Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Antarctica Journal day18 - January 31, 2007

A few years back a group of rich guys-oil barons, miners-your basic exploiter- "visionary types"-decided the time was probably ripe to rape Antarctica -they were all lined up and ready to drill when suddenly this French dude named Cousteau and his buddies in Australia and New Zealand started a ruckus. Now there is a 50 year moratorium on Antarctic exploration (the Wellington Convention) but planes south are full of oil guys headed to the Falklands (For examples of pillage-for-profit read about the group of rich Americans who took over Hawaii for sugar and pineapple and ultimately, real estate) (for more recent examples see Iraq/oil) So for the moment the Big Guys are barred and, interestingly enough, the most negative impact the area faces is from the scientists studying it and the immense support teams they require.

Put the kayaks in the water yesterday. Steve and I took a trip around the bay. Getting low on the water is always better I think. You can hear crashing bergs and every splash a penguin or seal makes. Paddling in all this ice is a trip. I became so disoriented with all the movement at one point I almost got squished by pack ice. The bergs move in currents, the pack moves, the rocks don't and it can all get confusing when you are at water level. I became more aware quickly. Turns out Leiv is quite the kayaker and humble about it. He did a trip around the Falkland Islands-I mentioned that earlier. He also kayaked around South Georgia AND around Tasmania. Wow.

This morning we spotted our first killer whales. Leiv, Steve, John and I boogied after them and what a show! First three, then eight, then twelve-all transients and looking like gangbangers. Up on floes to check for seals, circling penguins, spy hopping, splitting up then reuniting in a rush. We stuck with them-it is such a thrill when they check you out. They are an odd greenish yellow color unlike the pristine white orcas in Alaska and they have a lot of wear and tear: scarring and mangled dorsals and tails. There is plenty of chow here. One technique that works well for them is to throw themselves up on a floe and tip it. Either the seal falls off or is washed off by the resulting wave. Two dominant females approached us several times for an up close look-maybe two feet then dove under the zodiac. Whales rock.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Antarctica Journal day17 - January 30, 2007

Today was a learning experience. I'm putting a positive twist on it…Today was POOP DAY. We were eager to go ashore, maybe walk around. The farther south you get the less walk able land-it all seems to be covered with 300 feet of ice. So these little islands looked good until we clamored out of the Zodiac. The new rain mixed with the lovely pink penguin guano served up a stew of slick slime. The rocks were covered, the penguins were pink and soon so was I. YUCK! It was so bad Dee parked on the first rock she got out on and didn't move. So Leiv comes back to get Russ and puts the bow into the rocks just as this penguin is jumping out of the sea up onto a rock. Penguin lands in the boat. Keeps trying to stand up but for some reason the boat floor-aluminum- is too slick. Steve, as usual, gets the picture. Leiv throws the penguin overboard and I am left thinking the little dude just wanted to get away from the poop place and took his best shot.

Sad news. The Illy coffee is all gone, we have 3 more weeks and the only coffee on board is this disgusting Argentinean stuff that tastes like coal and used motor oil. Time to switch to tea. Also time to start looking for a place to plant Norman.

The icebergs grind against the boat all night. The brush ice with a soft swishing sound then a big one whacks us and you try and remember-was the Titanic made of steel? Here's a little movie to show you what I mean...

The trick for me is to find the poetry hidden in a thing. Like the 30 different descriptions the Eskimo has for snow. In the Southern Ocean they have frost smoke and frazil ice. Bergy bits and growlers. And my favorite: water sky. The dark reflection of open water in the pack ice on the underside of the clouds.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Antarctica Journal day15 - January 28, 2007

I drive a boat in Alaska. We study humpback whales in Prince William Sound and adjacent waters. I live on Kachemak Bay-Big 'ole fast running bore tides-15-20 footers, wind, current. But this looking for a mooring in the middle of LOTS of icebergs the size of five story buildings, all floating around willy nilly, in front of a glacier in a bruiser of a wind belt, with rocks and 5 knots of current…well. Call me a weenie.

Spent the day getting over a vicious cold. Slept on the deck, cleared my head of germs and I'M BACK! Being on a boat for 6 weeks with 2 people you know well and 5 you don't is interesting to say the least. Whenever the crew doesn't want us to know what they are saying they speak French. I need to learn French! We hung with 5 humpbacks-Betho-4 white flukes 1 black. They are lunge feeding and bubble feeding and could care less if we are around. We had a fantastic time in the Zodiac with giant swarm of seals –finally down at water level.

They were crab eater seals-really beautiful but very difficult to photograph. At one point I just watched as the seals, a bunch of penguins, and a zillion birds dove on a ball of krill. It was a frenzy of feeding. It is so great Antarctica is wild. It may be the last untamed place. Sure you can still get eaten in Alaska but lack of fair chase ethics in hunting, (see bear baiting) greed like Soapy Smith could never equal, a willingness to rip the guts out of a place (see Exxon) and a basic lack of imagination (see state legislature) have wounded her. Humans, like wild pigs, are such an irresponsible species.

John told me a story about how icebergs became blue. He says all the blue in the world comes from the sky. When raindrops and snowflakes fall they have a bit of blue in them-we see blue in the ocean, right? So more snow falls and begins to compress the ice under it and it becomes bluer and bluer. But after a zillion years of compression all the blue is squeezed out just like the juice is squeezed from an orange and the ice is clear and that is why when we see clear icebergs we know we are looking at the oldest ice of all.

The scientist in me hates this story but the poet loves it.

It is foggy-vis about 100 yards, big tabular icebergs. I glance at the chart-in big yellow letters it says. UNSURVEYED. That is so cool.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Antarctica Journal day14 - January 27, 2007

Seals, penguins, mountains, icebergs. Mountains, seals, icebergs, penguins. Yeah yeah.

Just another day at the bottom of the world.
It's getting colder. We are way south now. Passed the Argentinean and Chilean bases today. Turns out these two neighboring countries are keeping up a longstanding tradition of despising one and other. "I'll build a big base." "Mine will be bigger!" "I'll paint my base red!" "I'll paint mine redder!" etc.
One newcomer-the adelie penguin with the cool blue circles around his eyes.

So turns out the little dudes look like they wear tuxedos for a reason. Long long time ago when this bottom of the world continent was still attached to Africa the penguins who weren't penguins yet could fly. They were skinnier too. But they still were real good swimmers. Then that little window of opportunity they were living in closed. And the earth cracked apart…again. So if they stayed the same they were homeless. Better to move on. See what happens. How we fit into the big scheme. And that is when they got the tuxedos.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Antarctica Journal day13 - January 26, 2007

Last night we came to a very special place. The iceberg was a giant blue arch with an azure pool at the bottom. We photographed for an hour trying to catch the best light. One thing about photographers - they are rabid. It has become such a competitive business: to get the picture, to tell the story, to have something no one else has - they are willing to take enormous risks.

So we shot until the light had gone flat and anchored and in the middle of the night, it happened. The arch collapsed, the berg turned and that was that. Gone.

Fog this morning. Good. I will try and get organized. My locker is full of skulls and meds and dirty socks.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Antarctica Journal day12 - January 25, 2007

We ran all night (really big swells nearly tossed me from my bunk) and when I woke up we were in fairyland. Blue ice everywhere and sleeping humpback whales. Betho (fellow whale detective in Hawaii) told me all the flukes down here would be white and so far…she's right! We watched them bubble net feeding all morning. It's funny, in Alaska they surface with their mouths wide drooling herring. But here the mouth is closed before they reach the surface-no dripping krill I guess. I went up the mast 2/3 of the way and shot down on whales. That was cool. Whales are the big deal but something else amazing happened today: STEVE TOOK A SHOWER!

Then there are the icebergs. Now that we are in Antarctica they are bigger and badder than anything else we've seen. We just climbed this weird mountain this afternoon that gave me the heebee jeebees. It was all loose scree and this penguin colony trooped up-dang near straight up-on rotten snow to the top. So of course we all followed them until my brain finally kicked in and said "STOP! Bad snow, bad angle and we weigh a lot more than penguins..." Just begging for a landslide or an avalanche - which ever comes first. Smoosh! Face plant!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Antarctica Journal day11- January 24, 2007

Part 1. I am enthralled. The Shetland Islands. As we swing on the anchor after a dinner of moonfish and cabernet I look out at calving coastline-not one glacier but a mountain of glaciers booming as they crash into the sea. Gentoo and Chinstrap penguin cut scallops in silver water while we sip lemon drinks with 1000-year-old ice. What a day! Jerome says in 30 years he has never seen the mountains clearly so today is a gift to him as well. The old pirate is hobbling about with one crutch and one bright turquoise crock. Everyone on the boat, except me, looks like they have penguin feet. We climbed ashore from the zodiac into a Chinstrap colony of a zillion?! They are shy-not like the Gentoo who climb in your lap, Shy or not though, they are fierce to each other now. The chicks are as tall as their parents now and dull gray. They are totally invisible against the rocks. The mother Chinstraps attack any chick who moves. Then that chick's mother attacks back and suddenly it's a penguin war! Every bird jumps up throws their head back and shrieks like it is dying.

The ground is pink with guano-they are feeding on the pink krill, and their nests are a circle of rocks. Steve - I call him Lefty - is beginning to look and smell like a penguin. He is the youngster on this adventure. He climbs every hill, looks for every angle. Long after the rest of us have put our cameras away he is still out there.

Today we saw 3 Weddell seals and a herd of fur seals. The fur seals look like fur seals in the Pribilofs and are semi-aggressive. The Weddell would be an Eskimo's dream animal. It is huge, probably 1000 pounds of seal meat and fat. When you approach it one eye slowly opens. He blinks. Then goes back to sleep. Steve practically crawled in the seal's mouth. Then the seal made a giant-and I mean giant-poop. That got rid of Steve real quick.

There are whale rib bones all over the beach. And a vertebra. It looks like a blue whales'. Leiv assures me I will be hung or beaten or jailed if I try to take my guanacos and penguin skulls home. Maybe but I have a powerful password…Teacher.

We moved about 20 miles thinking we would leave tonight for the peninsula - six hours away. I know I came here to find a story but I don't have a clue what to write about yet. This whole deal is wondrous. To know there is still a place this wild and dangerous is comforting to me. It's kind of like the road not taken. I remember feeling this way when I took Kye climbing at Joshua tree and came in contact with the "climbing culture" for the first time. It was a road I never knew existed but I loved it.

Part 2.
We had a meeting at 4pm to decide what we do next. There are not a lot of icebergs this year so to find blue ice we have to go way south. We are headed for the peninsula lickity split. Jerome hates cruise ships - who doesn't ? - so he tries to steer clear of them but it's big business down here. From experience in Alaska I know many cruise ships dump garbage at sea. In Alaska one dumped dry cleaning fluid and destroyed salmon runs. The waste is very toxic. So whenever cruise ships show up - watch out! Whoever is in charge down here needs to keep their eye on protecting this place.

Everyday begins this way. Cereal and the beach. We pull our gear together and Liev takes all the photographers in the Zodiac.
There is a hoist which lifts the Zodiac, then swings it free of the boat and into the water. Then we get onboard. I'm always ready because I hate to be late and put people out. Russ is always late because he has so much gear (video dude) Diana never knows we are going then runs around like a maniac. John and Eva have been sick pretty much the whole time so John goes and Eva stays. And the pix the two of them get are better than all the rest of us combined. For these guys the trip is all about the photos but for me, well, I gotta find a story and sometimes the camera actually gets in the way of the experience.

We are doing a beeline now from the Shetlands to the Peninsula. Due south. On the right are some major beautiful mountains-elevation 4000' right up from sea level and covered in snow. Other than penguin poop there's not much dirt around. And the air. So clean. This is what life used to be like on earth…except for Steve,
it is Lefty's 8th day without a shower. We all think he's gonna hold us up for something big before he agrees to bathe…

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Antarctica Journal day10 - January 23, 2007

I figured out this morning this boat is moving at the same speed as a fast dog team on a good trail. 630 kilometers in 5 and three quarter days. This is my first multi-day ocean crossing. It can be a bit uncomfortable and you get a bit stupid sleeping so much. Last night I was dreaming I saw a humpback fluke. Deeanna heard me yell, "Whale!" and jumped out of bed and ran up to the wheelhouse to see. Jerome was standing watch (actually sitting and watching a movie). She came back down and woke me up just for yucks.

Marzipan, Coconut, Espresso, Chocolate Brownies are the treat of the day.. The first batch was 2 inches thick on one side and burned on the other. But I am the only one who will bake (Let's face it-I'm the only one not barfing) so they get what I create. I'm thinking about cheddar cheese apple bars for tomorrow…

I just took my second shower in 9 days. Nice. Oh yeah-Angela-if you are checking this the hair cut rocks.

I'm reading the sailing/climbing adventures of HW Tillman and Joshua Slocum - the awesome writers, adventurers, and extreme sailors that I mentioned earlier. Those guys totally lived off their writing. It made their adventures possible. For any kids reading this, think about it. These guys did everything and got paid to write it all down. That's a sweet gig if there ever was!

I've learned a lot since we left Stanley. 1. It is impossible to get penguin guano off extra tuff boots 2. It's definitely do-able to sail around down here as long as you are scrupulous about the weather. 3. There are a lot fewer whales than I thought there would be (none so far)

The Shetland Islands rock! Black jagged teeth of rock, chinstrap penguins racing the boat and leopard seals, mouths agape. What a wonderdous deadly place.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Antarctica Journal day9 - January 22, 2007

Halfway across. Expected to land in the Shetland Islands in 24 hours. On the convergence the temperature dropped like a rock. Steve and I have been watching movies and I have been: dadadadadum BAKING! I made pumpkin scones but we didn't have any pumpkin so I used squash and raisins and coconut. Didn't have any baking soda either so they were flat orange triangular bread doodahs. This is a big old sailboat. It is a motor sailor, 65 feet, steel. Jerome once sailed around the world-5 years- on his other boat, Damien. I am humbled by his courage. People think I have gumption but he is the real deal. Lion hearted.

We have pulled the Genoa and are only flying the main. It's getting a bit rowdy after sunset. Does anyone know about the blue flash? At sunset, just as the sun drops below the horizon on a very clear day, if you are very lucky, you will see a blue. flash. In Hawaii and Key West I have seen a green flash. But tonight for a moment it was blue.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Antarctica Journal day8 - January 21, 2007

We are half way across Drake and will hit the convergence any time. That's where the Atlantic and Pacific meet. Jerome says we will know immediately because the temperature will drop and stay cold. We are all well now and have our sea legs. Everybody sleeps a lot. Last "night," just before the sun rose in the SOUTH, a huge comet came streaking across the sky. We eat muesli for breakfast. Chow is good. Books are even better. Jerome has introduced me to Joshua Slocum and HW Tillman, sailors and adventurers he admires.

Today I have to clean my bunk. Just like cleaning your room but smaller. It is a jumble of wires, chargers, lens covers, underwear, cups and jackets. My only complaint on this wondrous vessel is too dang hot. I'm the only one in a tank top and barefoot. Too bad I couldn't harness this heat when I was racing dogs.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Antarctica Journal day7 - January 20, 2007

We are in Drake Passage nearing the tip of South America. The main and Genoa are flying and we are averaging 8.1 knots heading Southeast. Good weather is expected for the next four days. The wind rough sea has gone. Now we contend with big rollers. Hard to imagine we will not see land for more than 3 days. We have 630 miles to sail before we reach the Antarctic Peninsula. While waiting for the wind to die we explored another one of Jerome's Islands. Did I mention he bought 14? This one has a crude sun bleached cabin on a knoll.

The island has guanacos. The critters that look like little camels with a touch of Llama tossed in the mix. We hiked all day trying to get close to one. The herd posts sentinels on the ridge tops and as soon as they see you they whinny. Sort of. Well it really sounds like they are gargling while they scream. Once I gave up trying to get close and just sat there they forgot about me and I got a great picture of one standing about 20 feet away. We saw a few pairs of Mage ante penguins waddling up and down the white sandy beach. It was sunny and about 40. There were fox and geese and albatross.

We ran all night and this morning Kathy beckoned me up to the wheelhouse. She was on watch and had spotted a huge iceberg where no icebergs are supposed to be. There is radar that sounds and it worked perfectly but I am sure from now on there will be nine sets of eyes searching for those deadly gray bergs.

Oh yeah. Did I mention the poop? The islands we visited were WILD. There are few places left on planet earth that can make a similar claim. Hiking around I was amazed to see so much poop. But then there were tons of animals. Did it used to be like this all over the world before hunter man arrived?

P.S. Could be the iceberg is a cruise ship. A giant just passed us coming from where the berg was.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Antarctica Journal day6 - January 19, 2007

We 're outta here.

Everyone has a patch behind the left ear to help with the seasickness. It should be a 3 day crossing to Elephant Island. Everything must be secure and we have practiced how to move from the galley to our beds. I am lucky-knock on wood- because I never get seasick and unlucky because that means I have to take care of everyone else.

We almost had to abandon the trip yesterday when Dee spilled coffee on Jerome's computer. We need it for weather reports and email etc. Fortunately, Dr. John is on board. He took the whole thing apart and fixed it. Jerome says it works better now than it did before.

The wind is down to about 20mph gusts. As I write we are pulling away from the dock. Beaver Island is behind us along with two Giant Petrels diving in our wake. It is sunny but as I have learned in the last week, the weather here changes in seconds.

I checked this morning to make sure Norman's ashes were still tucked in my backpack. He would've loved this trip. Nearly eighty years ago he sailed from New York on a tall ship with the Byrd Expedition bound for the South Pole. I grew up on his stories of adventure. I can see why the southern oceans and Antarctic kept drawing him back. When a true adventurer is stuck in a life of mediocrity, paying bills, taxes, cleaning, etc., depression comes on fast. Norman's solution was to always have a new goal in hand. I see the same traits in Jerome.

Later…We are anchored at the last sheltered spot this side of Drake. The island to the right has at least a dozen guanacos (little South American camel dudes) watching from the hummocky dot of land. Jerome wants to wait a while longer for the wind to die. I'm definitely going to shore if we can. We passed a huge sea lion rookery with at least 10 beach master lions protecting the new born fuzzy black calves. I wonder if they stay here all winter.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Antarctica Journal day5 - January 18, 2007

Beaver Dock - still no beavers...

Still blowing 40. No worries though as we have plenty to do. Hiked to the ocean to see what kind of waves all this wind makes and was not disappointed. Mountains of blue water smashed against the cliffs. Sheets of spray blasted off stacks of stone. Jerome says we will leave tomorrow but this is killer water today. The dock may be getting old but this water would get you dead.

We photographed Gentoo penguins coming from the sea and climbing up the hills. The young penguins charge after their parents harassing them for food. Finally when they can't take it anymore mom regurgitates a bit of fish and as the young penguin scrambles for it so do the red beaked, red footed, red-eyed dolphin gulls. The Upland Geese and Kelp geese are everywhere.

There are not a huge variety of species here but there are a lot of what is here. Birds, birds, birds. I mentioned the blue stones I found. Turns out the reason they are so smooth and round is the penguins eat them with the krill and fish they catch and they help in digestion. When they are pooped out they are polished smooth. But I don't know why they are blue.

We saw Jerome's reindeer herd which made this place look just like the Aleutians. And of course he and Leif sheared two Falkland sheep-then cut their throats and skinned them. Leif has kayaked all the way around Beaver Island and "to town." Town is Stanley. It is a 6-day paddle.

Oh yeah. For lunch we had gentoo penguin eggs. The whites are clear and the yolks are bright red.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Antarctica Journal day4 - January 17, 2007

Beaver Island, Falklands

Hello everyone! I spent the day beachcombing and trying to get a decent pix of a fox. They are sooo cute here. Look part fox and the other part bob cat. Becky you would love all these weirdo birds. And mom- the grass is turquoise and there are blue beach rocks! And there are reindeer and wild geese and no bugs. The only problem here on the Beav is the wind is blowing so hard it will knock you down and make you eat rocks!

There is a lot of road kill around (but no roads) - I found a fox skull, a caribou skull and a bunch of cool moldy orange lichen covered bones. The landscape looks like the Arctic with a pinch of Aleutians tossed in. Big sweeping panoramas of hills and rock rivers with the ocean next to it all. Birds wheeling around, screaming their heads off. Storm Petrel and Black Browed Albatross and South American terns. This is a wild place.

Okay. So the wind yesterday was nothing compared to now. I awoke at 5am and it was a screaming, moaning maniac. Leif and Dion climbed the mast and put lines at the top which were then anchored 30 feet out on each side of the boat to submerged boulders. The storm has steadily built. There is no rain. The sky is sunny and blue the wind is blowing 50 knots and gusting much higher.

Went over to watch Leif shear sheep. After lunch he will kill, then skin them and we will have meat for the trip south. I think of the stories Norman told me about eating what they caught: seals and whales.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Antarctica journal day3 - January 16,2007

We had five porpoise at the dock when we tied up. Great welcoming. We are on Beaver Island and there aren't any beavers here and there never were any beavers here! What's up with that? Jerome's son Leif said there used to be wild pigs - courtesy of whalers who turned them loose to be hunted for food. Luckily, the locals killed and ate them so the ground nesting bird population has not been destroyed here like on other islands like Hawaii.

We are expecting 70 knot winds to keep us here the next two dqys at least. There are guanco (little camel dudes) on a close-by island.

Antarctica journal day2 - January 15,2007

We left the dock in Stanley, Falkland Islands at noon the 14th-a day later than we planned due to bad weather and a delayed flight to the Falkland Islands. We met Capitan Jerome Poncet at his boat. If I had to describe him as a character in a novel I might say: He was a Wildman looking for adventure who succumbed to his love of beauty. A Frenchman, Jerome is easily one of the most famous seamen in the world.

Around here he is called the King of the Wind.

We have been underway now for about 15 hours. Everything is stowed because we are rolling and there is a stiff breeze biting through my fleece. We are circling the Falklands headed for Jerome’s home on Beaver Island. Weather is coming our way big time so we are gonna learn more about these islands and the black albatross who live here while we are hiding out. We are all very polite to each other-I got the top bunk in a miniscule cabin; we are feeling each other out. My roommate got seasick before we even left the dock. I’ve never been seasick but there is always a first time!

Next morning 5 am: Still coming around the NE side of the Falklands. The captain, the first mate and I were the only ones who have not been violently ill all night. I am grateful for my bombproof body after watching them all suffer. We are still rocking and rolling. About 3 more hours to Beaver Island.
We had the dreaded mutton for dinner last night. It was the best I have ever tasted but I still hate it. I opened one of my cans of smoked salmon (Thank you Stef and Dan) and chowed down.

I crack up every time Jerome says something like: “Ve air going sout-east to reach Antarctic Peninsula.” Coming from the far north it is hard to share this sailor’s perspective. Everything in my world is South-for Jerome the world lies North of his island.

Jerome has two blonde Adonis sons who run from deck to deck, engine to galley at top speed while the rest of us hang onto any hold for dear life. Dion was born on this boat and both he and Leif are expert sailors. There is a lot to be said for a wheelhouse. After driving a research vessel for the past 9 years in Prince William Sound and being out on deck in the storm, I can totally appreciate the fact that we are sailing in the world’s coldest water and what does Dion have on his feet? Nada.

We are now hiding out from a huge storm. Should be here at Beaver Island until it blows out.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Antarctica Journal day1 - January 14, 2007

I get a glimpse of another dream as we take off from Santiago into the sunrise.

The Andes are epic. They rise from the Chilean Plateau in dusty blue waves each more jagged than the last. In the summer sun (Yeah the toilets down here do flush the other way and since the sun is to the north it moves west to east) the largest peaks glint with snow pack. The tops are ragged blown out cones. No ridge line hiking here; no old rounded peaks.

Like Alaska, this is a young raw land of snowfields pocked by crevasses, braided rivers and steaming calderas. From 37,000 ft you can see a dense blanket of clouds far to the west hanging above the Amazon rainforest. As we head south we fly over two hydro-dams and a swath of clear cutting. We are on the milk run: Puerto Montt, Puenta Arenes then Mt. Pleasant, altogether a 7 hour jaunt.

Quite suddenly the helter-skelter of nature below turns into the straight lines and squares of civilization. Farms are giant rectangles of brown earth. Roads cut across valley and river. I always feel safer without lines and fences. As the sun washes across the coast we approach the Fitzroy Mastiff, a pink, orange, kaleidoscope hunk of rock and ripped peaks.

Then we fly over Beagle Channel-named for Darwin's boat - the alternative to Cape Horn - the roughest patch of seain the world. Through the cloud cover I can see the brown ridged backs of serpents, submerged in a roaring sea.

There be dragons here...

Monday, January 8, 2007


I've decided to learn Spanish. The countdown is on and my south american airline has changed my itinerary at least a dozen times and with each change I get a totally confusing email in Spanish. I write back no habla espanol; then I get an even more confusing message because they no habla English.

I have doubles of everything: gloves, mitts, base layers, hats, fleece, wool, down, raingear, 20 below boots, rubber boots, hiking boots...My kit includes antibiotics, pain killers, seasickness stuff (I've never been seasick-I drive a boat for pete's sake but THEY say if you're gonna hurl it will be in Drake Passage.) I have sun glasses, sunscreen (big holes in the ozone in the southern hemisphere) lip balm and a really cute white feather boa my friend Karen made.

No, not a snake. It will help me look like a penguin. I have a fuzzy white hat to match and big red (the manufacturer called the color "tomato") boots that look like giant bird feet.

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