As we head back to civilisation, it is time to reflect on this journey of a lifetime.
At the moment the magnitude of everything we have seen, experienced, smelled (both pleasant and unpleasant!), heard and touched is whirling around in our heads. This is not helped by the return crossing of the dreaded Drake. However some of our daily adventurers can be grouped into families (such a cliche, but kind of apt).
This Europa family started developing the moment we stepped on board in Ushuaia. We were welcomed with warm (strong) arms and a cup of tea. The liquoir and a toast to the voyage ahead followed shortly afterwards. Throughout the voyage the crew shared their vast knowledge about square rig sailing freely as well as special interests in traditional navigation, knots and wildlife scientific research. We are privilaged to spend quality time with our guides, which we get the feeling would not be possible on larger cruise ships (transporting between 200 and 2000 passengers each). Our two guides oozed passion, enthusiasm and a love of heavy metal music and vegetarian food respectivly. Advendure is their middle name and every landing and cruise in the zodiacs out-did the last, all fueled by adrenalin and our individual thirst for adventure. The unexpected bonus for the photographers aboard, our guides were professional photographers as well. They enjoyed taking us to the perfect photo location, steering the zodiacs to the right angle and stopping for shots to our great delight.
Three times a day our amazing galley crew prepared home cooked meals from Britian and The Netherlands. Each breakfast, lunch and dinner time was eagerly anticipated to taste the next recipie from crew member family collections. We have hopefully requested copies of receipes for Shepard's Pie, Corned Beef Hotpot, Stempot Met Spek (mashed potato with spinach and bacon) and Snert (pea soup with sausage) along with many others. The crew tempted our tasetbuds and noses by baking bread during the wee hours of each morning.
Voyage crew have gathered on the journey from around the globe, and from many backgrounds. Should we be marooned on the ice a la Shackleton our civilisation will be a rich one. Our number includes an Italian opera singer living in China; an Australian artist and physiotherapist; an American film maker; (many, many) photographers from South Africa, Spain, Holland and the Czech Republic; an (almost doctor) from Germany; financiers from America and England... This mix provided entertaining, stimulating and varied after-dinner conversations. We will be forever grateful for the friendships forged at sea. We developed a sense of closeness through sharing a journey to what felt like the end of the world. Helming a massive, historic tall ship at 4am in pitch black with your watch seems to have that effect.
We were also lucky to have true families onboard. One parent being exceptionally proud of his son having introduced him to the joys of sailing at a young age, now seeing him as part of the permenant crew sailing the world. Parents sharing with their son their enthusiasm and commitment to the high seas over many years. It was a pleasure to witness family ties also strengthen by sharing the same experience. Whilst I don't have my family physically on the ship getting soaked by sea waves with me, they are here in spirit every nautical mile. One of the great joys of visiting Antarctica for many of us was witnessing fauna families in their natural environment. Penguin chicks waiting on shore whilst their parents fished for food became inquisitive of us humans. Chicks pestering their parents for food with their squawking (much like toddlers!). Whales cruising through the waves with their calves glide close to the ship's hull. Blue eyed shags teaching their young to fly on the rocks near Port Lockroy. Babies jump after their parents flapping their wings in efforts to become airborne.
The sheer beauty, grace and size of the icbergs we encountered was breathtaking. It seemed as though chunks of ice were chips off the old block borne from ice shelfs and larger bergs. Growlers were the evil bergs silently slipping past in the night looking to graze along the hull and waking us by surprise. Small islands were like full stops punctuating in the ocean after larger islands. An incredible journey we will always remember and the Europa family will always be but an email or phone call away. Thank you to all crew from the bottom of our hearts.