lectures on the Sea Spirit

We gather in the Oceanus Lounge to listen to the expedition staff present power point lectures on a variety of subjects.  During the Drake Passage crossing these can be up to four times a day.

 

The seats are comfy, the room is warm if not stuffy and if it is during the Drake Passage crossing, the audience is all sleepy due to seasickness tablets.  A captive if not difficult audience.

 

So far I have heard fascinating info on sea birds, seals, geological formations and history of the Antarctic area. 

 

Surprise:        I didn’t come here with the expectation of learning about Antarctica History – yet the place is full of it.  The huts and the human stories of survival and expedition that surround them have really caught my imagination.

 

My reason for wanting to come to Antarctica was because of its remoteness.  So it should have been of no surprise for me to learn of the expeditions, the hunger and the desperation.  Yet these and the drive to conquer to know and to understand is astonishing to me.

 

The re-caps, which occur at the end of each day – before dinner, have been a great treat to me.  The staff present in about 5 minutes each about what we have seen and experienced during that day.

 

Disappointment:       The staff presentations are not put onto the CD that we all receive at the conclusion of the trip.  This is a disappointment for me not only because I would like to have access to the information, but also as the staff have prepared these in limited time as a direct response to the day’s events.

 

The crew is all studying these fields in various forms and at various levels and are very knowledgeable.  Their presentations vary in degrees of sophistication and audience engagement – and I believe that I wouldn’t have passed all of them if they were in my class.  Never – the – less they are great to listen to and be a part of.

 

New information:      Antarctica used to be covered in forest; it wasn’t always totally icy.

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icebergs

I headed off to deck 5 this morning for my first nature watch session ( I snoozed through the first one yesterday).  Not much happened.  However I did see my first ice berg.  Not the first one for the trip as one was sighted at 8.10 in the morning, however MY first one.  AS with a new born baby – copious shots were taken.  In the distance it looked a lot like a sailing ship.  Either the boat is gravelling fast or it was floating fast – and perhaps a combination of the two – the result being that it came closer to use and then passed us quite quickly.  Very exciting.  The word was tat the earlier one was MUCH bigger – as all unseen caught fish are.

 

Then during lunch on the same deck three more passed us: along with ice debris.  One of the crew members spotted through his binoculars penguins resting on the top of the bigger one.  I zoomed in with my camera and I think I have captured little dark grey dots along the rim of it. One was much bigger than my first but it wont surpass the excitement of seeing my fist iceberg.

 

I hadn’t expected to see them so early on in the trip.  This is our second full day on the boat and we are yet to cross the Antarctic circle.

 

We have now crossed the Arctic circle and there are icebergs everywhere!  All sizes all shapes. All versions of blue and white ice.

 

They are large and hulking – yet to be personified.  Cold slabs of time passed.

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the sea spirit (She)

When we saw the Sea Spirit from Ushuaia harbor it appeared as a not too large shipping vessel nestled in amongst other much larger ones.  As we excitedly noticed the sought for logo it struck us that the other ships were all much larger than ours.

 

Small but strong

 

As we climbed out of our buses and onto it, it remained a not so larger shipping vessel.  For the first two days and nights on board it pervaded my mind as a hulk of a thing lurching through the waters.  My only sense of it was that it rocked and rolled and whirred.  Its body was an abstract metal of which its  weather proofness seemed the only connection that I could make. 

 

The interior reminded me of a woe begone casino.  Its laquered and brass surfaces shining hopefully in the dimness of a cabin light.

 

Then the captain addressed us in his traditional captains welcome.  He mentioned nabout the crew and how hard they work.  He then said the date that she was born.  The actual, real life use of the word she had a dramatic effect on my relationship with this not so large shipping vessel.  No longer was it something that had been causing me to feel continuously slightly drunk .  It was living.

 

Now when I lie in bed the gentle rolling is like a mother lulling me to sleep.  The hum equates to the soft heavy breath of a half asleep human.  I can feel her arms around me, her body edging closer.

 

The lunges now feel like breaths.  Each roll is another intake of energy that will allow it to move forward on her journey.  The captain said she knows where to go. We must let her get there.

 

 This is the poem that I submitted for the poetry competition on board the boat.Imaged the

She (Sea Spirt)

A metal hulk lurching through dark deep waters

Abstract metal denoting functionality

Rolling and whirring – threatening to throw me

Then

A birth date; a mention of knowledge

Humming and murmuring – lulling me to sleep

A life, a skin easing through dark deep waters

The heavy breath of a half asleep human

She knows where to go and we must let her get there

Whales

Minke, Humpback and Orca

 

We have seen all of these whales.  Some afar some up close. 

 

A blow made out at sea can mean only one thing.

 

The Minke sinks through the water like a giant eel.  It is often floating on the top of the water with just the rim of its back and a small fin sticking out.  It is impossible to get a sense of size as distances are so out of whack up here.  There is no doubt that they are huge.

 

When I see one floating form not so far away it is a though a primordial monster from the deep has made a brief appearance.  It is a silent shiny mass of flesh. 

 

Then there is the blow; a loud spurting of a mass of water.  At times this blow is accompanied with a trumpet – not unlike an elephant.  This trumpet is deep.  I  don’t think that I have ever felt the tremor of this trumpet but I can imagine that it can be felt.  At times I feel that it has reverberated around the zodiac.  Unfortunately my excitement dominates the moment.

 

The slurp of their giant body can almost be felt as they slide into the water.  No splash not sound, just a series of ripples.  A slightly bigger arch before they disappear tends to denote a tail – the holy grail of whale watching.

 

Up close there have been many experiences.  Once a Minke kept circling us while we were in the zodiacs.  It would pop up have a little glide then duck down. – only to re-appear a quarter of the way around the circle.  That is at about a 15 min break if were to be a clock.

 

It still amazes me that they don’t flip our zodiacs.

 

One night we were in the middle of a lecture about mermaids.  I had been taken on a brief  if not imaginative journey into the mystical and mythical.  The staff radios were crackling and some people were scurrying and whispering to the side.  We knew that something was a afoot. Then the call was made. Sorry about the lecture but there was a pod of orcas near the boat.  A call which is often made and always is rewarding and spectacular.

 

Without grabbing jackets of camera I rushed out the side deck and sure enough there were orca or killer whale not far off.  These whales are more like dolphins in  their swimming.  They go fast and do lots of dives and ducks along the way.

 

Then suddenly there was one just next to the boat.  It flipped upside down and swam through the top of the water showing us its belly.  IT’s black and white marking filled It truly was a sight to behold.

 

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Pre Departure Briefing

Firstly – it was as its name denotes – brief.  Which was a relief.  I was predicting name tags, there truths one lie, human knots..the teachers out there will know what I mean.  

The only ice breaker I want to experience is the one I am travelling in!!!!

We did get to meet / see some of our travelling companions.  Texas, Chicago, Holland, England…a mix of nationalities.

We also realised that the first two days of our 15 day tour are not on the boat.  There was today – in the hotel (albeit sensational!), then tomorrow is getting on the boat logistics which seem to go from 3.00 – 5.00 pm.

We received luggage tags and our cabin number.  And were reminded of the three essential things to have one us as we embark: passport, flight details and carry on luggage.

Feeling: apprehension

Ushuaia – day two, part two

Wow..too may experiences for one person to absorb!!!  I feel like I have already had my adventure holiday yet technically it hasn’t started yet!

 

We arrived at the beautiful  spa resort and immediately had a walk around.  The lake / entrance to Beagle Channel is so divine.  All around it are snow capped mountains which must take your breath away when covered with snow in Winter.  The pebbled shore of the lake is great.  I am not sure but it seems as if a lot of the stones are slate?

There is a lot of building development going on which appears to be high end holiday houses / chalets.  Although oozing with wealth the whole area is very beautiful and the architectural styles of stone, wood and glass seem appropriate.

I capped off this very pleasant morning with a delightful club sandwich and espresso thinking I could get used to this Argentinian Aspen lifestyle!

Of course we had booked in a much needed  massage after the long hauls and delays aplenty.  A swim / float in the pool, a  jacuzzi whirl, followed by a lie / sleep in the heated relaxation room ( all overlooking the lake); lead nicely into a massage.

What flight delays?

Ushuaia – day two

After having woken up with the sun at 5.30, my 8.45 wake up came with a stuffy headache.  Along with being surprised at the warm weather, we were also surprised at the hot stuffy room.  Luckily we could open the windows – but I still woke up feeling very stuffy headed ( and almost ill).

We had a homestyle buffet breakfast of home – cooked bread and cornflakes.  The lounge / dining room is very quaint with large windows and a high wooded ceiling all to continue the chalet theme.  I imagine it would be very cosy when all is covered in snow.  I would love to see the whole town covered in snow.

Reminder:    Take photos next time we are there

Maria called a taxi for us and we took us without drama to the beautiful spa resort of Los Cauquenes.  This is where Peregrine has booked us in for our first night.

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This is the view from the lobby reading area.

After checking in we walked around a bit of the lake.

Surprise: The sun was very warm so we had some time lazing in the sun.  There were sunbathers on the deck outside the pool.

The lake is truly beautiful, protected, calm and very relaxing.  We saw some horses and followed a horse trail for a while.  Other than that though – only a few groups of larger sea birds.

( having trouble loading pic so will post this and edit later…)

 

Ushuaia – day one

After delays and then nearly missing all connections – we finally arrived in Ushuaia.  A beautifully designed chalet inspired airport greeted us with its wood and glass.

This homely theme continued to the airport lobby where we were cheerfully helped in finding a medium priced B&B to stay in for the night.  With a leap of faith we caught  taxi to La Casa de Terra.

The taxi took us up winding roads laden with little chalet inspired houses which appeared to have been crafted out of whatever they could find.  Our cute little accommodation didn’t disappoint us.  So much so that we have re-booked with Maria for our night when we return from Antarctica.  We had a clean room, towels, soap, wifi and free access to a kitchen if we wanted to cook.  Ha!  No chance of that!  

We went into town for dinner.  After wandering around the same winding roads we ended up at a little trattoria for dinner.  I had a yummy King Crab with Rice meal.  A pleasant walk back, shower and a deep sleep.

Surprises:              no touts at the airport, warm weather, little car / people/ dogs noise at night

Dissapointments:  forgot to take photos