After 12 days on the Southern Atlantic Ocean I see land. Gusts of 50 knots are hitting me, mixed with snow, peeling my face. Yet most of us stay on the bow to catch this first sight of land, the long-awaited land. Nearing the shore, sea lions swim all around us.
The rocking of the ship changes into a gentle swing and we feel more at ease. Finally rest for the body. There is no button to stop this rocking when you are on the way.
My first milestone on this trip, visiting South Georgia to see the famous King Penguins. They only breed here. But my patience is tested. Jordi, our expedition leader, tells us Salisbury Beach with one of the two major King Penguin colonies of South Georgia is out of reach: too much swell for the Zodiacs to land. I am no pessimist, but I cannot avoid a little doubt popping up in my head: “What if we also miss the second colony?” I really do want to see these beautifully coloured King Penguins.
In the meantime, Jordi finds a quiet spot with many Fur Seals. Almost eradicated in the early nineteen hundreds, they are now all over South Georgia. I watch males aggressively defending their territory, some with a family, a female and one or two pups. Once I put everything else out of my mind I can sit here for hours, learn who are the dominant males, enjoy how the pups are playing, etc. Another day we walk from one coast across a pass, to the old whaling station Grytviken where Sir Ernest Shackleton lays buried. Phill, his fellow Irishman, comes up with his flute and plays a sad Irish tune next to Shackleton’s grave. I feel it down my spine. We all remain silent for quite some time.
Still, there is no chance yet to see the second King Penguin colony, too much wind. But then I realise that I have a choice with my disappointment. I can feed it and keep thinking about what a pity it would be if I cannot see my King Penguins. I will feel miserable quite quickly to the extent that nothing will be able to cheer me up.
Every single day we spend traveling along the South Georgia coast brings a new experience. Wonderful in itself, and I treasure each, nobody can take that away from me, whatever else will be happening.
While others decide to go on the Shackleton walk, I stay on board to sail the ship to the next bay to pick them up. Totally unexpected I see whale blows appearing. Then some more, sometimes mother and calf together, here, there, until they are all over. Far away at the horizon and close around us. I see a back, another back, some tails, I see one breaching out of the water and this goes on for hours, a real whale ballet! How lucky I am!
When the winds are finally lying down a little bit we make a wet landing on the beach with the second largest King Penguin colony. I am sitting between thousands of penguins looking at me or walking towards me to see what kind of animal I am. Every penguin with a different kind of yellow-orange colour on the cheek. One meter tall, I can see them at every stage of their life. Young brown ones looking like a fluffy pillow, grown-ups singing to each other courting or changing their feather coat. I am sitting in the middle of their community of more than half a million penguins on the beach. How amazing is that!
This is no longer the one and only achievement that would have made my journey, but just a huge bonus that brightened the already broad smile on my face.
Having great goals is great, but never forget to value other achievements along the way. Business is an adventure where you can’t control everything and you have to take it as it comes.
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