You learn quickly in Antarctica that there’s always a plan B, not to mention plan C, plan D, plan E… You get my point. Prior to departing, I was craving some more specifics from our itinerary. I wanted to know where we would actually be stopping and on which days. However, I now understand why that is not feasible. The captain and the expedition team are constantly considering numerous factors - weather, swell, temperature, visibility, shore conditions - to make the best decision for each day’s excursions. Antarctica is an incredibly dynamic place, and that’s what makes it so magical to visit, but it also brings daily navigational challenges.
Unfortunately for us, the weather wasn’t so keen this time on letting us stay down on the peninsula. Our expedition leader, Boris, had been showing us reports from Windy.com each night at our daily recap, so there were some murmurings of stormy weather approaching. Right after lunch on Day 6, following a magical morning excursion to Wilhelmina Bay, a mandatory meeting was called. Boris broke the news: we were headed home. Three massive consecutive storm systems were headed toward the Drake, the biggest hitting right on the day we were originally scheduled to cross. It was in the best interest of the ship and the safety of everyone on board to get ahead of those storms and return safely to Ushuaia. Every face in the room instantly dropped. It was a tough shock after such an emotional high that morning, feeling like we were just getting into the heart of the peninsula and the best days of our expedition. Turning back early was a huge disappointment, for sure. After all the time and money it takes to get to Antarctica, you want to make the most of your time there. But it’s one of the most untouched wilderness areas on the planet, and you have to love and respect it for its unpredictable nature. The remoteness and mystery of Antarctica are what draw us there, and those same things can be what send us home. Despite the disappointment, I’m grateful for the time that we did have on the peninsula. Some expeditions aren’t even as lucky as us to get to see so much marine wildlife.