As a child, I had vivid dreams about Antarctica: the solitude of its endless skies, the vast white landscapes, the adventures of the polar explorers—and especially the penguins, seals, whales, and other iconic species that make their home in and around the Southern Ocean.
Twelve years ago, a piece of my childhood dream was fulfilled when I started to work on Antarctic marine conservation. My scientific training and expertise led me to advocate for managing the Antarctic krill fishery based on the most up-to-date research; establishing Antarctic marine protected areas; and, of course, protecting penguins. But still, Antarctica was not on the list of places that I had visited and experienced.
In 2006, I set foot on Antarctica for the first time and have been going back every year since. But even though I have now returned more than a dozen times, the wildlife and landscapes of this stunning continent never cease to amaze me. Each year, I learn more about Antarctica’s virtually undiscovered environment, and my passion to protect it, grows.
Certainly one of the most inspiring Antarctic experiences is navigating the Southern Ocean and encountering its magnificent wildlife. In celebration of Penguin Awareness Day on Jan. 20, here are some of the sights I enjoyed during my last visit to Antarctica in December 2014.