This morning I woke up early and sat by the window writing my journal when suddenly Rob came and sat in the chair in front of mine. He said “Good morning Aartee!” in his very British accent. I got super nervous stopped whatever I was doing and sat up in total attention. It wouldn’t have been out of place if I even tapped my foot and saluted. I don’t know what happens to my demeanour on being surrounded by older people or by people in an authoritative position, but it probably has something to do with a combination of the Indian conditioning of respect for elders and my deep instilled manners and etiquette that came with having gone to Army School all my life and attending all those mess parties as a child. But 5 mins in, Rob made me feel so comfortable that were discussing everything from Indian youth dating scenes and arranged marriages to Yoga and the power of solar.
He also asked me the big question: What do you plan on doing post the expedition? What’s your one big goal? And that’s the dreaded question that everyone is being asked on this ship. We all are trying to work through that very question through our personal leadership journies and the modules, trying to find our “sweet spot”, diagnosing out strengths and weaknesses through group sessions while sharing our crucibles and success stories and some of the most intimate details of our lives and for some of us resurfacing memories buried away deep inside. But through the process, we are also building trust, among the entire team and friendships that will last a lifetime.
So what do I plan to do, post the expedition? Well, I told Rob I was still working on “the plan”. He said I should tell him “the plan” before the end of the expedition. I just hope I figure out what “the plan” is before that.
We disembarked the ship today at Brown Bluff. It’s called so because of the rust colored basalt rocks on its slope due to volcanic eruptions under its surface through years. But unlike deception island, Brown Bluff looked more like Antarctica. It was white from top to bottom covered in snow. We all walked till the top and a part of our activity was to cross a deep crevasse. The climb had the most beautiful view at every level as we ascended, but it was equally challenging. People kept slipping and falling, one us even broke our camera lens by smashing it on a rock on slipping. We made a human chain to cross the most slippery parts in teams.
Antarctica is unpredictable. She is wild and free. One second she was inviting with her calm and beauty, stunning us while we were climbing a hill and the very next second she unleashed the katabatic winds of 45 knots (a tropical hurricane is at 50 knots) forcing us to abandon the hike midway and seek cover in the ship. That was quite some adventure for the day.
In the afternoon, we saw something that was right out of a movie. Icebergs! Huge Tabular Icebergs floating in the middle of the ocean. They were once a part of the Larsen B ice shelf that broke off in 2002. You would be surprised at how they hold themselves afloat for some of them were bigger than the size of our ship. And so perfectly cuboidal that if you had the chairs of the right size, you could host a proper sit-down dinner on them for a 1000 people.
It’s like every day trumps the other in its awesomeness here in Antarctica. There are always things you’ve never seen before.