The unexpected wonder is often the most memorable and the beauty that spread before me that first sunlit morning may have been the best day I have spent on any tour, certainly it topped my list of spectacular and untainted majesty. Black pinnacles of rock shot up from the Antarctic sea, their heads capped with overhanging ledges of snow. Glaciers poured through the valleys wedged between mountain walls which bore that tremendous pressure in the constant struggle between ice and stone.
Here was the whitest white nature brings forth. Here shone the purest light, one which magnifies the distance and gives everything within the range of the eyes a translucent clarity. Here the most pristine waters rose and fell in the gentle ocean swell. The light played upon the surface of the icebergs displaying blues that put the sky to shame and inviting a dozen new shades into the wheel of color.
If other than man knows beauty and the joy it can bestow then I could understand why whales travel half way around the world to breech in these waters. Flocks of penguins leaping like skipping stones through the calm sea showed their own joyful appreciation of their southern home. Seals slept on the bergs without a care in the world and an albatross skimmed the surface of the waves grateful for the gift of effortless flight and unmoving motion.
Perhaps the Lord placed this beauty, this unchanging change, in the frozen grip of ice and frost because its perfection could not be improved. I thought as we rounded another island how few people in the history of the world had seen such splendor. I suppose the Creator may have made it for Himself, a place He would fill with wonder that none of his children would see until thousands of years after the morning of creation. Yet He would see it and joy in His own handiwork. And the day would come when the vital curiosity of His children would probe the last place on earth and know one of His brightest jewels.
I had read the gripping tales of the southern explorers, the victory of Amundsen--first to reach the pole; the tragedy of Scott--frozen with his companions a mere eleven miles from his largest food depot after a passage of over a thousand; the enduring inspiration of Shackleton who willed survival for all his men in a journey of courage and hope unparalleled in history. Drake, Darwin, Captain Cook, and Magellan sailed these seas and into legend, reshaping the map and man's understanding of his world. This is a land which brings the very best out of those who come to know her and to love her, a challenging landscape which in spite of the hardships compelled men to venture.
For three days I stood on the deck of the ship taking it all in, the beauty, the wildlife, the history--rock and ice, sea and sky--and I could feel God's smile in my enjoyment. So I will adjust once again my list of favorite places in the world, vistas I want my children and friends to see for the sheer joy of sharing the sense of wonder that settles over us, and in that sharing coming nearer to the soul of God.
S. Michael Wilcox recently retired as an instructor at the institute of religion adjacent to the University of Utah. A frequent speaker at Brigham Young University Education Week, Michael also conducts tours with Fun for Less Travel, tours of the Holy Land, Church history sites, Europe, China, and Central and South America. Find out more about these tours.