[The Commodore’s Comments is a further travelogue of Henry’s adventures way down south. -Ed]
This being my second time on the Bark, some things so far have been similar up to now. We are back on Deception Island and Jordi, our Expedition Leader, is organizing the big strenuous walk to Baily head for the afternoon. In the morning Seth and Jordi plan a warm-up walk at Telefon Bay in the North West corner of the Island and many of us opt for the longer outing on the terrain that feels a bit like an industrial waste land. A new experience for me this year and the group of eager trainees is energetic and once on our way, we enjoy the magnificent look over the volcano’s caldera and surrounding elevation with Mount Pond that peaks at proximal 500 meters. Easy…The warm-up
The next item on the agenda is another scrumptious lunch on the ship; we had many up to now and of course many more to look forward to.
The big walk is now inevitably upon us and Jordi had announced a 14:00 departure. He is concerned that we get on our way and remarks that we are already 5 minutes behind the schedule. The group is very relaxed at the moment and the eight trainees embark on the adventure. I had thought about the walk from last year but my wife remarks repeatedly that I have a great talent to forget many a hardship over time. But this little walk I shall remember in full colour for a long time…..We lost some valuable time on the way to the enormous penguin rookery as I fell a little behind but did my best to clamber along over the ice field. At about 260 meters we arrived at the destination. What a sight, the estimated 200,000 penguins doing their bit to keep the species going strong for the future. We walked around the many little guys being busy doing this and that and recorded the action on our equipment of choice. There are not many of our species that have experienced the scenery all around us.The inevitable
I enjoyed the being there but now we have to get back. Our location in the rookery was about 60 meters above sea level and a climb of 200 meters was ahead of us. I started at the back of our group and the muscles in my upper left leg started to stiffen up. Alexander of the pro crew is now by my side and …
My brain is pounding, don’t think about it and I take another few steps, 200 meters up lay ahead of us and it will be downhill again. The little loop of events keeps reoccurring over and over, I feel the first nudge of my guardian by my side, I get the meaning, keep going is his message. The nudges occur more frequently and we get through the rookery with a lot of muscle pain. The young bucks are well ahead now and I hit…
No tears and my thought is, just let me stay here for the night. Alexander is having none of that and I feel that now familiar nudge again. All I can think of is that Alexander is performing the job of a Saint Bernardiner on a rescue mission. Where is the Brandy cask I wonder?
Finally we meet up with the group again and I welcome a little rest, but we must make time and we charge on again. We continue on the way up and the leaders remain visible, although well ahead. My Pusher is pointing out the highest point of the return trip, so near he thinks but I see it differently. Luckily the ice is covered with some volcanic granular matter and with some little rest stops we make it up the icy slope. Over time the melting snow created numerous ridges on the surface and the track provides lots of opportunity to climb up and down and then up again. Periodic rushing melt waters look now inviting to drink, it looks so clear, are there penguin nutrients mixed in? To hell with it, just bent down and take the liquid in. My survival instincts have kicked in and the nudges continue. We must get over the ridge, fog is now visible at the top and time to get back is of the essence.
Downhill with another challenge
We reached the top and as we look over the next little crest, what, not again, there is more. As we traverse the East wall now the winds have increased to more than 45 knots and it is hard to stand up, never mind making headway. But now the down slope is just ahead of us and we are close to the back end of the lead group. I see Roman going downhill with his arms out like a Bat, almost in flight.
How much fun can you get in one day? Here is another nudge again, boy that is so comforting. The ego does not hurt as much now, what a relief.
The descending style of pushing on makes me feel like marionette on strings, bumbling along with no muscles, avoiding rocks, and jumping along like an idiot, but we are going back to the ship. I was trying to yell to Zuben ahead of us, that I could smell the kitchen, but he was busy getting there and the wind made it impossible to be heard.
The wind has now made almost impossible to land the Zodiac, but the experienced crew picks us up in the nick of time, Jordi on the helm with Clicia and Alex in the water pushing us of the beach. A wild water rafting experience is thrown in to complete the day, a good drenching and it is all worth it. What a day and I survived it thanks to the persistent Nudger Alexander. I would do it again if Jordi would allow me to be part of the next group in the future.