gmhTODAY 08 gmhToday May June 2016 - Page 95

icebergs melt, their fresh water mixes with the surrounding salt water. Divers are less buoyant in fresh water than in salt water. So, as we swam, we had to adjust our buoyancy levels by letting air in and out of our drysuits. Sinking too fast would cause our drysuits to squeeze tighter around our bodies. Needless to say, we didn’t want to waste a lot of time going up and down when we could be enjoying the dive!” “The fur seal pups swam close to us while the adults tried to chase us away. As natural predators, the leopard seals were a little bit aggressive, but they were extremely graceful in the water. It was like watching a ballet. After our dives, we took off our scuba gear, climbed on the icebergs and played like kids on a playground. We had a ball throwing each other into the water, although the birdwatchers on the trip would have liked it if we’d been less noisy.” “Whale watching was spectacular. At one point, we saw about 250 humpback whales. Some were so close, the captain stopped the ship. They were ‘spyhopping,’ popping up to get a good look around, and then swimming under the ship. They didn’t seem in any hurry to leave. We also saw a blue whale, a fin whale, and southern right whales. Near South Orkney, a pod of orcas closed in on some minke whales that were busy feeding on krill. The orcas were skilled hunters, no doubt hoping to enjoy a meal of Minke tongue.” “My new favorite bird is the wandering albatross. It has an eleven-foot wingspan and goes out to sea for seven years at a time. While onshore, we visited their nesting grounds where the chicks were waiting for their parents to return with food. They are truly magnificent birds.” “Antarctica is constantly changing. Different parts of the polar ice cap are growing and shrinking all the time. We saw many different types of icebergs including massive pillar icebergs that were ten miles long, and jutted 150 feet out of the water. Antarctica has its own sounds, too - the wind, the waves and the glaciers calving. And of course on land, the penguins chat- ter, whistle and trill while the seals bark.” Inspiring Others to Travel For readers interested in Antarctica, Laura recommends Alfred Lansing’s book, Endurance, Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage. During a lecture on the Plancius, Laura learned that Shackleton enjoyed poetry, par- ticularly the work of Robert Browning, and he often quoted verses to his crew. Growing up, his family’s motto was, “Through endurance we conquer,” which inspired the name for his ship, the Endurance, and cap- tured the spirit of his life’s work. “Throughout history, people are remembered by their ability to lead others through times of great challenge or failures. Shackleton could never have imagined the legacy he left for all of us today. He’s even more of a hero to me now that I’ve visited Antarctica.” Not one to sit around and reminisce, Laura already has plans for a fall trip to see the Great Whites from a shark cage, and then go on to Tasmania for more diving and hiking adventures. As she likes to quote from the Weather Channel, “It’s amazing out there.” Explorer Ernest Shackleton’s wife Emily had these fitting words engraved on his tombstone in Grytviken: “I hold…that a man should strive to the uttermost for his life’s set prize.” – Robert Browning GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN MAY/JUNE 2016 95