We could see an enormous iceberg right next to our ship on the starboard side when we pulled into Point Wild, at the northeast of Elephant Island. That night, our captain had had to retrace our route towards the South Orkneys because of ice fields, and after two days at sea, most of us were more than ready to get off the ship. Earlier that day, we had seen always more icebergs, and expectations were rising again: we were clearly approaching Antarctica. A massive glacier, partly covered by a thick layer of clouds, reached right into the bay with icebergs of various sizes, shapes and colours floating around. It started raining as we prepared to go for a zodiac cruise; unfortunately, the sea conditions were not good enough for kayaking. Just as a Chinese girl and I were about to board the zodiac, the platform on which we had to step, collapsed, sending two of the crew down into the icy waters. We ended up using the marina deck which proved a little difficult: the swell was such that the zodiac was going up and down: it was a matter of hitting the right moment. Once on our way, we made our way towards a rocky outcrop steeply rising from the sea. On it, we spotted our first chinstrap penguins of the trip. The bobbing zodiac, combined with the rain and low visibility, made it difficult to fully enjoy the view.
Then again, these were conditions that could be expected at these latitudes. We sailed around a small cape, and now had a good view of the small stretch of land between the mainland of Elephant Island and another rocky outcrop. More chinstrap penguins could be seen, as well as a bust erected in honour of the Chilean captain Luis Pardo who came to the rescue of the 22 remaining men of Shackleton's expedition in 1916 with the Yelcho. Under the leadership of Frank Wild, after which the spot is named, the men managed to survive in conditions that, we could now begin to imagine, must have been nothing short of horrendous, especially considering the party spent the winter months here. They made a makeshift shelter out of the two remaining life boats of the Endurance, and lived off the same chinstrap penguin colony we saw. How did these men survive in the harshest of conditions, without knowing whether they would eventually be rescued? After all, their rescue depended wholly on the safe arrival of Shackleton himself, and his 4 comrades, who had left Point Wild in the third lifeboat, and who had an 800-mile trip ahead of them through the wildest of oceans of the planet. But the Shackleton story is an amazingly all's-well-that-ends-well story.
It was inevitable to look at Point Wild without thinking about the historic value, and imagining the hardship of the 22 men who managed to survive here, but at the same time, I pushed myself to also just be in awe by the impressive, almost daunting beauty of the landscape surrounding us. Rocky spires pointing to the sky, with chinstrap penguins as little white spots moving around on the rocks and occasionally diving into the swell of the sea; the age-old moraine bed of the enormous glacier appearing from the clouds and running right into the sea, icebergs everywhere... We rounded Point Wild once more, and approached the glacier face which had two large arched caves. The top of the glacier had those typical pointy spires, which despite the low light conditions still had a bluish shade. We scooped some ice from the sea, trying to imagine how old it must be and where it came from. Our zodiac driver took us as close as possible as was still safe to a small iceberg, which allowed us the opportunity to look at it from all angles, to see the incredible array of shades of blue, and to get a better idea of how icebergs are shaped by the continuous movement of the sea, and also, how they can capsize - which then gives the sea a different angle at which to shape the iceberg. It was cold, it was raining, we were still bobbing on the zodiac, and the light was getting worse - but we enjoyed every minute of our excursion at Point Wild until it was time to go back to our ship.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Point Wild (Antarctica). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Point Wild.
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