The call of the ice

23:27, Mar 04 2014
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A large slab of iceberg is seen early in the morning as the National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions cruise ship Explorer approaches Antarctica.
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An Adelie penguin guards a newly hatched chick at Brown Bluff in the Weddell Sea.
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An arched iceberg, large enough to pilot a small boat through, in Gouvernoren Harbor.
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Diagonal patterns exposed in an iceberg that had shifted in the Errera Channel; kayaking permitted a closer look at the smaller icebergs.
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Sparkling icicles drape from an iceberg in Cierva Cove.
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A downward view of the Explorer’s bow slicing through an ice sheet near Enterprise Island.

"You come for the animals, but you will return for the ice," the trip leader aboard the National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions cruise ship Explorer told us as we began our trip to the Antarctic in December.

My wife, Kathy Moran, is a senior editor at National Geographic magazine and was invited to lecture aboard a cruise to the "white continent." I got to tag along.

I started my career as a news photographer and have never lost my love of the craft, so I was thrilled at the opportunity. The images here are among the best I was able to capture in the nine days that we cruised, hiked and kayaked along the Antarctic Peninsula.

The ship departed out of Ushuaia on Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, and crossed the Drake Passage, renowned for seas that make fools of those who think that dramamine, wrist acupuncture straps or ginger gum are going to make a difference.

I had all forms of defence because I get queasy just looking at a boat, but they were unnecessary: We were lucky to experience the "Drake Lake." Large rolling swells, but nothing that had me running for the ship's railing.

Once across, we had gorgeous weather. Temperatures rarely got below -1 degrees and were warmer than much of what the East Coast of the US was experiencing while we were away.


Penguins? There were thousands of Chinstraps, Adelies and Gentoos - enough for a lifetime. And it was spring in the Southern Hemisphere, so we were there when the first chicks of the season began to hatch.

But it was the ice, alive with the never-ceasing action of grinding, bobbing, cracking and melting, presenting nature's most fascinating and kinetic sculptures, that enthralled me. I never tired of watching or photographing it, at all times of day.

With only two to three hours of dusk (it never really got dark), it was hard to retire to the cabin. As the same trip leader temptingly warned us: "Sleep is expensive while on the continent. You can do it on the way home."

Griffin is the Visuals Editor of The Washington Post.

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