Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ay Ay, Captain!

Time for another Antarctica trip installment.

When I last left off, our ship had set sail and was crossing the turbulent Drake Passage. I popped Bonine to keep from getting sick... and for the most part, it worked. I still was often queasy and felt best when I was horizontal in my mini-bed, but I never threw up. Which, believe me, is saying a lot. The entire ship was pretty much bedridden for the first day because of the intense rocking. You know it's bad when they string large ropes all around the ship so that people can hold on to them just to make it across a small room. In addition, I found it humorous that all of the chairs in the dining room were chained to the floor:

I did brave the dining room for every meal (a girl's gotta eat!) and, at one point, was astonished to see the entire starboard (right) side of the ship get enveloped by a wave, which then sent silverware, glasses, dishes and the poor waiters sailing across the floor. Trust me, it is very scary to see nothing but water against the sides of the windows! But at that point, the other ship in the area had not sunk, so I don't think anyone was truly worried that anything could happen to our ship.

Especially after checking out "the bridge," or, "the place where the Captain hangs out." The expedition company that partners with National Geographic for these trips, Lindblad Expeditions, has an "open bridge" policy--meaning that guests are allowed in the bridge at almost any time. After my husband and I found our sea legs, we ventured up there to get a chance to check it out while everyone else was most likely asleep or wallowing in misery.

It is a very cool room that is filled with all sorts of tracking gadgets, maps and controls. If you're the kind of person who worries that if you accidentally press the wrong button on your computer, DVD player or PDA it might blow up, you would NOT want to be in the bridge. I found it fascinating, but stayed far away from all of the controls. One of our fellow guests was a pilot with Southwest, so I learned a lot listening to him talk to the navigators about all of the different machines.

We were told early on that nobody better sit in the Captain's favorite leather chair, but I snuck onto it while no one was looking - hee hee.

There was a ton of radar and sonar equipment that showed icebergs underwater and around the ship. However, our course was plotted by hand as well, and it was neat to look at the maps they had and see exactly where we were. It doesn't really hit you that you're at the bottom of the world until you look at a map and realize, "Holy crap, we ARE at the bottom of the world!"

I particularly liked two things I saw posted in the bridge. One was the "Beaufort wind scale," which I've pasted in below, but you may need to actually click on the picture to enlarge it and be able to read it. The far right column describes the effects of increasingly powerful winds. Gotta love that last line...

But my absolute favorite thing (at the time) I saw in that room was a small clip that was hung on a bulletin board near the kitchenette. On that second day of our trip, I thought it was funny. I asked our expedition leader where they got it, and he said it had been in a trade magazine, touting some sort of crew insurance. The next morning, as we watched the Explorer sinking, I couldn't help but think back to this small cutout and consider it in a much different light.

- e

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