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Antarctica and South America (1992)

a travel blog by shoshtrvls

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Day 1 - 2

Buenos Aires, Argentina

I left Los Angeles on February 29 and spent an interminable time traveling.

First flight was LA to Orlando to Miami. My love of flying is wearing thing and upgrades have spoiled me.

But then, things did get better. Miami to Buenos Aires was overbooked, and I was offered $750.00 in flight credits, an upgraded seat and a mere 5 hour delay (due to layovers in Rio and Montevideo). So, to Rio in the upper cabin consisted of me, Art -- an employee of ARCO working in Rio, and Kim Valencia, a tour director. In other words, much leg room and attention. (Rio was overcast when we landed and it was hard to tell the terrain; Montevideo was rather flat). The second leg was a bit more crowded, while the plane from Uruguay to Buenos Aires was nearly empty.

Upon arrival, Kim and I tracked down our luggage and took a cab into town. Dropper her off at her hotel, with plans to connect up on my return and maybe go to Iguazu together.

Upon arrival at the Plaza Hotel, I showered and changed. Eventually my roommate Carole returned from the afternoon tour -- which I had missed due to my late arrival. Carole is pretty much what I expected. 40-50, bright, talkative and with a very similar "game plan" as I (up early, journal writing at night, etc.). She advised me that I was one of the youngest on the trip (something Kim had expected).

At 7 it was cocktails and dinner. Truly an interesting group but not what I expected. Except for a few "young 'uns" everyone must be over 60. It looks like an 'SC alumni function (and indeed, there is a large group from Miami University in Ohio).

At dinner, I sat with David, our tour leader, a couple from Pasadena (he of the JPL, she of hospital volunteer work), a lunguist from Pleasanton (Marsha, fortunately heavy like me [I'm not alone> and maybe 15 years older but she doesn't look it), a woman named Dolly who never spoke, and a former minister and travel agency owner. We talked about our travels, the Rose Parade, fuzzy logic, new math, physics, everything. So many educated people in one place!

I walked off dinner down the Calle Florida, a pedestrian street lined with shops, from Christian Dior to discount electronics. While everything was closed, strollers abounded. Some of hte buildings had magnificent edifices -- to be photographed on my return. Before bed, a theology discussion with Carole. It's going to be a mentally challenging trip!

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on March 1, 1992 from Buenos Aires, Argentina
from the travel blog: Antarctica and South America (1992)
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Day 3

Ushuaia, Argentina

We were up quite early for breakfast and the flight to Ushuaia. The drive took us through the northern section of Buenos Aires -- clearly were the elite live.

The national airport is virtually in the center of the city along the river which separates Argentina from Uruguay. It's supposed to be the widest in the world. (is there any river which doesn't have some claim to fame?)

The plane to Ushuaia took about 3 hours, with 1 sto in Trefrew. Upon our arrival, we were taken to a hotel for lunch. The dining room overlooked the center of Ushuaia -- the southernmost city in the world and quite reminiscent of Northern Exposure, but in reverse.

Eventually we made our way to the boat -- bigger than I expected -- an unpacked. The room is small, two beds on either side of a dresser, a bathroom and 3 closets (more, I am told, than in the upgraded cabins).

In the afternoon it was orientation and we were told that the boat would not sale at 4 or 5 as expected, because the local government would not give the ship its petrol. Ah, the joys of third world bureaucracies. It was of course a disappointment but we made the best of it. After the fire drill (described below), we went to the tiny museum at the end of the world -- lots of stuffed birds, some old glass, the usual.

First, however, was the fire drill. Meeting on the "lido" deck (after an announcement by the very wooden Judy Marshall, cruise director), we stood for inspection with our life jackets on -- and this obnoxious, chauvinistic "staff captain" made it his business to check and retie the women's jackets -- but not the men's. Later, the same S.C. berated me for not wearing my name tag.

Just my luck, after cocktails and hors d'ouevres, I was invited to eat with none other than the S.C. What luck. Also at the table were Judy and Larry Boggs from Charlotte, NC, the Chens from Kansas, the Finks, a bizarre mother/son paid (psycho in the making) and the Collins'. I was able to ignore the S.C. by spending the evening talking with Mrs. Chen about raising a Taiwanese son in Topeka. Unlike most Asian woman, Su Chen is very outspoken and I like her a lot.

After dinner, Carole and I took a rather long walk from one end of Ushuaia to the other before turning in for the night.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on March 2, 1992 from Ushuaia, Argentina
from the travel blog: Antarctica and South America (1992)
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Day 4

Ushuaia, Argentina

Carole and I both woke early this morning and like most people believed we were under way. Alas, this was not the case. So, after breakfast, we were herded onto a catamaran for a morning of sightseeing on the Beagle Channel, the narrow straight between South American and Tierra Del Fuego. The highlight was certainly the Isle de los Lobos, a small, ricky outcropping covered by comerants on one side, seals and sea lions on the other. We also saw our first penguins, three Magellanic swimming alongside the boat. Clearly, if we had to waste a day in Ushuaia, this was the way to do it.

Also on the boat were two girls, one a French Canadian who was climbing all seven peaks (she had just completed the South American peak) and the other from Massachusetts spending four months in South America. Also interesting was a naturalist who had been studying the seals and seal lions for two years.

Upon our return to Ushuaia, there was spontaneous cheering as we rounded the harbor and saw the petrol truck alongside our boat. However, as the boat was not fully gassed, we were all bussed to a lodge in the interior of the island, where we were treated to a "traditional" meal of roasted lamb. I fell in love with the salsa, and David, our adorable tour manager, got me a jar of it. The scenery both up and back was beautiful, and Natalie Goodall gave an interesting little nature walk/talk. I must say, the organizers have made the most of our "last" day, turning it into something I would not have wanted to miss.

We returned to the boat around 3:30 p.m. and by 4:00 we were under way -- only a day late. We watched our progress from the deck before cocktails and dinner. Tonight I ate again with the Boggs, Carole, Cal. Dale and Ernest (Earthwatch veterans), and Mary, former museum curator with a speciality in oriental rugs. Also, I learned that the girl we met on the cat from Mass. has come aboard, inspired by all of us on the cat.

After dinner Natalie (who apparently had helped get the gas) gave an interesting talk on life in Tierra del Fuego and then it was bed.

Notes: ice sheet until 10,000 years ago in the Beagle Channel. Melting ice creates jagged peaks and U-shaped valleys. Whitish water is "flour" due to melting sedimentary hills along the Channel. (Drumlan?) All shows ice exiting - groun is rebounding and rising afater melting. Birds: rock shag, commerants (2 types), black albatros (high aspect wing ratio -- long skinny wings for gliding/no maneuvering), petrals.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on March 3, 1992 from Ushuaia, Argentina
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Day 5

Ushuaia, Argentina

OK, we're not still in Ushuaia, but Blogabond doesn't map by coordinates and we're really out at sea.

Today was a day at sea, with lectures galore. Over breakfast we spotted our first wandering albatros and then had a lecture on the bird life (which was boring) and one on whales and dolphins (which was great). The one on whales was given by Jean, who had not cracked a smile since we boarded. However, once she started talking about whales, she brightened considerably. After lunch, I slept and we watched a video on Antarctic conservation. The final lecture was on the southern seas.

After the lectures was "wine and chesse" with our groups -- in my case, Mountain Travel. After handing out t-shirts and patches, Peggy showed us a video of an African safari (way to cross-sell!)

Then more bad news -- because of the lost day, we will not be going to the Falklands. The bad news was tempered, however, by the fact that the good weather (and it has been incredible) may allow us to go very far south, even to the Antarctic Circle. The initial reaction was one of shock and great disappointment (many, like me, had chosen this trip because of the Falklands) because we all thought that hte time would be lost in Antarctica or Buenos Aires, or that we would reduce time in the Falklands from 2 days to 1 day. However, I guess the thought was that it was 4 days at sea for only a brief visit to Port Stanley. Col. Dale believes it is a plot -- that the company didn't have enough money to buy the gas or pay for the trip to the Falklands, especially since the boat is just 1/2 full. I'm not sure I agree -- nor do most people, who believe that Travel Dynamics is doing the best they can. Again, the Falklands is a disappointment but we're really here for Antarctica and I'm sure the Falklands will always be there (and really, until the war and this trip, I had never even thought of going there).

Dinner was with Cory, Alumni Director for Miami U, Carole, Mary, the Chens and the bizarre mother/son team from Ohio.

Cross the Antarctic Convergence around 10:10 p.m.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on March 4, 1992 from Ushuaia, Argentina
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Day 6

Antarctic Peninsula, Argentina

Another day, another breakfast, another lecture, this time on "do's and dont's" of zodiac landings, dressing for Antarctica, etc. We also broke into four groups for zodiac landings. Meanwhile, more rumors flew regarding our skipping of the Falklands -- Carole and I realized that we're back on schedule, the good weather having helped us make up at least 12 hours. We'll have to follow up. (Bad planning by T.D.).

Anyway, after our briefing (which actually included some humor), Jean gave another great lecture, this one on seals and sea lions. Then it was more food -- lunch -- and a nap. (I missed the bridge tour). Then we were really here -- a quick and semi-cold zodiac cruise through the Melchior Islands. We saw an old Chilean base, fur seals, and Adelie penguins. Afterwards a short video regarding conservation, then dinner, tonight with Dr. and Mrs. Patton, Thomas and Natalie Goodall, the Masons and Bob and Jean. Natalie and Tom were interesting to talk with but Dr. Patton even more so.

Passing our first few iceburgs was certainly a milestone -- the quiet, the ice blue, the shapes that change with every angle. Also the penguins and other animals -- so close, so undisturbed, so solitary.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on March 5, 1992 from Antarctic Peninsula, Argentina
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Day 7

Antarctic Peninsula, Argentina

Well, I am writing this on March 8, and as I look back on what I wrote on the fifth, it seems so far away. Since then, wonder at our first iceburgs has given way to wonder at the majesty of the entire continent.

On March 6, we first set foot on Antarctica -- or at least an island. First, we went to Torgersen Island, home of the Adelie rookery. Because it wsa late in the season, there weren't the hundreds of thousands of penguins you see in pictures. There were, however, the perfect amount. Many to see and walk around, with a bit less "guano" (penguin shit) than at the height of the season. Adelies have black heads and backs and white stomachs. Amongst the Adelies was one lonely gentoo -- noticeable by its orange beak and white flare about the eyes.

After Torgerson, we went to Palmer Station, the only American base on the Penninsula. On ship we got a sllide show presentation about the Antarctic program, logistics and scientific work. Then it was a quick tour around the base and a trip to the "gift shop" for souveniers. We then headed toward the Lenaire Channel, which we were told was a strikingly beautiful passage and through which two prior boats failed to make. Unfortunately, we were also turned back, not by ice but by heavy snowfall which made it impossible to see even a few feet away.

So, instead of the Lenaire, we went to Port Lockroy. There we wandered among a gentoo rookery. On our way, George Llano spoke about "pastures of the sea" and I slept. Port Lockroy was also a whaling station and huge bones were left as a reminder. Natalie believes that the spine at least came from a blue whale -- rare as there is estimated to be only 1 - 3,000 left.

I thought I would get bored watching penguins all day, but this is not the case. It is fascinating even to sit still and follow the movements of just one.

Often when we land, half go "cruising" on the zofiacs while the other half visit the island. This minimized the impact on the continent and makes for a more enjoyable trip for those ashore.

Other than the Collins and Carole, I can't remember who I ate with, but we were the loudest table around.

porposing" -- penguins swimming through the water.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on March 6, 1992 from Antarctic Peninsula, Argentina
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Day 8

Antarctic Peninsula, Argentina

Today was a truly spectacular day. In the morning we made a second attempt at the Lenaire Channel. From a distance it appeared that the channel was blocked by ice flows, but as we approached a path could be seen. The channel was dramatic, as promised, but the bad weather (fog, clouds) probably lessened the impact.

Late in the morning we reached Petermann Island. On the island were a fair amount of gentoo penguins, a few Adelies, 3 fur seals and a little mountain. A climb to the top reveaaled a small plaque dedicated to the Pourquoi Pas, a ship that wintered over in 1909. The view of the bay was nice and you could slide down the side of the hill. After the island we took the zodiacs around the bay and saw some crabeater seals and some nice iceburgs.

We then returned through the Lenaire, which looked completely different. In addition to more definition, there were lots of seals on the ice flows.

We then went through the Neumeyer Channel, which was even more spectacular. The sun came out and the peaks were beautiful. We then crossed the Gerlache Strait and sailed into PARADISE! Actually, Paradise Harbour, our first (and only) stop actually on the continent.

The was really the most beautiful place. An old Argentinian station, burned down, sits at the foot of a small mountain.. Some of us climbed to the top and were rewarded with a spectacular (there's that word again) view, and a great slide down to the bottom (or at least half way -- Maggie, a scientist we picked up at Palmer, and I tried to make a second run to the bottom but the rocks got in the way). Our arrival on the continent was toasted with champagne, a great experience.

After the landing we took the zodiacs around and saw 1 elephant seal and some magnificent ice caves. Really a beautiful experience.

After dinner (generally a dud, but Cindy did receive a bottle of wine from the staff captain), Debra did a slide presentation on her year at the South Pole -- our best presentation yet. Even the couple from Philadelphia stayed awake -- she in his lap -- a big change from earlier in the trip when all they could do was fight.

Notes: Note getting to the Antarctic Circle because of ice; bird rookeries.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on March 7, 1992 from Antarctic Peninsula, Argentina
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Day 9

Antarctic Peninsula, Argentina

Today was an early start as we began leaving the ship around 8:30 at Couverville Island. While the island itself was nice -- gentoo penguins, fur seals playing like Sam and Grover, crabeater seals on nearly every ice flow,the highlight was the Humpback Whales. Both before and after our visit to the island, they played with us, coming alongside the zodiac popping up without warning, close enough to touch. Fortunately, I ran out of film and so could concentrate on their movements (although not to save them from for posterity). In particular on the way back two will play with our three zodiacs for over an hour. The spyhopped, flipped, waived with their finds, swam alongside the zodiacs, etc. Once, one even brought his huge eye up and stared at us for several minutes. Spontaneous cheering followed every movement. They even followed us back to the ship and waived good bye with their tail flukes. In was incredible, nothing I could have imagined before I came on this trip.

After lunch, as we sailed further north, we came upon several more whales, including one right whale, which I missed. While we obviously were not as "up close and personal" with these, they did breech for us and did a lot of fin waiving.

We then made a stop near Fayn Harbour, site of a 1920's shipwreck, but our hardy scout troop was unable to find either a place to land or anything interest to see, so we moved on to Charlotte Bay.

The sun came out for a bit and we found some more humpbacks for the zodiacs to play with. This time, however, I stayed on board and got an entirely different view. When the whales were near the boat and close to the surface, you could see their entire bodies. Also, you could follow their movements because you could see their white flippers just under the surface. It was interesting to see the zodiacs from a bird's eye view.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on March 8, 1992 from Antarctic Peninsula, Argentina
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Day 9 (continued)

Antarctic Peninsula, Argentina

Dinner was a "gala buffet" and while I didn't eat much, the conversation was great. (I've omitted the discussion only because, for some reason, Blogabond doesn't like the sentence I've written. Very strange). Emma told us a bit about her life. We decided that she was probably the oldest person to see Antarctica and all seven continents. They also thought I was probably one of the youngest to see all even continents. What a distinction!

After dinner, Jim (also from Palmer) gave a slide show on his six months in Antarctica. Both he and Debra were very funny -- something tells me that a sense of humor is a prerequisite to getting a job here.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on March 8, 1992 from Antarctic Peninsula, Argentina
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Day 10

Antarctic Peninsula, Argentina

Today we made a first try for Deception Island, but the weather was so bad that we steamed ahead to Half Moon Island. In the interim, George Llano lectured on penguins. While he was quite interesting, his continual references to the Falklands as prime bird country opened old wounds.

Half moon was quite striking physically, with craggy rocks backed up against the white of Livingston Island. The inhabitants included the ever-present fur seals, chinstrap penguins, a couple of Weddell seals, and a few gentoo penguins. As at Paradise Harbour, the sun came out and the morning was so beautiful that no one wanted to leave. Also on the island was an old wooden boat used by the first Antarctic "cruise" ship, the La Pataia, charted by Lindblad.

But leave we did, heading for King George Island. On the way I slept through a lecture by Natalie Goodall on "small cetaceans of Tierra Del Fuego." our stop at King George was the site of three different research stations -- Marsh (Chile), Bellinghausen (Russian) and Great Wall (China).

Our landing zodiacs were met by Victor, who quickly herded us all to the several Russian shops on the island. Although we had been told that this base was closing and the trading would be good, this was not the case. They were here to stay and had gotten on the political bandwagon quite rapidly -- the store was "Russian" (not Soviet), the scientists were from St. Petersberg (not Leningrad) and there were no souvenirs with "CCCP" on them. After checking out Bellinghausen and a quick stop at the Chinese station, complete with families, I and a few other hardy souls made the long trek to the Great Wall station. Unfortunately, they were not expecting us (i.e. no souvenirs) and in fact had packed and were leaving for the season. Nevertheless, they were very warm and welcoming and they certainly had the nicest base we had seen -- clean, comfortable, nice furniture and wall hangings. (George Llano suggested that they have no real scientific work, possibly explaining the setting).

After the walk back, I actually felt as though I deserved the meal I was to eat that night. First, champagne with Mary Hammond , Ed and Eddie, Carole and Monte. Dinner was with Carole and Ed, the ship's doctor, and Eddie, his wife. They were delightful, providing much information about the ship company (Travel Dynamics) and about themselves.

Afterwards, the Greek crew made a stab at dancing and some overly sweet baclava was served. Bill Rodenbach waxed poetically on life after death and Carole and I finally said goodnight around 12:00.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on March 9, 1992 from Antarctic Peninsula, Argentina
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