There are two kinds of people in this world and I'm one of them.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A polar to love (pt. II)

I was girding myself for a big entry about the 8 days or so I spent tooling about the Antarctic coast, but having just written the feature and spent a week putting the film together, I'm a bit polar-ed out. Not so much bi-polar as past-polar.

There's not much I can add to the photos, the scenery so good that even a point and shoot monkey like me can get stunning shots by aiming the camera in vaguely the right direction. The thing that struck me, besides the sheer choice of the all-you-can-eat buffet, was that the landscape was like nothing I'd ever seen before. This white bit at the bottom of the Earth is pristine, like no-one's ever been there before, and the air is so clean my lungs, used to London's oily muck of an atmosphere, almost rejected it. The icebergs might as well have been alien spaceships for all the familiarity they had. I don't want to get all eco-emotional, but seeing the ice caps and flows really makes you think what the planet was like before Starbucks and crisp packets and stuff.

As for the wildlife, the best, and simultaneously most disappointing, were the whales. Killer, Minki and Sperm, so I'm told. They're amazing because you catch your breath when you see this majestic grey mass moving around just below the surface, but then they don't really DO much apart from be grey masses just below the surface, and being the MTV generation, I lose interest quickly.

Penguins are a bit more engaging. At least they waddle about, and jump (though it looks like falling) into the water and have their young eaten by birds of prey as you watch on in horror, etc. But again, there are downsides. The thing is that they spend most of the time just sat around in their own doings, and what the guidebooks call a "barnyard" smell is actually really rank, depending on what barnyards you usually hang around in, obviously.

The only other thing I wanted to mention was the competitive spotting element of the trip, which got more desperate as time went on. At first people were boasting about whales and albino penguins, but once everyone had seen them, there was nowhere for the braggers to go. I remember coming down to breakfast and being boasted at that I had missed "two big brown birds", and, towards the very end, "a really big wave". OK, we're on an ocean that's tipping the boat up horizontally for fun, and we're WAVE SPOTTING? Pardon me if I duck out of the spotting game here.

Er, there's probably more stuff, but the time has passed and new pastures beckon, specifically temporary unemployment, which handily coincides with a week in New Orleans so I don't have to think about it. Off tomorrow. Gentlemen, start your livers.

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