For the last few years getting away at Christmas has been a relief, a way of running away from the reality of Seth not being here, but its a reality that I cant run away from for the other 364 days a year, so I often wonder why getting away at Christmas is so important.
I don’t really have to wonder I know why, because Christmas is a time for family, for being with those you love, for sharing, for giving and for just being enveloped in love and familiarity.
I don’t have a family, the people I love have their own lives, their own families and I don’t belong there, so I find a way of being enveloped in Seth’s love, the familiarity of his vibrancy by not being at home and going away.
Last year I was forced to stay at home at Christmas and the thought was distressing, but actually the lockdown was a relief; it meant I didn’t have to take part in Christmas, I didn’t have to risk upsetting people by saying its wasn’t for me.
Last May, during the height of the first wave of pandemic I decided that for Christmas 2021 I would book the trip of a lifetime and book that long anticipated and yearned for trip to Antarctica. Covid gave me the push to do it, I figured if Covid didn’t get me I would go and do the trip I had dreamed of for years.
Why did I want to go Antarctica ?
Well it all started when I was a small child. The family ran a haulage and coal business and in the office in Porthill there was a stuffed penguin, a taxidermy penguin, its always seemed so odd as a child that an office that had trays of different types of coal in the window that there would be a penguin in a case. Family members would tell me “Oh, that came from Great Uncle Joe when he went to the Antarctic”
I was fascinated as I grew older i found out more about my Great Great great uncle Joe, who was a steward on the ship The Morning who went to Antarctica with Scott on his expedition 1901-1904 and subsequently went to rescue Scott and got there too late. He was also part of the Shackleton’s first expedition with the Nimrod in 1907-08. My research and the carefully curated family records of my dads cousin Ian painted a rich, varied and adventurous life for Joseph Hancock.
As time as progressed as well as this childhood fascination with Antarctica the constant reporting of climate change, pollution and environmental damage spurred me on to go and see a relatively unspoiled part of the planet, while it is still intact and while I was young enough to do so.
So in May 2021, I booked the trip, hoping that Covid will be under control enough for me go along. It has been a tenuous and uncertain journey, and especially in the last few weeks before setting out, filling in forms, getting tested, getting passes and through health checks along the journey. But leaving on the 12th December with 4 flights, 5 PCR tests, more paperwork than you might believe and 2.5 days travel I arrived in Punta Arenas and boarded the ship.
Since then my world had been full of superlatives, fabulous, stunning, life changing, wonderful, unbelievable, jaw dropping…… the list goes on and on. The single word I can come up with is magnificence
The beauty of this place, the clarity of the water, the blueness of the ice, the crispness of the snow, the height of the land, the colour of sky, the colour of sea, the magnificence of the landscape, the shapes of the icebergs, the deftness of the birds, the hilarity and boldness of the penguins, the stature of the seals and all this comes together to make the most magical of experiences.
I am truly humbled by the majesty of this place, but I would trade it all to be at home with Seth, I miss him so much and I so wished he could experience this trip with me.
He cant, because he is dead, how many times do you hear people say “you are a long time dead”…… well its true….. if there are things you want to do … make the time to do them and if they are things out of your comfort zone be brave and try them anyway.
Tomorrow is promised to no one…..but after three days at sea I hope tomorrow is promised to me. I hope I will make it to South Georgia to continue this trip of lifetime. Tomorrow at the forefront of my mind will be that funny, curious, kind, gentle, loving, man Seth Goodburn, I know his spirit will be with me too. Seth, I will love you with all of my heart forever….