you lots.

  25. Such an amazing story with incredible pictures as well!