Saturday, May 3, 2008

Well, here I am. This is Antarctica.

Welp, I made it.

For the last week or so I've been on a ship ride that some people pay $8,000 a ticket for.

Sunday, Day 1: Left Punta Aranus, Chile at about 1pm, spent that day and evening navigating through the islands and passages at the tip of South America. Fairly uneventful, smooth seas, a few birds. The gentle rocking motion of the ship puts you to sleep alarmingly quickly.

Monday, Day 2: Still smooth seas, going down through the Straights of Magellan. Sea birds seemed to like riding the air currents off the ship, so most of the good bird pictures I took on this day. Finally started to get into the Drake Passage at around 9pm that night, and . . .

Tuesday, Day 3: Utter chaos.

Backround info: Most ships have a full keel, their hull come to a wedge shape underneath the waterline, which helps the ship cut the water, and gives it lateral stability. But the Gould is an icebreaker, and as such has a flat bottom so that she can slide up onto ice sheets and break through them. Of course, that makes rough seas . . . interesting.

Not only does it pitch quite a bit, the yaw angles are crazy as well. But the weirdest part is that the ship slides around laterally, and that's the hardest to get used to and compensate for. Because it's not just the deck tilting, the whole ship just suddenly slips 15 feet horizontally to the left or right, and then there's Newton's first law . . . basically, you need to hang on.

We were in the Drake Passage all of day three, and from what I'm told by the crew, it was a relatively calm and easy crossing. Again, relatively. Winds were 30mph, seas 20-25 feet. Given how loaded up most people were on Dramamine, the majority of them spent the day in their bunks, doing their best to sleep. Which is actually quite hard, as you're constantly getting tossed about in your bunk, and either getting slamming into the bulkhead, or trying not to fall off the edge. Taking a shower requires some careful planning (They gave a quick briefing on how to take a three-point shower. Always be holding onto something with one hand, basically). By the end of the day, most of our shoulders were sore from constantly being tossed into the walls and things. All of the passageways have railings and things, and you almost never let go of them.

The majority of people got some motion sickness, I was one of maybe ten that had no issues at all. Nearly everyone else was loaded up on Dramamine, in addition to wearing the patches behind their ears. There weren't very many people showing up for meals, as the idea of food was quite unappealing.

Me? I was having a blast. It was like a roller coaster ride that lasts all day! :D

Wednesday, Day 4: Got out of the Drake sometime early in the morning, and people started timidly eating again. Heavy fog most of the day, although the crew said we were only a few miles from land, you couldn't see more then thirty yards off the ship. It cleared up later in the day, just in time for (dun dun dun) Science! The ship had made a short detour to the northern side of King George island, so a bunch of the biologists on board could do some trawling/fishing. From what I could understand, their doing protein research on extreme-ophiles, fish that survive in extreme environments and things. They were trawling around 1000ft, and deeper and the water starts to get warmer. Took a couple pics, then went inside, as . . . well, science is pretty boring. Lots of standing around.

Thursday, Day 5: Ice. Which I've been told their is a lot of down here. The ship had to slow down for about 18 hours to push through some pack ice. I was sitting in the lounge going over my photos, and someone wandered in and said "Hay, y'all seen the icebergs?" So I poke my head outside and had one of those . . . "What the heck" moments, as the ship was cruising by a wall of ice roughly the size of a small planet. It was dark out, and the ships lights didn't penetrate very far, but I did what I could with the camera. Snapped some pictures, but mostly just bundled up and stood around on the bow for around an hour, watching the ship crack through sheets of ice the size of football fields.

Friday, Day 6: Um . . . so, yeah, I'm here. Got in around 4pm, went ashore to dinner at the station, but still spending tonight on the ship while they get people ready to move off the station.

Anyway, that's all for now. I'll update in a day or so with pictures, and more details and things.

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