Except for the small splash made by the leading edge of my kayak as it slipped into the Antarctic waters, the silence reverberated in its intensity. Until that moment, I didn’t know that silence could magnify. Once I nestled in my seat, I sat and let the peace sneak under my skin and settle into my spirit.
Around me, as far as my eyes could see was a world seemingly void of life. White mountains; white icebergs; white glaciers and ice shelves reflected on the glassy, grey-blue ocean. The blue cloudless sky canopied and joined in to create a two-toned world of mirror and masterpiece.
Months of planning for optimal timing led to a four day harrowing trip across the Drake Passage from Ushuaia, Argentina on the southernmost tip of Cape Horn and brought me exhausted but safe into Marguerite Bay situated on the frosty fingertip of ice that reaches northward toward South America. Once anchored, I contemplated the miracle of the clear weather I’d been granted and plunged into the sleep of the near dead.
Now, after a breakfast of crisp bacon fried on the open deck and a heart full with the promises of Psalm 29:11, “The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless His people with peace,” I was off to explore the wonderland at the bottom of the world.
With barely a ripple, my paddle slipped almost effortlessly through the water. The nowhere-urgent-to-go theme of the day directed my course and I slipped into the enchantment of an unhurried pace.
I paddled along the edge of the ice flow, mentally referring to the topographical maps of the bay that I had studied. Ice flows can change but satellite images had given me a general idea of what lay ahead. An hour into my expedition, the silence was broken by the sound of warm air expulsed from the massive body of a humpback whale, followed by several others in the pod.
I lifted my paddle out of the water and held my breath as cascades of splashed water fell around me and my tiny craft bobbled in their wake. They slid past me like giant sentinels of the deep and in what seemed like a moment, they were gone, leaving me in a reverie of awe, unable for a time to muster impetus to move on.
Once I did, I noticed the growl from my belly and stopped to wedge the kayak in a yard wide crack at the edge of an ice flow so I could eat the sandwich tucked in my dry suite. Halfway through the tuna and cheese, I heard a crack and a rumble from the glacier ahead. Large sheets, then massive clumps, broke off of the ice berg in a suicide leap from the centuries old ice behemoth.
I quickly realized my precarious position in the crack, dropped my sandwich in my lap, and backpedaled the few feet necessary to avoid being crunched. None too soon either, as waves of rolling energy came my way. With my tip facing forward, I rode over the waves like a gentle breeze.
The sense of being entirely cared for and protected filled me and I pressed on. Within the hour, I began to hear the sharp calls of birds, and as I glided closer, I realized it was penguins. Chinstrap Penguins to be exact, named for the comical black stripe under their beaks that attached to a hat-like cap of black on their heads.
A procession of mothers going into the water and emerging with full bellies, trampled up the steep icy hillside to get to the top, only to regurgitate it all to feed their little ones. The parade up and down, in and out, seemed endless and I wondered at their ability to tell one from the other when they seemed identical to my human eyes. Their high piercing calls ferreted out kin from kind and kept babies well fed and families together. The genius placed inside creation by its Creator left me with the sense of my place in the vastness of His universes.
The night-less summer of Antarctica tempted me to go on forever but deep satisfaction bid me to make my way back to the boat. I secured the kayak and climbed aboard awash in the certainty that because He reigns supreme over all things, I can rest in this vessel as in the palm of His hands, even though moored in an icy wilderness.
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