The prelude to our expedition voyage was the astounding flight south along the Andes. We flew over perfect volcanic cones in the “long, thin country” of south-central Chile before clouds obscured the view.  Our imagination, however, ran with thoughts of the mountains, fjords, and icefields of Patagonia below…and the end of the world in the mountainous region of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego…finally ending with a spectacular landing next to the Beagle Channel in Ushuaia, Argentina. Soon, we were on board National Geographic Resolution. Sailing east then south, we moved out of the channel, off the continental shelf, and into the open waters of the infamous Drake Passage. We settled into our cabins, adapting to the pace of the rolling sea and the steady motion of the winds and swells on our starboard quarter. At first, a soft grey sky and dull, dusky seas may seem unexceptional, but throughout this first full day of ship travel, we realized that we were transiting one of the most remarkable wildernesses on the planet, an area of uninterrupted winds and circumpolar currents, home to seabirds and marine organisms that we can barely imagine. By late afternoon, we crossed into the cold waters of the Southern Ocean, moving both officially and biogeographically into the southern polar regions, which are a unique and extreme area of the globe.