February 11, 2006
Antarctic Cruise Day 6
Once again, we were steaming all night. We anchored at Elephant Island early today. The island is of import historical significance because it is where Shackleton finally touched land for the first time in nearly 500 days. Most of his Shackleton's men stayed behind on the island while he went for help. He returned over four months later to find that his entire crew had survived the winter.
Yesterday I had been warned that while the expedition team does all it can to get everyone on a zodiac ride around Elephant Island, it hasn't happened at all this season because the waters have always been too rough. Still, when I saw the first zodiacs get loaded into the somewhat calm waters, I thought we'd get our chance to go. Sure enough, the first group went for the first zodiac cruise around Elephant Island of the year. Luck would not be on my side, however, as the rest of the expedition had to be canceled before anyone else could get to go. Fred, an American who sat at the table next to ours at dinner, was one of the lucky few who actually did get to go, and he was gracious enough to give me his photos of the experience.
This afternoon, we left Antarctica behind. We'll be at sea for a full day before reaching the Falklands tomorrow. At some point in the night, we will pass through the Antarctic Convergence, the point at which the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet the Southern Ocean. The Convergence is marked by a sharp climb in the water's temperature as we move back into water that can merely be classified as sub-antarctic.
As the ship sailed away, the water became rough. It was tough for me to walk around the ship, but I enjoyed it. A lot of other passengers were not as lucky. Lots of seasickness was going around the ship, and the Seven Seas Restaurant seemed to be only half full tonight as a lot of people lost their appetite along with their lunch.
Tonight was amateur joke night at the Charleston. Anyone who had a joke was encouraged to tell it to the crowd. Most of the jokes were clean, but not all of them. There is nothing funnier than an old man telling a dirty joke to a bunch of rich people on a shaky ship.
Art and Science in Antarctica with Lucia deLeiris -- Lucia has spent multiple winters on antarctic scientific bases as an artist. She has also taken a lot of photographs of Antarctica. In addition to drawing the present, she also had paintings depicting Antarctica's tropical past when dinosaurs roamed the continent.
Management of Antarctica with Dr. Neville Jones -- This lecture mainly concerned the antarctic treaty. It was first created about fifty years ago in order to protect the natural beauty of the white continent. Today, 45 countries are members of the treaty, which is reviewed every 30 years. Nev just gave the facts about the treaty, but it soon turned into a discussion about preserving the environment. I think it's fine to care about the environment, but the people asking the questions didn't seem to understand that they were at least partially responsible for destroying it. Someone asked, "What are the people living in Antarctica doing to reduce the hole in the ozone layer?" When that person was explained that the hole in the ozone layer has been caused by the pollutants pumped into the atmosphere by the industrialized countries of the world, and in fact had almost nothing to do with scientists' presence in Antarctica, it didn't seem to be a good enough answer. People love to complain about the environment being destroyed until they realized that they'll have to put some effort into saving it.
The photo album for this entry is here.