+27 (0)82 4000 470 rob@robcaskie.com

The past 3 weeks have been little short of manic, yet hugely gratifying. Between a large tour to Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, getting my Canadian visa two weeks before departure, road trip and successful time in Cape Town despite last-minute cancellation of a venue, seeing family and then flying to Vancouver via Amsterdam. Citadel Wealth Management graciously offered us their auditorium as an alternative to the SA Polar Institute when Department of Environmental Affairs denied our earlier permission to use their venue for a talk. Captain Knowledge Bhengu kindly joined us, and gave generously of his time and experience. Captain Bhengu will be remembered always as being in charge of SA Agulhas ll which found Shackleton’s Endurance on 5 March 2022. We shared Shackleton’s story, Shackleton replica whisky, Shackleton Brewing Company beer, Vergelegen wine and a thoroughly good luncheon, then evening together (2 separate events).

Despite Covid, both my flights were full, and Schipol Airport was positively heaving, hardly a mask in sight. Vancouver is a beautiful city, reaffirmed by the long drive down Granville Street, to Canada Place to embark Seabourn Odyssey. My cabin was changed twice, before I unpacked all my things. I was then asked to pack them up, and move to another cabin, rather like my time in Antarctica where I moved between every cruise, and once during a cruise! Thankfully I have far less luggage than most of my colleagues. Seabourn provides us with magnificent equipment, binoculars, clothing and a radio.

The first talk I was asked to give onboard was “The Allure of the North”. Hence my title above, since there has always been this yearning for the North – be it gold, salmon, hunting, the Northern Lights or simply solitude in Nature. As Fridjof Nansen so aptly said “The first real thing is to find yourself and for that you need solitude and contemplation – at least sometimes. I can tell you deliverance will not come from the rushing, noisy centres of civilisation. It will come from the lonely places”. I believe Nansen, Amundsen and Shackleton all had dreams regarding travelling over the icy wildernesses to the farthest places on Earth.
The mountains on either side of the magnificent Inside Passage are crowned with much snow, adding its own beauty to SE Alaska. The locals are thrilled to have cruise ships back in operation after two lost seasons. These communities depend very heavily on 4 months income during the summer. Ketchikan can have its population of 8500 quadrupled by cruise guests on a busy day – vital to the continued survival of these folk. By the way Ketchikan gets around           150 inches of rain per annum, so to have a dry, sunny day was exceptional. En route to Sitka, we experienced very thick fog. The ship was moving at roughly two miles a fortnight, regularly blowing its foghorn (excuse the pun), before anchoring in the pea soup. Guests transported to shore in the lifeboats (tenders) to enjoy this community with a strong Russian influence. The USA bought Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million (about 2 cents/acre), considered Seward’s Folly. Seward’s critics very quickly changed their tune when gold, oil and gas were discovered shortly thereafter.

As I write these lines, a seal is tossing a bird in the sea, before leisurely consuming its meal. Fishing boats, yachts, float planes and other craft move around our ships, like so many ducklings around their mother. My neighbour excitedly calls his wife out onto the balcony to see not one, but ten Bald Eagles, overhead. Indeed, The Allure of the North – my cup runneth over.

Subscribe To OurBlog

Subscribe To OurBlog

Join our mailing list to receive the latest blog posts and updates from Rob Caskie.

You have Successfully Subscribed!