February 12, 2006
Antarctic Cruise Day 7
The Plan: Riding through the open waters on our way to the Falkland Islands.
Today we began making the long journey north that would finish in Buenos Aires. In between, however, we would be making a stop for two days at the Falkland Islands, an archipelago located far from anywhere important off the coast of Argentina in the Atlantic.
It was another rough day at sea. The ship's public areas seemed emptier than normal, so I'm guessing that a lot of people stayed in their rooms to avoid the dreaded sea sickness. It's really funny to watch people navigate around a shaky ship. They tend to walk very slowly when the ship is going over a large swell, then make a mad dash to a location where they can brace themselves when the swell ends. I happen to love sea force 7. The ship rocks me to sleep like a baby in its cradle every night. Even though I only sleep for a few hours per night on the ship, I'm out like a light until the sun comes up.
Considering that we didn't see any land today, and conditions weren't exactly great for basking in the sun, it was a good day to try some indoor activities. First was carpet bowling. It didn't work out very well because the ship seemed to be permanently slanted toward the port side. We were rolling toward the stern, so no matter how far left people tried to roll the balls, they always ended up against the wall on the right side. We tried to compensate by playing a game from port to starboard, but then the balls just rolled right back to us. It must have been amusing to watch as none of us came within ten feet of the target ball.
We also had a ping pong tournament today. I had been playing Craig pretty regularly, so my game had improved, but he consistently beat me. Unfortunately, I had to play a previously unknown player in the first round, and he made quick work of me. Ralph almost beat Craig, but Craig still won the title match. I'm sure someday, he will lose at some activity, but not for now.
The food had gotten ridiculous after being on the ship for a week. The ship's crew is relentless in stuffing us. The meals are gigantic, and there always seem to be snacks lying around for us between meals. I haven't felt unfull since starting the cruise. In fact, before I even begin each meal, I'm already full. I don't know how much longer I can take it.
This afternoon, we had a short meeting about our Falkland Islands visit. There isn't a big enough jetty for our ship, so we will have to anchor far away and ride in a tender (lifeboat) to shore. Tomorrow, we will walk to the other side of the island and watch birds. It seemed like a simple plan, but people were still full of stupid questions. "Are there any bathrooms?" "What's guano?" "If I can't walk and I don't like looking at birds, then what is there for me to do?" It's sad, really. Over 100 passengers on the Marco Polo have been to all seven continents, yet half of them have never even met a local person who wasn't being paid by the cruise line.
After the meeting, some of the backpackers got together and decided to do a scavenger hunt on the ship. Looking at some of the items like "Steal a food sculpture from Raffles," "Moon the ship's camera and get a picture of it," and "Make a sexually suggestive popup card," I think the trip is about to get even more interesting. My team's name is "Captain Dick and the Whalers," named after one of the expedition leaders on the ship. The hunt begins after the visit to the Falklands when we have two more days at sea.
I went to see Jeff Bradley, a comedian/juggler, tonight. It was pretty funny when he tried to juggle a bunch of axes, knives, and sickles and accidentally chopped off his arm. Later in the show, he brought out a member of the audience and made it look like she could juggle by putting his arms through hers. He finished by recreating a cigar box juggling act by a famous vaudeville performer, for which he said, "Some of the audience members may have seen the original act live."
Ships in Ice with Dick Taylor -- Dick used to work on icebreakers in the Great Lakes and Antarctica. He told us many stories about the techniques used to cut open large canals in the ice to reach research facilities and ships that were stuck. Icebreaking in theory is a much simpler process than I had imagined. The ships are designed with extremely strong hulls and lots of weight in the bow. They bow has a narrow angle, so when the ship hits the ice, it slides on top of it and breaks through with its weight. My favorite story was when Dick tried to push a gigantic iceberg out of the way so a cargo ship could get through. He failed, but had a lot of fun trying. They ended up having to wait until the winds changed direction and blew the iceberg out of the way naturally.
Introduction to Nature in The Falklands with Chris Wilson -- This presentation was a slideshow of the animals living on the Falklands. The most likely ones we will see are rockhopper penguins, albatrosses, and striated caracaras, the rarest birds of prey on Earth. The only place they are found in abundance is the Falklands.
The photo album for this entry is here.