Wayfaring Journey Bares Stark Beauty of Antarctica

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At Peltier Channel's end, tiny Port Lockroy huddles beneath the saw-toothed Seven Sisters Mountains. At this museum of exploration, managed by several U.K. agencies, two men live the austral summer, without heat, electricity, or running water. They spend their days counting penguins for an annual British Antarctic survey and hand-cancelling mail from passing ships in Her Majesty's loneliest post office. Selling stamps and souvenirs helps raise money and awareness for the U.K. Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Another 30 miles south, on Galindez Island, Europa calls on the Ukrainian researchers of Vernadsky Base. We share their camaraderie, a mutual wonder of the continent, and gorilka, fiery red pepper vodka concocted on the island.

Having reached 65° south—the voyage's farthest point—we turn again to the Drake Passage, setting a heading north for Cape Horn.

After a rough week at sea, Europa sails below the Horn's foreboding brow. There is time for a toast and three cheers for Europa's captain, Klaas Gaastra, before another storm blows up to batter the ship as we make for Tierra del Fuego.

This legendary rock represents different things for each of us; a geographic wonder, a historical icon, a personal milestone. Whatever the individual response we have as we round Cape Horn on a tall sailing ship, we have established a kinship with our brave forbearers who were tested in the waters of the Drake. They were heroic men and we honor them as we cross their ancient wake.

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