With a sense of excitement, you awake to calm waters and the distinct sense that the stability of land is near. Fog hangs heavy around the deck, but there is an electric hum in the chatter that fills the lounge. Bundled up on deck, it feels inexplicably like Christmas morning – everyone peering into the fog, relishing the delicious palpability of anticipation. While crossing from South America some of your shipmates have been on the outer terraces tirelessly searching the skies for wandering albatross, others have the timid, blinking quality of having spent many hours horizontal. Some still brace themselves against bulkheads and rails out of habit, although the decks have long since stopped swaying. Then a collective squeal of pleasure erupts from onlookers as the first Adelie penguin jumps out of the water, graceful yet somehow undeniably dorky. These adorable additions to your crew increase in number, seemingly encouraged by the enthusiasm of those on deck. A dozen form a small garrison around the bow of the ship, escorting you as you near the rock and ice of the southernmost continent.
Rewarded for your diligent watch, your eyes attune to a deeper layer within the grey shrouds of fog that encircle you. The darkness of stone flickers from behind an ethereal cloak. Jagged spires begin to materialize, and from the water and cloud there is now land – not sandy or green shores but sharp, hard, rocky precipices that shoot from waterline to sky unhindered by vegetation. They are terrific in the most literal sense – awe inspiring, beautiful, primal, chilling, and somehow rawer than anything you’ve ever seen before. You take it in alone and apart, despite being surrounded by your shipmates. The effervescent joy that erupted at the sight of the penguins transforms within the collective experience of those on deck, and you feel like you’ve reached the crescendo of some sort of sonata – poignant, somber, and reverent.