Kate Upton in Antarctica, 2013 :: Derek Kettela/SI
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Day 10: Antarctica
The wonders of this area are often described as indescribable. Antarctica is named only for what it isn't, the anti-Arctic. For a century men have struggled even to express the inexpressibility of this otherworldly world. The deprivations of Antarctica cannot be articulated—"This journey had beggared our language," wrote English explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard; "no words could express its horror"—but neither can its delights.
Ernest Shackleton: "Tongue and pen fail in attempting to describe the magic." Shackleton's surgeon, Alexander Macklin: "I could not possibly convey an accurate impression of these splendours."
Still, we should try. Antarctica is all stark contrasts, a frozen desert, the driest and wettest place on Earth, with 70% of the Earth's fresh water, frozen though it is. The sea is a rippling trash bag, gray-black, its surface broken by tuxedoed penguins and snow petrels, purewhite birds with onyx-black eyes in a world as black-and-white as the Sunday crossword.
"If a heaven exists," said Le Boreal's charismatic French captain, Étienne Garcia, "it will look like Antarctica." And while Antarctica is heavenly, it's the heaven of the movies, where every surface is blinding white and Morgan Freeman plays God in a white tuxedo. The snow has gone soft in summertime, like the center of a roasted marshmallow, and blankets everything in its texture of soft-serve ice cream. At midnight the sky is still veined with pinks and blues, the eyeshadow pastels of a diner waitress.
Sally Escanilla, our assistant cruise director, from New Zealand by way of England, a 15-year veteran of Antarctic travel: "It's as close as you'll come to visiting another planet."