Just watching the penguins waddle along from side to side, or slide on their bellies down hills, or hop over some impediment brings smiles from everyone.
EMBARRASSED, BUT HONORED
Originally, I didn’t think our time ashore would be so rewarding. On the first landing, the 32-mph wind dropped the wind-chill to minus 28, or 60 degrees below freezing. Dense clouds hid the sun.
On the days when the weather and landscape were most challenging, or when we plowed through 30-foot waves, I would feel embarrassed to step into either of the Fram’s elevators.
In each was a 5-foot-tall headshot of one or the other of Norway’s most famed polar explorers, Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen. Each had sailed on wooden ships named the Fram — Norwegian for “forward.”
In the photographs, each man looked out with a weather-worn face and hard eyes. I felt they were challenging me for daring to come to Antarctica in so much comfort.
Those men, and other European and American explorers of more than a century earlier, came in too-fragile sailing ships, wearing animal skins over woolen clothes, without my ship’s redundant engines, and satellite links, without at least three hot entrees at every meal, without hot showers.
Those explorers were more than just courageous and hearty souls — they were risking their lives. And many of them lost that gamble.
So, finally, I felt privileged to have barely sampled what they had chosen to endure for months on Antarctica. Its magnificence does that to you.
Freelance writer Robert N. Jenkins is former travel editor of The Tampa Bay (formerly St. Petersburg) Times. His website is bobjenkinswrites.com.