Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Antarctica Journal 3.9.09

King George Island and Pre-Race Banquet

I got up early to see if we had come in sight of land yet, but, when I got to the bridge, it was really hazy. After about a half hour, Gary spotted a rocky outcropping and then I saw some snow-covered rocks. It was all very exciting, except that it looked nothing like the Antarctica I’d expected.

After breakfast, I went up to the top deck to watch the crew load ATVs into the zodiacs. It was much colder than it had been and extremely windy (16 m/s) and I started to worry about race-day conditions. Being so close to land brought the birds closer to the ship and it was fun trying to guess which they were. We were supposed to go on a zodiac cruise of Maxwell Bay at 10 am, but it was too windy and the waves were too high, so we were invited to watch BBC’s Planet Earth: Ice, instead. I was exhausted after the movie (I hadn’t been sleeping well with the rocking back and forth (head to foot) all night long and hoped that I could take a nap, now that we had dropped anchor.

At 12:30, the lunch announcement came over the loudspeaker and I descended to the dining room to find beef barley soup, salad and quiche waiting for me. I turned down the cherry cobbler dessert. At lunch, it was announced that the winds had abated sufficiently (hooray!) and that we could leave postcards with the ship for mailing from Antarctica (double hooray!). I made a beeline for the lounge and started writing.

At 2:30, we lined up for the zodiacs and I maneuvered myself into position to be in the same zodiac as the photography instructor, because, according to the class schedule, we’d be getting more instruction in the zodiacs. I think she said 2 things. Total waste of money! The first time going down the gangway over open water was pretty exciting, though. Rob, our zodiac guide, took us in to the Russian base (we saw penguins sunning on the way) then around to the Chilean base, where we could look at Collins glacier and panic a little about getting up it twice during the race. We then headed over to Great Wall, the China base, to get an idea about how far away it was. We couldn’t get too close because of a sand bar (the Great Wall?) blocking the way.

We cruised a little more around the bay, then headed back to the ship. I grabbed my postcards and started writing again. I stayed in the bar so I’d be there for afternoon cookies (chocolate with white chocolate chips and peanut butter ship) and spoke with Linda about 7on7. She advised me not to worry about dropping Gatorade (Thom had warned us during the reception in BA that we were not to leave even a drop of Gatorade on the ground) and to take the fuel I normally do, but be careful about it. She and her husband left and Elizabeth and her dad joined me. We chatted a bit, then Rod headed off and Elizabeth and I stayed talking until dinner was called.

Dinner was served buffet style (this was our past party/carb load), so each deck was called in separately, to avoid congestion. My deck was called first and I gorged on salad, couscous, green beans almondine, lasagna, and penne arrabbiata. Dessert was tropical fruit sorbet, so I skipped it.

Rupert and Thom addressed us over dessert, giving us the final race instructions. There was a significant course change, because the glacier was solid ice and to dangerous to run along the normal course. They found an alternate route around the back of the glacier with a shallower incline, but it was a shorter climb, too, because the Chinese base didn’t want us not to come to their base for the marathon. The new course became an 8+-mile out (instead of 7) and back and a 4+-mile (instead of 6) out-and-back. They also decided to start the two ships out of different bays. Our ship started at the official start at Bellingshausen, the Russian base, but the other ship started 2 miles into the course at the Uruguayan base. I wonder if Thom will have 2 winners, since he has 2 courses.

After dinner, I came back to the room, got my race day gear set and went to bed.

Pictures from these days are available here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/7411850@N04/sets/72157615667198221/

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