Saturday, April 4, 2009

Antarctica Journal 3.12.09

Antarctica Journal 3.12.09

I slept until the wake-up call came. I’m getting more and more tired each day. The breakfast special was pancakes, which I ate with peanut butter and a fried egg white.

The morning excursion was a zodiac cruise in Wilhelmina Bay. Scottie was our driver and he took around some interesting bays and to a whaling ship that had been scuttled in 1915 because of a fire. It’s now home to Antarctic terns. We followed some humpback whales around and on several occasions, other zodiacs (or maybe it was the same one each time) would cut in front of us, blocking our view. The last time that happened, a whale came within 5 feet of the other zodiac and we couldn’t see it at all. It was really exciting for them, but frustrating for us, because we were the ones tracking that whale and the other zodiac cruised in at the last minute and took our view. I’m glad they got to see the whale, but would have liked to have seen it up close, too. We did get to see a calving glacier, which made some big noises and some little icebergs.

We got back to the ship at around noon, which gave us time to get ready for the big barbecue. The Vavilov passengers and staff came over to the Ioffe for swordfish, steaks, ribs, wursts, burgers, and various salads and sides. Dessert wasn’t very exciting – some sort of orange bread with a custardy sauce. The best part was taking pictures under the race banner. Towards the end, Thom announced the winners. It would have taken all of 10 minutes to put together a proper list, but he just tried to read them off of the main list, which meant he read the age category winners from 1st to 3rd, instead of the other way around. He also announced them from the middle of the deck, rather than by the race banner, so we didn’t get to see the winners, because they all went to the banner at the stern to be photographed.

It wasn’t clear whether or not we’d be going back out in the zodiacs, but, happily, Rupert announced that, after an hour of gift shop access, we’d be heading back into the bay. I bought some little flat things (no princessy t-shirts for my nieces – I hope they won’t care that I don’t have anything for them) and considered buying more to get a free hat (they were having a “spend $100 and get a free hat” promotion), but decided against it.

At the appointed hour, I suited up and climbed into Lynn’s zodiac. I asked her about ice worms, but she said they don’t appear in Antarctica. Before we’d gone very far, Rupert pulled up with a single passenger and asked if anyone wanted to come over. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to climb between zodiacs in the middle of Wilhelmina Bay in the Antarctic, so I hopped over. I am proud to say that I did not fall on my face or my butt or any other part of me.

Changing zodiacs turned out to be a good call. Rupert was an excellent guide. We watched a leopard seal and some whales, then “parked” behind a glacier, out of view of the ship and tucked into brash ice with icebergs all around us and just drifted. Rupert is a Ph.D. candidate, studying sea ice, so he explained some thing about ice. Then, we heard it. A whale was snorting from deep in the bay. We saw it blow a couple of times, but it was too late to approach it. We started back for the ship, stopping twice to whale-watch. By then, we were seriously late. So Rupert opened up the engine and we flew across the mirror-like bay. It was exhilarating!

Dinner was served at 8 pm, because of the big BBQ lunch. I had the sole, because I wanted to fish at least once, but I liked the wild rice side better than the sole. Dessert was strawberry tart, so I skipped it. After next-day instructions from Rupert, I headed down to the presentation room to review my photos and load any good ones into the file for the photo class. Elizabeth was there and showed me her race photos and then Kevin showed us some of his photos.

I was exhausted, as usual, so I went to bed early.

Pictures from these days are available here:

No comments: