I recently completed a circumnavigation of the incredible Falkland Islands aboard the Hans Hansson. Like so many who travel to this remote South Atlantic archipelago, I expected the wildlife encounters to be spectacular — and they were. But what left the greatest impression on me was witnessing the friendship between two of my shipmates: Silvia and Marc.
Silvia is an accomplished photographer, and Marc is a penguin aficionado. They met in a choir group back in their hometown in Germany and decided to make the journey to the Falkland Islands together. What makes their story unique is that Marc is blind.
Each day, Silvia led Marc in and out of the zodiac that took us from the boat. She guided him over slippery rocks and through the tussock grass. Their combined determination never wearied.
I watched the pair as we hiked for hours en route to one of the penguin colonies. Upon arriving, he recorded the sounds of the penguins we encountered and she took photographs. Though I often tried, I could not fully imagine how much courage and stamina the excursions must have required — not only from Marc, but from Silvia, too.
While Marc couldn’t see his beloved penguins, not one of us could claim to have enjoyed the encounters more.
In fact, I found myself pausing more often on this trip to pay attention to my senses: the pungent smell of Southern elephant seals, the spongy feeling of Diddle-dee moss under my boots, and the hollow tapping sound an albatross bill makes when mending its nest in the rain.
This experience left me with a greater appreciation for the gift of all senses, and for the truly extraordinary gift of friendship.
As Helen Keller so aptly said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched — they must be felt with the heart.”