This is an excerpt story originally published for Sidetracked Magazine. For more incredible stories purchase an issue in our shop.
Ángel Grimaldi’s lifelong quest to capture breathtaking images of the ocean to inspire others, seek the harmony and silence of nature, and help conserve fragile ecosystems.
Words and images: Ángel Grimaldi
Chasing silence has become an obsession, a therapy, an essential part of my personality, a necessity for good mental health – and a powerful tool for conservation. I’d been seeking these rare moments of silent communion with wild creatures ever since a close encounter with a female tiger shark off Cocos Island, which Jacques Cousteau called the most beautiful island on the planet, but from the isolated steppes of Kazakhstan to the Annapurna mountains nothing seemed to totally fulfill my spirit and calm my mind. Seeking these moments has given my career its shape.
Antarctica, 2019. After a rollercoaster of emotions, several days traveling from Australia to the southern end of Patagonia and two days crossing the legendary Drake Passage, it was hard to believe that I was actually there, anchored in front of an iceberg graveyard. I could feel the cold breeze burning the skin on my cheeks, I felt the beginning of tears behind my eyes, and I couldn’t decide if I were dreaming or not.
I found it impossible to hide my excitement as we put the zodiacs in the water, checked the safety gear, and marked the position on my GPS. Snow was drifting slowly down from the sky, fat flakes plopping and vanishing in the water’s calm surface, and we had a mission: explore a bay full of ancient icebergs. As we left the ship heading to the heart of the bay, the zodiac painted ripples on the glassy water. We were cruising in silence. With the clouds blocking the sun, I couldn’t tell if it were midday or sunset.
Her huge dark eyes scrutinised every inch of us, looking through the deepest part of our souls. We were aliens on her planet. No more shivering, no more pain in my knuckles, no more burning of cold on my cheeks – just silence.
After half an hour gliding along with breathtaking ice giants, I spotted a creature through my binoculars 300m away. Behind one of the enormous pieces of ice was a dark silhouette lying peacefully on the snow. My heart accelerated as we approached. Once close enough I switched off my engine and drifted, trying not to disturb the wildlife. I saw spotted fur, big head, a robust neck. A large female leopard seal lifted her reptilian head, looked at us, then rolled her head slowly from one side to another. Her huge dark eyes scrutinised every inch of us, looking through the deepest part of our souls. We were aliens on her planet. No more shivering, no more pain in my knuckles, no more burning of cold on my cheeks – just silence. Time seemed to stop. The snowflakes were now levitating. Those few seconds of coexistence made me realize that I was in exactly the right place. Nothing brings you closer to the present moment than eye contact with a wild creature, and that moment of connection with one of the top predators of the ecosystem left me with an immense feeling of gratitude.... To finish the story head over to Sidetracked Magazine or read more by purchasing Sidetracked Volume 20.