gmhTODAY 08 gmhToday May June 2016 - Page 93

“Shackleton has been a hero of mine ever since I was young, and there I was, retracing parts of his journey a century later. Our ship dropped anchor in the harbor at King Haakon Bay. Shackleton had landed there in a 22-foot wooden lifeboat and then hiked for 36 hours across the frozen island in search of help. He found the Stromness whaling station and was able to organize a rescue mission for his men (more on that later). He returned to South Georgia in 1921 hoping to make the first successful land-crossing of Antarctica, which stretches for about 1800 miles, but he suffered a heart attack before he could accomplish his mission.” “We visited his grave in Grytviken. Shackleton loved whiskey and women, so I poured a shot of whiskey on his grave. That night we had a party on the ship in his honor. It was a fitting tribute to my hero. I kept thinking how amazing his accomplishments were, given what he had to work with and the overwhelming obstacles he faced along the way.” “From there we went to South Orkney Island. Again, the scenery was stunning and penguins were everywhere. During the trip we saw king penguins, gentoos, adelies, chinstraps, rockhoppers and my personal favorite, the macaronis. The macaroni penguin got its name from English explorers in the 1800s because of its crest of bright yellow feathers. In those days, a person who adopted a flamboyant fashion style was referred to as a ‘macaroni,’ as in the lyrics from Yankee Doodle.” “We also stopped at the South Shetland Islands, a group of about 20 islands that are essentially uninhabited except for personnel at research stations and field camps. Despite extremely rough conditions we managed to anchor off the coast of Elephant Island. It was there that Shackleton had left the majority of his crew to wait, in makeshift shelters, while he and five other men embarked on their treacherous journey to South Georgia Island where they got help and then returned to rescue their crew.” Antarctica at Last “At last, we arrived at Antarctica, continent #7 in my personal travels. Diving along the Antarctic Peninsula was incredible. We snorkeled with fur seal pups and penguins and dove with leopard seals, surrounded by icebergs, in 30-degree waters.” “As we back-rolled from the zodiacs, we broke through a thin crust of ice into the water. Like sculpture, the ocean’s endless waves carve wonderful shapes, tunnels and overhangs in the icebergs. Looking up from 40 feet below the surface, we could see sunlight streaming through the water and ice crystals on the surface. I’ve never seen so many shades of blue and white.” Southward Bound “The next day we travelled to the South Sandwich Islands. Their jagged peaks rose impressively from beneath the ocean. Few vis- itors venture out to these islands. The winds are strong, the ocean can be extremely rough and there’s almost no place to land safely.” “We anchored off Saunders Island, an active volcanic island that has erupted off and on for more than a decade, and took our zodiacs ashore. Between the glaciers and the black sand beaches, it was breathtaking. Along with more penguins, there were fur seals and elephant seals.” GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN MAY/JUNE 2016 gmhtoday.com 93